historic Bayeux

A Guide To Medieval Bayeux

Bayeux is a medieval town in Normandy and the first town to be liberated by the Allied forces after D-Day. It is also famous for the tapestry that tells the story of the events leading up Norman conquest of England.

The town was relatively unscathed after D Day meaning that the beautiful buildings still remain today. This was mainly due to the fact that Bayeux was liberated on the morning of 7th June. The German forces focussed their efforts in defending Caen and much of the city there was damaged.

The main shopping streets are Rue Saint-Martin and Rue Saint-Jean. There are plenty of independent shops as well as bars and restaurants here. And don’t miss the markets on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

Medieval Bayeux

The Key Sites in Bayeux

  • Bayeux Cathedral
  • Bayeux Tapestry
  • Old Bayeux
  • Museum of the Battle of Normandy
  • Botanical garden
  • Art and History Museum
  • Bayeux War Cemetery and Memorial
  • Tourist Train

You’ll find more details below about each of these sites.

Bayeux Cathedral

The cathedral is, quite, simply, an impressive and beautiful building on both the outside and inside. It was consecrated in 1077 in the presence of William, Duke of Normandy. It suffered serious fire damage during the 12th century. As a result, the majority of it was re-built in the 13th century. The intricate details carved into the stone are spectacular and the stained glass windows are also magnificent. You’ll spend your time gazing upwards at all the architectural details. Visiting the cathedral is free and there are some explanation boards dotted around to help you. For a more in-depth understanding of the history of the cathedral you can buy a guide book from the Tourist Office or take a paid guided tour. Read on by clicking the link to learn more about Bayeux cathedral.

Bayeux Cathedral

Bayeux Tapestry

The tapestry is probably Bayeux’s most well known tourist attraction. The tapestry is actually an embroidery measuring almost 70 meters long. The 58 scenes depict the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England ending with the Battle of Hastings in 1066. It’s believed that the tapestry dates from the 11th century. It originally hung in the cathedral but is now housed in the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux. The tapestry is displayed in a glass case but you can examine it in more detail in a 2D facsmilie located on a separate floor. Read more about the Bayeux tapestry 

Bayeux tapestry museum
Bayeux tapestry
Bayeux tapestry
Bayeux tapestry

Old Bayeux

You can pick up a leaflet at the tourist office for a self-guided circular walking trail. There are 21 points to stop and admire the architectural delights of the old town. Here you’ll see buildings that are at the heart of Medieval Bayeux including half timbered houses as well as Romanesque and Gothic architecture. At each point there’s an information board in French and English about the area. One of the boards is on rue des Cuisiniers which is where cooks, chefs and roast meat sellers lived. It’s also where you will find the oldest house in Bayeux dating from the 14th century.

Medieval Bayeux
Medieval Bayeux

 Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy (Musée Mémorial Bataille de Normandie)

This museum covers the period from 6 June – 29 August 1944 and tells how the Battle of Normandy unfolded. The location of the five landing beaches and the Atlantic Wall are also explained. Uniforms, equipment, letters, personal effects, films and photographs give you a first-hand insight into the battle.

Battle of Normandy Museum in Bayeux
Battle of Normandy Museum in Bayeux

This is one of three museums in Bayeux and you can visit the website here. The other two museums are the tapestry museum and the art and history museum. All the museums are open every day except from the afternoon of 24 December through to the 25th and from the afternoon of the 31st December through to the end of January. The museums close over lunch and you can buy a ticket that will give you access to them all if you want that option. The video below takes you inside the museum.

Bayeux Botanical Garden

The garden is open every day on the outskirts of the town. The 2.6 hectares were created in 1895. You can read the TripAdvisor reviews here.

Art and History Museum (MAHB – La Musée d’Art et d’Historie Baron Gérard)

You can take a journey through the history of European art here. More information about the museum is here.

Bayeux War Cemetery and Memorial

Bayeux War Cemetery
Bayeux War Memorial and Cemetery
Bayeux War Memorial

This is the largest Commonwealth cemetery in France for WW2. There are 4648 graves in addition to more than 1800 for whom there is no known grave. The names of these soldiers are inscribed on the memorial opposite the cemetery. You can read more about the Bayeux cemetery and memorial.

Tourist Train (Le p’tit train de Bayeux)

The tourist train runs from April though to early November and costs 6€ for adults and 3€ for children. The journey takes 35 minutes and stopping points are outside the tourist office, the cathedral and the Battle of Normandy museum. For more information visit the tourist office.

Other Sites and Attractions

Two son et lumiére shows take place in medieval Bayeux each year. Throughout December the interior of the cathedral is lit up and the Bayeux tapestry is projected onto the walls.  On certain evenings during the summer, a very large tree next to the cathedral is the site of a peace and liberty themed show. Read about the Liberty Tree in Bayeux.

The tourist office website is here.

Another useful Bayeux website is here.

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