Ports don’t really get much prettier than Honfleur on the Seine’s estuary. Glorious historic houses compete for position on the quays, along with the galleries and beautiful restaurants. Honfleur is packed with cultural sights and has a wealth of attractions to entice its many visitors.
Honfleur was essentially built for commerce, which is hard to believe when you see just how enchanting it really is. The harbour sits in a great little location tucked away on the southern side of the Seine’s estuary. The French king had this strategic spot fortified during the Hundred Years War, however this didn’t stop the English taking over for several decades.
Through the Ancien Regime Honfleurs shipowners made fortunes from trade notably with North America. One of the most famous explorers associated with Honfleurs port, Samuel de Champlain headed off to found the Canadian city of Quebec. Lucrative lines for the Honfleur shipping magnates included not just cod fishing off Newfoundland but also the triangular slave trade.
Wealthy Honfleur families used their fortunes to build their high rise homes, packed tight close to each other, especially around the heart of the port, Vieux Bassin, where a front row home which overlooks the vessels was a distinct priveledge. Instead of receiving fishing boats or commercial ships, which are kept in larger docks instead off the centre, the Vieux Bassin attracts yachts.
Restaurants stretch their terraces across the cobbles while the shops fight for space behind the quays in this extremely picturesque setting.
The different sides of the Vieux Bassin each have their own distinctive character. The western area slopes up to the splendid wooden church of Ste-Catherine, in a district where you can find the towns main museums which are dedicated to the arts. The eastern enclose, which is around the church of St-Etienne is packed full of interesting buildings.
Central Honfleurs southern area is more hidden and discreet but are definitely worth exploring too for its amazing architecture including St Leonards church and the restored fountains.
The beauty of Honfleur has long attracted artists with many works being seen both in the town museums and also the more modern galleries.
Today Honfleur is clearly focused and dedicated to tourism. You can choose from some enticing selection of beautiful restaurants, hotels and shops around this quaint town.
Along Honfleurs stretch of estuary you have a choice of strolling through civic gardens towards the beach. You can venture up the hillside and visit Notre-Dame de Grace Chapel and enjoy the great views over the Seine estuary.
You can take boat trips out on the vast Seine estuary from Honfleur or embark on a leisurely walk along the amazing Pont de Normandie that spans the Seine estuary so sensationally.
Places you should visit in Honfleur are obviously personal preference, however we have a few places we would recommend.
As previously mentioned the Chapel of Notre-Dame de Grace. Built during the 17th Century, this chapel is richly adorned with paintings and models of ships offered ex voto by sailors. The esplanade bordering the chapel offers fine panoramic views of the Seine estuary, the port of Le Harve and the Pont de Normandie (Normandy Bridge).
Museums of Old Honfleur- Located alongside the Old Harbour, the Musee de la Marine boasts a beautiful collection of model ships, objects and souvenirs of the towns maritime history.
La Forge – an artistic site in the heart of old Honfleur. The house, the garden, the underground cavern are all works of art. Discover its unique sculptures and let your imagination go wild.
Lastly Naturospace in Honfleur offers 200m trail through a hot, damp equatorial biotope where birds and butterflies fly free in a covered space. The plant collection consists of several hundred often rare species. Honfleur really has a lot to offer.