Caen

Caen

Nestling in the rolling green land of cider orchards and dairy farms you will find Caen, capital of Lower Normandy. Whether you travel to Caen to visit the D-Day landing beaches or you're more interested in William the Conqueror, Caen is a deeply historic city. Listen to its story as you stroll through its quiet streets of milky-white stone, and as you enjoy the lively atmosphere as night falls.

William the Conqueror built the imposing Château de Caen in 1060, thus marking the beginning of the golden age of the famous Caen stone, which was used to build Canterbury Cathedral. In May you'll find the castle comes alive with the presence of the Caen Book Fair in the Exchequer Hall and the Church of Saint Georges. The castle has a fine landscaped garden, and you'll also find the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Normandy have taken up residence here.

From the ramparts, admire the view of Caen in all its glory. Check out the pretty rue du Vaugueux with its half-timbered houses. This picturesque area is ideal for dining at one of the many good restaurants in Caen. Do as the locals do: indulge in a trou normand or "Norman hole" - a snifter of brandy between courses to aid digestion. It will surely help you digest the andouillette, or tripe sausage, which is the local speciality in Caen.

Stroll through the market, which takes place along the banks of the Orne in the city centre. The main street, rue Saint Pierre, stretches through the pedestrianised centre, and it's here that you'll find some of the best of the shops in Caen. Lose yourself in the maze of side streets: despite its name, rue Froide, offers a warm welcome, and you'll surely fall for the charm of Place Saint-Sauveur. The University, just behind the castle, ensures a young and lively feel to the city. Students throng the rue Ecuyère the bars in the port, and frequent Cargö for concerts. It's here that the Nördik Impact electro festival takes place. Don't miss the Roman masterpieces in the Abbaye aux Hommes (Caen's town hall) and at the Abbaye aux Dames, built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror and Queen Mathilda.

In the bowels of the earth, Caen still feels the blows of the Second World War, but is immensely proud of its role in the D-Day landings and at the Battle of Normandy. The beaches of Normandy have become an essential pilgrimage. You can visit the famous landing sites: Omaha Beach, Gold Beach, Juno Beach and Sword Beach. The poignancy of the white crosses at the cemeteries such as the American Cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer testifies to the heavy price which was paid for peace. The Caen Memorial has become an important site, while Arromanches 360 or the D-Day Landings Museum at Arromanches will take you back in time to the landings as if you were there.

Don't miss the medieval splendour of the Bayeux Tapestry. This ancestor of the comic strip tells the story of William the Conqueror's accession to the throne. Follow in William's footsteps and conquer Caen.

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