17 must-see things to do in Calvados

Calvados - Dinan

Make your vacation 100% made in Normandy with these 17 must-sees in Calvados!

Sometimes the clichés are true and you want more! Such is the case when you visit Calvados. There are the little villages, the apple trees and the sweet cider like in a Stone and Charden song. Of course, it’s a little more than that. Lovers of historical heritage can satisfy their thirst for knowledge.

The Middle Ages, the Belle Epoque and, of course, the Second World War left their mark on the region. Calvados is also a region of natural beauty, with seascapes celebrated by the great painters and bucolic countryside ideal for sporting activities.

And when it comes to indulging your taste buds, this corner of Normandy has plenty to offer, from renowned cheeses to seafood and intoxicating nectars. There’s something for everyone, even if it rains. So don’t waste another moment, book your next vacation and take a look at these 15 must-do things to do in Calvados.

1. The cider route

Route du Cidre

Credit Photo : Facebook – Normandie Tourisme

What if we started visiting Calvados through its gastronomy? As with the famous wine routes, the advantage of this tour is that you’ll discover a whole terroir, not just the fizzy drink.

The circuit is about 40 kilometers long. You can visit cider farms and discover local specialities. The route also passes through some very pretty and charming villages, and you can also admire the castles and stud farms for which the region is famous.

2. The Vire gorges

Viaduc de la Souleuvre

Souleuvre viaduct Photo credit: Wikipedia – Michael Wassmer

It’s a hidden treasure to visit in Calvados. You can follow the course of this river for around 35 kilometers. The scenery is wild and uncrowded. It’s ideal for cyclists and hikers. At first, you follow the course of the river through typical Normandy bocage, with wide green expanses and bucolic hills.

As you go along, steep-sided valleys and granite gorges appear, offering a great playground for swimming. If you’re feeling adventurous, don’t forget to stop at the Souleuvre viaduct and try your hand at angel jumping – in complete safety, of course.

3. Falaise and its castle

Château de Falaise

Credit Photo : Shutterstock – Christian Musat

History buffs and epic enthusiasts won’t want to miss this must-see castle in Calvados. The medieval city was the birthplace of the most famous Duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror, no less. In fact, a trail has been set up to follow in the footsteps of this illustrious character and discover the town’s medieval remains.

You can see what’s left of the fortified enclosure, the Arlette fountain and simply stroll around Falaise. The highlight of the visit is, of course, the castle which dominates the town with its 3 keeps.

4. La pointe du Hoc

Pointe du Hoc

Credit Photo : Shutterstock – Jrossphoto

Located in Cricqueville-en-Bessin, the Pointe du Hoc is both a beautiful natural site to visit in Calvados and a place of remembrance. As its name suggests, it’s a cliff jutting out into the English Channel like the prow of a ship splitting the waters.

Obviously, this geographical feature meant that the site was closely watched by the German army during the Second World War. An entire artillery battery was installed here. It was also the site of the American landings, where the fighting was particularly fierce.

5. The Orne valley

La Roche Oerte

Credit Photo : Wikipedia – Calips

This charming corner of Calvados is also known as Suisse Normande. The peaks aren’t Helvetian in size, far from it, but the region is known for its rugged relief. The swift waters of the rivers have carved out the gorges and valleys, creating mini-mountains. Here, visitors can enjoy hiking, canoeing and climbing.

Among the best-known natural sites is the Roche d’Oëtre, renowned for its superb views. The region is also home to a number of charming villages with characterful houses and manor houses, such as Clécy and Putanges-le-Lac.

6. Caen

Saint-Jean à Caen

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Leonid Andronov

As the capital of the Calvados region, Caen is well worth a visit. For starters, in terms of historical heritage, Caen boasts the remains of William the Conqueror. The Men’s Abbey and the Women’s Abbey are well worth a visit, not only for their architecture, but also for the reasons behind their construction.

Guillaume and his wife were distant cousins, which was considered an incestuous relationship by the Church. They wanted to make amends by each building their own abbey. There’s also the Château de Caen, a massive medieval fortress which today houses the « enceinte des musées ».

Last but not least, the city center is well worth a stroll, with its lively stores and friendly cafés. During the summer months, numerous street festivals are organized.

7. Caen Memorial

visiter Calvados - Mémorial de caen

Photo Credit: Shutterstock – Jillian Cain Photography

Located on a huge esplanade, the Memorial is the museum to visit in Calvados. With its innovative scenography, it manages to enthrall everyone, even the most reluctant visitors. It’s true that the Memorial has set itself a very necessary objective: to make people think about peace through the history of the 20th century.

It features several permanent exhibitions, one on the Second World War, another on the Battle of Normandy, and a final one on the Cold War. Outside, the Gardens of Remembrance pay tribute to the soldiers who died for freedom.

8. The Pays d’Auge

visiter Calvados - Maison du Pays d'Auge

Credit Photo : Wikipedia – Ian

If you want postcard-perfect Normandy like that sung by Stone and Charden, this is the place to visit in Calvados. To be honest, it’s going to be hard to find more charming villages. Colorful doors, half-timbered houses, thatched cottages, manor houses out of a cartoon, you’ll see it all.

And you can add to that some of the most appetizing local gastronomic specialties. Must-see villages include Beuvron-en-Auge, Beaumont-en-Auge and Pierrefite-en-Auge.

9. Omaha Beach

visiter Calvados - Omaha Beach

Photo credit: Shutterstock – MilaCroft

The Calvados coastline was the scene of one of the most significant events in world history. So it’s hard to overlook these sites steeped in history. This name actually encompasses the beaches of 3 villages: Vierville, Colleville and Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer.

It was here that it was decided to land the American troops who had come to liberate France. It was also here that the human toll of the D-Day landings was the heaviest. Above the beaches, the land was granted to the United States in perpetuity, to enable them to pay tribute to their fallen soldiers. Many Americans come to pay their respects in the gigantic cemetery, where more than 9,000 soldiers are buried.

10. Bayeux

Bayeux

Credit Photo : Shutterstock – Pecold

Once again, it’s William the Conqueror who makes this town so famous. And for good reason: this is the home of the famous Bayeux tapestry, which tells the story of the Duke of Normandy’s conquest of England. In all, there are over 70 meters of tapestry embroidered with hundreds of characters, animals and other illustrations.

The whole is in a remarkable state of preservation, which has earned it Unesco classification. In addition to this masterpiece in Calvados, the old town of Bayeux has remained virtually unchanged since the 18th century, much to the delight of visitors. Don’t miss the chance to take a stroll.

11. Honfleur

visiter Calvados - Honfleur

Photo credit: Flickr – Patrick Müller

It’s certainly one of the most charming ports in France that you can visit in Calvados. In fact, Honfleur has never been empty over the years. Its appeal dates back to the 19th century, when the town attracted painters, writers and high society in search of fresh air. The harbor has managed to retain its authenticity, with its fishing boats, massive old stone harbor master’s office and tall, colorful houses.

A little further back, the town center is just as cute, with its narrow streets gently climbing the hill. Take a look at the church, too, with its ceiling in the shape of an upturned ship’s hull, not forgetting the beach and artists’ studios. In short, there’s only one thing to do here: stroll.

12. Deauville

visiter Calvados - Cabines de bain de Deauville

Photo credit: Shuterstock – Ekaterina Pokrovsky

Deauville is the star of Calvados’ towns to visit. Chic, elegant, perhaps a little flashy for some, Deauville assumes its identity as an upmarket seaside resort. Villas, palaces and casinos line its beaches with their famous cabins.

Perhaps you’ll come across one of the famous names inscribed on the boards, allowing you to stroll along the beach without putting your feet in the sand. One of the best times for this is, without doubt, the American Film Festival, which transforms the city into a second Croisette.

13. Trouville

visiter Calvados - Trouville en Normandie

Photo credit: Shutterstock – RossHelen

It’s Deauville’s next-door neighbor – you just have to cross the bridge to get there. Yet the two towns couldn’t be more different, and those who don’t like Deauville love Trouville. Trouville was also successful in the 19th century, and was the first town to do so.

But it has retained its authentic charm as a former fishing port. Many artists have been seduced by its pretty villas and lively alleyways. The atmosphere here is, shall we say, simpler, with the opportunity to sample some good seafood fresh off the boats.

Today, it’s a popular destination for families.

14. Villerville-sur-Mer

Villerville sur mer

Credit Photo : Facebook – Villerville

It’s also thanks to the cinema that this little village is famous, since it was here that Un singe en hiver (A Monkey in Winter) was filmed, starring Jean Gabin and Jean-Paul Belmondo. And it’s precisely because almost nothing has changed that it’s well worth a visit in Calvados.

In fact, the bistro from the film is still in business, and the colorful storefronts are still there. It’s like stepping back in time in this delightfully quaint village. And that’s exactly what visitors like.

15. Houlgate

visiter Calvados - Vue sur la plage et la campagne d'Houlgate

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Delpixel

Nostalgic for the Belle-Epoque, this is the town to visit in Calvados. It was entirely built at the end of the 19th century for the bourgeois and wealthy Parisians who wanted to bathe in the sea.

This explains the incredible concentration of villas on the seafront and the many cottages and manor houses on the surrounding hills. All the more reason to appreciate the fact that concrete has not colonized the landscape here.

16. Cabourg

visiter Calvados - La romantique ville de Cabourg sur la Côte Fleurie

Photo credit: Shutterstock – FreeProd33

If you’ve managed to read Proust, you’ll be familiar with the 19th-century seaside resort of Cabourg. Here, too, the town center has retained its worldly charm, with its Belle Epoque villas.

There’s an old-fashioned yet charming feel to the flower-filled streets, the long seafront promenade named after the famous author, and the tea rooms in the luxury hotels.

17. The Basilica of Lisieux

Basilique Sainte-Thérèse de LisieuxPhoto credit: Shutterstock – Patrick Wang

The basilica, known as Sainte-Thérèse, is the second most popular place of pilgrimage in France after Lourdes. Interestingly, the building was constructed in the 20th century to accommodate pilgrims who came to pay homage to Thérèse. She was a Carmelite nun who died very young, and whose memoirs on religious faith were a great success.

In addition to its impressive exterior, the interior is richly decorated in a blend of neo-Byzantine and Art Deco styles. The whole is bathed in bluish tones thanks to the colors of the stained glass windows.

How to get to Calvados

By car

This is certainly the most practical way to visit Calvados. From Paris, theA13 takes you there in around 2 hours, while from Rennes, theA84 takes less than 3 hours. For sustainable travel, don’t hesitate to carpool!

By train

Thanks to its historic seaside resorts, Calvados is very well served by the rail network. Numerous stations are located throughout the region. From Paris, there are around twenty connections per day, and ten or so from the provinces. The most important station is Caen, but intercity trains also serve towns such as Honfleur, Deauville and many others.

By plane

The department has two airports:

  • Caen-Carpiquet offers direct flights from the region’s other international airports
  • Deauville is less accessible, and is mainly used for private flights, connections with London and a few charter flights.
  • To see what options are available, we recommend you use a flight comparator like Skyscanner.

    If you’re coming from the south, you’ll be better off by air.

    Where to stay in Calvados?

    With its history of tourism, there’s no shortage of places to stay in Calvados. Take a look at a hotel comparator to see which offers suit you best. Of course, the coast is famous for its luxury hotels, but you can also find more affordable ones a little further away or in less famous towns.

    To get the most out of your stay in Caen, staying in the city is a viable solution. For those who like lively places, the Calvaire Saint-Pierre district and even the old town center are ideal.

    The département also abounds in charming gîtes. If you’re in a hurry, don’t forget campsites or homestays, where you’ll get the best value for money. To find the solution that suits you best, don’t hesitate to use a hotel comparator.

    Now pack your bags and head off to visit Calvados!

Map of hotels and accommodation – Normandy