Updated on 1 July 2020
Reading time: 4 minutes
Granville commands stunning views of the Bay of the Mont Saint-Michel from its fortified headland. Enjoy this seaside resort’s lively fishing port, medieval Upper Town and museum dedicated to local celebrity Christian Dior, or catch a ferry or sailing boat from here out to the magical Chausey Islands, just 15km away.
A FORTIFIED TOWN
Le Roc is the name given to Granville’s dramatic headland. Walk around it not just for fantastic sea views across the Bay of the Mont Saint-Michel (although the holy mount itself remains just out of sight), but also to get an overview of this strategic port’s history. English forces built the earliest fortifications here during the Hundred Years’ War then the French took the place back and Granville went on to produce many admirals and corsairs. At the headland’s western tip, concrete blockhouses recall the German occupation in World War II.
East along the headland, the striking silhouettes of the Gothic church and a many-turreted house draw you inside the walled Upper Town, packed with fine stone mansions, shops, galleries, crêperies and restaurants. The Musée du Vieux Granville tells the story of port and resort. At Le Roc’s eastern end, the major art museum, the Musée Anacréon, stands in a breathtaking location.
North, below Granville’s headland, spreads the beach resort. A tidal sea-water swimming pool stands out from the broad sands, backed by white beach huts. On the clifftop above, the pink villa where the 20th-century’s most famous fashion designer, Christian Dior, lived as a child is now a delightful museum. Dior’s love of fashion was partly inspired by the Granville Carnival, for which, as a boy, he would make lavish costumes for himself and his friends. Granville’s annual extravaganza is still going strong.
Below Granville’s headland, is the bustling fishing ports, with seafood restaurants clustered behind them. The sailing school beside the big marina is highly regarded. Ferries connect Granville to the Channel Islands, and to Granville’s own archipelago, the Chausey Islands, a magical place to visit, ever changing with the tides.
The Upper Town: A fascinating place to walk around, with its ramparts, grand buildings, museums, shops and restaurants, and magnificent sea views.
The Christian Dior Museum: The enchanting pink Les Rhumbs Villa on the cliffs just north of the town centre, was the childhood home of the great French couturier Christian Dior. Now a museum, the building both honours Dior and hosts wonderful fashion exhibitions. The grounds surrounding the villa are also a pleasure to discover, with breath-taking views, rose garden and tearoom.
The Centre Régional de Nautisme: This reputed sailing school has branches not just in Granville, but also on Chausey and in Jullouville-Les-Pins just south of Granville. All three offer exceptional surroundings in which to learn sailing and watersports.
Embark on an adventure to Normandy’s very own Channel Islands in a sea kayak with a professional fisherman and and make memories to last a lifetime.
Granville Carnival: One of France’s biggest carnivals, legend has it that it was sailors from Granville who began the tradition of holding a wild Mardi Gras party to lighten their mood before setting off on long transatlantic fishing trips to Newfoundland. Locals love celebrating the biggest carnival in Normandy, which is renowned for its street parades, fancy-dress costumes, street concerts and confetti fights. In 2016, the carnival was added to UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The Chausey Islands: Regular ferry services head to the Iles Chausey. Just visible on the horizon from Granville, this beautiful archipelago can be reached by ferry or sailing boat, and is made up of 52 islets at high tide and 365 at at low tide, although only the main island (La Grande Ile) is inhabited. A quarry here once provided a good deal of the stone needed to build the Abbey of the Mont Saint-Michel’s, but now fishing is the primary activity. Most of the archipelago is a protected nature reserve, and it is possible to book guided walks at low tide to discover the local flora and fauna. There is also one hotel on the Grande Ile, a few gites and a shop.