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Founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, Caen – capital of the Basse Normandie region – was massively damaged during the 1944 Battle of Normandy, but considerable history and heritage survives to make it a very good-looking city, especially in its central areas. Visitors will discover the imposing bastions of a superb medieval château, two ancient abbeys and a clutch of excellent museums, including an outstanding and enthralling museum of war and peace, largely dedicated to D-Day, WWII and its aftermath.

With its decent hotels, superb collection of restaurants, atmospheric streets and manageable size, Caen is a terrific place to explore; the easygoing city is also a launchpad to the nearby D-Day sights spread out along the coast.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Caen.