Deauville, one of France's most chic and internationally known seaside resorts, is located in Normandy in the northwest part of the country. This area has been featured in many movies and is frequently referred to as the Parisian Riviera; the resort is about a two-hour drive from Paris. Deauville offers things to do throughout the year and is especially good for a short visit. You'll find nice, golden sand beaches with colorful umbrellas, elegant shops, historic hotels, and a casino. The area is also known for its two racecourses and globally popular polo matches, and cultural attractions like classical music festivals and film festivals.
Deauville beach is a 1.5-mile (2-kilometer) stretch of clean, soft, golden sand and gently sloping shoreline. Rent a colorful umbrella and a lounge chair, and you’ll be all set with an attendant who goes with you to untie your umbrella and help set up all your gear.
The 634-meter 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 just set back from the beach are cabins you can rent and use for a shower. The concrete and mosaic-tiled cabins, which opened in 1924, were the dernier cri (latest fashion) in modernity.
Spend a Day at the Races
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 to its summer and winter seasons, with approximately 40 racing days a year taking place. 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. A sand-fiber track is used for training and competitions.
The second course at Deauville-Clairefontaine (Route de Clairefontaine) is 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. And the course offers three different kinds of racing: flat, trotting, and steeplechasing (jumping over obstacles).
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 it receives real kudos in the polo world. In 1950, the Gold Cup, which includes the world championships, was established. 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. The excitement takes place 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, there is a fee on weekends and holidays—purchase tickets at the entrance to the field in the middle of the racecourse.
In 1912, a grand plan of Deauville was inaugurated with the opening of three iconic buildings: the Hôtel Barrière Le Normandy Deauville and the Hôtel Barrière Le Royal Deauville, with the Casino de Deauville strategically placed between them. The trio of luxury buildings was designed to attract chic Parisians and British high society folks; movie stars and international tourists have visited over the years as well.
The hotels are grand in the best possible old-fashioned way. Huge entrance halls, long corridors, high ceilings, and spectacular public rooms make the perfect place for a drink or to stroll around.
With such a captive audience, it’s no wonder that clothes and decor shopping in Deauville is so good. Many of the top French names have shops conveniently close to each other and located between the polo club and the beach. Inspired by the clothes that she saw on the racecourses, golf courses, beach, and the yachts, Coco Chanel designed a range of casual, wearable clothing and opened her boutique here in 1913. With the outbreak of World War II, she closed the shop.
If you prefer antiques, check out the variety of 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.
Deauville is a major player in cultural events, making the resort an all-year destination. The town happily includes the unexpected, like the Planches Photographic Exhibition 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 United States, and movie stars walking down the red carpet.
There's plenty of music on offer, including during several days in April when the Festival de Pâques (the Easter Festival) features young, unknown classical music virtuosos.
Try Local Fruits and Cheese at the Deauville Market
If you’re a fan of strolling around markets like a local, the covered market is a must, full of the region's fruits, vegetables, cheeses, fish, flowers, crafts, and more. It takes place year-round on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday mornings, plus on public holidays and Sundays from March to October, and daily during school holidays. The market occurs in the Place du Marche, just off the main Place Morny with its pavement cafes and avid people watchers.
Look for the organic market on Thursday mornings in the Saint Augustin church square.