Visiting the beautiful city of Bayeux.
In a few short weeks Bayeux will be hosting the annual D-Day Festival Normandy. This year, for the 70th anniversary, the town has planned for an even greater participation than usual. Here is a little list of travel tips for those lucky visitors who will be in Bayeux for this momentous occasion and for all other travelers year round.
WHEN TO GO
The two major tourist events in Bayeux are the D-Day festivities that take place the first week in June and the Medieval Festival that takes place the first weekend of July. Unless you are specifically going to Bayeux for these events, I would avoid these dates as hotels will be fully booked many months in advance.
WHAT TO DO
The Bayeux Tapestry: No trip to Bayeux would be complete without a visit to the world-famous Bayeux Tapestry. Even if you’re not a history or textile buff, the tapestry is a truly remarkable sight. The excellent audio tour does a great job explaining the history behind this 224 foot long 11th century artifact. See official website for address, admission prices and opening hours. You can get a reduced rate by purchasing a twin or triple ticket pass for the 3 museums in the Bayeux museum group (The Bayeux Tapestry, The Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy and The MAHB).
MAHB: The Museum of Art and History Baron Gérard (MAHB) reopened its doors in March of 2013 to much fan fare. Housed inside the former bishop’s palace next to the Cathedral, the museum was closed for 12 years and underwent 4 years of major renovation work. The result is 1,500 m2 of gorgeous exhibition halls covering Norman art and history. From Medieval artifacts to impressionist artwork, to permanent displays of Norman lace and ceramic, the MAHB is Bayeux’s new must-see. See official site for address, admission prices and opening hours and information on twin or triple ticket pass.
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-mer: While there are many moving D-Day sites and museums in Bayeux and the surrounding region, if you only have time to do one, that site would have to be the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. Located in Colleville-sur-Mer 20 minutes north of Bayeux and just east of St. Laurent-Sur-Mer (Omaha Beach), the cemetery is a deeply moving experience one will never forget. Also, when visiting the Cemetery, don’t miss the beautifully curated permanent exhibition housed in the Visitor Center. Opened in 2007, the story of the D-Day landings and the 80-day Battle of Normandy is told through three themes: Competence, Courage and Sacrifice. Both the cemetery and visitor’s center are open daily till 6 p.m. (April 15 to September 15) and till 5 p.m. the rest of the year. There is no admission charge.
- Other D-Day sites: A complete list of Bayeux and Bessin memorial sites and museums from Bayeux Bessin Tourism.
- Vieux Bayeux: Miraculously untouched during WWII, Bayeux is a living historical monument. Visit the Cathedral, the Lace Conservatory, walk along the canal, window shop or just wander through the town’s maze of cobblestone streets.
- On Saturday mornings there is a large market at Place Saint Patrice. This is a fun, very traditional French market. The first alley-way closest to the main street features local organic produce, products, seafood and live animals!
- On Wednesday mornings there is a smaller market located near the tourist office on the rue St. Jean.
- On Sunday mornings in Port en Bessin there is a lovely little market along the canal. This is a 15 minute drive outside Bayeux.
Bayeux is a great place to shop. I repeat, Bayeux is a great place to shop!!! While the main commercial walkway is composed of several street names (rue Saint Patrice/Saint-Malo/Saint-Martin/Saint-Jean), it’s actually one continued stretch full of shops. From prêt à porter chains to higher end boutiques, local goods and gift shops, Bayeux has much to offer. If you didn’t find that great pair of shoes you were looking for in Paris, chances are you might find it in Bayeux.
WHERE TO STAY
There are many wonderful places to stay in Bayeux. When booking your stay, just make sure that it’s in Vieux Bayeux (old city center).
- A list of hotels in Bayeux from the Tourist office.
- A list of Bed and Breakfasts in Bayeux from Gites de France.
- Accommodation list from Lovely Planet.
- Accommodations listed on Airbnb.
WHERE TO EAT
My new favorite restaurant in Bayeux is Au Ptit Bistrot. Run by a young husband and wife team, the food is absolutely amazing and unexpected. My other favorite restaurant is a wine bar. Located on a small alleyway on the canal near the tourist office, le Volet qui Penche is a casual spot which offers only one set meal (but a killer wine list).
A word of warning: In the tourist off-season most restaurants are closed on Monday and only serve at limited meal times. To eat at any time, any day, go to Le Garde Manger located in the Reine Mathilde hotel. For a complete list of restaurants in Bayeux, see Tripadvisor’s full list here.
Train: Bayeux is 2 hours by train from Paris. Trains depart almost every hour from the Saint Lazar train station. You can check travel times and book your train ticket on SNCF’s English site.
Auto: Driving from Paris will take you 3-4 hours depending on traffic. You can use ViaMichelin to chart your route.
Air/Sea: For more information on train, auto route and ferry travel, see this article from Trip advisor.
See complete details to getting to many different Norman destinations via Normandy Tourism.
The train station and all of the sites in the old town are accessible by foot. If you wish to see sites on the coast but can’t rent a car, you have a couple of options:
- Guided tours: See below.
- Bus: The number 70 bus line of Bus Vert leaves from either Place St. Patrice or the SNCF train station. The bus does not run and Sundays and is unfortunately not very frequent during the weekday. The earliest departure time is 12:25 M-Sat from the SNCF train station or 12:32 M-F from Place St. Patrice. It takes about 25 minutes to get to the “Cimetière Américain”. The last returning bus is at 4:30pm Saturdays and 5:15pm M-F. Click here for departing times. Click here for return times.
- Also, if you are interested in visiting the English stormed beaches of Arronmanche or Asnelles, you can try the number 74 line.
- Taxi: Some taxi companies, like this company or this company also offer services to take you to the beaches and back.
- Check this link or this link for a list of guided group day tours.
- Some of the most well-known and highest rated private tours as noted in this good forum discussion on Trip advisor.
- A new guided walking tour of the old city center in English departs daily from the tourist office. www.discovery-walks.org
The Tourist Office located at Pont Saint-Jean, is a great starting point for any visitor. They have a free booklet packed with tourist information. Here is the online printable version of the 2014 Bayeux Tourist Guide and a printable map of old Bayeux.
- An amazing resource of historical WWII information plus the complete program of D-Day commemorations (696 events and exhibitions) from D-Day Overlord.com
- Things to do in Bayeux via LiveStrong.
- “Shopper’s World – Handmade Lace from Normandy” via NYTimes.
- “Paris to Normandy for a D Day Tour”, an excellent synopsis by Troggs at Tripadvisor.
- “Why You Should Stay in Bayeux when Visiting France” via Yahoo Voices.
- See some of the other places I’ve reviewed on TripAdvisor.
Some sites featured in this blog:
To see all my posts about Bayeux and the Bessin region click here.