We didn’t know what to expect when we pulled into the small port town of Honfleur, France. This beautiful 17th-century harbor has maintained its charm through the decades. Honfleur remains a fishing port and marina and one of Europe’s best places to visit.
There’s so much to see and do here in Honfleur that I suggest carving out at least three days to walk around the old cobbled streets and into the historic churches and monuments. If you’re wondering what to do in Honfleur, read on.
The Best Things to do in Honfleur
The Vieux Bassin Harbor
This is one of Honfleur’s best attractions, and best of all, there’s no entrance fee. The Vieux Bassin Harbor was established in 1681 by demolishing existing shoreline fortifications and enlarging the existing port.
It is a particularly popular spot for sightseeing and amateur photography. The preserved historical housing that lines the water is beautifully reflected in calm water (especially at night when lights and lanterns are lit).
The houses are official historical monuments, and the area has many options for cafés and restaurants.
- Location: Quai de la Quarantaine, 14600 Honfleur
- Insider Tip: The Salt Cellars are a very short walk away if you want to bundle multiple locations into one day
St Catherine’s Catholic Church
This is the crowning jewel of Honfleur’s main attractions, so be sure to add this to your list. The church that stands today is a 15th-century, all-wood reconstruction of the stone church that previously stood before being destroyed in the Hundred Years War. Funnily enough, its reconstruction was entrusted to local sailors, which is why the interior knaves are similar in structure to a ship’s hull.
Fun fact: this is the largest wooden church in France and the oldest!
- Location: Place Sainte-Catherine
- Insider Tip: The bell tower is a separate structure worth visiting (with public access washrooms).
A perfect option for a rainy day is this totally immersive music-centered museum experience. The Satie House & Museum is dedicated to exploring the life of French composer Erik Satie. He worked with world-renowned artists like Picasso and Debussy.
The museum is pretty offbeat; the house is his childhood home. An audio guide (highly recommended) will automatically play according to where you are in the house. The rooms are staged quite eccentrically (as Satie himself was unusual), and the entire experience is a bizarre but enticing blend of audio-visual elements to help you better understand Satie’s life and personality, and his music was created from both.
- Location: 67 Boulevard Charles
- Cost: €12 (includes headphones)
- Tip: Don’t miss the film at the end of the tour, but look for the English version if you don’t speak French (the French version plays on the ground floor).
Since Honfleur is a seaside resort town, there are, of course, beaches in the city. Butin Beach is the main spot to visit. It is well-equipped to stay all day: free parking, bathrooms, changing rooms, and even equipment for rent. There’s also a playground – ideal if you are traveling as a family with young children. The nearby park is a great picnic spot on a sunny day.
Bike-friendly paths lead to the beach, and in the summer, it becomes busy with tourists and locals. There’s also a café selling snacks and drinks, so if you don’t bring any food, you don’t have to go far.
- Location: Phare du Butin, Boulevard Charles V
- Tip: July and August offer supervised swimming, with lifeguards stationed on the beach. Heads up: no dogs allowed in the summer months.
Honfleur Marine Museum & Saint-Étienne Church
This is a two-in-one attraction. The Marine Museum is pretty much what it sounds like: a vast collection of seafaring relics from Honfleur’s maritime history, including boat reconstructions, models, and more. There are also exhibits on maritime trading, fishing, and shipbuilding, which were hugely important to Honfleur at this time—particularly with its prime location on the edge of the sea.
The museum is located inside the city’s oldest church. The Saint-Étienne church dates from 1369, but there is evidence that an earlier structure may date from as early as 1055, with remnants of holy water fonts excavated from nearby alleys. Both attractions are steeped in history and well-preserved in their original state, so you can really get a sense of what life may have been like hundreds of years ago.
- Location: 11 Quai Saint-Etienne
- Tip: If you’re visiting other museums and want to be cost-effective, ask about tickets for multi-museum visits.
While the original structure of the Saint-Léonard Church dates from 1186, it was utterly destroyed during the Hundred Years’ War and not rebuilt until the 16th century. It was dedicated to a noble-turned-saint of the court of King Clovis, a holy patron of prisoners.
The church appears much newer than many of the older structures in town (naturally, as it was rebuilt later, making it younger than most other buildings), and is built in a Gothic architecture style. The bell tower, in particular, is notable for its unique shape and carving of instruments and was added in 1760.
- Location: Place Saint-Léonard
- Tip: Check out the nave’s floor tiles, which have never been replaced and are worn down by years of use—a very cool way to appreciate the hundreds of years of worshippers who have passed through.
Notre Dame de Grace Chapel
This church sits atop a hill overlooking the Seine, le Havre, and the Vieux Bassin port of Honfleur itself. The structure standing today was rebuilt in the early 17th century after the cliff collapsed, destroying the existing building. It was originally a gift from the Duke of Normandy as thanks for his survival during a particularly dangerous storm that swept the area during a visit.
The interior remains largely the same as the church’s early days, with beautiful stained glass windows and even a few marine relics displayed throughout the interior.
- Location: 989 Côte de Grâce
- Tip: If you’re in town around June 9-10, the annual Sailors’ Day Festival invites children to dress up as sailors, climb the hill, and offer handmade sailboats to the church.
Take a spin on the Honfleur Carousel
Many cities in France are known for colorful, dated-looking carousels set up during the drier months, and Honfleur is no exception. Every year from May to October, the Honfleur Carousel is set up in the courtyard in front of the town hall.
It is unique in that it has two levels! While not as old or as fascinating as many sights in the city, it certainly adds to the atmosphere, particularly as carousels are a French experience.
This is an all-ages attraction, and you will see both adults and children taking a ride.
- Location: 3 Quai Saint-Etienne
- Tip: Inexpensive way to get a little burst of giddy fun—only €3 for a ride.
Visit a weekly market
Regarding the best things to do in Honfleur, markets are at the top of the list. The city has quite a few to choose from, usually on weekends. The Saturday morning Honfleur Traditional Market is a meeting place for locals and visitors.
It has stalls full to the brim with freshly baked bread & pastries, local produce, and a catch of the day from local fishermen. Wednesday morning is the Honfleur Organic Market, which is pretty much what it sounds like; you can also find organic cheeses, wines, and cosmetics!
Check out the Trouville Market for artisan crafts, food, and the night market if you want to stroll the streets by moonlight.
- Location: Specific to the market
- Tip: Many of these will be cash-only.
This isn’t so much a masterpiece of history as a modern marvel, but the Normandy Bridge is worth seeing nonetheless. Originally built in the 90s to link Honfleur to Le Havre across the Seine river, it’s a recognizable landmark in the region.
It’s a cable-drawn bridge; thanks to its height, large ships can still pass underneath. This makes it a great spot for sightseeing and boat watching, especially since there are two pedestrian and two cycling lanes on the bridge and the motor lanes.
It’s quite a marvel of engineering and becomes extremely impressive the closer you get.
- Location: Northern coast of the city
- Tip: This is a toll bridge for cars, and the passage is around €6 each way.
Don’t miss the local delicacies
France definitely has a reputation for its fine food and delicacies, and Honfleur is no exception. While you’re here, don’t miss your chance to sample the region’s finest exports like Calvados or food like confiture de lait (similar to Dulce de leche) and regional cheese, which are made with milk from Normandy cows.
Since this is a coastal town, the seafood is second to none, and many restaurants and cafés serve the catch of the day for fish and shellfish.
- Tip: Le Bistro du Port, Côté Resto, Gribouille, and La Cidrerie are just a few extremely well-loved eateries in town that you should check out!
Take a day trip to the Forêt de Brotonne
Not too far away is the Forest of Brotonne. This is a great chance to escape the city for a few hours and walk amongst nature just to clear your head. The forest is only around 12 square kilometers, so definitely small by most standards, but it will still feel like you are tucked in a remote wood surrounded by beech and oak trees for endless miles.
There are different hiking trails and pathways, and it is a state-owned forest, so there are resources for you to map out your course ahead of time.
- Location: east of Honfleur
- Tip: If you want to do something more exciting, check out the resources for mountain biking or horseback riding in the park.
Sample some Calvados in a local shop
If a city you visit has a world-renowned specialty liquor, you can bet it will be pretty good. Don’t miss trying out some Calvados and Pommeau – two apple or pear brandy types famous in Normandy.
While many shops will sell bottles of this fruity delicacy, there are a few particular specialty spots worth visiting where you can sample not just these liquors but also whiskey and beers brewed in the region. Try Compagnie des Calvados La Cave Honfleuraise for a true Normandy liquor experience. You can even purchase small bottles to bring back home.
- Location: 19 Rue de la Ville
- Tip: If you’re interested in aged goods, ask about their 20, 30, and 50-year-old brews.
Les Jardins de Personnalités
Located just a 20-minute walk from the Vieux Bassin is an idyllic park called the Jardins de Personnalités (literally translated to mean “garden of personalities”). This park is 10 hectares packed full of walking paths and promenades. It’s the perfect way to get away from city life if you need some space to breathe and recharge your batteries.
The park is named for the busts (or “personnalités” in French) of notable figures that line the park, such as the artist Claude Monet and the writer Charles Baudelaire. The park follows the city’s northern coastline, so fresh air is sure to feel good.
- Location: North Honfleur, along the coast
- Tip: Find the pond where you can feed the swans.
Visit the Honfleur salt cellars
If you’re interested in finding those best-kept secrets, then the salt cellars should be on your list of things to do in Honfleur. The salt cellars are more or less what they sound like – vast underground caverns designed to hold as much as 10,000 tonnes of salt from nearby mines. Since Honfleur was primarily a fishing town, the salt was used to preserve cod caught by fishermen.
While there were originally three cellars, there are now just two, which are often used for concerts and events due to their excellent acoustics. You won’t find crowds at this attraction, but the beautiful old stone walls and buttressed ceiling architecture are worth seeing.
- Location: Rue de la Ville at Place Arthur Boudin
- Tip: In true Honfleur fashion, look at the ceiling and see if you can make out its resemblance to a ship’s hull.
Day Trip to Mont St. Michel
Mont-Saint-Michel is a highlight for any trip to France, and Europe for that matter. The historical abbey-topped island sits in a picturesque bay and feels more at home in a fairytale than in reality. The abbey was founded in 966 and claims that the archangel Michel had a role in its founding.
For centuries it was supported by French Royalty, survived the English Armies, and drew in pilgrims in search of religious knowledge. Mont Saint Michel is an icon of France and a breathtaking sight to see.
With the grand towers and spires of the abbey that sits atop the rock and the winding lanes and back alleyways to discover, it still remains an enchanting place to explore – despite the high visitor numbers.
I know this isn’t exactly a thing to do in Honfleur, but it’s only two hours from Honfleur, and we highly suggest you go – it’s one of the most enchanting places we have ever been. Read our full guide to Mont St Michel here.!
Where to Stay in Honfleur?
Set in a 16th-century building, this small hotel has an ideal location beside the harbor. Expect elegant accommodation, a spa bath in each room, and amazing views!
La Maison de Honfleur
If you want to stay in a piece of history, this small hotel is for you. It’s set in a renovated house from the 18th century, but access is via a steep staircase.
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