Honfleur is a picturesque and photogenic small town in Normandy, France. If you’re looking for a day trip from Rouen or Paris, then Honfleur might be the perfect option for you. It’s right on the seaside, in addition to being full of buildings and monuments, which look like they came out of a true fairy tale.
With more than 1000 years of history, the city of Honfleur invites its visitors for coastal walks and walks in the historic center, eventually attracting many tourists from the surrounding area in Lower Normandy. Still, I recommend taking advantage of the city’s proximity to other places worth visiting, such as Trouville-sur-Mer, Deauville, or Le Havre, the latter across the river Seine.
So, do you want to know more about 1 Day In Honfleur: The Perfect Honfleur Itinerary? Keep reading!
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Brief History of Honfleur
In the early 12th century, Honfleur emerged as an important port center, for the maritime transportation of goods from Rouen to England. Due to its strategic position on the Seine’s estuary, one of the main in France, it survived the English invasions several times (except in 1357 and between 1419-1450).
When the Hundred Years’ War ended in 1453, the city of Honfleur not only had solid fortifications but was also prepared for the intense European maritime trade that took place in the following centuries. Just to exemplify, it was from here that explorers Binot Paulmierde Gonneville left for Brazil in 1503, Jean-Denis for North America in 1506, and Samuel de Champlain for the same destination (present-day Canada) in 1608.
With the discovery and colonization of Canada in the 17th century, Honfleur assumed itself as one of the main slave trade ports in France. At the same time, the city’s growth was so abrupt, that its fortifications were demolished.
Nonetheless, the French Revolution (1789-1799) and Napoleon Bonaparte‘s First French Empire in the early 19th century brought ruin to the city. Honfleur remained only in the timber trade with northern Europe, but it became increasingly less important with the emergence of the modern port of Le Havre.
As I said earlier, Honfleur is a perfect day trip, from Rouen or, if you prefer, from Paris. If you choose this destination during the summer, you can also include it as a road trip stop through Normandy.
However, don’t forget that Honfleur is a very popular tourist destination, which means inflated prices, especially in restaurants and accommodations. Just to illustrate, a simple stop for a coffee or a cider in front of the port can cost you at least €5.
Speaking of cider, this is one of the most appreciated and characteristic drinks in the region. If you want to stop for a complete meal, try the fish or seafood dishes from the various typical restaurants. Or, do like me and try the famous galette Normande, filled with everything you can imagine.
If you’re looking for a good souvenir in the small local shops, buy a bottle of the Calvados liqueur, the region’s fruity brandy!
To begin, the Old Port (in French, Vieux Bassin) was built in 1681, leading to the destruction of part of the city walls. Nowadays, it’s one of the most spectacular and photogenic sites in Honfleur, particularly for the narrow houses reflected in the water and the numerous boats moored.
In order words, the Vieux Bassin is a perfect example of the buildings in Normandy, with their wooden facades and slate roofs, which were both portrayed by painters Gustave Coubert, Eugène Boudin, and Claude Monet. In fact, these and other artists were responsible for forming the so-called École de Honfleur, which led to the appearance of Impressionism in painting.
Moreover, Saint Catherine’s Church (in French, Église Sainte-Catherine) is the main attraction of Honfleur (after the port) and an absolutely must-visit monument. It’s the largest wooden church in France and is dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria.
It was built in the second half of the 15th century, to replace an old church destroyed during the Hundred Years’ War. Built from wood from a local forest and using navy techniques, the interior resembles a ship’s hull upside down.
The construction continued with a bell tower separate from the main building and, already in the following century, with the addition of a second nave. The visit to the belfry is included in the entrance to the Eugène Boudin Museum, while the church is access-free.
Musée Eugène Boudin
Further on, the Eugène Boudin Museum (in French, Musée Eugène Boudin) is the main museum in the city of Honfleur and pays homage to a famous local painter, a precursor to the Impressionist movement: Eugène Boudin. He himself helped in its creation in 1868, which was mainly in charge by another artist of the city, Alexandre Dubourg, although it has only received its current name in 1960.
Nowadays, the museum displays a large collection of Normand artists, with more than 2500 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints. Additionally, it includes more than 1000 everyday objects, such as costumes, furniture, toys, tourist postcards, and even photographs from the 1880s to the 1920s.
In general, the museum is open every day of the week, except on Tuesdays, starting at 10 am. The closing times vary, depending on the season, but can be consulted on the official website. As for prices, there is a complete fare ranging between €6-€8 and a reduced rate between €4.50-€6.50 (depending on temporary exhibitions).
After that, Saint Leonard’s Church (in French, Église Saint-Léonard) is another church worth visiting, if only for its extravagant Gothic façade. You just need to walk to the outskirts of the historic center for a few minutes, and you’ll reach its beautiful square and garden.
Although it was built in 1186, the Église Saint-Léonard of Honfleur was also destroyed by the Hundred Years’ War. It was rebuilt in later centuries when it gained its dome-shaped bell tower.
This aesthetic option is very rare in monuments around Normandy and ends up giving it a unique and unusual look, that you can only find in Eastern France. Its interior is completely decorated with mural paintings and, like Saint Catherine’s Church, the entrance is free.
To sum up, the Satie House and Museum (in French, Maisons Satie) are dedicated to the composer and pianist Erik Satie, who was born precisely in this building, on May 17, 1866. Still, the house museum only opened in 1998 and features various rooms depicting the life and work of the French musician, using an interactive audio guide.
This museum is also open every day of the week, except on Tuesdays, from 10 am to 7 pm (from 1 May to 30 September) and from 11 am to 6 pm (from 1 October to April 30th). Here, the ticket costs €6.30 (full fare) or €4.80 (reduced fare).
If you want to visit more than one museum during your stay in Honfleur, I recommend that you buy the Museum Pass, for sale at any of the museums (including the Navy Museum and the Ethnographic Museum). It costs between €10-€13 and you can consult this information on the official website of the Maisons Satie.
Map of the Honfleur Itinerary
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