Boxed purple & mauve flowers surround the statue of Louis XIV in Place Saint-Sauveur in Caen, Normandy

The Core of Calvados, Caen, France

In En-Route, Europe, France, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, World Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

Here lies William the Conqueror

The Normandy road trip continues, and we are off to Caen in the heart of the Calvados region.

The ornate gothic detail of the golden stonework the Church of Saint-Pierre  in Caen, Normandy

The Church of Saint-Pierre

This was the second base for our trip, from here Gary and I will discover more about the historical events of WWII and the landing beaches, explore the city of Caen and embark on a day trip to Mont Saint-Michel.

Quick Links

A useful guide

We love visiting France and each region so different from one another. I find the DK Eyewitness Guides really helpful in planning a trip and so often find interesting little snippets of info.

Take a peek at this revised Top 10 Pocket Travel Guide and see what you can discover.

Day of discovery

Although we used Caen as a springboard to other places in Normandy, we wanted to explore the city itself.

If it’s good enough for William the Conqueror, it’s good enough for us.

The entrance to the Abbaye aux Hommes built in a typical Norman-style flanked by two towers.

The imposing Abbaye aux Hommes, Caen


Château de Caen is an ideal place to start your Journey.

Stroll across the bridge that straddles the original moat, and you are free to wander around the grounds of the castle and along the ramparts.

Looking towards the walls of the Château de Caen under a bright blue sky with alternating French & Normandy flags fluttering in the evening breeze.

The fortifications of the Château de Caen, Caen

Originally built around 1060 by the Duke of Normandy (William the Conqueror), walk around the edge of the fortification and you’ll have far stretching views across the city.

A view from outside the walls of the Château de Caen grounds focusing on the strong Norman built walls and a defensive tower.

Château de Caen

Heading down through the gatehouse you can start to explore the city below.

A wooden bridge, over a now dried out mote, to a gatehouse in the Château de Caen, Normandy.

The Gatehouse of the Château de Caen

His & Hers

One of the unique things about Caen is that it has two abbeys within the city, Abbaye aux Hommes (the Men’s Abbey) & Abbaye aux Dames (the Women’s Abbey). William the Conqueror had both of the abbeys built to appease the pope, as William had married his own cousin Mathilda of Flanders.

A view from the nave end of the Abbaye aux Hommes in Caen from the park in front of the town hall.

Abbaye aux Hommes from the town hall

Abbaye aux Hommes was originally home to Benedictine monks, and now the convent buildings houses Caen’s, City Hall. The Abbey truly is a prominent part of the Romanesque and Gothic architecture and looks wonderful day & night.
An illuminated Caen town hall alongside L'Abbaye-aux-Hommes under a pale blue and purple sky at dusk.

Caen Town Hall

Although William the Conqueror died in Rouen his tomb is in the Abbaye aux Hommes.

Inside the Abbaye aux Hommes in front of the tomb of William the Conqueror.

The tomb of William the Conqueor

Tempted to?

Discover more of Normandy on a road trip, you'll be amazed how easy it is to tour around by car with. Like us you can create your own adventure and visit Rouen, the D-Day Landing Beaches, Alençon, Honfleur, Giverny, the ruins of Jumièges Abbey, Beuvron-en-Auge and Mont Saint-Michel.

Take a peek at the offers at Rental Cars, they cover all budgets and allow you to pick up and drop off at different destinations.

It's all about the ladies

Abbaye aux Dames on the other side of the city is another piece of fantastic Norman architecture, it was founded around the end of the 11th century and became the home to a Benedictine monastery of nuns. Mathilda of Flanders is buried here.

The impressive entrance to the Abbaye aux Dames in Caen dominated by two huge Norman towers.

Abbaye aux Dames


Due to Caen’s proximity to the sea, it has a lovely marina & quay and makes quite a focal point for the town.

Strolling along the marina on a Sunday (market day) it was bustling with locals perusing the 400 stalls.

Loaves of fresh French bread on sale on a market stall in France including a pain du champagne

Fresh bread on the market

We wandered back later in the evening, and it was like a different place, all the crowds had gone, and you could hear the yachts masts jangling in the evening breeze.

Boats moored up at the Caen marina at dusk.

The Marina at dusk

Why not?

Start creating your own French adventure and discover the enchanting and historic region of Normandy for yourself. Search through for your favourable routes to Paris, which is a short hop from Normandy.

One of favourites ways to kick off our trips is to let Brittany Ferries take the strain, sit back, relax and go with the flow. Enjoy a little bit of France as you sail directly into Caen in the heart of Normandy.

Or alternatively jump on Le Shuttle and tour through France under your own steam.

Walking the streets

As we continue to discover the town, the history through time and the amazing architecture surrounds you.

A golden equine statue to Joan of Arc carrying a flag in Caen, Normany

A statue of Joan of Arc

All that remains of the ruined of Eglise Saint-Gilles in Caen are five gothic arches in the sandstone favoured by the Normans.

Ruins of Eglise Saint-Gilles

The art deco styled building of the Prefecture Services Administration in Caen.  The circular central column of the golden sandstone building is flanked on either side by offices over seven floors.

The Prefecture Services Administration building

The art deco styled facade in carved wood of the Library of Calvados in Caen, Normandy.

What a book shop!

A view from a distance of the Église Saint-Étienne-le-Vieux in Caen, Normandy

Église Saint-Étienne-le-Vieux


The area around Saint-Sauveur added another element to Caen, with its impressive elegant 18th-century square.

Boxed purple & mauve flowers surround the statue of  Louis XIV in Place Saint-Sauveur in Caen, Normandy

Statue of Louis XIV in Place Saint-Sauveur

The area around Saint-Sauveur added another element to Caen, with its impressive elegant 18th-century square.

The neo-classical facade, featuring six giant Doric columns, to the Palais du Justice in Caen,

Palais de Justice

Have You?

Stayed in Caen? How was you experience? It is a city that has risen from near total destruction at the end of the Second World War, and is proud of that fight.

Evening entertainment

You certainly won’t be short of restaurants in Caen, and there were a couple of standout memories for me. I tried my first ever oeuf cocotte at a little bistro La Casiniere, Gary has been enjoying this dish for years, now I know why.

And I had my best ever profiterole experience at Casserole et Bouchons, and believe me I have had my fair share of profiteroles over the years.

Three profiteroles stuffed with different flavoured ice creams topped with toasted almonds with  a dollop of whipped cream on the side, all drizzled with caramel sauce.

Possibly the best profiteroles - ever!

They may not look that impressive, but they tasted delicious!!!

We also ate in Café Mango in Saint-Sauveur Square, the quality of the food was very impressive, I went for a little entree of prawns (this was a starter!!!)...

A plate of bright orangy-pink prawns with a light side salad and a mayonaise dip in Cafe Magon in Caen, Normandy

Prawns to start at Café Mango

... and Gary indulged in steak tartare (you can probably tell, he's not a vegetarian).

A plate of Steak Tartare prawns adorned with a raw egg yoke and all the rimming of chopped shives, capers & red onion in Cafe Magon in Caen, Normandy

Steak Tartare at Café Mango

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Inspired to visit Caen?

A city with so much history, explore by day, and enjoy great food at night. Like us you can use it to explore the Normandy beaches.

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