Caen has a long history, for the English visitor the most important parts of which are the city's links with William the Conqueror and those related to D Day.
The city of Caen suffered badly in the weeks following D-Day, the Germans only being driven out by heavy bombardment and 1,000 bomber raids. However some historic buildings survived, notably the Abbée aux Hommes and the Abbée aux Dames which were founded by William the Conqueror and his Queen, Mathilde, his château and the cathedral. The rebuilding was done, in my opinion, far better than in some other Norman towns and cities and it retains much of its character.
Caen is linked to the sea by a canal. Commercial cargo is handled on the outskirts of the city – in an area that once included steelworks which used the local iron ore. The old dock basins in the centre of the city are now a large marina giving both activity and open space close to the heart of the city. There are many museums, historic buildings etc. in the city including Memorial, a war museum dedicated to peace.
For those including hypermarkets in their visit there is a Carrefour at Héroville close to where the road from Ouistreham joins the ring road and a larger one at Mondeville where the A13 from Paris runs into the ring road. There is also a Le Clerc nearer the centre.
Places to visit nearby include Bayeux – not just to see the tapestry, it has a thriving and very French market on Saturday mornings – and Suisse Normand (Swiss Normandy) with some beautiful scenery along the Orne from Thury-Harcourt to Clécy.
The ferry terminal is located just seawards of the entrance to the Caen Canal, which in turn is next to the mouth of the Orne. The ferry service, operated by Brittany Ferries
The sea facing part of Ouistreham is known as Riva-Bella and is the eastern most of a string of pleasant little resorts which spread about 12 kms along the coast, including Lion-sur-Mer, Luc-sur-Mer, Langrune-sur-Mer, St. Audin-sur-Mer and Courseulles-sur-Mer. The eastern end of this coast, at Riva-Bella and Colleville-Montgomery-Plage was D-Days Sword Beach while the western end at Courseulles was Juno Beach with Gold Beach a further 5 km further west. Another key place in the events of D-Day was, of course, Pegasus Bridge, the café next to which was the first building in France to be liberated in the early hours of 6 June 1944. If you visit the bridge you will see an example of French humour – the hotel almost next to the bridge is called the Hôtel Hastings ! A final point about that eventful day is that Colleville-Montgomery-Plage is the only place to have been renamed in honour of “Monty” who was commander of the British and Canadian troops on D-Day, Montgomery is a Norman name and the other places that bear the name were called that before the war.
If you cross Pegasus Bridge and return to the coast there is another string of resorts, all with very individual characters, Cabourg with it’s signs on the beach with more “Nos” than I’ve ever seen, on through to chic Deauville with its two racecourses and casino to picturesque Honfleur at the mouth of the Seine.
Ouistreham and Caen are linked by a good dual carriageway road and buses run to connect the city and the ferries.
Caen is well served by roads, the A13 autoroute to Rouen and Paris, the N13 (soon to be entirely dual carriageway/autoroute) to Bayeux and Cherbourg, the N158 heading south to Le Mans and thence to the Loire Valley, and the A84, which is rapidly advancing with many sections now open, to Rennes and the good roads south from there.
The railway station is served by services to Paris and Cherbourg, also by local services south to Falaise and Le Mans.
Within the city there is a good network of bus services and a tramway system.
This site was last updated 18-10-2011