Suzanne in France

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The City of Caen is a historical port town boasting over 100,000 inhabitants and is the capital of the Calvados region of Normandy. It is near beautiful sandy beaches and just a 2 hour train journey to Paris. The department number is 14 and, unsurprisingly, it is home to the Préfecture. So, if you are a non-EU national and live in Calvados, chances are that you may, or have already, visited this building. The Préfecture is the place you will need to go to, for example, to obtain a Carte de Séjour, attend your nationality interview and to renew a visa application to name but a few.

Whilst this is not a building you would ordinarily be excited to visit – the city itself has plenty going for it. It is, in fact, called William The Conqueror’s city – yes, you’ve guessed it he has cropped up again! This was his home town – his old stomping ground. A must visit has to be Caen castle. Did you know that William used Caen stone to build the Tower of London as well as his own castle?

The castle makes for a wonderful day out for all the family. You will find it in the heart of the city centre. Normandie Tourisme says:-

Built around 1060 by William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy then King of England, the ducal castle in Caen is now home to the Musée de Normandie (Normandy Museum) and the Musée des Beaux Arts (Museum of Fine Arts).

It has various sculptures within the grounds and the best thing about it? It is FREE to enter!  As it is situated in the heart of Caen you can also wander the cobbled streets, do a bit of shopping and/or visit on market day which is on a Sunday.

The bustling market sits right alongside the river that runs through Caen – River Orne. So after a spot of browsing you can amble your way along the riverbank. Beginning at the end of November, Caen has a wonderful Christmas market which also includes a Ferris Wheel. There are many, many stalls with a great range of local artisan products – perfect to get you into the festive spirit.

As mentioned above, Caen is a port town which also means it is approximately 10 minutes from sandy beaches. The Port of Ouistreham has regular ferries that go to Portsmouth in the UK. This is a popular route for tourists, expats and school trips.  It is well worth, however, further exploration – Caen’s tourist information site says:-

“If Ouistreham Riva-Bella is referred to as the ‘pearl of the Côte de Nacre coast’, it is first and foremost thanks to its immense fine sandy beach and all the leisure and well-being activities on offer.

But Ouistreham Riva-Bella is also a site steeped in history, that of the D-Day Landings, the story of which is related in the No. 4 Commando museum and the Atlantic Wall museum.

Ouistreham Riva-Bella is equally a 600-berth marina, a fishing harbour with daily fish market and a ferry terminal offering daily links with Portsmouth.

Don’t miss the protected natural site at the Pointe du Siège, a 1.5km sand formation within the Orne estuary.”

Caen is perfectly situated for you to visit the D-Day Landing Beaches – we have written about the D-Day Landing Beaches and surrounding areas in this 80th anniversary article here.

Another must visit is the Caen War Memorial Museum which covers events leading up to WWII right up to the Cold War. This is near the Parc de la Colline aux Oiseaux which is a beautiful garden with maze, farm animals and a new play area with spider climbing frame for older children and adults alike.

Other points of interest to visit in Caen is the Abbaye aux Hommes – again built by William The Conqueror, Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Normandy and Botanical Gardens.

Caen is a University town so you will find there are approximately 30,000 students milling around. The University specialises in the sciences and students are able to apply for accommodation at a cost of approximately 350 euros a month including bills. President Macron, acknowledging that during Confinement (lock down) students were unable to work, introduced a 1 euro a day lunch which is still available and taken up by students on their campus.

There is a University Hospital in Caen – these type of  hospitals provide an extensive range of services and deal with complex medical cases. They are associated with medical schools and serve as teaching hospitals. The CHU in Caen for example has over 1500 beds. Caen also boasts a specialist cancer hospital called the Le Centre François Baclesse. It is one of 18 major cancer centres in France.

Caen is has its own football team that plays in the National League 2, currently competing against the likes of Bordeaux, Annecy, Le Havre and others. So if you fancy watching a game of French football, you can also do this in Caen. Tickets are relatively easy to get hold of.

Just outside of Caen (approximately 30 minutes away) is a wonderful zoo – Jurques Zoo. It is set in wonderful surroundings and, in particular, there is a mountain goat enclosure which has a wonderful viewing platform.

Finally, there is a lot of fun to be had in Caen. There are a few different ‘Escape Rooms’. They last for an hour and are great fun for all the family. Many have different themed rooms for you to choose from. You could always follow this up with a game of laser tag or alternatively a spot of paintballing or even ice skating! After all of that you could finish up the day with a visit to Tommy’s Diner – an all American diner experience.

We hope you enjoyed this insight into all the places and sites to see in Caen and the surrounding areas.

Préfecture Caen Website

Caen University Hospital

Caen University

Normandy Tourism Site – Visiting Caen

Ouistreham Riva Bella – Caen Tourist Information

Caen Castle Website

Caen War Memorial Museum

Caen University

Zoo de Jurques Website

Caen Botanical Gardens

Museum of Fine Art

Abbaye aux Hommes

Museum of Normandy

Caen Football Team

Get Out! Escape Room Caen

Laser Games Caen

Paint Ball Fury Caen

Tommy’s Diner Facebook Page

Ice Rink Caen Website

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