Visit Honfleur, Romantic Normandy


NormandyFood and WineNature and Outdoor ActivitiesWell-beingCultural HeritageCoastal

OT Honfleur / J. Radanovic
© OT Honfleur / J. Radanovic

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 31 December 2022

Honfleur's idyllic location in the Calvados (Normandy), just a stone's throw from the Pays d'Auge and the Côte Fleurie, guarantees an amazing getaway any time of year.

The little maritime city invites you to discover its picturesque streets and its historic houses in a 37-hectare protected area.

As both a sea and river port, the city of Honfleur has preserved its rich artistic and historic maritime heritage.

Honfleur, a medieval town

Honfleur is an old town mentioned in historical documents as early as the 11th century. At that time, it was among one of the most important townships in the Duchy of Normandy. Because of its ideal location, it was able to develop and play an important role in the creation of the Norman State. The Hundred Year's War in the 14th century brought a period of great military activity to Honfleur, during which it became a fortress. The town's walls were later destroyed at the end of the 17th century. Nowadays, the only remains are the Lieutenancy, the former gateway, the enclosure district, and it's narrow cobbled streets.

Honfleur, a maritime town

After the town had recovered from hard times, the glorious maritime history of Honfleur began. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Honfleur took an active part in the voyages of discovery, and in the cod fishing in Newfoundland. Great expeditions started heading towards the St. Lawrence River, and Canada. For example, in 1608 Samuel de Champlain organized an expedition that led to the foundation of Quebec and New France. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the port of Honfleur developed its trading activity with Canada, the West-Indies, the African coast and the Azores. To cope with this expansion, the Vieux bassin (the harbour basin) was enlarged at the end of the 17th century.

Honfleur, an artist's town

Painters began coming to Honfleur as early as the 18th century, attracted by the remarkable light of the estuary; however, it is at the beginning of the 19th century that many of them visited the town. As early as 1810-1820 they discovered the romantic panoramic setting of Honfleur, made up of two hills surrounding the medieval town. At that time painters were just beginning to paint outside in natural light. There were a lot of great artists who came to Honfleur: Bonnington, Turner, Huet, Corot, and Isabey. Then the next generation, with Boudin, Dubourg, Jongkind, and after that Monet, and Bazille. Still later came Vuillard, Vallotton, Dufy, and Friesz. The Eugène Boudin Museum hosts an important collection of paintings from those estuary painters.


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