Bayeux ended up being one of my most unexpected surprises on our trip to Normandy. This small city in the heart of Normandy felt alive and local, and there was plenty to see and do. If I had to choose a single home base for a trip to Normandy, I would probably choose it. That’s how much I enjoyed visiting Bayeux. It’s well-located for exploring the numerous historical sites and museums in the area, but it can also accommodate slow days without feeling boring.
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2 Week Normandy Itinerary
Two weeks is a long time to spend in a single region in France. Sometimes it’s nice to travel slow though. We flew into Paris, rented a car, and immediately drove to Normandy. We did backtrack to spend a few days in the countryside. (It worked best for the hotels I wanted to book.)
5 days near Mont St Michel
4 days in Bayeux
3 days at a Relais & Chateaux in the countryside of Normandy
Getting to Bayeux
We drove to Bayeux from Mont St Michel, which takes about 1.5 hours. Since we booked vacation rentals near Mont St Michel and in Bayeux, we had some time to kill between destinations. We divided up our day with a visit to Sainte-Mere-Eglise. It was the perfect way to divide the day for us.
If you are starting your trip in Paris, you can take a direct train from Paris to Bayeux in about 2.5 hours. Make sure to buy your tickets in advance, especially during busy times of the year. The TGV trains sell out, and they are generally cheaper if you book in advance. (We’ve learned this through multiple trips to Alsace!)
Things to Do in Bayeux
One of the things that makes Bayeux a great base for Normandy is that there are many things to do. It’s also a great starting point for exploring the D Day landing beaches. We used the Top 10 Normandy and the Rick Steves Normandy books to plan our visit to Bayeux. However, we supplemented several of the sites with local and audioguides. I strongly recommend booking tours and guides when possible, as it will help make this area come alive.
Old Town Bayeux Walking Tour
The first thing you need to do in Bayeux is book this walking tour of the old city. No travel guide goes into the history of Bayeux in the way that Christele does. You need this introduction to Bayeux to better understand the history of Normandy. You’ll start your tour with a history lesson about Rollo, the first Duke of Normandy and come to the present with Charles de Gaulle and one of his first liberation speeches in Bayeux.
Starting in front of the tourist office, Christele guides you through Bayeux effortlessly. She will help you understand the timeline and history of Bayeux using architecture and stories. Similar to the tour in Verona we loved, Bayeux is an architectural timeline masterpiece. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Christele’s details about the Bayeux Cathedral. (It’s one of the most beautiful in France, in my opinion)! She provides a lot of information about Normandy and its history. Her information was vital to furthering my understanding about the Bayeux Tapestry prior to our visit.
I loved winding around the medieval streets of Bayeux. Because the tour starts early, you can see it without the crowds. Christele is an engaging and witty guide. Time goes by quickly, both in terms of the tour and the material covered! She went above and beyond to help a fellow traveler whose tour from Bayeux to Mont St Michel cancelled at the last minute.
The Bayeux Cathedral
Bayeux is one of the few cities in Normandy that was spared from bombing during World War II. Its cathedral is still very much intact and is a journey through the city’s history. I LOVE the Bayeux Cathedral. I think it’s my most favorite cathedral in France now, if not Europe. Entry is free, and you can truly take your time to appreciate the stained-glass. I think it’s even more beautiful than Notre Dame in Paris, though nothing competes with the rose window.
The Romanesque origins of the cathedral date back to the 11th century. In the mid-12th century, the cathedral burned down and was reconstructed with Gothic elements. The original dome was not added until the 18th century, and it was reconstructed in the 19th century. The back of the cathedral houses Bayeux’s liberty tree, which is “just a baby” compared to others. There is also an exhibition entitled “Tears of Ukraine”.
I highly recommend visiting the cathedral early in the day so that you can enjoy an unobstructed view. I love the medieval streets around it, too. It’s also nice in the early evening. We happened to visit during the Medieval Festival of Bayeux. There was a market set up around the cathedral during the latter part of our visit.
Once you’ve taken a walking tour of Bayeux, you’re ready to see the famous Bayeux Tapestry. The Bayeux Museums offer a joint ticket that includes the Tapestry, the Battle of Normandy Musuem, and the Museum of Art and History. The other tickets are good for an entire year, so it’s worth buying the combination ticket for the savings.
An audioguide is included with your ticket to the Bayeux Tapestry. Don’t want to hesitate to pick one up. It takes you through each of the panels and explains what you are seeing. It keeps the cadence and flow of the museum moving along. We went around noon, and it wasn’t too crowded.
Commissioned by Bishop Odo, the tapestry likely dates back to the 11th century. Our guide in Bayeux shared that, at one time, the tapestry was held in locations throughout the city, including the Cathedral in the 15th century. During the second world war, the Tapestry was put into an underground shelter until it was sent to the Louvre. In 2026, there will be a new museum opened in Bayeux to house the Tapestry. In spite of all it movement, I am impressed with how well-preserved the tapestry is. It looks as if it could have been created recently.
Just a note, there are no photos allowed of the Tapestry. Please respect the art and abide by the rules so everyone can enjoy the experience.
Battle of Normandy Museum
The Battle of Normandy Museum is included in your combination Bayeux ticket, and it’s worth visiting as well. All exhibits are in French and English. There is a 25-minute film that provides more information on the Battle of Normandy. It alternates between French and English, so you’ll want to check the film times when you arrive. I liked the film because it showed footage from the war, but it was not Hollywood style.
I’ve read a lot about how Charles de Gaulle was in France during the war, I did not understand why. This museum starts with an introduction of the sanctions of De Gaulle faced under the German occupation of France. His property was seized and he was sentenced to death.
The museum provides an in-depth look at the D-Day invasion and the days that followed afterwards. It includes information about Canadian, British, and American efforts on D-Day, which I found very interesting. One of the things that resonated most is that D-Day was not an immediate success. To be sure, it was a turning point in the war. Some cities like Bayeux were liberated quickly, but fighting continued throughout Normandy. This museum covers the summer of 1944 and includes a lot of artifacts.
Half Day D Day Beaches Tour
If you are visiting Bayeux, you should include a visit to the beaches of Normandy. And, if you are planning to visit the D-Day sites, I strongly recommend booking a tour or guide. The area around Omaha Beach feels like just another beach community. In some places, it’s hard to understand the significance of what you are seeing.
Neither Tom nor I knew what to expect or how we would react to this experience. As such, I opted for a half-day tour of the Normandy beaches. Pascal was an incredible guide, and I would absolutely do a longer tour with him. He was engaging, thoughtful, and conscientious.
Upon leaving Bayeux, this tour starts at Pointe du Hoc and a tour of the German bunkers used to guard the Normandy coast. Pascal provided insight into the construction of the bunkers, helped us understand the impact of the shelling, and truly prepared us for the next stop at Omaha Beach. We spent quite a bit of time at Omaha Beach. Pascal illustrated the challenges of the D-Day invasion through illustrations, stories, and photographs. Our last stop was at the American Cemetery. After a short introduction, Pascal provided us with plenty of free time to explore the cemetery on our own.
The half day tour was a great introduction to the D day sites in Normandy. I cannot stress the importance of a guide enough. We had guidebooks, Top 10 Normandy and Rick Steves Normandy, and both recommended hiring guides.
The Airborne Museum at Sainte-Mere-Eglise
My grandfather was a member of the Screaming Eagles (101st Airborne), so the museum I had to visit was the Airborne Museum. Between the Battle of Normandy Museum and the Airborne Museum, I gained a greater understanding of his mission. It is about 45 minutes from Bayeux to St-Mere-Eglise.
Through a series of exhibit halls, this museum walks you through the experiences of the 82nd and 101st airborne divisions. I would visit this museum before the visiting the Battle of Normandy Museum in Bayeux. It will help you better understand the purpose of D-Day, how they prepared the paratroopers, and the experience of the soliders upon landing. The Battle of Normandy Museum covers the rest of the mission after D-Day, and the film provides insight into what the soldiers from Canada and England faced, as well.
Don’t forget to visit the church at Sainte Mere Eglise while you are there.
Where to Eat in Bayeux
When we were visiting Bayeux, we stayed in an apartment rental in the middle of the historic city. This was amazing, but it also meant that we didn’t take advantage of many Bayeux restaurants. However, I did insist on enjoying a couple of aperitifs. And, I picked up pastries almost every day to supplement our grocery store meals.
One of my favorite things we did while visiting Bayeux was to enjoy cider and charcuterie each evening at L’Etabli. This was a one-minute walk from our vacation rental. They were so very kind and accommodating. We opted for the Normandy cheese platter, but they also have European and Italian options. Cheeses are served with fresh bread. If you’re nervous about French cheese, I recommend the 18-month Comte, the perfect introduction to French cheeses, in my opinion.
This cheese shop closes at 7:00pm, so we would grab at a table at 5:00. It’s the perfect time of day to watch the world go by and enjoy an aperitif. I would definitely rate it as one of my favorite Normandy dining experiences. If you want something similar but with more options, I recommend making a reservation at Le Volet qui Penche.
Since I’ve started taking more pastry classes in Paris, I’ve tried to try more French pastries. Maison Lemoisson is a gift to Bayeux. I had originally wanted to go to Reine Mathilde, but when they weren’t open, I ended up at Lemoisson. After that, we would get two baguettes and an assortment of pastries each day. They changed from day to day, and it was easy to see that they were homemade. My absolute favorite? The tarte au citron or the lemon tarte. My second favorite? The Paris Brest. Nothing was bad here though. It is all tasty.
Where to Stay in Bayeux
When I planned our trip to Normandy, I expected that we would stay in Bayeux exclusively. However, when we arrived at Chateau d’Audrieu, we realized it was only a short trip to Bayeux. Depending on the experience you are looking for, either could be a good base for Bayeux. Ultimately, I’m glad we did both. Staying in Bayeux meant that we could attend the Medieval Festival parade (at midnight). Staying at the chateau gave us the flexibility to enjoy some quiet days at the pool. You have to decide what works best for you or do both like we did!
Croissant de Lune #2
We rented an apartment in Bayeux, which was quite a bit smaller than the vacation home near Mont St Michel. It was perfect for the two of us. Everything was very modern and new. Our host was very communicative and offered contactless entry. We picked up and dropped off the keys from a coded key box. There is parking nearby, which makes it easy to load and unload.
A few things to note about this apartment: There is a spiral staircase in the rental and steep stairs to access the apartment. The bedroom and the bathroom are both upstairs. If you have mobility issues, this might not be the place for you.
The shower had great water pressure and we had no issues with hot water. There is a window in the bathroom that can help with regulating the temperature. There is not a closet in the bedroom. However, there are cabinets where you can store your luggage. (We just left our luggage downstairs.) Blackout shades are available in the bedroom, but we preferred sleeping with the windows open. Depending on the season, you might want to get mosquito repellant. (We bought plug-in ones from the Carrefour and had no issues.)
The kitchen is large with a full-size refrigerator. There is plenty of storage space and a table that seats 4. Personally, we enjoyed eating outside on the terrace, but you can hear absolutely EVERYTHING from the adjacent rental.
Overall, I recommend this apartment in Bayeux for the amenities, location, and price. I can recommend it without reservation. If you are looking for a luxury hotel in Bayeux, I recommend Hotel Tardif. It’s absolutely where I would stay.
Where to Stay Near Bayeux
If you’re looking for a resort in the Normandy countryside, Chateau d’Audrieu is about 20 minutes from Bayeux. We stayed here before heading to Paris, and it was a great place to unwind AND enjoy the benefits of Bayeux. This hotel offers 25 rooms in a literal chateau in the countryside of France, and we loved it.
Chateau d’Audrieu is a Relais & Chateaux property, and we booked through AmEx Fine Hotels and Resorts. FNR perks include a third night free, a room upgrade, a $100 hotel credit, and late checkout. If you don’t have an AmEx Platinum, you can get the same perks by booking through Tablet.
We stayed in a deluxe room that overlooked the garden. In addition to the king size bed, we had a desk and several chairs, and the room felt very spacious. The entry way to the room had a closet, minibar, and plenty of additional storage. An added benefit is that there was a door between that area and the bedroom. It is the biggest hotel room from our three week trip to France, and I savored every minute of it. The bathroom had a soaking tub and a walk-in shower, plenty of space, and lots of light.
Our arrival gift included a bottle of cider from the estate, as well as some small pastries, and a personalized note. Turndown service included chocolates. Breakfast offered plenty of options, local meats and cheeses, made-to-order eggs, and delicious pastries. We enjoyed aperitif in the bar on our last evening, and the cocktails and cider were quite refreshing.
While I will write more in-depth about our stay at Chateau d’Audrieu, we enjoyed it very much. We loved having the pool available to us. I had a lovely massage at the Sothy Spa. It was very easy to get to and from Bayeux, as well.
A Few Final Thoughts on Visiting Normandy
If you’re going to visit Bayeux, you want to have a passing interest in history. Whether that’s an interest in the history of architecture, medieval or Normand history, or World War II history is up to you. Bayeux is teeming with historical treasures to explore. It rewards the curious traveler.
A trip to Normandy is best when you leave the checklist at home. However, when possible, book tour guides. We visited a lot of beautiful places in Normandy, but it’s through our tour guides that we understood the significance of them. Many things aren’t in history books – or they are distilled to a paragraph or a footnote. By going slow, you can gain a better sense of place. You’ll have time for random medieval festivals and midnight parades. There is a lot of beauty in watching the world go by at a table on a street in Bayeux.
Many things about Normandy remind me of visiting the Alsace. Both regions of France remind me that it is really important to skip day trips. Sometimes I watch people shuffle through towns, oblivious to the gems around them, and I am really sad about the opportunities they are missing to go beyond the surface. (I’m sure the locals say the same about me!) I often find myself stretching my fingers out to my sides, as if I’m trying to grasp everything around me. I can’t encourage you enough to do the same when you travel.