Looming above the centre of the city, Caen’s magnificent castle walls – massive battlements overlooking a now dry moat – were established by William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, in 1060. Visitors can walk around the ramparts and visit the 12th-century Église St-Georges, which holds an information centre with a diorama of the castle, and the Échiquier, which dates from about 1100 and is one of the oldest civic buildings in Normandy. The castle affords splendid visuals over the town at sunset.
The Jardin des Simples is a garden of medicinal and aromatic herbs cultivated during the Middle Ages, some of them poisonous. There are also two worthwhile museums in the castle grounds, and a good restaurant-cafe. The mighty 12th-century donjon (keep) only survives today as vestiges and foundations. Tours of the castle are provided by the tourist office during summer, but only in French.