You’ve probably seen this charming town in northern Normandy dozens of times before and just never realized it. Its boat-lined harbor was a favorite subject of late 19th-century impressionist painters, including Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissaro, and native son Eugène Boudin (there’s a museum here in his honor). Today, Honfleur is a popular weekend and holiday spot that’s still home to centuries-old half-timbered houses and a harbor rimmed with inviting cafés.
What We Love
The Eclectic Shopping: From dozens of galleries to antiques dealers, clothing boutiques, and chocolate and pastry shops, Honfleur offers plenty of opportunities to faire du leche-vitrines (literal translation: to lick windows), the French term for window shopping.
Best Known For
Vieux Bassin: The vista from Vieux Bassin (Old Dock) is a colorful, crammed mosaic of multistory historic houses, some with 17th and 18th century additions built atop lower levels dating back 600 years. This area is also home to a vintage carousel and the 14th-century Church of Saint-Etienne, Honfleur’s oldest building.
Church of Sainte-Catherine: A replacement for a stone church destroyed during the Hundred Years War, this imposing structure was constructed entirely of wood by Norman ship builders in the latter half of the 15th century. It's the largest timber church in France. Its distinctive bell tower (which houses the Boudin Museum) is located across the square.
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Who It's Best For
People Watchers: Perch at a café, order a glass of wine and plate of oysters or moules frites (seafood is the way to go here), and watch the world go by.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It Rains — a Lot: Normandy is green and verdant for a reason. Rain falls in Honfleur as often as 15 days a month. June is the driest month.
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.