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Capital of Basse-Normandie

The town of Caen, which lies on the River Orne, just inland from the coast of northern France, is more than just another port. It is the historic and beautiful capital city of its region, Basse-Normandie (Lower Normandy). It is the town built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, and the town so close to William's heart, that it is where he and his wife were buried.

History and modernity

Caen has so much history bound up in its character that it is impossible to separate the two. It is very much a product of its past, although there is a modern vibrancy to the city today that drives it forward to a successful future too.

Damaged in the second world war

Caen was heavily bombed in the second world war, when much of this beautiful city was damaged beyond recognition. It has largely been restored now, and fortunately there are still some important heritage sites that remained undamaged by the Blitz.

Caen's historical buildings

Many of the town's historical buildings are found on the left bank of the River Orne, which bisects the city. In the old parts of town you can wander at will, allowing yourself to be charmed by the mediaeval streets, secret courtyards and ancient buildings.

Abbaye aux Homes and Abbaye aux Dames

Two buildings for which Caen is famous are the Abbaye aux Homes and the Abbaye aux Dames. These were built by William the Conqueror and his wife, Mathilde, to atone for the "sin" of their marriage. As distant cousins, they had been excommunicated by the Pope!

Markets and rich cuisine!

The town has two weekly markets, and these, on Thursday and Sunday mornings, are really not to be missed if you want to see the real French soul of the place. Caen is also a wonderful destination for those who have a taste for rich and delicious food, for it is the spiritual home of all that is creamy, cheesy and good! Washed down with a little Calvados, or even Normandy cider, eating here in one of the town's many excellent restaurants is an experience you will want to repeat again and again.

Memorials of peace and war

Caen is a place for memories, and many of them are tragic memories of war and loss. There is the Caen Memorial, an emotional experience recalling the events and tragedy of the second world war. This, although sometimes harrowing, is well worth a visit, particularly for those too young to have any real understanding of the events of this time. A more peaceful memorial, this time to art and culture, is found in the Castle of Caen, where you can visit the Musée des beaux Arts. Here is one of the finest collections of art in Europe, and includes works by Monet and Reubens.

And for the kids

If all this art and culture is getting a little heavy for the younger members of your party, try taking them to the fun theme park, Festyland, which is situated close to Caen. There are also opportunities to try lots of different sporting activities near to the town, with golf, swimming, cycling and horse-riding all locally available.

How to get there

Reaching Caen is simple, with it being situated so close to England and to the ferry ports of Normandy. Brittany Ferries sail to Caen (Ouistreham) itself, and you will find that the ports of St Malo, Cherbourg, and Le Havre are all within easy reach. The nearest airports to Caen which currently (2011) have flights to/from the UK are Dinard and Rennes, which are served by Ryanair and Flybe respectively. Caen also has a TGV stop, which makes train travel an easy option.

Property prices and availability in and around Caen

Property in and close to Caen is subject to the usual price increases found whenever one looks at property in or near to a major city. It is, however, always desirable, and will hold its price well.

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Caen is situated in the north-west of France, in the very north of the Calvados department.

Caen Property Map


Lower-Normandy Guide

Lower-Normandy Property Map


Calvados Guide

  Calvados Map

Population: 130,000

Access: By air: Fly to Dinard or Rennes. By boat: The town has a port served by Brittany Ferries, and it is also close to the ports of Le Havre and Cherbourg. By rail: Caen has TGV stop.

Economy: The town's economic life today is varied and thriving. There is a mixture of industry, technology, Calvados production and tourism underpinning the economy.

Interesting fact: Caen was founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. Both William and his wife Mathilde were buried in Caen, although William's grave was later plundered.


Sextant France
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