A Guide to Bayeux and its Attractions
Bayeux is a lovely, sleepy, medieval city. It might be most famous for the Bayeux Tapestry, which should be a not-to-be-missed attraction on every list, but it has plenty of other sites. The medieval center is delightful with bridges, small streets and a gently revolving water wheel and the glorious cathedral dominates the town, famous for its connections with William the Conqueror. But Bayeux had strategic importance in World War II and there's plenty here for enthusiasts, from the Battle of Normandy Museum and its diorama of the Falaise pocket, to General Eisenhower's statue and the largest British War Cemetery of World War II.
In 2016, France and the UK celebrate the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings where William the Conqueror beat the English in 1066.
More about Medieval Normandy
The Battle of Hastings and the William the Conqueror Story in the UK
The world-famous Bayeux Tapestry is the reason why most people come to Bayeux. The tapestry tells the story of William the Conqueror in 1066 as he conquered the English troops at the battle of Hastings. The tapestry depicts the preparations for battle, the soldiers, the people and the animals. It is a real window into life in the Middle Ages. On the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, the Bayeux Tapestry is one of the world’s greatest treasures. It surprises and astonishes and never fails to impress. You should take a couple of hours to see the tapestry then explore the story further in the delightful museum.
Bayeux Tapestry Information
More on William the Conqueror
The Historic Center of Bayeux, Normandy
Like Honfleur, Bayeux has a wonderful old historic center best known for housing the Bayeux Tapestry. This is the cradle of the Dukes of Normandy and its story is tied up with the Battle of Hastings in 1066. In the small heart of the town, you’ll find Notre-Dame Cathedral, buildings that once belonged to the bishops of Bayeux and the church, as well as streets of timber-framed houses. The houses are distinctive with towers adorning old manor houses and impressive large facades that proclaimed the importance of the long-gone owner.
There’s an excellent well-signposted Town Trail of 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) taking you past 21 points of interest, the major buildings and sights. You can pick up the Town Trail at the Tourist Office.
The Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Bayeux, Normandy
The cathedral of Notre-Dame in Bayeux is an impressive building, a mix of Romanesque in the 11th century crypt and glorious Gothic in the 13th-century nave. In the 11th century after the Conquest of England by Duke William of Normandy in 1066, ties with England were strong. You'll see a reference to the turbulent past above the south transept portal where sculpted scenes show the life of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was assassinated in Canterbury Cathedral on the orders of King Henry II of England.
The Bayeux Tapestry was kept here from the 11th to the 18th centuries, probably displayed for the first time on the day the cathedral was consecrated in 1077 in the presence of William the Conqueror.
It’s well worth strolling around, and don’t miss the 15th-century frescoes in the crypt and the late 12th-century chapter house with its glazed and decorated bricks and tiles.
Guided Tours in English
From July 1st to August 31st, 2011
Monday to Friday 10:30am, 11:45am, 2:30pm, 3:45pm, 5pm
Tickets available on site
Adult 4 €, 11 to 17 years old 3 €, under 10s free
Conservatory Workshop for Lace (Conservatoire de la Dentelle de Bayeux)
If you love delicate lace with all its gorgeous intricate patterns and design, or enjoy watching old skills being revived, don’t miss this workshop (Conservatoire de la Dentelle de Bayeux) where lace makers are producing new lace designs each year for the top haute couture houses of the world. They also make special orders for wedding dresses, jewelry and more. You can see the lace makers working and there's a shop where you can buy patterns to make your own Bayeux lace designs.
6 rue du Vienvenu
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 31 92 73 80
Admission free with ticket from the Bayeux Tapestry Museum
If you're interested in lace, then a visit to the Lace Museum in Calais is a must.
Bayeux in World War II
Bayeux in World War II was the gateway to the Normandy landing beaches, close to Arromanches. The great hero of the Normandy Landings, General Eisenhower, is commemorated in Bayeux in a statue on the Eisenhower Roundabout. He had become Supreme commander of the Allied Europe Forces in 1943, given the enormous, but ultimately successful task of managing the Normandy Landings.
In the Gold beach sector in Normandy, Bayeux was the main objective of the British troops on June 6th, 1944. Patrols were sent to Bayeux via the north eastern suburbs. British troops entered Bayeux, handed out cigarettes and promised to return the next day. When they did, Bayeux and Saint-Vigor-le-Grand were liberated without fighting. Bayeux suffered no damage and became the first French town to be liberated in World War II. 7 days later, on June 14th, General de Gaulle made his first speech on liberated French soil.
More on World War II
Battle of Normandy Memorial Museum
Many people going to the World War II Normandy landing beaches at Arromanches miss the Battle of Normandy Memorial Museum (Musée-Mémorial de la Bataille de Normandie) which is well worth a visit. It covers the strategic position of the Allies before the Landings and then moves onto the story of the battle from June 7th to August 29th, 1944, through maps, photographs and models, heavy equipment, arms and uniforms.
There’s a diorama of the closing of the Falaise Pocket which recreates Chambois village. Here part of the 90th US Infantry Division joined forces with the 1st Polish Armored Division on August 19th. Five themed areas cover the role of General de Gaulle from 1935 to 1946; the Mulberry harbors; Cherbourg; the role of the airforce in the battle, and the Battle of the Hedgerows. There are also various tanks outside incuding a Sherman M4 American tank and a British Churchill tank; and plaques and monuments just nearby.
The museum also houses some of the artefacts retracing General de Gaulle’s life through the events associated with Bayeux and the leader of the Free French during World War II.
Boulevard Fabian Ware
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 31 51 46 90
October 1st-April 30th 10am-12:30pm, 2-6pm
May 1st to September 30th 9:30am-6:30pm
Annual closing: January 1st to February 28th
Admission: Adult 6.50 euros; Child 3.80 euros
More on World War II
The British War Cemetery, Bayeux
The largest British War Cemetery of World War II is just near the southern ring road of Bayeux on the Boulevard 6th June (follow the signs). It's appropriately placed, so near to Arromanches and the Normandy landing beaches. 3,935 British are buried there with 17 Australians, 8 New Zealanders, 1 South African, 25 Poles, 3 French, 2 Czechs, 2 Italians, 7 Russians, 466 Germans and one unknown unidentified body. A memorial registers the names of 2,808 more missing soldiers: 1,537 British, 270 Canadians and 1 South African.
More on World War II
Practical Information and Hotels in Bayeux
Point Saint Jean
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 31 51 28 28
Getting to Bayeux
Bayeux is an ideal add-on to a trip to the Normandy Landing beaches
- By car: Direct access by motorway, A13 and A84, then the N13
- By train: Bayeux is on the Paris-St Lazare-Cherbourg line. Paris-Bayeux direct takes 2 hours. The train station is 700m from the museum
- Car ferry: Port of Ouistreham (30km)
- There are buses to Bayeux from Caen and Ouistreham: take the green bus line.
You can book a hotel in and around Bayeux with the Tourist Office
My other recommendations
This charming newly renovated hotel is just by the cathedral.
23 rue Larcher
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 31 92 08 13
A wonderful chateau and historic monument apparently built by the Lord Percy, William the Conqueror’s personal chef. It’s between Caen and Bayeux.
14250 Audrieu, Calvados
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 50 30 84 75
La Ferme de la Rançonnière
A welcoming, historic farm and manor around a huge courtyard just 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Arromanches-les-Bains and the Normandy Landing Beaches.
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 31 22 21 73