The beautiful seaside town of Honfleur, located on the south bank of the Seine estuary, is a popular location along the Côte Fleurie in Normandy.
Famous for its Old Port, immortalised many times in the canvases of artists such as Eugène Boudin or Claude Monet, for its half-timbered houses and its historic centre, the town of Honfleur is a picturesque place, a must-see on a trip to Normandy.
The town was once fortified to protect its inhabitants from English invasions. Today, the ruins of its famous ramparts are still visible. Honfleur saw its heyday during the naval connections with the New World and port trade with Canada, Louisiana and the West Indies, prospering from cod fishing and the leather trade.
Weakened by competition with the port of Le Havre and wars, it has regained its vitality and splendour as a tourist resort for visitors from all over Europe, who appreciate its distinct maritime vocation.
It is a real treat for the eyes to stroll through the narrow alleyways around the old harbour, admiring the old stone houses, slate roofs and sailing ships anchored at the quays, a reminder of Honfleur’s centuries-old maritime tradition.
The town seems unscathed by the passage of time and is a pleasant place to stay. Not only will it provide you with enchanting views but you will also be able to enjoy its seafood cuisine, rich in delicious prawns, scallops and mackerel.
The Vieux-Bassin encompasses the whole of the old quarter around the harbour: wonderful, narrow old houses in pastel colours and slate roofs are reflected in the waters of the harbour. A picture postcard image that you will surely have seen many times in the paintings of great artists such as Gustave Courbet, Eugène Boudin or Claude Monet.
You cannot miss strolling along the quays breathing in the salty air and admiring the pleasure boats swaying moored at the docks. The seaside atmosphere is absolutely delightful. To find the most beautiful houses and picturesque alleyways to photograph, you should find these streets: Quai Sainte-Catherine, rue de l’Homme de Bois, rue du Puits, rue des Capucins, rue des Lingots behind the Sainte-Catherine bell tower and rue de la Prison.
Avoid the numerous tourist restaurants that line the quays: they are extremely expensive.
The neighbourhood around Sainte Catherine Church is considered one of the most beautiful in the city. Let yourself be charmed by the half-timbered houses that will give you the impression of an incredible journey through time.
Sainte Catherine Church is undoubtedly the emblem of the city of Honfleur: it is one of the last half-timbered churches in France and the largest built with a separate bell tower. In fact, it was only added to the religious building in the 15th century, after the Hundred Years’ War, at the behest of the shipbuilders, to thank God for driving the English out of French territory. Not surprisingly, the interior vault of the church bears a striking resemblance to the hull of an upturned boat.
On the other side of the harbour is the Enclos quarter, whose name, meaning enclosure, derives from the fact that it was originally surrounded by ramparts and moats, which enclosed the houses of its inhabitants. This historic district located in the centre of Honfleur is very lively and pleasant for a stroll away from the tourist circuits: here you will find the most authentic restaurants and bistros frequented by the locals.
We recommend you take your time to discover its narrow alleys and admire the many half-timbered houses. The heart of the district is certainly Place Arthur Boudin, surrounded by beautiful old slate buildings.
In the heart of the Enclos quarter are the salt granaries, ancient constructions made by order of Colbert, then minister to King Louis XIV, from the stones of the ramparts that had been destroyed during the wars. The structure was built by carpenters specialised in shipbuilding.
At one time, these buildings, dating back to the 17th century, were used to store up to 10,000 tonnes of salt, used for cod fishing. Today only two remain and host exhibitions, conferences and concerts.
Located near the old basin, quite far from the centre of Honfleur, is this magnificent green space of about 10 hectares.
The special feature of the gardens is the presence of splendid statues of personalities who are natives of Honfleur or who have stayed here: we mention Claude Monet, Eugène Boudin, Erik Satie, Charles Baudelaire, Françoise Sagan, Michel Serrault or even Charles V and his minister Colbert.
A regenerating and lush garden that pays homage to the city’s literary and artistic past.
A decidedly original and little-known place is the Jardin du Tripot. Nestled among the narrow alleyways of old Honfleur, it passes almost unnoticed, despite its 7000 m2 and its location in the heart of the old town.
This garden is located on an arm of the River Claire and was once used by tanneries, some vestiges of which remain. It is an idyllic corner of great peace, offering unprecedented views of the city’s lesser-known alleys.
Housed in the former prison of the Viscount of Rocheville, this museum offers a vivid panorama of the Norman world of past centuries.
Through a compulsory tour of nine rooms, you will discover the life of the time with the merchant’s workshop, the cooper’s workshop, the headgear and costume room, the weaver’s room, the souvenir room, the bourgeois room, the girl’s room, the press room and the sailor’s dining room.
If you are coming from the Alabaster Coast and Etretat, to reach Honfleur you will have to pass over the Normandy Bridge, one of the largest bridges in the world.
A work of engineering of the highest order, it connects Le Havre to Honfleur for over 2 kilometres with cables suspended from the pillars: impressive to see and to walk over.
Its construction began in 1988 and was completed at the end of 1994. It was inaugurated and opened to traffic at the beginning of 1995.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Honfleur is located in Lower Normandy, along the enchanting Cote Florie, a succession of beautiful old villages overlooking the sea.
Once you land at one of Paris’ two main airports, Paris Orly Airport and Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport, or Paris Beauvais Airport, you can conveniently rent a car. In fact, the town of Honfleur is 200 km from the French capital, about 2 hours and 30 minutes depending on traffic, following the A13 motorway.
There is no train station in Honfleur. Consequently, to travel by train, you must go from the Paris – Saint Lazare station to Le Havre or Trouville-Deauville. From there, you continue by bus with the Bus Verts line 20.
In summer, the atmosphere in Honfleur is particularly atmospheric at sunset and in the evening when the lights of the houses and clubs are reflected in the waters of the harbour. Sleeping in Honfleur is therefore a way to experience the town also at night, have an aperitif along the harbour with Calvados, stroll through the narrow alleys and taste the fabulous seafood cuisine.
We advise you to stay in the central districts, to have the possibility of getting around on foot and not having to take the car to reach the centre: if the Old Port district is very glamorous but also extremely noisy and touristy, the Sainte-Catherine area is ideal for those who want silence and tranquillity, where the small cobbled streets and old half-timbered houses are immersed in peace. By contrast, the Enclos district is perfect for mingling with the locals and experiencing summer evenings in a picturesque and charming place.
On weekends in May and during the summer season, the town is taken by storm, the hotels are full and it is necessary to book hotels and the best restaurants in town in advance.
What's the weather at Honfleur? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Honfleur for the next few days.
Honfleur is located in the Calvados department in Normandy, on the south bank of the Seine estuary.