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Coutances - Normandy's prettiest

The town of Coutances, which is found on the Contentin Peninsula in the Norman department of Manche, is considered to be the prettiest town in Normandy. It is easy to see why, as once in Coutances, you look up to see the fabulous 13th century Gothic cathedral soar above the rooftops of the neat houses and gardens, and trace the path of history through the charming old streets.

Of cheeses and cathedrals

It may sound an odd pairing, but a combination of an important cathedral and a delicious cheese has really put the town of Coutances on the world map. Coutances is famed for both, and it is strongly advised that you check both of them out fully if you happen to be in town! The cathedral is perhaps the best example of Norman architecture standing today, and the cheese is simply scrumptious!

What to see in Coutances

Coutances was hit hard by bombing raids in the 2nd World War, but managed to survive with some of its ancient buildings intact. Apart from Coutances Cathedral, also worth a look are the Church of St Peter and Church of St Nicholas. In the suburbs to the south, you can also see the former hospital of Coutances, which was originally built in the 13th century but mainly now dates from the 17th century, as well as what was the Augustine Monastery. To the west of the city in what was once an industrial area, are the remains of a 13th century viaduct, with three arches out of sixteen remaining. Textiles and leather manufacture were the industries of the day here, which flourished until the 19th century.

Botanical Gardens

Coutances is also occasionally referred to as town of gardeners, and there are two reasons for this. One is that the town does indeed have an unusually high number of lovingly kept private gardens, all of which contribute to the overall beauty of the Coutances. The second reason is that Coutances is known for its wonderful Botanical Gardens, open to the public, which cover a large area and offer a chance to see some beautiful and rare flora and fauna.

A summer of music

Coutances is also a town that celebrates music, and never more so than during the summer months when various festivals and concerts take place in the open air. One particularly attractive feature of the town is that it is home to a very prestigious music school, and the students have a delightful tendency to practice their newly honed skills in the town's bars and cafés in the evenings.

Shops and services

Coutances is no slouch when it comes to offering the convenience of shops and services, including schools, colleges, museums, galleries and libraries. There are also local shops, with all the typically French boulangeries, patisseries and the like, and of course supermarkets for that "need a really full trolley" day! The town offers a number of very good restaurants and bars too, so social life is lively and varied.

Activities on offer

Coutances offers all kinds of activities, including tennis, gymnastics, football, table tennis, swimming and squash. There is a skate park, mountain bike track and shooting range.

Out and about

Places to see locally include, of course, the Normandy beaches and the war museums. Then there is Bayeaux, home to the famous tapestry, Caen, the wonderful port town that is so much more than just a port, and the many lovely villages and swathes of glorious countryside that make Normandy one of France's best loved regions. Don't forget to visit Mont St Michel, perhaps one of the most majestic mediaeval towns in the western world.

How to get there

If you want to take a ferry to Coutances from the UK, the ports of St Malo, Cherbourg and Le Havre are all within easy reach. It is also possible to take the TGV from the channel tunnel to Le Havre or Cherbourg, and drive the rest of the way, or take a local train to Coutances station. Should you wish to fly, you have the choice of taking a flight to Dinard, in neighbouring Brittany, or Paris, a little further away. Dinard is served by Aurigny and Ryanair, and Paris by a multitude of airlines including Air France, British Airways, bmi, bmibaby, flybe, easyJet, Aer Lingus and Jet2.

Property prices and availability in and around Coutances

Normandy is generally cheaper than Brittany when it comes to property, but the rising popularity of the region, especially with foreign buyers, means that this situation could change in the near future. If you want to make a clever investment, look for traditional stone-built properties with character, as these are likely to remain in high demand.

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Coutances AT A GLANCE

WHERE IS Coutances?

Coutances is located in northern France. It lies in the west of the Manche department.

Coutances Property Map


Lower-Normandy Guide

Lower-Normandy Property Map


Manche Guide

  Manche Map

Population: 10,000

Access: By boat: Sail to the ferry ports of St Malo, Cherbourg or Le Havre. By rail: From the channel tunnel, take the TGV to Le Havre or Cherbourg. By road: The town can be found from the E401 or the N174.

Economy: The economy mainly involves the production of cheese and tourism.

Interesting fact: "Le Coutances" is the name of the cheese that, along with the cathedral, has made Coutances a world famous name. It is a delicious, soft creamy cheese, broadly similar to Camembert, though softer inside.

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