Normandy’s beaches stretch for more than 600 kilometres along the departments of Manche, Calvados and Seine-Maritime. In this article, I’ll to introduce you to the different beaches around Caen. You’ll discover beaches famous for their natural beauty and fine sand, but also for their historical importance as the sites of Allied landings during the Second World War.
Ouistreham Riva-Bella, the closest beach to Caen
First of all, let me introduce you to Ouistreham beach, also known as Riva-Bella beach. Just 15 km from Caen, it’s the closest beach to the city. Ouistreham beach is several kilometres long and has a beautiful promenade with restaurants, bars and shops.
You can relax on the spacious beach, swim in the ocean or go for a bike ride along the promenade. Water activities such as kitesurfing, paddle boarding and kayaking are also possible.
What to do in Ouistreham?
Ouistreham beach is the ideal place for water sports such as swimming, sailing and windsurfing. It also offers great opportunities for long walks along the coast.
The marina boasts a number of seafood restaurants, offering specialities such as oysters, mussels and lobster. Some of these restaurants, including the one at the casino, are also set on the beaches, offering breathtaking views of the sea. You’ll also find restaurants offering traditional cuisine.
Additionally, there are plenty of tourist attractions, including museums dedicated to the Normandy landings, memorials and military cemeteries.
Ouistreham is a popular destination for seafood lovers. Indeed, the town is renowned for its annual scallop festival in November.
How to get to Ouistreham?
This beach is easily accessible by car, public transport or bicycle.
I recommend hiring a bike and cycling to Ouistreham along the Canal de l’Orne, more commonly known as the “voie verte” or greenway.
Halfway along the route, you’ll get the chance to see the famous Pegasus Bridge, an historic D-Day site.
As soon as you see the lighthouse, you’ll know you’ve arrived in Ouistreham. At 38 metres high, the Ouistreham lighthouse can be visited during the summer, when you can climb the 171 steps to the top for a panoramic view.
The D-Day beaches
As well as Ouistreham beach, I recommend a visit to the famous D-Day beaches, which played a crucial role in the outcome of the Second World War. The D-Day beaches are only a few kilometres from Ouistreham and are easily accessible from the town by car or bus.
Some of the most popular beaches in Normandy include:
- Omaha Beach: This was one of five beaches where Allied forces landed on 6 June 1944 as part of the Normandy invasion during World War II. Omaha Beach was the most difficult beach to take due to the topography and fierce German resistance.
- Juno Beach: Canadian troops landed on this beach and met fierce resistance from German troops. The beach has since been renamed in honour of the Canadian forces.
- Sword Beach: This beach was taken by the Allies in record time. British forces landed on this beach and were able to quickly break through the German defences.
- Gold Beach: This famous beach was taken by British forces. Located between the Juno and Sword beaches, it was considered a key area for allowing the Allied forces to advance inland.
- Utah Beach: This was one of the two beaches where American forces landed during the Normandy invasion. Located at the western end of the five beaches, it was considered a strategic position for establishing a beachhead for the Allied forces.
Each of these beaches has its own unique history and features, but they all offer spectacular scenery and fantastic tourist attractions.
Besides the numerous museums and war memorials you’ll encounter as you travel through them, I’d encourage you to discover the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. It’s a remarkable place that honours the American soldiers who lost their lives during the conflict.
The beaches around Caen
Merville Franceville is a beach located about 15 km east of Caen. It’s known for its vast stretches of fine sand and for being one of the best kitesurfing spots in the region. The beach is also bordered by dunes and pine trees, making it a pleasant place for a walk.
For all those history buffs out there, Merville Franceville is famous for its role in the Normandy landings of 1944. The beach was the scene of a major mission by British forces to destroy a German gun. Today there’s a museum dedicated to this mission, which is open to the public.
Luc sur Mer
Luc-sur-Mer is a small coastal town about 20 km north of Caen. Its beach is a popular destination for families.
Luc-sur-Mer’s beach is also known for its wooden jetty, which offers a breathtaking view of the sea and is a popular place for anglers and walkers.
Cabourg is a seaside resort located about 25 km east of Caen. Its fine sandy beach, which stretches for several kilometres, is considered one of the most beautiful in Normandy. The beach is also bordered by a pedestrian promenade with restaurants, bars and shops.
Located about 45 km east of Caen, Deauville is an upmarket seaside resort with a fine sandy beach lined with colourful parasols and wooden beach huts. The beach also has lifeguards in summer, making it safer for bathers.
Deauville is also known for its casino, racecourse and horse racing. The town has a chic feel and is a popular destination for visitors seeking luxury and glamour.
Caen, the Norman city
Finally, a few words about this beautiful city of Caen, which is famous for its rich history and medieval architecture. Founded in the 11th century, the city has played a major cultural role for centuries.
What to visit in Caen?
I highly recommend discovering the city’s history by visiting tourist sites such as
- Caen Castle,
- The Abbaye aux Hommes (Men’s Abbey), which is also the city hall,
- The Abbaye aux Dames (Ladies’ Abbey),
- Place Saint-Sauveur square,
- Rue Saint-Pierre.
You can also explore the city’s gardens and parks, stroll through the picturesque streets in the Vaugueux quarter and the city centre, and enjoy the local cultural festivals and events that take place during the summer.
Where to eat in Caen?
If you’re looking for somewhere to eat in Caen, you’re spoilt for choice! The city is full of restaurants offering a variety of cuisines, from traditional Normandy dishes to international flavours.
Where to go for some fun in Caen?
For those looking to go out and have fun in Caen, the city offers a multitude of entertainment options. For example, you can enjoy a lively evening with friends in the bars and pubs in the city centre, Place St Sauveur, the famous Rue Écuyère or the port.
And if after your stay in Caen you still feel like going to the beach and you pass by the south, you should know that there are also very beautiful beaches, as for example in Marseille or in Montpellier.