Honfleur 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.
With perhaps one of the prettiest harbours in all of France, Honfleur will live up to your lofty expectations. You can spend a few nights in the harbour town and use it as a base for exploring northern France.
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.
Honfleur’s Vieux Bassin
Honfleur’s pretty harbour, the ‘Vieux Bassin’ (old dock), which dates back to the 17th century, is probably what attracts most visitors to the town. Once filled with fishing boats and commercial vessels, the harbour is now mostly filled with yachts.
Surrounding the harbour are Honfleur’s famous narrow, multi-storey buildings with their timber frames and slate roofs. Once home to the wealthy, they now mainly house restaurants and cafes and in the warmer months, tables and chairs spill out onto the pavement surrounding the harbour for wonderful alfresco dining.
With its position at the junction of the River Seine and the English Channel, seafood dishes are amongst the most popular on Honfleur’s menus. Local specialities include Moules (mussels ) and fish soup and they feature on just about every menu.
St. Catherine Church
The unusual-looking wooden Eglise Ste. Catherine dates back to the 15th century. The structure, which looks a bit like an upside down boat, owes its appearance to the skills of the local boatbuilders who constructed the church.
Honfleur’s town centre
A jumble of narrow, cobbled streets lined with half-timbered buildings make up the commercial centre of Honfleur. Art and craft studios sit side-by-side with cafes, boutiques, souvenir shops and galleries.
Galleries and Museums
Honfleur offers plenty of opportunities to learn more about the history of the town and its residents.
The Musee de la Marine houses a collection of model ships and marine artefacts, and there are also museums dedicated to two of the town’s most famous residents, the artist Eugene Boudin and musician and composer Erik Satie.
Walk along the estuary
A lovely way to end the day is to walk along the footpath from the harbour to the beach. Lining the edge of the Honfleur Estuary, the path passes through the town gardens towards the beach, with views to the Normandy bridge (see below).
Pont de Normandie
Spanning 2.14 kilometres across the Seine from Honfleur to Le Havre, the Normandy Bridge was opened in 1995. The cable-stayed bridge is a motorway toll bridge but a footpath means that walkers and cyclists can cross the bridge without charge.
For the best views of the bridge (from below), you can take a boat ride from Honfleur harbour.
Easy access from Paris
Its location just two hours by car from Paris makes Honfleur a great spot to enjoy a weekend away from Paris (be sure to visit Monet’s Garden at Giverny on the way) if you’re pushed for time in France.
Great base for visits to other Normandy towns
If you can stay longer than a day or two in Honfleur, make sure you visit some of the other nearby Normandy towns. Deauville, Bayeux and the D-Day Landing Beaches, and Cabourg are just a few that are definitely worth a visit.
You can also meander along the Route du Cidre and taste the local cider or enjoy a day at Mont St. Michel. Parisians flock here at the weekends and it’s not hard to see why – Honfleur is an absolute gem.