Honfleur, City of Painters
Beauty and culture on the coast of Normandy
Close to our hotel, head to Honfleur on the Côte Fleurie, where you can explore its picturesque streets and its narrow, slated-coated houses. Having stood the test of time, the town has managed to preserve the remnants of its rich past, making it one of the most visited towns in France today. This international pre-eminence is in part due to the authenticity and charm of its cobbled streets, its timber-framed façades, its small boutiques, its art galleries, its artists’ workshops and its typical restaurants. Yet it has also achieved this fame through the diversity of its monuments and the richness of its cultural and artistic heritage. The Vieux Bassin and the Lieutenance building are the symbols of Honfleur.
The Vieux Bassin (Old Basin) was created by order of Colbert, minister to King Louis XIV, in 1681. On one side, along the Quai Sainte-Catherine, a string of tall houses create a unique backdrop. The reason these houses are so tall and narrow is because they were built on the counterscarps of the town’s old moat. At the other side of the Vieux Bassin is the Lieutenance. This monument got its name from being the residence of the King’s Lieutenant from the 17th century onwards. It is the only major remnant of the town’s fortifications, modified over the centuries.
Honfleur was also the birthplace of Impressionism. The small Norman port saw the likes of Eugène Boudin (a local boy), Claude Monet and John Jongkind come and go. Nestled in the town’s heights, the Ferme Saint-Simon welcomed the passing artists.
Some places to visit include the Sainte-Catherine Church (the largest church in France made entirely of wood with a separate bell tower); the Musée Eugène Boudin (an important collection of Impressionist paintings by Norman painters who stayed in Honfleur such as Monet, Courbet, Boudin and Friesz); the Maisons Satie (museum dedicated to Erik Satie the musician and composer, who was born in Honfleur); the Musée de la Marine (Maritime Museum) in the former Saint-Etienne church on the edge of the Vieux Bassin; and La Forge, a place featuring art that can only be described as unique.