Honfleur is located in France on the Seine estuary opposite Le Havre, in the department of Calvados, on the border of the Eure and Seine-Maritime.
This charming little town of 8000 inhabitants at the foot of the Côte de Grace is famous for its typically Norman setting.
The Vieux Bassin du Port is lined with tall, narrow timber-framed houses. It is a gathering place for painters attracted by the picturesque setting… as well as the hordes of tourists.
What to visit in Honfleur in 1 day? What to do in Honfleur in a 2 or 3 day weekend? What are the things to do in Honfleur?
What are the places to visit, the best activities in Honfleur? Where to walk in Honfleur? Where to swim at the beach in Honfleur? What to do in Honfleur when it rains?
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How to get to Honfleur from Paris
Getting to Honfleur by car
The easiest way to get there is to take the A13 motorway to Beuzeville and then the A29 motorway, which crosses the Seine nearby thanks to the Pont de Normandie. The journey from Paris takes just over two hours.
Parking in Honfleur: where to park?
Near the old basin, a car park allows visitors to get rid of their car… and their money, being of course subject to a fee, Sundays and holidays included!
Where to park for free in Honfleur?
But tourists with little taste for the pleasure of feathering, and less lazy, will park at the large Naturospace car park, a 10-minute walk away! (on the road to Trouville)
Or simply a few hundred metres before or after the car park of the old basin, in the streets of the outer districts of the town.
You won’t walk much, Honfleur is not very big… ?
Going to Honfleur by train and bus
Unfortunately, Honfleur no longer has a train station.
So you have to make a more or less long and complicated journey by bus from Deauville-Trouville station (line 20 of the Calvados green buses) or possibly from Lisieux station (line 50), which is much further away.
Otherwise, Honfleur is fairly well connected to Le Havre station.
Getting to Honfleur by plane
If you live outside of France, and near a town that serves it by plane, you should know that Deauville-Normandie airport is less than 10 km from Honfleur.
A short history of Honfleur…
Honfleur is a historic port in Normandy, located at the mouth of the Seine. During the 16th and 17th centuries, several explorers travelled the seas from Honfleur.
It was from the port of Honfleur that the explorer Samuel de Champlain, founder of the city of Quebec, left in 1603.
The small town later traded with the West Indies and Louisiana, while also being an important cod fishing port.
However, stiff competition from the rapidly expanding port of Le Havre gradually reduced the size of Honfleur’s port.
With its picturesque setting, Honfleur also attracts the memory of the precursor painters of Impressionism such as Eugène Boudin, Claude Monet, Gustave Courbet and Johan Barthold Jongkind.
Today, Honfleur is known as the “city of painters”. Their works can be admired in the Eugène Boudin Museum, but the town also has 80 studios and art galleries!
Honfleur is also the birthplace of Erik Satie, whose house can be visited. Two other museums present collections of popular art and boats.
Top 6 must-do activities in Honfleur
- walk around the Vieux Bassin in Honfleur
- visit the amazing Sainte-Catherine church, entirely made of wood
- discover the museums of Honfleur
- take a boat trip in the Seine estuary, under the Pont de Normandie
- admire the panorama of the town from the Mont-Joli lookout
- take a walk on the Côte de Grâce
Visit Honfleur in 1 day
What to do in Honfleur in 1 day ? What to do in Honfleur in 1 day?
You must visit Honfleur on foot! The town is best discovered with your nose in the air, admiring the timber-framed houses and picturesque details along the cobbled streets.
Old Basin of Honfleur
The Vieux Bassin is the main attraction of Honfleur, it is the postcard of the town!
With its trawlers and pleasure boats, it is lined with narrow, high houses. They are often covered with slate to combat humidity.
The Vieux Bassin was laid out by Duquesne on the orders of Colbert in the 17th century, using stones from the dismantled city walls.
The Quai Sainte-Catherine, with its tall 17th and 18th century houses reflected in the Vieux Bassin, is the symbol of the city. It has been depicted by Eugène Boudin or Claude Monet in several paintings.
Note that the back of all these houses opens onto a small street! (rue du Dauphin then rue des Logettes, where the church of Sainte-Catherine is located)
You can have a drink on one of the many terraces. But the restaurants are very touristy, there are better addresses further away…
Don’t miss the Lieutenance, the residence of the King’s Lieutenant, governor of Honfleur, which cannot be visited. It is the only vestige of Honfleur’s ancient ramparts.
Opposite, in season, the carousel is an icon of the town!
Saint Catherine’s Church in Honfleur
The Sainte-Catherine church is the main monument of Honfleur, not to be missed!
This building was built in the 15th century, entirely of wood!
The church is famous for its original shape: its roof is formed by the double hull of an inverted ship.
After the Hundred Years’ War, there was no shortage of work for architects and masons to rebuild France.
Honfleur workers were “axe masters”, specialists in shipbuilding. This is how the idea of building this wooden church came about, with this original framework.
The church of Sainte-Catherine is today the largest wooden church in France, with a bell tower separate from the building.
The interior is composed of two parallel naves, with side aisles. Note the exposed framework and the oak pillars!
Sainte-Catherine’s bell tower
The bell tower of St Catherine’s was built above the bellringer’s house and is a solid oak construction, covered with chestnut wood.
It is now an annex of the Eugène Boudin Museum (see below), dedicated to religious art (open only in summer, entrance included in the ticket).
The narrow and picturesque Rue des Lingots runs alongside the bell tower and leads to Rue de l’Homme-de-Bois.
It bears this curious name on the sculpted head at no. 23.
Towards the Vieux Bassin, the street leads to the Place Hamelin, where Alphonse Allais’ birthplace is located. From there by the Rue Haute, towards the west.
Rue Haute (High Street)
A few steps away, the Rue Haute was the street of the shipowners. It is a succession of beautiful stone, brick and timber-framed houses.
Just around the corner from the Governor’s house, take a look at the Marches Giffard on the left!
At n°88, the house where the composer Erik Satie was born has housed a museum since 1998 (see below!) ?
Jardin du Tripot, a hidden garden in the centre of Honfleur
The Tripot garden is ignored by many tourists. Indeed, although located in the centre of Honfleur, it is hidden by houses and is only accessible from the street by three discreet accesses!
It occupies an area of 7000 square metres on the banks of the Claire, the small river that (discreetly) waters Honfleur. Several tanneries were located there in the past.
Access via the Rue de la République, Rue de la Chaussée or Rue Paul et Charles Bréard.
The Saint-Léonard church in Honfleur was rebuilt in the early 16th century in the flamboyant Gothic style. Note in passing its remarkable and very elaborate portal!
Well, a rue aux Chats runs parallel to the rue Saint-Léonard, so I don’t hang around here!
Honfleur’s salt granaries
The salt storehouses are located to the east of the Vieux Bassin (rue de la Ville).
Built in 1670 with the stones of the old dismantled ramparts, they were used to store… yes, salt, and even up to 10,000 tons!
The cod had to be salted when they came back from fishing! (because the fish was not fresh, hmm)
With their beautiful oak frame, they host various events or temporary exhibitions. Go and have a look… if they are open!
Rue de la Prison
Alongside the former church of Saint-Etienne, on the quay of the same name, the small rue de la Prison is one of the prettiest in the town, with its timber-framed houses.
This is where the Musée du Vieux Honfleur is located (see below!)
Bypassing the chevet of the old church, you come to the courtyard of Roncheville, a former manor house which now houses an art gallery.
We are here in the Enclos district, the heart of the medieval town once surrounded by fortifications.
Garden of the Personalities
The Garden of Personalities is located to the north-west of Old Honfleur, along the dyke on the banks of the Seine, a 10-minute walk from the centre.
It houses busts of characters linked to Honfleur, in a ten-hectare garden (free access from 8 am to 7 pm, until 9 pm from May to August inclusive).
You will recognise Eugène Boudin, Claude Monet, Erik Satie, but also Colbert or Baudelaire…
The Naturospace, located next to the garden of personalities, recreates the humid tropical environment in a greenhouse of 800 m².
Several dozen species of butterflies can be seen here, frolicking with several species of birds. It is the largest butterfly greenhouse in France.
Allow one hour for the visit.
Schedules and prices on the official Naturospace website
Panorama of the city from the Mont-Joli lookout
The small wooded hill of Mont-Joli dominates the city to the west. It offers a beautiful panorama of Honfleur from its belvedere.
Easy access… with good calves via the Mont-Joly ramp, about 700 metres from the Vieux Bassin.
Otherwise, access by car for the less fit (or the laziest!) via the D62 (Côte de Grâce road).
The Notre-Dame-de-Grâce chapel overlooks Honfleur to the west, about 300 metres from the lookout.
The present building was built in the 17th century to replace an earlier chapel destroyed by a landslide.
Note the many paintings and model ships, ex-votos hanging from the vault.
Indeed, Our Lady of Grace is the protector of sailors.
Don’t miss the outdoor carillon of 24 bells on one of the building’s sides.
Next to it is a belvedere, offering a panoramic view of Le Havre, the Seine estuary and the Pont de Normandie. A place not to be missed!
Visit Honfleur in 2 days: Honfleur museums and boat trip
What to do in Honfleur in 2 days?
You can spend a second day in Honfleur to visit its museums. Then you can take a nice boat trip in the harbour, or under the Normandy bridge in the Seine estuary!
A museum pass offers a preferential rate for a visit to the four municipal museums of Honfleur (13 € in 2022).
- Eugène Boudin Museum
- Satie houses
- musée du Vieux Honfleur or Musée d’ethnographie
- museum of the Navy
Please note that Honfleur’s museums are closed on Tuesdays (except for the Musée de la Marine, on Mondays)!
Eugène Boudin Museum
The Eugène Boudin museum is the main museum to visit in Honfleur (rue de l’Homme de Bois).
It is dedicated to this Honfleur marine painter, who was one of the first in France to leave his studio to paint on the ground, in the open air.
Eugène Boudin liked to depict vast and changing skies (and in Normandy, they change quickly!). From 1858 onwards, he was the mentor of a young caricaturist from Le Havre, a certain Claude Monet!
The latter, “impressed” by the mists of the port of Le Havre, would end up being famous in the USA as well as in Japan! Just goes to show how inspiring the Normandy mist can be… ?
Before going to visit Monet’s garden in Giverny, go to this interesting museum in Honfleur!
You will discover many other impressionist or fauvist Norman talents, such as Louis-Alexandre Dubourg, another Honfleur native, but also Raoul Dufy, native of Le Havre (the area is a breeding ground for painters!)
Find out more about the museums and practical information on the official Honfleur museums website
The Satie houses are dedicated to the Honfleur composer Erik Satie, who was born in 1866 in one of these three houses.
This museum offers an astonishing tour, with a very immersive audio guide!
Museum of the Navy
The Museum of Navy (musée de la Marine) is located in the former Church of Saint-Etienne, on the Vieux Bassin.
You can learn more about fishing, of course, but also about shipbuilding and the life of Honfleur sailors in this small museum. It exhibits beautiful models and numerous objects.
Museum of Old Honfleur
The Musée du Vieux Honfleur or Musée d’Ethnographie is located in the small Rue de la Prison, east of the Vieux Bassin, opposite the Musée de la Marine.
Traditional Norman interiors, a shop, a workshop, a bourgeois living room, etc., are reconstituted in a dozen rooms.
Take a boat trip in Honfleur
You can take a 1.5 hour boat trip from the port of Honfleur to discover the Seine estuary, passing under the Pont de Normandie.
Another 45-minute cruise goes around Honfleur harbour.
Departure from the centre, in high season, quai de la Quarantaine.
Information on boat trips in Honfleur on the company’s official website
Where to eat in Honfleur
Most of the restaurants around Honfleur’s old harbour have pleasant terraces on fine days (who said “so not often”?) ?
But the quality of the food is generally inversely proportional to the himalayan prices charged!
In short, unless you want to play the pigeon, move away a little, the prices decrease when you move away from the Old Basin. And if you wander through the other streets, you may even discover some nice addresses!
How many days to visit Honfleur?
How long should I plan to visit Honfleur?
One day in Honfleur is enough to discover the town and visit one or two museums.
In 2 days in Honfleur, you will tour its four museums, and you will discover the Côte de Grâce, which overlooks the Seine estuary. In short, a weekend in Honfleur is ideal to discover the town ?
Finally, in 3 days in Honfleur, you will have time to discover the Côte Fleurie, especially Deauville and Trouville-sur-Mer, their boards and the beautiful Belle Époque villas.
Beach in Honfleur
Honfleur has a beach close to the road to Trouville, the Plage du Butin, which faces Le Havre.
It has various facilities, including children’s games during the season, showers and toilets and free parking.
When to visit Honfleur?
To have the best chance of seeing the sun, choose the good season from May to September to visit Honfleur.
But as far as possible, avoid weekends and school holidays: Honfleur is then invaded by tourists!
What to do in Honfleur when it rains?
Bring an umbrella anyway, you are in Normandy! ?
As the writer and humorist Alphonse Allais, another native of Honfleur, used to say: “when you see Le Havre, it means it’s going to rain; when you don’t see it, it means it’s already raining!”
If by misfortune it rains in summer (which never happens in Normandy, obviously, hmm), or if you have made the – reckless – choice to visit Honfleur out of season, here are some ideas! ?
When it’s raining in Honfleur, it’s the perfect opportunity to discover its art galleries, and its amazing museums!
A rainy day is also the perfect time to visit the Naturospace and its butterflies, especially when visiting Honfleur with children!
What to do around Honfleur
What to visit around Honfleur?
Around Honfleur, the first thing to do is to take a walk on the small Côte de Grâce, which overlooks the Seine estuary opposite Le Havre.
To the west is the legendary Côte Fleurie, with the fashionable resorts of Trouville-sur-Mer, Deauville, Cabourg…
But it is also the Pays d’Auge, the archetype of the Norman countryside with its timber-framed manor houses, its apple trees and its cows!
By car or by bike, you must follow the cider road (yum!), and the cheese road (yum again!), which any gastronome mouse will not miss under any pretext! ?
Don’t miss the most beautiful village in the Auge region, classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France: Beauvron-en-Auge!
The Normandy Bridge was inaugurated in 1995. Its piers are 215 metres high, and its span is 856 metres above the Seine.
This cable-stayed bridge broke a world record at the time, before the construction of the Vasco de Gama bridge in Lisbon and the Millau viaduct.
Of course, you can’t visit it like any other tourist site. But you can go and admire its elegant aesthetics, and even cycle or walk around it to admire the immense view!
Opposite Honfleur, Le Havre is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its original post-war reconstruction by Auguste Perret.
You either like it or you don’t, but this urbanism does not leave you indifferent!
Just cross the Pont de Normandie (toll bridge) to get there! It takes about 30 minutes by car.
Don’t miss the André Malraux Museum of Modern Art, the impressive Saint-Joseph church and the Porte Océane.
A drive through the port of Le Havre, the second largest port in France after Marseille-Fos, will give you an idea of its immensity!
Of course, on the way, don’t miss a visit to Rouen, the capital of Normandy, with its magnificent Gothic churches and hundreds of half-timbered houses!
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