Caen is a city rich in history and culture, which deserves to be discovered. Whether you are passing through for a short stopover or a longer stay, every moment spent in Caen promises to be memorable.
In this article, we offer a guide to make the most of this charming city in just 24 hours. From historical heritage to gastronomic pleasures, through green spaces, follow our advice for an unforgettable day in Caen.
So, get ready to explore the hidden treasures of this Norman city and let yourself be seduced by its unique charm.
In the morning
Visit of the Men’s Abbey
After enjoying a delicious breakfast, head to the Men’s Abbey, one of the iconic monuments of Caen. Founded in the 11th century by William the Conqueror, this Benedictine abbey is a true masterpiece of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. It was the burial place of William the Conqueror, whose tomb is still today in the choir of the church.
Take the time to visit the church and admire its magnificent facade, its stained glass windows, and its majestic organ, which testify to the artistic richness of the medieval period. You can also discover the conventual buildings, which now house the City Hall of Caen. The cloister, bordered by arcades and small columns, offers a peaceful space conducive to meditation.
The Men’s Abbey is located at 1 Place Saint-Étienne and is open every day from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm, except on public holidays. Entrance to the church is free, while the guided tour of the conventual buildings and cloister is paid (full price: €5.50, reduced price: €4.50). The duration of the guided tour is about 1 hour.
Take advantage of this first step to immerse yourself in the medieval history of Caen and discover one of its architectural jewels.
Discovering the Castle of Caen
Continue your visit to Caen by heading to Caen Castle, an impressive medieval fortress located in the heart of the city. Founded in the 11th century by William the Conqueror, the castle is one of the largest fortified complexes in Europe and testifies to the power of the Dukes of Normandy and the Kings of England.
Enter the castle grounds through the Porte des Champs or the Porte Saint-Pierre and stroll along the ramparts to appreciate the panoramic view of the city. Don’t miss visiting the Queen Mathilde’s Tower, which offers an exceptional viewpoint over Caen and its surroundings.
The castle also houses two must-see museums: the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Normandy. The Museum of Fine Arts presents a rich collection of European artworks, ranging from the Renaissance to the 20th century, while the Museum of Normandy traces the history and popular traditions of the region through art and archeology objects.
Caen Castle is open every day, except on public holidays. Access to the castle and ramparts is free. The museums charge admission, but offer reduced rates for students, seniors, and groups. The opening hours of the museums vary according to the season, so it is recommended to check their website for more information. Allow about 2 hours to explore the castle and its museums, in order to fully enjoy this place rich with history.
In the afternoon
Walk in the Vaugueux district
After a hearty lunch, continue your discovery of Caen by taking a stroll in the charming Vaugueux district. This historic district, located at the foot of Caen Castle, consists of narrow, cobbled streets lined with half-timbered houses from the 15th to the 18th century. The Vaugueux offers a peaceful and picturesque atmosphere, ideal for a digestive walk.
Stroll along the streets of Vaugueux and admire the colorful facades of the houses, testaments to traditional Norman architecture. Take the time to stop in the local craft shops, art galleries, and artists’ studios that dot the alleys. The district is also known for its many restaurants and bistros, which will allow you to discover the conviviality and warmth of Caen hospitality.
While walking, don’t miss visiting the Saint-Sauveur church, a building dating from the 14th century that presents a mix of Gothic and Renaissance styles. The church houses beautiful stained glass windows and a historic organ, which are worth a detour.
The walk in the Vaugueux district is an excellent opportunity to soak up the authentic and charming atmosphere of Caen, while appreciating the contrast between the animation of the restaurants and the tranquility of the cobbled streets. Allow about an hour for this walk, which will allow you to discover another face of the city.
Visit to the Women’s Abbey
After exploring the Vaugueux district, head to the Women’s Abbey, another iconic monument of Caen. Founded in the 11th century by Matilda of Flanders, the wife of William the Conqueror, this Benedictine abbey is a superb example of Norman Romanesque architecture.
The abbey consists of the Church of the Trinity, which houses the tomb of Matilda of Flanders, and the conventual buildings. The Church of the Trinity is particularly notable for its harmonious facade adorned with sculptures, its pointed arch vaults, and its colorful stained glass windows. Take the time to admire these artistic and architectural elements that testify to the refinement of the medieval period.
The cloister, lined with arcades and columns, is another must-see place in the Women’s Abbey. This peaceful and luminous space invites contemplation and meditation.
The Women’s Abbey is located at 23 Rue de l’Engannerie and is open every day from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm, except on public holidays. Entry is free for the church and the cloister, while the guided tour of the conventual buildings is paid (full price: €5.50, reduced price: €4.50). The duration of the guided tour is about 1 hour. Take advantage of this step to discover another gem of Caen’s heritage and to learn more about the history of women in power during the Middle Ages.
Strolling in the parks of Caen
End your day of exploring Caen by treating yourself to a pleasant stroll in one of the many parks and gardens of the city. These green spaces are perfect for relaxing, recharging, and enjoying nature while staying in the heart of the city.
Here are some suggestions of parks and gardens where you can walk and admire the beauty of the landscapes:
- The Botanical Garden: Located in the heart of Caen, this historic botanical garden offers a great diversity of plants and trees, as well as tropical greenhouses, a rockery garden, and a play area for children. It’s an ideal place for a peaceful walk or a family picnic.
- The Bird Hill Park: This vast landscaped park, located near the Caen Memorial, offers themed gardens, play areas, a maze, an animal park, and walking trails offering a panoramic view of the city.
- Michel d’Ornano Park: This English-style park, located near the Ladies’ Abbey, offers a green and romantic setting, with its lawns, flower beds, centenary trees, and pond.
Take the time to walk in these parks and gardens to appreciate the botanical richness, the colors and scents of the flowers, as well as the singing of the birds. These green spaces are a real haven of peace and tranquility, where you can recharge after a busy day exploring Caen.
Allow about 1 hour for this stroll, in order to fully enjoy the beauty and serenity of Caen’s parks and gardens.
Caen is a city that will charm visitors in search of discoveries and authentic experiences. From the castle to the abbeys, through the picturesque Vaugueux district and the verdant parks, Caen offers a tasty mix of tourist attractions and local charm.
We hope that our guide has made you want to discover Caen and fully enjoy everything this city has to offer. Feel free to adapt our itinerary according to your preferences and pace, and explore the many other attractions and activities available in the region. Bon voyage and bon appetit!