Located in a former episcopal palace in the heart of Bayeaux, the Le Musée d’art et d’histoire Baron-Gérard (MAHB) is a museum dedicated to recounting the backstory of both French painting and Normandy. Established in 2013, it is carefully curated and well laid out on two levels with 14 chronological collections spanning prehistory to the 20th century.
Highlights among the paintings include great works by Rococo artist François Boucher, Neo-classicist David, Gustave Corot — the precursor of the Impressionists — Gustave Caillebotte and Eugène Boudin. The museum also houses one of France’s most important collections of handmade 18th-century Bayeaux lace, lovingly displayed in the bishops’ former private apartments, which are still decorated with original wooden carvings. There’s an equally impressive display of Bayeaux porcelain and more than 800 archaeological artifacts excavated across the region of Calvados; each gallery is equipped with multi-lingual touchscreens to keep kids involved in the exhibition.
The palace itself has a few surprises to spring: Romanesque vaults; grand staircases; a French Renaissance chapel dating from the mid 16th century and swathed in cherubs, and a 17th century courtroom. Entrance to MAHB can be combined with tickets to see the Bayeux Tapestry and the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy.
37 rue du Bienvenu, Bayeaux. Open daily May–Sept 9.30am-6.30pm; Feb 2–Apr 30, Oct–Dec 10am–12.30pm, 2pm–6pm. Admission adults €7, seniors & students €5.5, children younger than 16 €5; younger than 10 free. Best accessed by car along the N13; take exit 36 towards Bayeux. Alternatively take the train; it is a 15-minute walk to the museum from the railway station.