A historic port, half-timbered houses, bewitching lights… visiting Honfleur is one of the must-do’s of your vacations in Normandy.
Here is our guide to help you plan your weekend or your stay:
- Best things to do in Honfleur: old town, beaches,
- What to visit: museums, churches…
- Where to sleep
- Where to eat
- Practical advice
Why visit Honfleur in Normandy ?
Honfleur is often cited as one of the most beautiful cities in France. It is known to attract artists thanks to its rich colors and beautiful cloudy skies (not like when I took these pictures LOL).
It offers you:
- Historic houses throughout the city – some dating back to the Middle Ages
- The old port, where the trade took place – it is particularly intriguing because of its high houses with covered facades
- Its artistic history – Honfleur has been painted by many famous artists: Courbet, Boudin, Monet…
- Views of the Seine estuary
- The fascinating old wooden church of Saint Catherine
It’s a popular tourist spot, but well worth a visit in my opinion. It is one of the most beautiful cities in Normandy. It’s like a trip back in time.
In case the picture above is not enough to convince you, here is a short video of what a visit to Honfleur might look like:
Best things to do in Honfleur – our top 3
Let’s start with my absolute top 3 things to do in Honfleur, which we think you shouldn’t miss if you only have a few hours.
1. Walk around the old port
Walk around the old port, starting from the Lieutenancy building.
You can’t miss it, it’s the heart of the city.
Originally, the port was built only as a place for trade. A safe port on the estuary of one of the main French rivers: the Seine.
Yet the city has inspired many generations.
It is a unique place, one of the best places in Normandy. The surrounding buildings are surprising: they are narrow and high, with facades of different colors. They seem to be huddled together. It’s fun to admire. If you are lucky and there is no wind, you can even see reflections in the water. And if there are clouds, the scene becomes beautiful.
2. Visit the church of Saint Catherine
The church of Saint Catherine, built entirely of wood.
From the Lieutenancy building, take the road that goes up to the right, you can already see the church.
This church is not to be missed. It is a jewel.
The church is entirely built of wood, which is rare in France.
Take time to look at the exterior with the roof and sides partially covered with chestnut shingles. Notice also the shape of the bell tower, separated from the church (to protect the parishioners in case of fire).
Then go inside. What do you notice?
It looks like an upside down boat. This is due to the fact that the first nave was built according to naval techniques in the second half of the 15th century.
It is a phenomenal building to admire. One of the most fascinating churches in Normandy(see our list).
- see all our pictures
3. Admire the view from the Panorama de Mont-Joli
The Panorama of Mont-Joli
Upstream from Honfleur, in Equemauville – it can be reached by car via the D62, or by taking the small footpath called “côte de Grâce” after the rue du Puits.
It is still partly a secret for tourists. We hesitate to share it here but we love it so much; we love seeing cities from above.
This viewpoint offers the best view in the area: you can see all the roofs of the old center and you can see the Normandy bridge!
If you arrive by car, be aware that the roads are narrow and there is not much room to park.
If you walk, the path is not paved and is a bit steep.
We’ll share other amazing buildings and places to see in Honfleur (with photos) after the practical tips.
Practical tips – visiting Honfleur, France
- Honfleur is in Normandy, France
- Near the Normandy bridge, on the banks of the Seine
- Paris to Honfleur by car = 2h20
- Rouen to Honfleur by car = 1h
- From Caen to Honfleur by car = 1h
And yes – it’s called the Normandy Bridge, not the Honfleur Bridge !!!!
Here is a map to help you find your way:
How to get to Honfleur
- You can’t reach Honfleur by train. There is however a bus service from the major cities of Normandy
- The simplest solution is the car
- Alternatively, you can book day trips from Paris – Check this option
- You can also take a bus tour from Le Havre if you are on a cruise
- Or maybe your cruise stops directly in Honfleur and you can enjoy it!
OUR ADVICE FOR RENTING A CAR IN Normandy
- Compare prices on our preferred platform: DiscoverCars – one of the best rated sites.
- Choose a car that is comfortable enough (distances can be long) but compact (some parking lots and villages are narrow).
- Think of thecomplete insurance (some roads are tortuous and narrow).
- There is a lot of demand, book it early.
Tips for visiting
- Walking around Honfleur is not very easy – it’s an old town and they have kept the old cobblestones. DO NOT WEAR HEELS!
- Allow sufficient time to walk slowly and explore
- You can see the center of the old city in a few hours, but if you want to see more and visit the museums, plan at least two days. It is an excellent weekend destination
- There are public toilets all over the old center, especially in the parking lots.
- All major attractions are well indicated
- Honfleur has many famous and delicious restaurants
- If you buy local products, don’t forget to bring back some cider or cheese!
Parking lots in Honfleur
- As I wrote, Honfleur is very touristy.
- There are 4 main parking lots
- There is only one road through the city and it is crowded with tourists on foot and in cars.
- If you are coming from the Pont de Normandie, I recommend that you enter one of the first two parking lots. One is a little further away and cheaper, but it is not so far to walk to the old town
- Free parking is available on the other side of town, near the Naturospace attraction. It is a 15-minute walk from the old town. But that means wasting time trying to get across town if there is traffic.
Where to stay in Honfleur – hotels and accommodation
I recommend spending at least one night in Honfleur to enjoy the delicious restaurants and the unique artistic atmosphere.
You will find many accommodations.
You can stay right in the old town – there are hotels in modern buildings, others in historical buildings and many rentals in old houses.
See our complete article on where to sleep in Honfleur, with our reviews.
Here are some of the options available to you:
- Hotel in the center
stay in a 16th century building in the heart of the action at the L’Absinthe hotel
see photos and make reservations
- The Hotel La Maison de Lucie
a bit of peace and quiet, while remaining quite close to the port, and an elegant 18th century mansion
see prices, pictures and availability
- THE VIEW
The apartment “La Lucarne Enchantée” offers a view on the harbor in front of the best buildings !
see photos and make reservations
- or see all the top rated accommodations in Honfleur – there are many interesting rentals!
You can also choose an accommodation a little outside the city. Traditional farms offer amazing possibilities. Some have an exceptional view of the estuary.
Here are some of your options:
- Luxurious guest house
Enjoy relaxing luxury at the New Cottage & Spa Guesthouse in a beautiful farmhouse
see more pictures and make a reservation
- Relais et Châteaux
Stay at the famous 5 star Saint Simeon Farm
see photos and make reservations
Honfleur also has a campsite located near the center, after the tower: Camping du Phare
- Motor home area – there is also a motor home area on the other side of the estuary
- or view all top rated accommodations around Honfleur
What to see in Honfleur – 6 corners of the old town
The best thing to do in Honfleur is to walk around the old town and admire all the streets and their unique buildings.
Here are a few not to be missed.
Saint Catherine’s Church
We saw the church above in my three favorite places in Honfleur. It’s a must-have, in our opinion.
4. The Lieutenancy
The Lieutenancy – the entrance building to the port
Right next to the old harbor bridge – you can’t miss it, it’s the most important building in the area.
- About us
The Lieutenancy building marks the entrance to the port. It is an 18th century building. It was the house of the governor of the region. You can walk through the tunnel of one of the facades that formed the entrance to the medieval village.
Pay attention to the variety of elements surrounding this building.
5. Rue des petites boucheries + Rue de la prison
The street of the small butcheries, which continues in the street of the prison
Between the salt lofts and the marine museum, on one side of the old port
- About us
This is a street not to be missed where you will find the incredible old house of the Museum of Ethnography (explanation in the museum section). Walking down this street is like traveling back in time.
The name comes from the 17th century, when butchers’ stalls lined the street.
6. Saint Leonard’s district and church
The Saint-Léonard district and its church
In the hinterland of the old port, behind the tourist center.
Enjoy the streets of this little-known neighborhood, with its old houses and the facade of its flamboyant Gothic church. The church was rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Note the octagonal bell tower from 1760 and the paintings inside the church from the 19th century.
Next to this church is the rue Bourdet where Eugène Boudin was born.
7. Salt lofts
The buildings of the salt granaries of Honfleur
Rue de la Ville, parallel to the port on the left side when looking inland.
- About us
There were 3 granaries but only 2 remain today. They contained 11,000 tons of salt used to preserve fish. They were built in the 17th century.
Today, they are used as an exhibition hall.
8. 47 Rue de l’homme de bois
47 Rue de l’homme de bois
When people explore Honfleur, they often go to the Eugene Boudin Museum but stop here to go back down to town. Don’t do that! Continue for just one minute to reach this house.
- About us
This is my favorite building in Honfleur… which was painted by Alexandre Dubourg.
And the Maritime Museum building… see next section
DREAM TRIP TO Normandy
- 8 maps that make planning easier
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- Practical advice
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What to visit in Honfleur: 4 Museums
If you want to learn more about local history and artists, visit some of Honfleur’s museums.
Museum of the Navy
On one side of the old port, in the church of Saint-Etienne
- About us
The museum displays models of sailing ships, engravings, watercolors and information about the slave trade in the 17th and 18th centuries.
It is located in the church of Saint-Etienne, the oldest in Honfleur. It is of Gothic style and dates in part from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The bell tower is covered with chestnut wood.
Closed on Monday
10. Museum of Ethnography and Popular Arts
Museum of Ethnography and Popular Arts
Just behind the navy museum
- About us
12 rooms that show how people lived in Normandy (with old objects) and the old prison.
Even if you don’t go in, the front of the house is worth a look.
11. Eugene Boudin Museum
Eugène Boudin Museum
5min walk from the old port – Rue de l’Homme de Bois
- About us
Art museum with several paintings of Honfleur and the Seine estuary by 19th and 20th century artists (Monet, Courbet, Dufy, Cals, Dubourg…) – Plus a collection of drawings and paintings bequeathed by Eugène Boudin to his native town in 1898.
- See our visit to the museum
12. Satie Houses
Boulevard Charles V, not far from the tower – less than 15min walk from the old port.
- About us
The musician and composer Erik Satie was born here. A scenic and musical walk allows you to learn more about his life and his creations.
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3 Other attractions around Honfleur
And a few other places a little further from the city center, but worth visiting:
13. Lighthouse of the old hospital / Tower of Honfleur
The lighthouse of the old hospital is often called the Tower of Honfleur. It was completed and lit for the first time in 1857. It was not intended to indicate the entrance to the harbor, but to guide ships around the Ratier sandbar in the estuary.
It was decommissioned in 1908 when the Butin lighthouse was built. It has inspired many painters.
15 min walk from the old center.
14. Chapel of the old hospital
Just beside the tower, turn around and notice the charming little chapel.
15. Chapel of Our Lady of Grace
Built in the 17th century, this chapel is richly decorated with paintings and models of ships offered ex voto by sailors.
It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Notice that the bells are located just outside without a bell tower.
The belvedere next door offers a beautiful view of the estuary.
Located on the plateau de Grâce above Honfleur.
8 Nature ideas: Honfleur beach and gardens
16. Butin beach (Honfleur beach)
Want to take a break? Go to the beach of Honfleur. It is called the Beach of the booty
Boulevard Charles V (road D513) – 20/25 min walk from the city center
Free parking across the street but not very large
Snack bar in summer
- About us
Sandy beach along the estuary – you can walk for a long time
Don’t miss the Butin Lighthouse in the parking lot.
If you are tired of historical buildings, Honfleur also offers beautiful gardens and natural attractions.
17. The Pier – Walking Trail along the Estuary
You can enjoy a beautiful walk along the waterfront along the estuary. It’s well laid out so you can enjoy it and admire the big boats heading to the sea or along the Seine.
This is such a fun attraction! I don’t have my pictures of the interior anymore but I recommend it, especially if you have children.
Its main attraction is the butterfly greenhouse – birds, butterflies and exotic plants that you can admire.
19. Boat trip
Several companies in Honfleur offer boat trips.
They will take you to the estuary and around the Normandy bridge.
20. Public Garden
Near the old center, you will find the Public Garden (also called the Retrouvé Garden).
Beautiful trees and, in season, beautiful arches covered with roses.
21. Garden of Personalities
At the end of the estuary, you will find the Garden of Personalities. It is a fun place where you can admire sculptures of famous people. You can make it a game of guessing who it is before you go in to read the explanation.
Children will also enjoy the maze effects.
22. Garden of the Tripot
Urban garden with sculptures and viewpoints on a branch of the Claire River.
PLAN YOUR TRIP TO Normandy
- Where to stay in Normandy – best places and hotels
- See our tips for renting a car at CDG airport, Orly airport, Beauvais airport, Caen, Rouen, Bayeux…
Art in Honfleur
Honfleur is also famous for the art it has inspired.
Many painters have reproduced the colors of the city, including the impressionists.
You can see some paintings in the Eugene Boudin Museum.
You will also see many copies of the paintings on explanation boards throughout the city.
And you can also find modern pieces. Many artists have their studios in the streets of Honfleur. You can enjoy an artistic walk, going from one to the other and back again.
Where to eat in Honfleur
Honfleur has a vast choice of restaurants: crêperies, seafood, bistronomic, gastronomic…
So far, 2 of our favorites are:
- Restaurant La Fleur de Sel
- Restaurant L’Âtre
See our article on where to eat in Honfleur
And for not too sweet caramels that don’t stick to your teeth, we recommend the Maison Barnier store:
Honfleur with children
What to do in Honfleur with children ?
- Visit the Naturospace – butterflies should be fun for kids and parents
- Show them the boat shape of St. Catherine’s Church
- Enjoy an ice cream in one of the many ice cream shops
- Play mini-golf
- Run them through the Personality Garden – fun structures have been created with plants around the sculptures
- There are children’s games in the public garden
What to do if you stay more than a weekend in Honfleur
And if you plan a full vacation, you can enjoy the area even more:
- Discover the Normandy Bridge
- Go to Deauville and Trouville to explore the towns, enjoy the sandy beaches or play at the casinos (25min drive)
- Direction Le Havre to discover a Unesco site, established for its post-war architecture – see our article (40min drive)
- Explore Pont-Audemer built around waterways (30min drive)
- Visit the city of Lisieux and the surrounding castles (40min drive)
- Visit the city of Caen (with the history of the Second World War) (1h drive)
THE SAME MISTAKE WE MADE
On one of our last trips to Europe, a hacker stole our credit card details while we were using a hotel WiFi.
So our trip began with a “card blocked” call… Not funny at all!
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