With perhaps one of the prettiest harbours in all of France, Honfleur lived up to my lofty expectations. We spent four nights in the harbour town and used it as a base for exploring northern France. There are lots of things I love about Honfleur - here are nine of them.
If you’re wondering what to do in Honfleur, France, read on.
9 things to love about Honfleur, France
1. 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 port of Honfleur are the town’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. Sitting here, lingering over a meal or a drink is definitely one of the best things to do in Honfleur.
2. Freshest seafood
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.
When you visit Honfleur, you’ve got to try the local seafood.
3. 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.
This should be first on your list when you are mapping out what to see in Honfleur.
4. 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, offering plenty of choice when it comes to shopping in Honfleur.
5. Galleries and Museums
There are plenty of opportunities to learn more about the history of Honfleur and its famous residents in the town’s galleries and museums.
The Musee de la Marine houses a collection of model ships and marine artefacts, whilst the Erik Satie Museum in Honfleur is dedicated to the musician and composer who was born in the town in 1866.
Another Honfleur local also has a museum named after him. The Eugene Boudin Museum is dedicated to another famous son, the landscape painter born in Honfleur in 1824.
6. 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 Honfleur beach, with views to the Normandy bridge (see below).
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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 nearby towns that make great day trips from Honfleur.
You can also meander along the Route du Cidre and taste the local cider or enjoy a day at Mont St. Michel.
Where is Honfleur, France?
Honfleur is located in the northern French region of Normandy. It sits on the southern bank of the Seine estuary, just across the water from Le Havre.
How to get to Honfleur from Paris
The best way to reach Honfleur is by car - it’s just a two hour drive from Paris (Honfleur-Paris distance is 197 kilometres.)
If you don’t have your own wheels and want to travel from Paris to Honfleur by train, services operate hourly from Paris to Le Havre (journey time 2 hours 7 minutes). See connection details below.
Coach operator FlixBus operate twice daily services from Paris to Honfleur.
You can also visit Honfleur on a day trip from Paris like this one:
- Full day small group tour to Honfleur, Deauville and Trouville from Paris (9 hours) - click here for prices
How to get to Honfleur from Le Havre
A bus service (four times per day) connects Le Havre with Honfleur or you can catch a taxi from Le Havre to Honfleur.
Where to eat in Honfleur
We enjoyed a delicious meal at Cote Resto at 8, place Sainte Catherine overlooking St. Catherine’s Church. It’s quieter and less touristy than the restaurants in Honfleur that line the harbour but still offers outdoor tables in warmer weather. The food and service were excellent.
Where to stay in Honfleur
We stayed at Le Cour Ste. Catherine, a lovely bed and breakfast in a former convent, just a five minute walk from the harbour. Our room was beautifully furnished and overlooked the courtyard and garden below.
Breakfast, which consisted of bread/croissants, yoghurt, orange juice and tea and coffee, was served each morning in a separate dining room. Cereal was also available. Click here to check latest prices at Le Cour Sainte Catherine
If you prefer to stay in a hotel, the following properties are widely regarded as the best hotels in Honfleur:
- Le Maison de Lucie Honfleur - A centrally located hotel housed in an elegant 18th-century building, close to the harbour. Click here to check prices
- Le Ferme Saint Simeon Spa - Located just outside Honfleur, this hotel, which is part of the Relaix & Chateaux collection, boasts an indoor swimming pool, spa, sauna and hammam and is one of the most popular hotels near Honfleur. Click here to check prices
- L’ Absinthe Hotel - In the heart of Honfleur, right beside the harbour, l’Absinthe Hotel’s rooms all feature a spa bath. Click here to check prices
There are also a selection of apartments in Honfleur, which you can browse on this link
Tips for visiting Honfleur
- Beware of one way streets! There are quite a few in the heart of Honfleur and we inadvertently drove the wrong way up one of them trying to reach our B&B - the head shaking of the locals soon made us realise we were going the wrong way - whoops!
- There is limited on-street parking in Honfleur so if your accommodation doesn’t have its own private car park you’ll need to park in one of the large public car parks in town. Those closer to town generally charge but parking is free at the Naturospace Butterfly House on Boulevard Charles V.
- The weekly Honfleur market is held on Saturdays from 9am to 12.30pm and attracts hundreds of people. We arrived on a sunny Saturday afternoon in summer (a few hours after the market had finished) but the crowds in town were still huge.
- We found some restauranteurs and wait staff, particularly around the harbour, quite hesitant to speak English, which is understandable - Honfleur is in France, after all! After battling my way through our dinner order at a harbourside restaurant in my very limited French, I was amused when it came time to pay the bill for the waitress (who had only spoken French all night) to thank me and wish me a pleasant evening - in perfect English!!
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