Mention Bayeux, the Normandy town, and anyone who was awake in their British history lessons will more than likely be thinking 1066, the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror and the famous tapestry that depicts this period in English/French/Norman history. The Tapestry is on show in Bayeux and is one on the most visited places for guests staying at the gite. I have been 3 times and it should not be missed as it is a most remarkable piece of history and craftsmanship. However, do not think that Bayeux is just the Tapestry because this delightful town has so much more to offer visitors:
10 Sites you should not miss in Bayeux
1. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux
This imposing building was consecrated in 1077 but has undergone many changes over the years especially after it was badly damaged in the 12th century. It has close ties with William the Conqueror and is where the Bayeux Tapestry was originally hung. Thankfully, it remained undamaged during World War II as after the D-Day Landings German troops quickly withdrew leaving Bayeux to be the first town in Normandy to be liberated on June 7th 1944, the day after D-Day.
2. The River
The River Aure passes through the centre of Bayeux. On it's banks both the water wheel and wash houses harp back to an earlier time when the river was so much more important to the town. Today they are both well preserved and worth searching out. The water wheel is near the cathedral and the wash house close to the Tapestry Museum car park.
3. Old buildings
Because Bayeux was liberated from the Germans so quickly it survived the subsequent Battle of Normandy with minimal damage. Many of it's oldest buildings still survive including this fabulous overhanging half timbered house dating from the 13th century.
A bit more hidden up a small side alley I also found this wonderful old building and tower, now sadly in a rather bad state of repair but still an impressive construction from the past. I am guessing from it's height that land was expensive in Bayeux and hence tall buildings were constructed to get as much living spaced as possible from each square meter of land.
4. Building decorations
Throughout the town many of the buildings exhibit wonderful decorations and additions. These include ornate window grills, wooden creatures and small carvings. The carving on the right of the first picture is a depiction of a person and tree from the Bayeux Tapestry.
With so many other Norman towns destroyed in World War 2 it is difficult to say if Bayeux is typical of how the region's towns would have looked before the war. What is true to say though is that it's buildings have some pretty impressive doorways that thankfully survive for us to enjoy today. Who would not want to have a school entrance like this.
I also love this large wooden door and wonder why it was so big. Even the road sign next to it is from before World War 2.
6. Shop signs
I also love ornate French shop signs so whilst you are walking through Bayeux do not forget to look up and see how many you can spot. From ancient façades, weathered by time, to modern glass-like signs they should not be missed.
7. Public Gardens
Situated on the edge of Bayeux these gardens are a little bit of a walk but I really do recommend a visit. They are home to a tree designated as an "arbre remarquable de France" and all I will say is that it is a most magnificent plant, although at first glance it may not appear so! I wrote about it and the gardens in this blog, titled Le Jardin Public de Bayeux if you fancy seeing what I mean.
8. Bayeux War Cemetery
This large cemetery is the largest Commonwealth War Cemetery in France where over 4000 soldiers have their final resting place including 388 unidentified bodies and just over 500 German soldiers. It is a poignant reminder that whilst Bayeux survived the war without much damage fighting was long and intense in the weeks and months after D-Day and many soldiers lost their lives. As with all Commonwealth cemeteries it is maintained in an immaculate state and has records to help visitors find particular graves. It is situated next to the by-pass (D5) on the south-western outskirts of the town but despite the passing traffic it is still an amazingly peaceful place.
As well as the Tapestry Museum, Bayeux has other two museums and all three together make up the Bayeux Museum. These are The Battle of Normandy Museum, close to the Cemetery and The Musée d'art et d'histoire Baron Gérard known simply as MAHB which is near the cathedral. The latter houses 600 works of art, 1000 pieces of porcelain and lace (for which Bayeux is famed) and 800 archaeological pieces. A joint ticket for all three museums is available at a reduced price.
10. Bayeux Markets and Shops
If you find yourself in Bayeux on a Saturday do head to the market on Place Saint Patrice where a large number of vendors sell wonderful, local, Normandy produce (7.30am - 2.30pm). A second market on a Tuesday takes place on the Rue St Jean (7.30am - 2pm). There are also other one off markets through the year including a Christmas market, Medieval Fayre and a summer braderie (second hand goods).
|Christmas market - image from www.mairie-bayeux.fr|
For anyone visiting Normandy I absolutely recommend that you go and see the Tapestry. But whilst there do spend a bit more time in the town as it has so much to interest to offer. For more images please do head over to my Bayeux Pinterest Board.
Have you visited Bayeux? What did you most enjoy?
If you want to visit Bayeux and are looking for somewhere to stay our gite - Eco-Gites of Lenault - is just 45 minutes away. It sleeps 5 + a baby and welcomes guests all year round. If just 2 people stay we will reduce the price by 15% (T&Cs apply) and we have a code to give you 20% off crossings with Brittany Ferries.