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Because Caen sits a bit farther back from the English Channel shoreline than Bayeux, it is often overlooked as a base from which to visit the many WWII sites and memorials along the coast. But it's not only a well-connected hub in Normandy; it has an interesting mix of history all its own, and merits a visit.

The main part of the city is situated on the western side of the Orne River, although urban sprawl has creeped to the eastern side as well. Its historical heart is at the Château de Caen, built in the 11th century by William the Conquerer. Also on site are the twin abbeys of Saint-Etienne and Sainte-Trinité, built in the same century. Directly across from the castle is the Gothic-Renaissance Saint-Pierre Church; it embodies both architectural styles due to the three hundred years it took to complete.

Because much of the city was destroyed in WWII before its liberation in July 1944 – traces of which can be seen in the walls of the castle - there is a contrast between its ancient history and fairly new construction. Caen is also a big student town, which gives it a much more modern and lively atmosphere than the more preserved Bayeux. 

While its location between Bayeux and Le Havre makes it convenient for exploring the area's WWII history, before heading off, make sure to visit the Caen Memorial and gardens. It is a moving tribute to the history of 20th century wars and their ensuing movements towards peace, and will give you an excellent context for your sightseeing in Normandy.

It's a bit difficult for non-French speakers to pronounce “Caen;” the “n” is not clearly annunciated. Instead, it's a hard “c” sound followed by the sound made when saying the word “croissant.”

Tours & Tickets

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Private Tour: Normandy Landing Beaches, Battlefields, Museums and Cemeteries from Caen

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 6 Reviews

Take a private tour from Caen to Normandy, where you’ll explore sites of the Allied invasion on June 6, 1944 – more famously known as D-Day. You can ...  Read more

Location: Caen, France
Duration: 8 hours (approx.)

From USD $119.26

Normandy D-Day Battlefields and Beaches Day Trip

4.5 star rating: Recommended 881 Reviews

Take a poignant, memorable day trip from Paris to visit the Normandy battlefields and landing beaches of World War II. You'll visit famous wartime sites and ...  Read more

Location: Paris, France
Duration: 14 hours (approx.)

From USD $245.54

Normandy Battlefields Day Trip: Omaha, Sword and the British Airborne Sector

4.5 star rating: Recommended 8 Reviews

Retrace the main assaults undertaken by the British forces during the first days of the Battle of Normandy on a poignant battlefields tour you'll never forget. ...  Read more

Location: Bayeux, France
Duration: 9 hours (approx.)

From USD $126.28

Private Tour to Bayeux, Honfleur and Pays d' Auge from Caen

Discover the history, culture and food of Normandy on this private tour from Caen to Bayeux, Honfleur and Pays d’Auge. See the famous Bayeux Tapestry depicting ...  Read more

Location: Caen, France
Duration: 8 hours (approx.)

From USD $119.26

Mémorial de Caen Museum Admission and Guided Tour of D-Day Sites from Caen

Learn all about World War II and the momentous events of D-Day on this tour that includes admission to the Mémorial de Caen museum and a 5-hour morning or ...  Read more

Location: Caen, France
Duration: 8 hours (approx.)

From USD $89.80

D-Day Tour Including Guided Visit of the Mémorial de Caen Museum, Lunch and D-Day Landing Beaches

Spend a remarkable day learning about D-Day at the Mémorial de Caen museum and exploring historic D-Day sites including the artificial harbor at ...  Read more

Location: Caen, France
Duration: 10 hours (approx.)

From USD $161.36

Mémorial de Caen Museum Admission with Optional Audio Guide

Take an incredibly powerful journey back in time at the Mémorial de Caen, Normandy’s most comprehensive World War II museum. Watch a gripping film on ...  Read more

Location: Caen, France
Duration: Varies

From USD $26.66

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