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Things to do in  Caen

Welcome to Caen

Just minutes from the cross-Channel ferry port of Ouistreham, Caen's historic center pays homage to its eventful past. Walking the ramparts of the city's medieval Château, the one-time home of William the Conqueror; admiring the Romanesque abbeys and buzzing student quarter; and uncovering WWII secrets at the Caen memorial are among the top things to do in Caen. Normandy's most-visited attractions also sit right on the doorstep, and day-trippers can explore the D-Day Landing Beaches, marvel at the Bayeux Tapestry, and sample cider and Calvados (apple brandy) along Normandy's Cider Route.

Top 10 attractions in Caen

#1
Honfleur

Honfleur

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Famously painted by artists, such as Claude Monet, Gustave Courbet, and Eugene Boudin, the picturesque waterfront and colorful harbor of Honfleur are among the most memorable in Normandy. The historic port is renowned for its architecture, especially Vieux Bassin harbor’s 16th-century buildings and the wooden church of Sainte Catherine.More
#2
Pegasus Memorial Museum (Pegasus Bridge)

Pegasus Memorial Museum (Pegasus Bridge)

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D-Day troops arriving in Normandy crossed the Caen Canal as they sought to liberate occupied France. The bridge they used was later renamed Pegasus Bridge to honor the British Parachute Regiment. Now, the bridge is part of the Pegasus Memorial Museum, alongside exhibits featuring Second World War artifacts and soldiers’ personal effects.More
#3
Abbaye aux Hommes

Abbaye aux Hommes

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Founded by William the Conqueror, this former Benedictine monastery is one of the most important Romanesque buildings in Normandy, inspiring many churches on the other side of the Channel to adopt its style. Also known as Abbey of Saint-Étienne, the Abbaye aux Hommes (Men’s Abbey) is now the city hall (Hôtel de Ville).More
#4
Arromanches-les-Bains

Arromanches-les-Bains

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The tiny village of Arromanches-les-Bains played a big role during the Second World War, when Allied troops installed a prefabricated marina just off the coast here. The remains are still visible, and the town’s fascinating Musee du Debarquement explores that wartime history. Now, the village is a key stop for travelers exploring D-Day sites in Normandy.More
#5
Sainte-Mere-Eglise

Sainte-Mere-Eglise

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What was an otherwise little-known village of the Cotentin Peninsula suddenly became infamous after it was visited by American troops on June 6th 1944 as part of Operation Overlord – making Sainte-Mère-Église one of the first villages to be liberated of the Nazis after four long years of occupation. Sainte-Mère-Église, along with Utah Beach, was one of the two airborne landings on D-Day, because of its strategic position between Cherbourg and Paris. Sainte-Mère-Église is also where the Airborne Museum is located (14 rue Eisenhower), entirely dedicated to the D-Day paratroopers. It includes authentic artifacts like a DC3 aircraft, insightful information and an entire section devoted to the movie The Longest Day, which depicts a well-known incident involving paratrooper John Steele of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. His parachute caught on the spire of the town church, from which he observed the fighting going on below, hanging limply for two hours and pretending to be dead before the Germans took him prisoner.More
#6
Ranville War Cemetery

Ranville War Cemetery

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Located in the heart of Calvados, just a few kilometers from the Channel, stands the Ranville War Cemetery. It contains a majority of British soldiers of the 6th Airborne Division (and also Canadian and German soldiers) that were killed during early stages of the Battle of Normandy in the Second World War. In fact, Ranville was the first village to be liberated by the Allies on the morning of June 6, 1944 – more commonly known as D-Day. Indeed, the village was secured by British and Canadian troops, landed nearby by parachute and glider on a mission to secure the bridge over the Caen Canal. This wasn’t achieved easily, though, as the skies were quite windy on that meaningful day and the area was, in reality, much larger than what had been expected.Ranville War Cemetery is located by the ancient Ranville Chapel, a graded 10th-century building. It is laid out in a typical French garden design, with immaculately kept landscapes and manicured grounds. Within the cemetery stands a Cross of Sacrifice (designed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, it is the archetypal British war memorial), an octagonal-shaped, elongated Latin cross with Celtic dimensions carved out of white Portland stone. Ranville War Cemetery contains 2,560 burials, including the grave of Lieutenant Den Brotheridge, considered to be the first Allied death on D-Day.More
#7
Caen Memorial Museum (Mémorial de Caen)

Caen Memorial Museum (Mémorial de Caen)

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Located a short drive from the D-Day Landing Beaches, the Caen Memorial Museum (Mémorial de Caen) puts one of the most significant battles of World War II into historical context. The museum gardens serve as a poignant tribute to the international soldiers that lost their lives on Norman soil.More
#8
Cherbourg

Cherbourg

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Located on the coast of Normandy, Cherbourg is both a seaside retreat and a bustling port. Immortalized by Catherine Deneuve in the classic 1964 filmThe Umbrellas of Cherbourg, the city has deep connections with French naval history.More
#9
Merville Battery (Batterie de Merville)

Merville Battery (Batterie de Merville)

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Merville Battery (Batterie de Merville) was a coastal fortification built by the Nazis in Merville-Franceville as part of the Atlantic Wall during World War II. Because this particular battery was much more better fortified than other similar installations, it was one of the first to be attacked by the Allies on D-Day.Indeed, it was successfully captured by British paratroopers on June 6, 1944, because they mistakenly believed the battery contained heavy-caliber weapons that could threaten the nearby beach landings. They discovered, however, that what it contained, essentially, was inoffensive World War I vintage guns. The battery also comprised four six-foot-thick, steel-reinforced concrete gun casemates, designed to protect mountain guns, as well as a command bunker, dorms and ammunition magazines. After the British left the battery to liberate a nearby village, Merville was once again taken over by the Germans until they withdrew France in the following month of August.More
#10
Abbaye aux Dames

Abbaye aux Dames

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Abbaye aux Dames in Caen (also known as the Abbey of Sainte-Trinité, or the Holy Trinity Abbey) is a Benedictine convent nearly one thousand years old. A bit worse for the wear, the abbey survived the Hundred Years War, during which it lost its original spires, and is now home to the Regional offices for Lower Normandy.More

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