Things to Do in Bayeux, Normandy
Guys, I love France. It’s a pretty amazing place. So beautiful! So delicious! Also — HISTORY. I could live the rest of my life very happily in France and Normandy (and Brittany) specifically. So when my cousin was arranging his European trip and said that he wanted to see the D-Day beaches and Mont Saint-Michel and wondered if I knew any things to do in Bayeux, I jumped at the chance to join him.
We took the Eurostar from Kings Cross to Paris and then went one stop on the RER to Gare St Lazare, where we boarded our train to Bayeux. It was a long day of traveling but pretty low impact — just a lot of sitting on trains. Bayeux is a very walkable city so after getting off the train in Bayeux, we hoofed it over to the Hotel Churchill, which is right on Bayeux’s main drag.
Where to Stay in Bayeux
The Hotel Churchill has an amazing location — everything worth seeing is within a 10 minute walk — and it’s affordable to boot. Plus, super, super clean. I love when I stay in a 3 star hotel and the bathroom is cleaner than many 5 star hotels I’ve stayed in. The hotel proprietor, Eric, is a lovely, lovely man as is his compatriot, Daniel. I highly recommend staying here if you find yourself in Bayeux. It’s not luxurious by any stretch of the imagination, but they do what they do well. Also, there is a nice grocery store next door if you want to stock up on snacks, wine and bottled water. (Although drinking the tap water in Bayeux is totally fine.) Check out the Hotel Churchill.
Here’s what we got up to while we were in town…
What to See in Bayeux
D-Day Beaches: The Churchill helped us book a tour of the main D-Day sights with Normandy Sightseeing Tours. Our tour guide, Rose, was *amazing* and truly the highlight of our trip. She was so very knowledgeable about the area and the history of World War II and American involvement. We visited Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach, and the American Cemetery. (Later on our own, we visited the Commonwealth Cemetery and the War Museum.) This was a lovely and moving day out — it’s a trip I recommend for all generations. Also, we went in early March and we seriously had the whole place to ourselves. You can see from the size of the parking lots at Pointe du Hoc and the American Cemetery that the summer crowds get quite, quite large. Check out Normandy Sightseeing Tours.
Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy: My cousin and I were the only guests at this museum when we visited, which was a little sad but it was also low season. The museum is packed with war equipment from the Battle of Normandy — real cars and uniforms from all sides. This is a battle that took place over just three months in 1944 but had such an impact on the outcome of the war. The museum is a little old school but still very interesting and compelling; you should definitely add it to your list of things to do in Bayeux.
Bayeux War Cemetery: The Bayeux War Cemetery houses 4,144 fallen soldiers from the British Commonwealth. I didn’t realize this at the time, but there are also a number of Germans buried here. It is the largest cemetery of Commonwealth soldiers in France. The cemetery is close to the Museum of the Battle of Normandy so you can easily visit both together.
Bayeux Tapestry: I vaguely recall the Bayeux Tapestry from history class in high school and university, but really nothing prepared me for this. It is a very very long tapestry and it’s very well-preserved and presented and tells the entire story of William the Conqueror and the Norman Invasion. Apparently, the queue to visit the Bayeux Tapestry can be heinously long in summer, but we waltzed right in in February. The audio guide is very, very good. You should go here. This is one of the top things to do in Bayeux.
Bayeux Cathedral: Don’t hate me but if you’ve seen one church, you’ve seen them all. (OK, Sainte Chapelle in Paris is a fabulous exception.) I was done with the Bayeaux Cathedral in about five minutes. My cousin needed an hour! Good if you, uh, like churches?
Fantastic Attic: If you love antiques, you MUST stop by Fantastic Attic. This is a fun antique and gift shop with a bit of a D-Day theme. It’s an especially great shop if you love airplanes. There is a plane INSIDE the shop. It is wild!! It’s a bit of a shop and a bit of a museum. Definitely worth a visit!!
Conservatoire de la Dentelle: Lace-making is a dying art but it’s kept alive here in Bayeux at the Conservatoire de la Dentelle. This small little workshop is located right next to Bayeux Cathedral, making it convenient to visit while you are in Bayeux. Drop in to see the ladies at work. English is limited but they don’t mind you watching them work and taking pictures. Given how labor intensive lace-making is, don’t expect any bargains!
Where to Eat in Bayeux
I know I should have been excited about the history but I was most excited about the food in Bayeux. I *love* a multi-course French dinner. Bayeux didn’t disappoint and the two dinners we had were of high quality with excellent service.
La Rapiere: Small, family-run bistro. He is the chef, she is front of house. The service was a fine-tuned machine…they worked together like an orchestra, delivering plates, clearing plates, topping up wine. The food was great too, but what my cousin and I still talk about is how wonderfully in sync the service was. This was our best restaurant experience of our time in France.
Au Ptit Bistrot: A more casual and modern-feeling spot than La Rapiere, but we still enjoyed excellent food. (One of these days, I will learn how to make Chicken Supreme for myself.) Service was very friendly and helpful throughout and I think I finally convinced my cousin that when in France, do not order wine on your own — always ask the server. I liked our meal here and would gladly eat here again, but first I’d try to get back into La Rapiere. Note that both restaurants are *very* popular and bookings are advised.
Chez Paulette: My cousin really wanted to go here because of the decor — very kitschy 1960s and 70s. Service was friendly and helpful — very helpful actually — but my endive tart fell way short of the mark. George was happy. I wasn’t. The place was crowded with locals during the weekend lunch hour which is a great sign, but it wasn’t my favorite.
The Saturday Market: Please please please plan your trip to Bayeux so you have a Saturday free and check out the very very lovely Saturday market which you will find at Plaice Saint Patrice. It’s like my dream and it is truly one of the most wonderful things to do in Bayeux if you are into food and CIDER and Calvados. I love a French market and this one is a treasure. The market is especially great if you are staying for a few days and need to pick up some food and snacks. (Tip: Ask the cheesemonger what you should get for the occasion. Don’t tell him/her what you want. French cheesemongers live to give suggestions!)
Experience the incredible beauty and background (and crowds!) of one of France’s most recognizable landmarks, Mont Saint-Michel, by taking a day trip from Bayeaux. This UNESCO-listed site is a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey that sits atop a rocky bay perch. You’ll have an expert guide who will fill you in on Mont Saint-Michel’s history and heritage. I’ve been to Mont Saint-Michel twice now and it never disappoints. This ins seriously one of the best things to do in Bayeaux. Book this tour.
Day Trip: Cheese- and Cider-Tasting Tour from Bayeux
I mean, what’s better than cheese and cider in Normandy? Nothing, really, in my honest opinion, which makes this tour one of my personal top things to do In Bayeaux. During this absolutely lovely tour, you’ll get a chance to taste Camembert right from the farm and see how Calvados is produced. Highly recommended if you want to experience the real France. Book the full-day tour. Book the half-day tour.
Getting to Bayeux from Paris
High-speed trains leave from Paris Saint Lazare a few times per day. The ride takes about 2.5 hours. It’s a very easy trip. Once you arrive in Bayeux, it’s about a 10 minute walk — and a pretty one too! — to the center of town from the station.
Summary of Things to Do in Bayeux
It is very easy to visit Bayeux from Paris although a day trip might be a bit tough and too much traveling. So if you’re looking for things to do in Bayeux, stay overnight, enjoy a fine meal at La Rapiere, and step into history.