Honfleur, Normandy

Picture Perfect Honfleur

Of all the beautiful destinations in Normandy, Honfleur is perhaps the most picturesque.  That may have something to do with the historic city’s location, on the left bank of the mouth of the charming River Seine.  Not surprisingly, images of sailboats and seascapes abound making the area a favorite among artists.  In fact, Honfleur has been nicknamed the “city of painters” because it provides such a rich source of artistic material.  There is much to see in this sleepy town, with its peaceful atmosphere and old-time feel.  It is undoubtedly one of the must-see destinations in France.

One of the most appealing locations in Honfleur is the Old Dock, which features breathtaking old sailing ships traveling in and out as they moor.  Just as beautiful is the Old Dock’s background, which boasts rows of houses with brilliantly colored terraces.  Some buildings reach as high as six stories, yet incredibly are only wide enough for one room.  Visitors are often amazed at the appearance that these houses have – it’s almost as if they’re all attached and holding one another up!  The contrast of bright colors, crisp white sails and dark blue water is simply amazing.


Another popular site in Honfleur is Saint Catherine’s Church, an exquisitely designed structure made entirely out of wood.  A carved tribute to Saint Catherine, grasping a wheel and a sword, is located above the porch of the bell tower.  The oldest part of the church dates back to the 15th century, having been built right after the Hundred Years War.  This historical structure is incredibly unique in that its constructors built it without the use of saws, and some of the beams are uneven because there were no more oak trees available to finish the job.  Along the lateral walls of the chapel visitors can also admire statues of some more recent saints, including two that were local to Honfleur.

Back in the day, Honfleur was recognized as a particularly influential town in terms of the impressionist movement.  Artists were inspired and moved by the scenic views – the perfect setting for countless masterpieces.  The shoreline was the ideal location to prop up an easel and capture the surrounding beauty.  Today visitors can walk the same paths and stand in the very spots that many brilliant artists once stood, from Eugène Boudin to Claude Monet to Courbet, Corot, Sisley, Pissarro and Renoir.  The most incredible part about it is that the scenery is still just as breathtaking now as it was then.

Whether it’s the peaceful moorings in Old Dock, the ancient structures that dot the landscape, or the spectacular scenery that once inspired infamous artists from around the world, Honfleur is truly a gem among gems in France.  A visit here is akin to a walk back in time, or perhaps even a step into a vividly colored Monet painting.  There is more beauty in this little city than meets the eye and, despite the countless artists who have attempted to capture it, it’s something that simply must be seen firsthand to truly appreciate.  If a visit to Normandy is in your future, be sure it includes a stop in Honfleur.

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