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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
5. 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.
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 the 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 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.
Where to eat in Honfleur
Cote Resto at 8, place Sainte Catherine overlooking St. Catherine’s Church. It’s quieter and less touristy than the restaurants that line the harbour but still offers outdoor tables in warmer weather. Excellent food and service.
Where to stay in Honfleur, France
We stayed at Le Cour Ste. Catherine, a lovely bed and breakfast 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 | Check more accommodation options in Honfleur
Getting to Honfleur
The best way to reach Honfleur is by car - it’s just a two hour drive from Paris. (Click here for a free quote.)
If you don’t have your own wheels, trains operate hourly from Paris to Le Havre (2 hours 7 minutes). A bus service (four times per day) connects Le Havre with Honfleur. Alternatively, both FlixBus and Ouibus operate services from the capital.
You can also visit Honfleur on a day trip from Paris. Two of the most popular tours are:
- Full day small group tour to Honfleur from Paris (9 hours) - click here for prices
- Small group tour to Mont St-Michel and Honfleur from Paris (13 hours) - click here to check prices
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 town 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!!
Have you visited Honfleur in France? What did you love most about it? If you haven't yet visited, what would you most like to see or do in Honfleur?
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