Ferries to Caen, France

The Lower Normandy Region (also known as Basse-Normandie) lies in the west of Normandy, and has a rich history dating back to the 10th century.

This part of France has been owned by Britain a number of times, and was an integral part of the D-Day landings in 1944. It has a language of its own (Norman), and even that has different dialects including Cotentin.

With so much history, it’s little wonder that the Lower Normandy Region is so popular with visitors, and since it has direct ferry links to England, it’s easier than ever to get here.

Getting to Caen

Ferry Routes

Operator Route Services Travel Time Price
Portsmouth Caen 3 daily 5¾ hours See prices °

This information is for reference purposes only. Journey times are approximate. Frequency is based on typical schedules. Schedules are subject to availability and weather conditions. Information correct at the time of writing.

Taster Cruise Ship Itineraries

Sorry, no mini cruise routes can be found sailing to Caen sailing on a cruise ship.

Top 3 Cruise & Ferry Deals

  1. Irish Ferries Ireland mini cruise from £38pp
  2. Day trip to Rosslare with Stena Line from £5.50pp
  3. Sail to Belfast with Stena Line from £10pp each way

Sightseeing

With so much to do and see in Lower Normandy, you could be forgiven for not knowing where to start, but once you realise exactly what is there, you won’t be able to wait to begin!

Abbey of Saint-Etienne

The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as the Abbey aux Hommes (Men’s Abbey), and built as a companion building to the Abbey aux Dames, is a beautiful building in the city of Caen. It is a perfect example of Romansque architecture, and is an important building when it comes to both history and design.

This cathedral was William the Conqueror’s attempt to reconcile with the Pope (Leo IX), after the Pope grew angry with William for marrying his cousin, Matilda of Flanders. This is where William himself is buried – and the story of his funeral is an interesting and rather lurid one, all the details of which can be found in the cathedral, along with many other fascinating historical facts.

Bayeaux Tapestry

With William the Conqueror in mind, the Bayeaux Tapestry should not be missed when it comes to choosing attractions to visit in Lower Normandy. This exquisite piece of 11th century art was created to commemorate the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings, King Harold’s death, and William’s eventual coronation was king of England.

It shows the weapons that were used, the battle plans that were organised, and elements of everyday life that are missing from many other accounts. An epic labour of love for the ages, the Bayeaux Tapestry is by turn both thrilling and heartbreaking, and is a true adventure story for young and old.

Mont Saint Michel

Mont Saint Michel is another must see destination whilst in Lower Normandy. The first building on this site was erected in 709 by Aubert, bishop of Avranches, on the direct instructions from the Archangel Michel himself. It wasn’t until 966 that a community of Benedictines settled on the mount, and the first ‘proper’ church was built.

Since then there have been many different buildings built in this most sacred of places, each one bigger and better than the last. The current structure was built in 1421, but because it was used as a prison during the French Revolution, it needed to be restored in the 19th century. Mont Saint Michel can only be accessed by a sea road that is completely covered in high tide, making this a truly unique experience.

Honfleur

Honfleur is a quaint, picture postcard perfect town in Lower Normandy. It is especially popular with artists, and its gorgeous narrow buildings, old dock, and stunning views have been turned into photographs, paintings, and sculptures for many hundreds of years.

Monet, Baudelaire, and Turner are just a few of the famous names this place has attracted in its time. But Honfleur is a lovely place to visit even if you are not an artist; with its traditional medieval cobbled streets, three superb churches, and maritime and art museums, there is plenty to keep everyone occupied.

Beaches used for D-Day landings

During World War II, Lower Normandy was an integral part of the Allied plan to oust the Nazis. This is most obvious in the story of the D-Day landings, since it was beaches in Lower Normandy that were chosen as the soldiers’ destination.

On 6th June 1944, British, American, and Canadian troops landed on Sword, Juno, Omaha, Gold, and Utah beaches (these are their war time code names), and it from there that they were able to gain a foothold in France and, despite great losses, make huge headway in the war effort.

There are museums dedicated to D-Day all over this part of France, but it is only be visiting the beaches themselves that you can really get a sense of the magnitude of what really happened here.

Cerza Zoo

Cerza Zoo is ideal for a different kind of family day out. From rhinos to tapirs, from hippos to panthers, and a huge range of other fantastic and magnificent animals, there is plenty to see and do here, in Normandy’s most famous zoo. It is even possible to stay the night in one of the park’s safari lodges, and be as close as you can to the animals in their natural habitat.

Château Guillaume-le-Conquérant

Château Guillaume-le-Conquérant, William the Conqueror’s Castle, was known as Falaise, but that’s not the only castle that has stood on this spot; studies have shown that some kind of fortification has been here since at least 7000 BC!

Enjoy a guided tour of the castle and grounds, and learn more about William the Conqueror, who shaped Britain, as well as France, into what it is today. Special events such as jousting competitions, performances, and re-enactments are staged throughout the year, so it is always worth a visit to see what is happening.

Bustling markets

Markets are a big part of the culture of Normandy, and there are plenty around. No matter where you are staying, there will be a market near you, and probably more than one.

Fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, wine, beer, meat, spices, clothing, and all manner of goods can be found at these markets, and it is well worth making your way to one to snap up some superb and tasty bargains. As a bonus, you can explore the lovely towns and villages as you peruse the items for sale.

And there's more...

The Lower Normandy Region is a place that is easy to go back to – there is so much to see and do, and it is so beautiful and full of history and fascinating finds that it almost requires more than one visit. If you have been before and are looking for something new to experience, this list should give you a few ideas.

The Aquatic Centre in Falaise is a super place to go for a relaxing swim or a fun, family day out, since it has everything for both kinds of days under one roof. There is a 25 metre swimming pool that also features a leisure pool and toddler area.

There are slides and a wavepool, rapids, and even an outside Nordic pool with massage jets. This little adventure is open all year round, and in the summer it also has giant inflatables, sun beds, and a chance to try to your hand(s) at volleyball. Go for an hour or go for the day – it’s a fun place to unwind and enjoy.

Festyland entices around 100,000 visitors each year, which makes it an excellent place to go for a day out without needing to worry too much about the crowds. Despite its relatively few visitors, Festyland is full of excitement and adventure, and is all about being a kid at heart.

The theme of the park is 1066, and the rides and attractions all reflect that in some way – even the restaurants have food with names that ring with history! From a steel roller coaster that looks like a Viking ship, to bumper boats, to a dinosaur zone and even beautiful gardens to stroll around, Festyland is fun, fun, fun!

The Magic Water Garden is part of the Chateau du Vendeuvre (which is also well worth visiting), and it is spectacular.

This centuries old garden has been made magic with the addition of streams, waterfalls, and water features that not only look beautiful in their own right, but, due to their clever placement and design, incorporate both the garden itself and the sunlight into making shapes and colours that take the breath away.

A truly unique and exceptionally stunning sight, when visiting the area – and the chateau (built in 1741, the first of its kind) – you must not miss the Magic Water Garden.

The Miniature Train Museum in Clecy has more than 450 metres of track, 250 tiny trains, 650 miniature houses (all lit with electric lights), and is a great day out for train enthusiasts and those wanting to learn a little more about this most fascinating of vehicles.

Set in an old limestone quarry, there is a small ride on train that can take you around for a better view, as well as a children’s play area and café. You can take a picnic if you prefer, and there is plenty here to fill a few hours or a whole day, depending on what you want to do, and how long you choose to play with the trains for!

Foret Grimbosq is a 475 hectare forest with an animal park containing creatures such as deer and wild boar, lovely walks that go on for miles, a fantastic duck pond for truly classic childhood adventures, an arboretum, and a superb play area. It’s open all year round, and is a great place to go for some fresh air and a picnic lunch.

Horse riding is a favourite pastime in Normandy; in fact, the region is famous for its horse breeding and is a world class when it comes to horses in general. No matter where you are in the area, there will be somewhere to enjoy lessons and trekking nearby. Whether you are a beginner just trying out something new, or an expert equestrian who can’t get enough of your favourite thing to do, there will be somewhere that suits you perfectly.

Hotels

Picking the right hotel can feel overwhelming sometimes, especially where there are many to choose from as there are in Lower Normandy.

Budget hotels in Lower Normandy

This selection should help to make your choice a little easier, and it’s ideal for those on a budget.

Chateau de Bellefontaine, just a stone’s throw from the centre of Bayeaux, is great value for money. Although it may look like an impressive castle or stately home, it is actually a comfortable and reasonably priced hotel that would make an ideal base for your travels in Lower Normandy.

Sejours & Affaires Caen Le Clos Beaumois is perfectly located to allow for long days of exploring the region. It offers self catering apartments, as well as a daily breakfast and housekeeping, so you can have your freedom and enjoy a little bit of pampering at the same time. Situated in the heart of Caen, from here you are only 15 minutes from the ferry terminal and 300 metres from the exquisite Abbaye aux Dames.

Family-friendly hotels in Lower Normandy

Travelling with family is a great thing to do, and will make memories that last a lifetime. Why not add to these memories by staying in a great, family friendly hotel?

At Chambres d’Hotes Close de Bellefontaine at Bayeux you not only have a beautiful building, but lovely grounds (a 2000m2 park, actually), and gorgeous interiors too. The house is 19th century, but has mod cons such as free WiFi in the public areas, and a communal laptop that can be used in the lounge.

The 19th century Numero Cinq is just a two minute stroll from the medieval town centre of Domfront. Each room is unique (some have a fireplace, for example), so no visit will ever be the same, and breakfast is included in the price. Packed lunches can also be provided for your day trips!

Luxury hotels in Lower Normandy

A hotel with a bit of luxury attached is always a treat after a hard day’s sightseeing. Here are some examples of top hotels in Lower Normandy that will make you feel special.

The stunning Hotel Normandy Barriere is the epitome of comfort and luxury. It offers individually decorated rooms, an indoor poor and fitness centre, solarium, and sauna, a restaurant serving local cuisine (La Belle Epoque), and a restaurant specifically for children (La Fermette). As a bonus, it overlooks Deauville’s gorgeous beaches.

A stunning 5 star hotel where Marcel Proust once lived, the Le Grand Hotel Cabourg is directly on the seafront at Cabourg, and even has its own private beach. An added touch of luxury can be found in the form of robes and slippers in each room, and a sumptuous breakfast buffet every morning in Le Balbec restaurant.

Restaurants

Food, glorious, food! And in France, perhaps it could be said the food is more glorious that anywhere else. If you love your food but don’t love paying high prices for it, then these pocket pleasing places will put a smile on your face (and give you a full belly to boot).

The food at Le Conquerant is simple and delicious, and sometimes that’s the only thing you need. Situated close to the Bayeaux Tapestry, this is an ideal spot for lunch or dinner. Everyone will be – literally – well catered for.

Open for lunch and dinner, and able to seat 250 people, Restaurant de l’Otelinn in Caen offers good, simple, tasty food at a reasonable price. Everything on the menu is seasonal, and it changes frequently, so it’s always worth visiting more than once to get a great idea of exactly what is available year round in Lower Normandy. With a set menu, a children’s menu, and a bar area, you can relax and unwind after a day of being out and about.

Family restaurants need to be fun, child friendly, and still offer great food at good prices. Luckily, there are a number of these restaurants in the Lower Normandy region.

Although the name may suggest otherwise, Le Bistrot À Crêpes in Honfleur doesn’t just serve crepes (but when they do, they are sublime). There are steaks, moules-frites, beef fondue, and many other dishes besides. The children’s menu is varied, and there should be enough to keep the little ones happy until dessert arrives – and they will love that (as will you!)! Crepes in all flavours with various different sauces, creams, and ice creams. Yum!

Run by a husband and wife team, L’Assiette des Mondes in Équemauville is child friendly and great value for money at the same time. Delicious food combined with a cosy atmosphere is a great way to dine, and the set menu offers a wide choice, as does the children’s menu. A hidden gem that is well worth finding.

Holidays are sometimes just about treating yourself, and at these fabulous restaurants you can do just that.

For a stunning, special, romantic meal, La Rapière in Bayeux is the place to go. With three different menus to choose from, depending on budget and how hungry you are, there is plenty of choice, and some superb dishes on offer such as oysters, French beef fillet with camembert, foie gras with raisin and walnut bread, roasted langoustine tails, and orange marmalade and chocolate mousse. Attentive staff and a good wine list complete the wonderful meal.

A distinctive menu with freshly cooked, seasonal produce is what makes Le Spinnaker in Deauville so good, as well as the excellent waiting staff and the exceptional chef. Choose from grilled cod with squid ink mash, veal escalope with chestnut risotto, or be surprised with the chef’s own suggestion – you know it will be delicious, and sometimes it’s good to try something unknown!

Centrally located on a beautiful cobbled street in Honfleur, Le Bréard offers a tasting menu with prices that are dependent on the ingredients used. The more you pay, the more expensive the ingredients, but even at the lower end of the price range you will find delicious combinations of flavours expertly put together. Chilled oyster salad, fillet of pork in beetroot sauce, lamb with mint foam, passion fruit soufflé, a tower of citrus fruits… all this and more awaits you at Le Breard.

Family travel

Taking the family for a holiday or short break to somewhere that everyone loves is the stuff that memories are made of, but in order to ensure that those memories are good ones, it pays to go somewhere wonderful.

Lower Normandy fits that bill – with over 450 kilometres of coastline, plenty of visitor attractions for young, old, and everyone in between, a good selection of family friendly restaurants and hotels, and a history that intercepts with our own, this is a brilliant place to enjoy some well deserved family time.

When to Visit Lower Normandy

Although there are things to do in Lower Normandy all year round, during the peak tourist months (May to September), you will find that the attractions and restaurants you want to visit are open more often – during the off peak months they tend to close midweek, and if you are only in the area for a few days this can be a little frustration. If you are visiting in the winter, it is wise to book restaurants and attractions in advance, as then you will know exactly what you will be able to do.

June is the ideal time to visit Lower Normandy, as the D-Day memorial celebrations will be well under way, and there will be a chance to visit the landing beaches on the anniversary itself (6th June).

Handy information

Where you will dock

While the destination is called Caen the ferry terminal actually sits to the north east of the city on the outskirts of a town called Ouistreham.

The port is around 12 miles (about 19 kilometres) to the heart of Caen itself, travelling on the D84, D514, D515, and N814. That may sound complicated but it's more or less a straight road from the port south, joining the N814 motorway that runs west to east across the northern side of the city.

Ouistreham boasts a beautiful sandy beach so make sure you spend some time here before travelling onto Caen and Lower Normandy.

Nearest airport

Caen airport is the closest point to Ouistreham and is located to the west of Caen. The airport is 6 miles (about 10 kilometres) from Caen and 15 miles (about 24 kilometres) from Ouistreham. The airport offers routes to destinations with France, the Mediterranean, and London Southend.

Nearest railway stations

The nearest train station to Ouistreham is in the heart of Caen itself. Gare de Caen is a large transport hub with routes linking to the rest of France. The railway station is 11 miles (about 18 kilometres) from Ouistreham.

Currency

The currency used in Normandy is the Euro (€). 100 cents make up 1 Euro. Euro coins are available in 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents and 50 cents coins. Euro bank notes are available in €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500 values.

The exchange rate is currently around £1 equals €0.00. The rate you get when exchanging currency online or on the high street may differ to this rate as this figure comes courtesy of the European Central Bank. The foreign exchange rate may differ from this so it pays to shop around to get the most currency for your money

Ferry Routes

Operator Route Services Travel Time Price
Portsmouth Caen 3 daily 5¾ hours See prices °

This information is for reference purposes only. Journey times are approximate. Frequency is based on typical schedules. Schedules are subject to availability and weather conditions. Information correct at the time of writing.

Taster Cruise Ship Itineraries

Sorry, no mini cruise routes can be found sailing to Caen sailing on a cruise ship.

Top 3 Cruise & Ferry Deals

  1. Irish Ferries Ireland mini cruise from £38pp
  2. Day trip to Rosslare with Stena Line from £5.50pp
  3. Sail to Belfast with Stena Line from £10pp each way

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