Caen is a very popular city on the French coast, just a couple of hours’ north of Paris. Many tourists take their cars across on one of the many ferries to France, including a direct ferry from Portsmouth to Caen. Sadly many then drive through Caen on their way to a destination further into France, without stopping to see what the city has to offer. However, this beautiful little port town is worth a few days of your holiday, as there is much to explore.

It’s a city that’s bustling with students and tourists in the summer months. And Caen has a rich history. In World War II, most of it was destroyed. There are a number of memorials to visit. The city was rebuilt over two decades in the 1950s and 60s.

Luckily, some buildings were not destroyed. Two churches in particular are fine examples of French architecture. The Abbaye aux Hommes and Abbaye aux Dames have survived the bombings. Both Romanesque, they were commissioned by William the Conqueror. Another building dedicated to this important man survived: the Chateau Ducal. Although there has been some work undertaken on the building to restore it, it is largely untouched. The house is just north of the River Orne, and is definitely worth a visit.

If you are interested in War history, Caen is a great place to base yourself. The D-Day Landing beaches are within driving distance, or you can leave the car at the hotel and use public transport.

One of the biggest tourist attractions in Caen is the Museum for Peace. It’s a modern-looking building built on site where the 1944 Headquarters for the German Army stood. Exhibitions inside give visitors fascinating information about both of the World Wars, and day-to-day life in occupied France during this time.

One of the most beautiful places in Caen is the Quartier Vaugueux, and this provides tourists with an exotic selection of restaurants, mainly Creole and African food. For more conventional cuisine from France, head over to the west part of the city, Rue de Geôle. One of the most popular places in town for a bite to eat or a drink is Bassin St-Pierre. There are plenty of cafes lining the streets her, so it’s a great place to stop and people watch.

The rebuilt city is an abundance of wide streets, open leafy spaces, and modern conveniences, with a smattering of fascinating historical landmarks. There are two ports within six miles of Caen, so it couldn’t be easier to get there. Drive yourself onto a ferry at Portsmouth harbour and spend a few days exploring this magical place.

Once you’ve taken a look around this beautiful city, you can still head into France to explore more cities. Caen is a great starting point. You can drive onwards to Paris in just two hours using the A13. For Cherbourg, head for the N13. Le Mans and Tours can be reached by the N158 and the N138. Destinations further afield can easily be reached within one day. Marseilles is 627 miles’ drive, and Bordeaux is 370 miles’ drive.