Honfleur is a working port in Normandy – it’s also one of the prettiest ports I know of in France.
What to see in Honfleur
Wandering around the harbour and up and down the wiggly cobble stone streets of Honfleur is one of life’s great pleasures. It’s one of the finest places in France for simply sitting and watching at a terrace café with a steaming bowl of moules mariniere and a glass of chilled wine. It’s a buzzing, vibrant, colourful and truly enchanting little place that is quaintly charming and full of character despite the high number of tourists.
It was an important port 600 years ago, and it was from here that Samuel de Champlain was sent to colonise Canada, founding Quebec in 1608.
The Vieux Bassin, the inner harbour which was first created for Louis XIV, is lined with cafés, bars, restaurants and art galleries. It’s one of the best places in town to sit and watch boats going in and out, listen to the bells chime in the town’s church and enjoy the wonderful light of Honfleur.
The clear light here has long drawn artists and it was here that the birth of impressionism was conceived. Artist Eugene Boudin was born in Honfleur and painted it often, as did artists such as Monet who went to the town at the tender age of 18 to meet Boudin and learn from him. Cezanne, Pissaro, Sisley and many of the greats of the 19th century painted Honfleur and the Eugene Boudin Museum in the town has a fine collection of paintings by many celebrated artists.
Away from the harbour little streets hide more lovely restaurants, 17th century rustic Norman buildings, galleries, gift and gourmet shops such as the Maison du Caramel (35 rue Haut) with 17 different flavours of caramel including violet or Maison La Goulue where master chocolate makers create incredible chocolate deliciousness. The cobbled squares tempt modern day artists – photographers – to capture the beauty of this timeless town.
Two restaurants that get praised over and over are Au P’tit Mareyeur (4 rue Haut) which is a bit pricier than some but the food is always great and at L’Absinthe restaurant on the quayside and the Bistro du Port run by the same company where you get great views, great food and its well-priced and Au Vieux Honfleur (13 Quai St Etitenne) which has several menus of varying prices and which consistently gets top reviews.
At night the harbour sparkles, music floats across the water from lively restaurants, people promenade around the vieux basin, shops are open until late and the whole place has a festive air.
Parisians flock here at the weekends and it’s not hard to see why – Honfleur is an absolute gem.
How to go from Paris to Honfleur
By train to Honfleur. There is no train station in Honfleur so you’ll need to take a train to a town nearby and then hop on a bus. Trains Saint-Lazare station in Paris go to Deauville and from here you can take a bus which takes around 25 minutes (Bus line 20).
The cheapest way to go to Honfleur from Paris is via coach such as Oui Bus, a service run by SNCF (French railways) or Flixibus to Le Havre and then continue by bus. Available from several locations in Paris to Le Havre and from there it is a 35 minute bus journey from outside the train station. Details on the https://www.commentjyvais.fr/en website which is an interactive map for public transport users in Normandy.
More on Normandy
Mont st Michel – wiggly wobbly and wonderful
Veules-les-Roses, the pretty town that looks like it should be on the lid of a chocolate box
Normandy – Jazz under the apple trees