Go Car-Less in Caen for the Perfect Slow Weekend Getaway 



Go Car-Less in Caen for the Perfect Slow Weekend Getaway 

With its extensive train network and interesting ticket prices, France is a wonderful destination to explore without a car. Why not start in Normandy, in Caen la Mer! Hop off the train from Paris or off the ferry in Ouistreham and enjoy a wonderfully relaxing weekend on the coast of the Chanel. 

From the train station, you can walk to the town centre and from the ferry port, you can take the bus (line 12 from Ouistreham Port stop) into Caen which takes 30 minutes. 

Half-timbered houses of central Caen © Les Conteurs / OTC

1000 years of history

Caen’s long history is best appreciated by wandering the streets of its centre. From the train station, it’s a mere 10-minute walk before you glimpse the half-timbered houses. Take the Routes de Caen walking tours (grab a map from the tourist office), wandering the cobbled streets in search of inner courtyards, architectural quirks and even street art gracing the walls of the elegant town houses. If you feel like simply going with the flow, opt for a themed guided tour with a professional guide or with a Greeter for local flavour. 

Don’t miss Caen castle, one of the biggest medieval fortresses of Europe. Inside its walls, two museums have found their homes: the Fine Arts museum and the Normandy museum but the showstopper has to be the view from the top of the ramparts. You’ll have to see the Abbaye aux Hommes and the Abbaye aux Dames too: founded by William the Conqueror, they were built in honour of his marriage to Matilda of Flanders

On your tour, if you happen to visit on a Friday or Sunday morning, don’t miss the vibrant food markets happening respectively on place Saint-Sauveur and on the port to sample local delicacies.

Going with the flow…from the river to the sea 

From April to September, head to the Fil de l’Orne water sports centre for a refreshing break from the centre. Hire a paddle-board, pedalo or electric boat, and splash your way down the river at your own pace. A lovely, calming outing surrounded by meadows and nature, just a few minutes away from the centre. 

Of course, a trip in Caen would not be complete without a day at the seaside. Head out by bike along the VéloFrancette cycle route that follows the canal heading out to sea. You can hire a public city bike for just €1 per hour! Along the way, highlights include the Petit Lourdes (replica of the Lourdes Basilica), the famous Pegasus Bridge, the Ornavik Viking Park, the Château de Beauregard or the Château de Bénouville. After 15km of easy cycling on a bucolic path, you will spot the Ouistreham lighthouse in the distance, a sign of your arrival on the coast. Don’t forget to stop at the fish market, for a truly special atmosphere. 

While you’re on the beach, why not try sand-yachting? With the flat expanse of sand, the winds pick up and boost you along at surprising speed! A gentler option is available to those who’d like to step along the paths of history with a sound-accompanied walk called La Délicate. 

If you’re tired after a day on the beach, the bus on line 12 will bring you back to central Caen. 

Fun for the whole family 

Travelling with young ones? Mix things up with extra stops. Visit the Caen Memorial, a museum for peace and an opportunity to teach the history of World War Two. Immerse yourself in the Viking world of Ornavik, a history park that whisks you back to the 10th century and introduces you to Normandy’s roots, from the Vikings to the Normans. Experience the thrill of the Festyland theme park with rollercoaster rides and history shows.

Dine in Norman style 

The Vaugueux district is the place to go to for a meal out. This medieval and very popular area of town is full of cafés, bars and restaurants and, in the summer, the old squares are taken over by colourful terraces and buzzing with conversations and laughter. L’Aromate and Boeuf & Cow are both recommended for their stylish dining and delicious food. 

Of course, you can fill your bags with delicious local specialties from the many boutiques, delicatessen, cheese shops and butchers in town – you could make the perfect Norman picnic basket – a box of Camembert is mandatory !

Purchase the Caen la mer City Pass to access the main attractions of the city, including the tours mentioned in this article. Choose whether it’s active for 24, 48 or 72 hours, whether it’s with or without transport and enjoy a stress-free stay in Caen. Click for more information.

For more information, visit www.caenlamer-tourisme.com

Lead photo credit : Ouistreham beach at sunset, just minutes from central Caen © Les Conteurs / OTC

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