Bayeux - beyond the Tapestry
Bayeux is undoubtedly most well known for being the home of the Bayeux Tapestry. Created at some point after William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings, it is in fact not a true tapestry but a work of embroidery which depicts the time before, during and just after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. It is a must see for anyone visiting Normandy.
Bayeux is 45 minutes from Eco-Gites of Lenault and many of our gite guests will make a trip there to see The Bayeux Tapestry. We always suggest they also take time to enjoy the town as well as unlike other towns near the coast it was barely damaged in WWII and is a delight of medieval architecture and hidden gems.
10 Sites to not miss in Bayeux
1. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux
The cathedral was consecrated in 1077 and it is where the Bayeux Tapestry was originally hung. Both inside and outside it is a truly impressive structure.
2. The River
Bayeux is on the river Aure and in the past it was a vitally important natural resource for the townsfolk. On its banks you can still see a working water wheel and wash houses (not now used). The water wheel is near the cathedral and the wash house close to the Tapestry Museum car park.
3. Old buildings
Bayeux was spared much of the damage that befell many Normandy towns in WWII as the Germans left the town once the Allied Troops landed on D-Day. Thankfully there was no battle to liberate this beautiful town and so many of it's oldest buildings have survived including this fabulous overhanging half timbered house dating from the 13th century.
Hidden up a small side alley I discovered this wonderful old building and tower. Land was always limited in old towns and expensive which probably explains why the owners of this property built upwards. I wonder what stories the walls of this building could tell us of the people who lived and worked there over the centuries.
4. Building decorations
Many of the Bayeux's buildings are adorned with ornate decorations and additions. These include elegant window grills and small stone carvings. The carving on the bottom right of the first picture is based on a person and tree found on the Bayeux Tapestry.
The French know how to build impressive doorways and there are plenty to enjoy in Bayeux. Some are wonderfully carved stone structures and others are more simple affairs. Who would not want to have a school entrance like this? A search online reveals that Bayeux is still home to 2 schools called Ecole Letot, a primaire (aged 2-11) and a collège (aged 11-15) but neither is now behind these gates.
This large wooden door caught my eye and I am intrigued to know why it was so big. I imagine there was some sort of business behind it is the past. Oh and the road sign next to it is pre-World War 2.
6. Shop signs
I love old French shop fronts so do remember to look up as you wander round Bayeux and see how many you can spot. You will find ancient façades, weathered by time right through to modern stained glass signs.
7. Public Gardens
Le Jardin Public de Bayeux is situated on the edge of the old town and are well worth a visit. There you will find a tree designated as an "arbre remarquable de France" and all I will say is that it is a most magnificent plant, although at first glance it may not appear so! I wrote about it and the gardens in more detail on my other blog (A Green and Rosie Life) so do pop over there to see more about this magnificent tree.
8. Bayeux War Cemetery
Over 4000 soldiers have their final resting place in the Bayeux War Cemetery including 388 unidentified bodies and just over 500 German soldiers. It is the largest war cemetery in Normandy and is beautifully maintained. For those searching a particular grave there are detailed records of where each soldier is buried. It is an amazingly peaceful place, a far cry from the horrors Normandy saw before and after the D-Day Landings.
Bayeux is home to 3 main museums that together make up the Bayeux Museum. These are The Battle of Normandy Museum, close to the Cemetery and The Musée d'art et d'histoire Baron Gérard known simply as MAHB which is near the cathedral and the Bayeux Tapestry Museum. A joint ticket for all three museums is available at a reduced price and a visit to all three will give you the story of Bayeux from pre-history through to the modern day. Did you know the town was famous for its lace production or that it was called Augustodurum in Roman times?
10. Bayeux Markets and Shops
Bayeux's main market is on a Saturday and is open from 7.30am - 2.30pm so you'll have ample time to wander round and select what local Normandy produce to buy. A second market on a Tuesday takes place on the Rue St Jean (7.30am - 2pm). There are also other one off markets through the year including a Christmas market, Medieval Fayre and a summer braderie (second hand goods).
For anyone visiting Normandy I absolutely recommend that you go and see the Tapestry. But whilst there do spend a bit more time in the town as it has so much to interest to offer. For more images please do head over to my Bayeux Pinterest Board.
Have you been to Bayeux? What did you most enjoy?
If you are planning a trip to Bayeux and are looking for somewhere to stay our gite - Eco-Gites of Lenault - is just 45 minutes away. It sleeps 5 + a baby and welcomes guests all year round. If just 2 people stay we will reduce the price by 15% (T&Cs apply) and we have a code to give you 20% off crossings with Brittany Ferries. More details can be found by clicking on the links at the top of each page.