Caen is the capital of the Basse Normandie region and was founded in the 11th century by William the Conqueror. During the Battle of Normandy in 1944 much of the town destroyed. Among the buildings that survived the bombings you’ll find a walled medieval château, two ancient abbeys and several very attractive 19th-century areas of high architectural beauty.
Instead of taking a ferry from Portsmouth to Caen, you can travel to Caen via any of our
routes between the UK and France, but our
Newhaven-Dieppe route will take you the closest, just a 2-hour drive away.
Why visit Caen?
Caen is one of Normandy’s largest cities, after Le Havre and Rouen. Fittingly, it is also the home of Normandy’s most famous son, William the Conqueror, who is buried there. William actually commissioned many of the city’s most famous sites, including the Abbey aux Hommes and the Abbey aux Dames, where his wife Mathilde is buried.
There are plenty of places to visit in Caen and it is famous for its historical buildings and for being a classically-French city full of Gallic charm, despite the fact that much of the city was destroyed during World War 2’s Battle of Normandy in 1944. Caen is one of the oldest university towns in
France, still thriving and active, meaning that it has always attracted artists, writers and free-thinkers to the area.
Caen is also well-known for its production of seafood and dairy produce, making it a popular destination for fans of great food and drink. There are several excellent places to eat in the Vaugueux quarter including Caen restaurants recommended by Michelin.
What to see in Caen
Tourist attractions in Caen are plentiful and varied, whether you’re a history buff, a theme park fan or just a lover of all things French.
The Normandy Landings were one of the most significant events in the history of Europe, if not the world, and this impact is still felt in Caen to this day. Caen is approximately 10 miles away from the D-Day beaches of Pegasus Bridge, Juno and Sword, where British and Canadian soldiers began their assault on the Nazi strongholds, and Omaha beach - made famous by the film Saving Private Ryan – where American soldiers landed.
Caen Castle is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe and belonged to William the Conqueror, it is still open to the public now, despite the extensive restorations taking place. Inside the castle walls lies the Museé de Beaux Arts, the Keep, the Church of St George and the Museum of Normandy, making the castle an interesting and educational day out.
The two abbeys built by William the Conqueror – the Abbey aux Hommes (Men's Abbey) and the Abbey aux Dames (Women's Abbey) – are perfect examples of French-Romanesque architecture and popular with tourists for this reason.
In the city itself, you will find a great range of bars on Rue Ecuyère, which becomes a buzzing and vibrant hub for nightlife once the sun goes down, and plenty of other places to enjoy a drink or two.
If you’re traveling with kids Parc Festlyand will keep certainly keep them entertained. Just a short drive from Caen you’ll find over 30 attractions. The park has a variety of historically themed areas such as Pirates, Vikings and the Middle Ages.
For a comprehensive guide to everything there is to see and do it’s well worth picking up a Caen city guide.
Where to stay in Caen
As it's such a popular tourist destination, there is no shortage of hotels in Caen. Just check out our accommodation
partner booking.com for more details.
Prices are subject to availability. Credit card & telephone booking fees apply. Terms & Conditions apply.
It’s always a proud moment when you’re recognised for your good work, we’re honoured to have been named as Europe's and the World’s Leading Ferry Operator in the 2015 World Travel Awards. We've won these awards for 5 years running.