There are plenty of museums to choose from in Normandy so I’ve selected my top three. They’re perfect for museum buffs or for a rainy day activity. The three museums are in Cherbourg, Caen and Bayeux.
Cité de la Mer
Cherbourg is much more than a Normandy arrival and departure port for ferries. There is a natural history museum, a museum about the liberation, parks and gardens and a fine art museum. You could easily spend a day here or fill in some time before boarding a late ferry.
The Cité de la Mer is a maritime museum housed in the former ArtDeco railway station built in 1933. There are six separate spaces to visit:
The Ocean of The Future
A new space for 2019. Visitors can explore 17 aquariums spread over three floors.
This permanent exhibition covers the period from 6th June to 26th June 1944. From D-Day through to the day the city was liberated, you’ll learn how Cherbourg inhabitants were affected during this time. You can view large scale photos and a film to help bring history to life.
The Men and Machines Gallery
The ground floor hosts a unique collection of deep-sea diving craft and submersibles.
Visit the Le Redoutable submarine and take an audio guide tour around the control centre, canteen, engine room and cabins.
Walking into the Depths Adventure
This is a 50-minute long immersive trip that transports explorers into the depths of the ocean. On board the simulator you begin a virtual dive down into the mysterious, inhospitable world of the ocean depths.
Titanic, Return to Cherbourg
Take an historic voyage on The Titanic and travel with 50 million emigrants on their way to the New World. The fateful shipped docked in Cherbourg on 10 April 1912 before setting off on its final journey. The stories of those emigrating as well as historic events behind the sinking of the liner can be discovered.
I’d recommend you arrive in the morning to really make the most of the museum. Your ticket is valid all day so you can leave for lunch and return later. Alternatively, you can eat on site. Le Quai des Mers restaurant offers à la carte or set meal options. Seafood platters are very popular. There is also Le Ruban Bleu Snack Bar. You can grab a snack or a drink here although it’s only open during the high season.
The museum is based at Allée du Président Menut, 50100 Cherbourg-en-Cotentin. Check out the website for opening times and ticket prices.
Watch the video below to give you an idea of what to expect in this spectacular Normandy museum.
Le Mémorial de Caen – A Normandy Museum
The Caen Memorial Museum, Centre for History and Peace (Le Mémorial de Caen) is built on a blockhouse used by German troops during the Second World War. The bunker has recently been opened up as part of the museum. There’s a lot to see in this Normandy museum and a minimum of half a day is recommended but to immerse yourself fully you can spend a full day here. The museum covers the events leading up to the Second World War and how the conflict unfolded. There’s also a section on the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy. Visitors can also learn about other conflicts such as the Cold War and the Vietnam War. If you are visiting Normandy to explore some of the D-Day landing sites, the museum is a very good place to start.
You can download an app, purchase an audio guide or, alternatively, just wander round watching films, reading display boards, looking at exhibits and photographs. History will come to life before you as you walk through the decades of conflict since the Second World War.
The museum is open 7 days a weeks although check opening times on the website. It closes for part of January and opening times differ throughout the year. From April through to September it’s open from 9am to 7pm. There’s plenty of free parking together with a restaurant, snack bar, gift shop as well as various places to sit throughout the museum. Information about the snack bar and restaurant is here. It costs 19,80€ for a single ticket but family tickets cost 51€. A family ticket allows 2 adults and at least one child (under 18) entry although there’s no limit on the number of children. If you want to see other Normandy sites such as Arromanches 360 circular cinema or Cité de la Mer in Cherbourg (a nautical and maritime museum), then there are packages available for joint tickets.
How To Get There
Caen Memorial Museum
The museum is on Esplanade Général Eisenhower, 14050 Caen
GPS N 49° 20′ 24″ – O 00° 37′ 16″
By car: coming from Paris on the A13 or from Rennes on the A84, take the Northbound ringroad (périphérique), exit n°7
By bus: no.2 from the city centre. Easy access for disabled people.
There is access as well as facilities for people with reduced mobility.
For more information visit the museum website.
Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux
The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth measuring nearly 70 metres long and 50 cm high and depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England. Characters include William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex, (later King of England).
You can read about my visit to the the museum here. The 58 scenes are technically an embroidery rather than a tapestry. I enjoyed my visit here enormously. The intricate embroidery is exquisite in its detail. I particularly enjoyed looking at the 2D facsimile in more detail and spotted all manner of things I’d not seen when looking at the original. The link includes information about each area of the museum, practical information, photos and a video.
The museum is at 21 Allée des Augustines which is just off the rue de Nesmond. It’s open 7 days a week from February through to December but check opening times on the website.
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