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Honfleur | The Belle of Normandy

The old port of Honfleur in Normandy, small boats, tall ancient buildings surround it, colourful awnings on shops,

Honfleur is a French fishing village in the department of Calvados, Normandy. It sits on the southern bank of the Seine estuary where the great river flows into the Atlantic Ocean. If you love authentic old French towns, then you will find Honfleur one of the most beautiful there is.

What to see in Honfleur

Honfleur is a small town with a famous fishing harbour known as the Vieux Bassin. The first historical written record of Honfleur goes back almost a thousand years. The commercial port on the edge of the town was a primary import and exit point for goods to and from England many centuries ago. Visit Honfleur today and you will find that the natural beauty of its arrangement, architecture and setting is quite spectacular. It is a charming, peaceful and enchanting place. The Vieux Bassin is surrounded on three sides by pretty buildings – cafés, restaurants, souvenir shops mainly.

Honfleur was probably one of the earliest inspirations for French impressionist art. The natural and unpretentious beauty of the town attracted the early attention of some of the great artists. Courbet, Monet, Boudin and Jongkind often occupied the ‘Artist’s House’ on the edge of the town and there is a Eugene Boudin Museum in Honfleur. It exhibits many of his artworks spread over twelve hundred square meters across nine rooms.

Stroll among the back streets surrounding the old fishing port. There is much to see. Find the historical St. Catherine’s Church which is the oldest and largest completely wooden constructed church in the whole of France. It was built by shipwrights in the 15th century and is watched over by a separate bell tower close by. The wooden tower was separated due to the risk of fire from lightning. Today it’s a museum of French religious art.

Honfleur has a lovely public park: ‘Jardin des Personnalites’. This is a wonderful place to take a walk and observe the artistic representations of previous principal town occupants including some of the great impressionist artists.

‘Naturospace’ is well worth a visit. This home for butterflies is mesmerising as you watch them flitting about, their multicoloured wings fluttering softly.

You can see a lot in one day in Honfleur – but two days is better!

Bob Lyons is an ex pilot turned travel writer who likes nothing better than to roam in France…

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