Caen is the capital of Lower Normandy. With its abbeys and castle it presents a strong contrast to the somewhat uniform coastal resorts. Like many other Norman cities, Caen suffered heavily in World War II. Bombed on D-Day, three-quarters of the city was flattened. The only vestiges of the past to survive were the ramparts around the chateau and the two great abbeys. These were built by William the Conqueror when he founded the city in the 11th century. Now they form the historic core of the city.
Linked to the sea by a canal running parallel to the Orne River, Caen has seen rapid expansion in recent years and is a bustling university town. Its modern heart is characterized by a few pedestrianized shopping streets and busy boulevards. Caen's best-known museum is the Memorial - A Museum for Peace. Visiting the museum, a trip to the Landing Beaches, or a stop at Bayeux to see the famous tapestry may well be the highlights of a call at Caen. Pier Information The ship is scheduled to dock at the Nouveau Bassin, about a 15-20 minute walk from the town center. Taxis are generally available at the pier.
Shopping In addition to the usual French luxury goods such as silk scarves, silk ties, perfumes and cosmetics, regional handicrafts (pottery and local paintings) or a bottle of Calvados may be of interest. The local currency is the franc.
Cuisine Normandy is the dairy of France. Goats and sheep are raised for the production of the famous cheeses. Butter and cream are heavily used in the local cuisine. Specialties include oysters au gratin and foie gras. Cider, calvados, pommeau and poiré are the best-known spirits of the region.
Other Sites Chateau de Caen
The remains of William the Conqueror's fortress were restored after the war to the impressive structure we see looming over the Esplanade today. The complex houses the Beaux Arts Museum known for its stunning collection, including works from 15th-century masters to contemporary French artists. The castle gardens are a perfect spot for strolling; the ramparts afford good views of the city.
Men’s Abbey and St. Stephen’s Church
Founded by William the Conqueror, this great Romanesque construction was designed to hold his tomb. The abbey incorporates the town hall with the splendid Church of St. Stephen next to it. Here much of Caen’s population took shelter during the 1944 bombardment.
The Ladies’ Abbey and Holy Trinity Church
Commissioned by William’s wife, Queen Matilda, this abbey incorporates the Holy Trinity Church inside of which is Matilda's tomb.
This celebrated museum stands on a plateau above a former German underground command post. It provides visitors with compelling exhibits from the dark years of war to a vision of peace. A sequence of six areas laid out in chronological order makes it simple for visitors to follow the events and consequences of World War II.