Medieval Normandy is known for William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and the Bayeux Tapestry. In 2011, Normandy celebrates its medieval beginnings in 911, 1100 years after Rollo the Viking became the first Duke of Normandy.
Normandy's medieval heritage goes beyond William the Conqueror and 1066, up to the Hundred Years War with England and Joan of Arc, the 'Fair Maid of Orleans' whose fate was tied up with the endless battles between the French and the English. Follow the trail of these sights and attractions for a trip around medieval Normandy.
Chateau of La Falaise
William the Conqueror spent his early years in mighty Falaise Castle. In a small village some 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of Caen, it's now a semi ruin but restored in such a way that your imagination takes over and you step back into the past. (But for the effect, take a guided tour or take the audio guide in English with you.)Practical Information
Place Guillaume le Conquerant
14700 Falaise, Normandy
Tel.: 00 33 (02) 31 41 61 44
William the Conqueror Chateau website
For more information, read my article on Falaise Castle
Bayeux and the Bayeux Tapestry
But there's much more to Bayeux as it was in the front line at the Normandy Landings and D-Day in June 1944. The battles of World War 2 are commemorated in the Battle of Normandy Memorial Museum, the British War Cemetery and statue of General Eisenhower.
For practical information on Bayeux, including getting there, hotels and restaurants in Bayeux, see my Guide to Bayeux.
The historic town of Caen has always played an important part in the life and economy of Normandy. The Abbaye-aux-Hommes and the Abbaye-aux-Dames, founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, were important to medieval life in the region. Immensely rich and well-endowed, they helped turn Caen into a major religious and intellectual center in medieval Normandy.
Later, Caen was vital in World War II and the Battle of Normandy. The Caen Memorial Museum is one of the major sites for anybody interested in D-Day and the Normandy Landings.
Read more about Caen, including how to get there, hotels and restaurants in my Caen Guide.
Rouen is a very attractive old city, with a historic cathedral, a magnificent old astronomical clock (important in the Middle Ages when nobody had clocks or watches; think of the possible chaos), and a Museum of Fine Arts with a collection of Impressionist paintings second only to the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.
Also not to be missed are the Botanical Gardens, a Ceramics Museum full of beautiful examples of the faience art that brought Rouen such wealth and a rather wonderful modern church dedicated to Joan of Arc.
This is one for the romantics of this world. Jumieges is a small village in a bend of the Lower Seine river with what the writer Victor Hugo described as 'the most romantic ruins in France'. And it is. With the sound of birdsong and the light dancing around the half destroyed walls, this once huge Benedictine Abbey is glorious.
Peaceful now, it was once a major center, particularly for the illustrated manuscripts that the monks worked on year after year. Founded in 654, raided constantly by the Viking marauders, rebuilt in the 11th century and consecrated by William the Conqueror in 1067 until its demise as a religious house in the French Revolution.
Practical InformationAbbey de Jumièges
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 35 37 24 02
For more information, see my article on Jumièges Abbey.
Where to Stay
La Ferme de la Ranconniere is an old manor house built around a large courtyard with very pretty rooms, perfect peace and a good restaurant serving a special medieval menu for the enthusiasts. It's near the Normandy Landing beaches which are just 5 kilometers (3 miles) away , as well as the towns of Bayeux (12 kilometers, 7.5 miles) with its magnificent tapestry and Caen (24 kilometers, 15 miles).Practical Information
Route de Creully-Arromanches
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 31 22 21 73
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Half-board is also available. Ask when you book
Hotel Bourgtheroulde is a five-star hotel right in the city center.
Originally built between 1499 and 1532, it has a magnificent ornate façade. It's just the place for a romantic break where you can live like royalty. There's a spa, heated swimming pool, two restaurants and a bar and terrace.Practical Information
15 Place de la Pucelle
Tel.: 33 (0)2 35 14 50 50
Price band $$$-$$$$
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