7 Top Things to Do in Deauville on the Normandy Coast

The famous colorful parasols on Deauville Beach, Normandy, Northern France, Europe

kiszon pascal / Getty Images

Deauville, one of France's most chic and internationally recognized seaside resorts, is located in the Normandy region along the northwestern coast. Only about a two-hour drive from Paris, the area has been featured in many movies and is frequently referred to as the Parisian Riviera. Deauville offers plenty of things to see and do throughout the year—golden-sand beaches with colorful umbrellas, elegant shops, historic hotels, and a posh casino—and is especially good for a short visit. It's also known for its two racecourses and globally popular polo matches, as well as cultural attractions like classical music and film festivals.

01 of 07

Admire the Architecture at Villa Strassburger

Villa Strassburger in Deauville, Normandy, France

Kamel15, Wiki Commons / SA / 3.0

Consider Villa Strassburger the ultimate family vacation home, originally constructed in 1907 on land formerly owned by French writer Gustave Flaubert and later used by Baron Henri de Rothschild, grandson of the famous wine estate a few hours away in Bordeaux. In 1912, the house was sold to Singer sewing machine heiress May Bourne and her husband Ralph B. Strassburger and renovated in 1948 after being damaged by its Nazi occupants during WWII. It was eventually donated to the Town of Deauville and added as a historic monument in 1980.

Those hoping to get a closer look at the fine stylings and antiques inside the expansive Anglo-Norman structure—as well as the secret WWII-era passages built beneath it—can do so on tours offered by the Deauville Town Council in July and August.

Av. Strassburger, 14800 Deauville, France
Phone +33 2 31 88 20 44
02 of 07

Relax on Deauville Beach

Seaside boardwalk, France

Anger O. / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Promenade des Planches, 14800 Deauville, France
Phone +33 2 31 14 40 00

Deauville Beach sports a 1.5-mile stretch of clean, soft, golden sand along a gently sloping shoreline. Rent a colorful umbrella and a lounge chair and you’ll have everything you need for a day of prime relaxation with a view, including an attendant to untie your umbrella and help set up all your gear.

The more than 2,000-foot long Promenade des Planches boardwalk, made of red ironwood and built in 1923, is lined with beach cabins, each named after American actors and directors who have come to the resort's American Film Festival since 1975. Above the cabins on the beach side, an annual photographic exhibition displays large, historic images of the resort. Inside the Art Deco-style bathing building are showers and concrete and mosaic-tiled cabins, which, when they opened in 1924, were the dernier cri (latest fashion) in modernity.

03 of 07

Spend a Day at the Races

Flat race on Deauville-Clairefontaine racecourse

Hippodrome de Deauville / Clairefontaine

45 Av. Hocquart de Turtot, 14800 Deauville, France
Phone +33 2 31 14 20 00

Horse racing in Deauville dates back to 1863 when horses and riders pounded along the beach on a temporary track. A year later, the Deauville-La-Touques Racecourse was built and opened, as the locals will proudly tell you. One of the most beautiful and leading flat racecourses in France, it attracts international trainers, horses, and jockeys during its summer and winter seasons, with approximately 40 racing days taking place each year. It’s not for nothing that Deauville is twinned with Lexington, Kentucky. Some of the world's best polo teams play on the fields in the middle of the course, while a sand-fiber track is used for training and competitions.

The second course at Deauville-Clairefontaine (Route de Clairefontaine) is located just to the east of the town, featuring about 20 races from June through October. Race meetings have themes, such as ecology or the local region, with plenty of interesting events to keep the family entertained. The course itself offers three different kinds of racing: flat, trotting, and steeplechasing (jumping over obstacles).

04 of 07

Watch Fast and Furious Polo

Polo at Deauville

 Deauville International Polo Club

Bd Mauger, 14800 Deauville, France
Phone +33 6 46 55 58 18

The first polo match played in Deauville dates back to 1880. With the Deauville International Polo Club being founded in 1907, it is one of the oldest such clubs in France and receives real kudos in the polo world. In 1950, the Gold Cup, which includes the world championships, was established here. Of all the European venues, this is the one where the Argentinian teams—some of the world's best—want to win.

Polo is a great sport and is fun to watch. The Deauville International Polo Club matches are open to the public and are typically held in August at the Deauville-La-Touques Racecourse, with doors opening 30 minutes prior to a match. While there is no charge for admission during the week, you'll have to pay a fee to attend on weekends and holidays. Tickets can be purchased at the entrance to the field in the middle of the racecourse.

Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07

Toast the Grand Hotels of the Past

Hôtel Barrière Le Normandy Deauville

 Barrière Hotels

38 Rue Jean Mermoz, 14800 Deauville, France
Phone +33 2 31 98 66 22

In 1912, a grand plan of Deauville was inaugurated with the opening of three iconic buildings: Hôtel Barrière Le Normandy Deauville and Hôtel Barrière Le Royal Deauville, with the impressive Casino de Deauville strategically placed between them. The trio of luxury buildings was designed to attract chic Parisians and high society British folks, while movie stars and international tourists have also visited over the years. The hotels are grand in the best possible old-fashioned way, boasting large entrance halls, long corridors, high ceilings, and spectacular public rooms that make them the perfect place for a drink or a stroll.

06 of 07

Find Clothes and Antiques in Deauville

Trouville sur mer, Normandy on a sunny day
Virginie Blanquart / Getty Images
29 Av. de la République, 14800 Deauville, France
Phone +33 6 82 55 12 16

With such a captive audience, it’s no wonder that clothing and decor shopping in Deauville are so good. You'll find many top French names with shops located close to each other, especially between the polo club and the beach. Inspired by the clothes that she saw on the racecourses, golf courses, beach, and various yachts, fashion icon Coco Chanel designed a range of casual, wearable clothing and opened her boutique here in 1913; sadly, it closed at the onset of World War II.

If you prefer antiques, check out shops like The Bugatty Gallery for vintage deco and 20th-century decorations and Antiquité de la Touques for art, furniture, dolls, and other beautiful pieces.

07 of 07

Enjoy a Cultural Event

People wearing costumes at a parade in Deauville

Normandie Tourisme

Deauville is a major player in cultural events, making the resort an all-year destination. The town happily includes the unexpected, like the Planches Contact Deauville Photography Festival, which draws attention. On the October night that the clocks are turned back, that elusive extra non-hour is spent by the hopeful going into the streets to photograph Deauville. The winning photographs are displayed in a local exhibition.

The American Film Festival, one of France's best-known film festivals, comes to Deauville in September with premiere screenings of the latest film releases from the U.S. and movie stars walking the red carpet. As for music, the Festival de Pâques (the Easter Festival) in April features young, unknown classical music virtuosos.

If you’re a fan of strolling through markets alongside the locals, the covered Deauville Market is a must, full of the region's best fruits, vegetables, cheeses, fish, flowers, and crafts. Visit year-round on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday mornings, on public holidays and Sundays from March to October, and daily during school holidays. You'll find it in Place du Marché, located just off the main Place Morny; its pavement cafes are the perfect place for people-watching. Look for the organic market on Thursday mornings in the Saint Augustin church square. 

Deauville, France
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7 Top Things to Do in Deauville on the Normandy Coast