This summer I visited Honfleur for the second time within the space of two years. Last time, it was me who fell head over heels in love with this charming little city. This time it was my parents’ turn to go “wow” and “aww” while admiring the port, the buildings, the boats, the atmosphere.
I remember that feeling. Being an art lover and all, I probably felt it even stronger than they did.
“I know I’ve seen this place before”, I thought to myself as my boyfriend and I arrived at the port of Honfleur, two years ago, while road tripping through Normandy.
I was right. I had seen the port before. Through the eyes of Claude Monet and other impressionists. Honfleur is, and always has been, a city favored by artistic souls – and that is one of the reasons why it’s such a popular destination for tourists from all over the world.
As you stroll along the many narrow cobblestone streets of Honfleur, you’ll notice a great variety of art galleries of different sizes and artisan workshops of different sorts.
And, last but not least, there’s also an artisan chocolaterie in Honfleur. Mmm, chocolate!
The beautiful historic houses built around the Vieux Bassin, and the port itself haven’t changed much over the years, but their purpose has. Instead of welcoming commercial ships and fishing boats, the harbor is now mainly filled with sailboats and other leisure boats. The horseshoe-shaped port is without a doubt the busiest part of Honfleur, with its many restaurants, art galleries, souvenir shops and local boutiques.
Honfleur is for lovers, artists and lonesome wanderers
- Yes, it is the perfect place for a romantic date with your loved one. Enjoy the view of the Vieux Bassin while sipping on high quality wine and satisfying your taste buds with delicious French cuisine (perhaps from the gastronomic restaurant L’Ecailleur) – or do like the locals do; enjoy some fresh mussels in white wine and garlic sauce for lunch, accompanied by a glass of white wine (perhaps at Le Bistro du Port?)
- And the target of inspiration for artists and photographers, in love with the old French charm, and the works of the famous impressionists!
- And it’s a great place for solo travelers in need of peace and tranquility. Enjoy the beautiful view, buy something totally unique from one of the many artisan boutiques, visit the fantastic art museum of Eugène Boudin or the whimsical museum of musician and composer Erik Satie.
What are some eatable things you should take home from Honfleur?
Well, like I said before; you really shouldn’t miss out on all that delicious chocolate. You’re on a diet? No, you’re not. Not while in France, honey. Aux Blés d’Or is a chocolaterie worth your time and money (they don’t have a website, but they have a mouthwatering video on YouTube).
Do you like strong alcohol? Then you might wanna visit one of the many wine/liquor stores, souvenir shops or small épiceries offering their finest local specialties. While you’re there, pick up a bottle of Calvados, which is an apple brandy – and a big specialty from the Normandy region. If Calvados is a little too strong for you, try Pommeau instead (apple brandy mixed with apple juice). If you prefer something lighter and more refreshing, try one of the locally produced ciders. French ciders are a lot less strong than the ones from the UK and a lot less sweet than the ones from Scandinavia!
The Normandy region is also known for using a lot of butter (in baking and in sauces) and cream. Try the Tarte Normande (local apple tarte) served with a little cream on the side. I visited the tea house L’Atelier and tried their version of this tasty tarte. Yum!
Speaking of dairy products. When in France, you just have to eat cheese. Lots of cheese. The most famous cheese of the region is the internationally known Camembert. Is it the best one? Now that’s a matter of personal taste. Have some Camembert and try the other ones, as well (Neufchâtel, Pont-L’Evêque and Livarot). Compare, and find your favorite!
What else is there to do in Honfleur?
- Visit the impressive Sainte Catherine Catholic Church. The church dates back to the 15th century, and is the country’s largest timber-built church with a separate bell tower.
- Go on a boat trip! Take a guided tour off the shores of Honfleur and discover the Seine Estuary. For more information, click here.
- Check out the farmer’s markets on Place Sainte Catherine (by the church). The traditional market takes place every Saturday morning, and every Wednesday there’s an eco-market (going green and eating clean is quite a big thing in France). And every first Sunday of the month, there’s a flea market (also on Place Sainte Catherine). Who knows, you might stumble upon some cool artwork or artisan jewelry?
3 things you probably didn’t know about Honfleur
- Scandinavian Vikings lived there. This was before the Hundred Years War between France and England (where, at some point, Honfleur was taken and occupied by the English).
- In Early October, there’s the Fête de la crevette (shrimp festival). Join the shrimp peeling competition and compete to win all your peeled shrimps.
- Honfleur’s own painter Eugène Boudin introduced Claude Monet to his hometown and inspired him to start painting. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine the impressionist art history without Monet in it. He’s my favorite painter!
My personal favorites for food and drinks in Honfleur
- Bar: The beer bar Le Perroquet Vert, centrally located at the port of Honfleur. With a large selection of beers and cocktails, it’s the perfect spot for a night out (or for apéro before heading to your restaurant of choice). Want a cocktail suggestion? Try the Normand for that Calvados-feeling!
- Restaurant: The modern gastronomic restaurant La Fleur de Sel was the first restaurant I went to in Honfleur. Not just for any occasion, but for a romantic date night with my man. Amazing food, lovely staff – and everything looks as great as it tastes. Perfect for a soirée en amoureux.