How did Bayeux France find itself at the heart of two invasions that shaped world history that took place nearly 1000 years apart. An accident of geography locates Bayeux just a few miles from the Northern coast of France. Bayeux France is famous for the UNESCO-recognised Bayeux Tapestry commemorating the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror in 1066. Conversely, Bayeux is also the first city liberated in France from the Nazis (the day after D-Day) in 1944 during World War II. Among the cool things to do in Bayeux France are visiting the 900+ year old Bayeux Cathedral, the Bayeux Tapestry Museum and the Bayeux cemetery.
What Makes Bayeux France Special?
The ancient city of Bayeux is nearly 2000 years old. Along this timeline you had the Gauls, the Romans, the Saxons, the Vikings, the Normans, the English, the French, the Germans, the Allied Forces and the French again.
During World War 2, Bayeux was the first French town to be liberated from its German occupiers on the day after D-Day. With the arrival of the General de Gaulle’s forces on June 14, Bayeux was briefly the capital of Free France until the liberation of Paris!
5 Cool Things to Do in Bayeux France
There are plenty of things to do in Bayeux France apart from soaking in its small city charm especially if you are a history buff.
The Bayeux Cathedral, Notre Dame de Bayeux, is a large gothic structure in the center of the old town.
It has elements dating back to the 11th century and is dedicated to local hero, William the Conqueror, who was present at its consecration in 1077. There are guided tours available during the summer.
Bayeux Tapestry Museum
The Bayeux Tapestry shows the events leading up to the conquest of England by William the Conqueror and his Norman forces in 1066.
King Harold reneges on his promise made at Bayeux that William would be his successor. What is a Norman-mere-generations-removed-from-his-Viking-ancestors to do? Invade, of course.
William’s invasion of England was the last time anyone was able to successfully invade the country. The Nazis were fascinated with the Bayeux Tapestry and were on a mission to proved that it was people of Germanic ancestry who invaded (not the Normans).
Historians doubt if it was William’s wife Mathilda who created the tapestry but instead his half-brother Otto, the Bishop of Bayeux. It was displayed in the nave of the Bayeux Cathedral.
Probably the world’s most famous tapestry, the Bayeux Tapestry is listed as a UNESCO memory of the world for its importance in world history.
Bayeux War Cemetery
The Bayeux War Cemetery is a British cemetery holding the remains of 4000+ soldiers (both British and other nationalities) who died during the Battle of Normandy.
The nearest D-Day landing spot would have been Gold Beach which was the assigned landing spot for the British forces along with some other Allied forces such as the Polish and and the Dutch.
Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy
The Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy commemorates the events from the Battle of Normandy – an event that spanned 3 months from June until August 1944.
You can’t miss its presence with the tanks sitting in front of the museum.
The Old Town
Despite being in the thick of the action for hundreds of years, the city is remarkably well preserved with many charming buildings dating from the 16th through the 19th centuries. We’re talking half-timbered houses, cobblestone streets, water mills, canals and a street market which combine to create a picture perfect little town that is compact and easy to walk.
The city itself was not destroyed because of the foresight of the British who built a by-pass road that skirted the city and was used for transporting soldiers and weapons. Nearby cities like Caen were not so fortunate and were heavily bombed which result in much less historic charm.
Getting to Bayeux France
Bayeux is not overly touristy. It only gets about 1 million visitors a year. Getting to Bayeux France by train is relatively straight forward.
The Paris to Bayeux train connection has around 7 direct trains a day during the week (less on the weekends). You take the Paris to Bayeux train from Paris St Lazare station. The journey by direct train takes a little over 2 hours.
The Bayeux train station is located a short walk from town and there are also taxis available at the station.