Bayeux Introduction Walking Tour, Bayeux

Bayeux Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Bayeux

Bayeux, a city with a tumultuous past, has witnessed the ebb and flow of civilizations, each leaving an indelible mark on its landscape and identity. As such, Bayeux is full of resources: cultural, culinary, historical, and even botanical, with no shortage of possibilities to spend a quality weekend or even several days!

Founded in the 1st century BC, Bayeux served as the capital of the local Celtic tribe, Bodiocassi, whose name was possibly related to the Old Irish term Buidechass meaning “with blond locks.” Originally known as Augustodurum in the Roman Empire, which means the “door“ or “gate“ dedicated to Roman Emperor Augustus, the town later adopted the name of Bodiocassi, which ultimately evolved into Bayeux.

Bayeux became a significant city in Normandy, strategically positioned for coastal defense against regional pirates, with a Roman legion stationed here. Having endured Viking raids in the 9th century, it eventually flourished as a center of Norman culture.

The 11th century marked the city's expansion and saw the completion of the renowned Notre Dame Cathedral by William the Conqueror's half-brother Odo. This period also saw the creation of the famous Bayeux Tapestry, an embroidered masterpiece depicting the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, currently displayed at the Bayeux Tapestry Museum.

Despite periods of decline, including devastation by Henry I of England, Bayeux regained prominence under Richard the Lionheart and later saw prosperity after being recaptured, in the 15th century, by Charles VII of France following the Hundred Years' War. This resurgence led to the construction of numerous stone mansions, signaling a return to prosperity.

The area around Bayeux was the bailiwick of the Normandy province until the French Revolution. During World War Two, Bayeux was the first major city liberated by Allied forces during Operation Overlord. In June 1944, General Charles de Gaulle made two major speeches in Bayeux outlining France's siding with the Allies.

The Memorial Museum of The Battle of Normandy commemorates the heroic efforts of Allied forces during the Battle. The Bayeux War Cemetery is the largest British cemetery dating from the Second World War in France. Most of those buried there were killed during the invasion of Normandy.

Whether you're drawn to its storied past, cultural offerings, or natural beauty, Bayeux promises an unforgettable experience steeped in history and tradition. Come wander its cobblestone streets, immerse yourself in its vibrant tapestry of life, and discover the timeless allure of this enchanting French town.
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Bayeux Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Bayeux Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: France » Bayeux (See other walking tours in Bayeux)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux (Notre-Dame Cathedral of Bayeux)
  • Musee d'Art et d'Histoire Baron-Gerard (Museum of Art and History Baron-Gerard)
  • Mairie de Bayeux (Town Hall of Bayeux)
  • Rue Saint-Jean (Saint John Street)
  • Musee de la Tapisserie de Bayeux (The Bayeux Tapestry Museum)
  • Hotel du Doyen (Dean's Hotel)
  • Musee Memorial de la Bataille de Normandie (The Memorial Museum of The Battle of Normandy)
  • Cimetiere Militaire Britannique (War Cemetery)
Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux (Notre-Dame Cathedral of Bayeux)

1) Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux (Notre-Dame Cathedral of Bayeux) (must see)

Nestled in the heart of Old Bayeux, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is the seat of the diocese of Bayeux and Lisieux and is revered as a historic monument since 1862.

The cathedral's construction, spanning from the 12th to the 15th century, showcases a harmonious blend of early Gothic, radiant Gothic, and flamboyant Gothic styles. Remodeled and expanded over the years, the bulk of its construction occurred during the transformative period of 1230-1270, resulting in a cohesive 13th-century Gothic structure enveloping the original Romanesque foundation.

This cultural treasure trove is inseparable from the renowned Bayeux Tapestry, which was commissioned by Bishop Odon to adorn the cathedral's nave. This extraordinary masterpiece recounts the tale of William, Duke of Normandy's conquest of England in 1066.

The cathedral's roots delve deep into history, occupying the site of a Gallo-Roman forum, itself built upon Merovingian ruins. Consecrated on July 14, 1077, in the presence of William the Conqueror and Mathilde of Flanders, the cathedral has been a guardian of history, housing the Bayeux Tapestry for centuries.
Musee d'Art et d'Histoire Baron-Gerard (Museum of Art and History Baron-Gerard)

2) Musee d'Art et d'Histoire Baron-Gerard (Museum of Art and History Baron-Gerard)

Designated as a Museum of France, the Baron-Gérard Museum of Art and History (MAHB) is an integral part of the Bayeux Museum triptych, alongside the iconic Bayeux Tapestry (UNESCO Memory of the World) and the poignant memorial museum dedicated to the Battle of Normandy.

Originally inaugurated in 1900, the museum found its abode in the former episcopal palace, a structure steeped in history dating from the 11th to the 16th century and adjacent to the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Since 1951, the museum has borne the name of Henri Alexandre Gérard, a prominent figure in Bayeux's history and a devoted patron of the arts.

The museum underwent a significant rejuvenation, reopening its doors in March 2013. Today, it houses a diverse and extensive collection, comprising 800 archaeological and ethnographic pieces, 600 works of art, and more than 2,500 porcelain and lace creations. The artistic treasures span a wide range, featuring masterpieces by renowned artists such as Philippe de Champaigne, François Boucher, Gustave Caillebotte, and Kees Van Dongen. The museum unfolds its narrative in 14 carefully curated stages, guiding visitors through the evolution of artistic expression in Europe from Prehistory to the 20th century.

Protected as Historic Monuments, the museum's setting, the bishops' palace, stands as one of the region's most remarkable urban residences. The architecture, steeped in centuries of history, complements the curated collections, creating an ambiance that transports visitors across time and space.
Mairie de Bayeux (Town Hall of Bayeux)

3) Mairie de Bayeux (Town Hall of Bayeux)

The Town Hall of Bayeux, stands as a captivating architectural testament to the first Renaissance in Normandy. This remarkable building houses a chapel whose origins date back to the era of Louis de Canossa. This distinguished prelate and humanist held the seat of Bayeux from 1516 to 1531, overseeing the construction of the octagonal chapel in the early 16th century. The chapel's painted decoration, a masterpiece from the first half of the 17th century, underwent meticulous restoration in the 19th century, preserving its historical and artistic significance.

During the 19th century, the former bishopric underwent a transformation, with part of the edifice assigned to the District Court. The chapel itself found a new purpose, serving as a deliberation room—a space where decisions and discussions unfolded against the backdrop of centuries-old artwork and architectural grandeur.

The former palace of the bishops of Bayeux is organized into four distinctive wings, each contributing to the tapestry of its varied history. Wing A currently hosts the Baron Gérard Museum, aligning perpendicular to the cathedral's axis. To the west, Wing B welcomes visitors through the main entrance and houses the primary staircase. Ascending, one encounters the room of lost steps, the grand audience room, and the episcopal chapel, each echoing with the whispers of bygone eras.

Wing C, a reconstruction dating back to 1833, represents the remand prison, adding another layer to the multifaceted history of this venerable building. Finally, Wing D, a palace erected in 1770-71, has become the present abode of the town hall, where civic affairs and governance unfold within the walls of a structure that breathes the air of centuries past.
Rue Saint-Jean (Saint John Street)

4) Rue Saint-Jean (Saint John Street)

Saint John Street, the bustling heartbeat of Bayeux, invites visitors into a charming journey through time. This enchanting thoroughfare, weaving through the medieval city, stands as the principal avenue for shopping and dining, creating a vibrant tapestry of cafes and shops.

This unmissable street is the focal point of the pedestrian area in Bayeux, drawing both locals and tourists alike. On Wednesday mornings, Saint John Street transforms into a vibrant hub with its weekly market, adding a lively touch to the historic ambiance.

Amidst the medieval charm, an intriguing discovery awaits at number 53—a small courtyard unveils a curious coat of arms, bestowing its name upon the Hôtel du Croissant. These architectural gems narrate tales from the past, with some of the buildings dating back to the 15th century. Walking along Rue Saint-Jean is not merely a stroll through a shopping district; it is a journey through the rich history and cultural heritage of Bayeux, encapsulated in the narrow streets and centuries-old facades.
Musee de la Tapisserie de Bayeux (The Bayeux Tapestry Museum)

5) Musee de la Tapisserie de Bayeux (The Bayeux Tapestry Museum) (must see)

The Bayeux Tapestry Museum is an iconic cultural institution. Its focal point is the renowned Bayeux Tapestry, a masterpiece of historical embroidery that vividly narrates the story of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.

The museum, dedicated to preserving and showcasing this extraordinary piece of art, provides visitors with a captivating journey through history. The narrative unfolds in a series of panels, each depicting a specific episode in the story, providing a fascinating glimpse into the politics, warfare, and daily life of the time.

The Bayeux Tapestry itself is a marvel of craftsmanship, measuring an impressive 70 meters in length and featuring intricate scenes embroidered on linen cloth. Created in the 11th century, the tapestry is a unique historical document that depicts the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings and the subsequent Norman victory.

Beyond the Bayeux Tapestry itself, the museum enriches the visitor experience with additional exhibits, offering context, historical background, and insights into the creation of this remarkable artwork. Interactive displays, multimedia presentations, and informative signage complement the exhibition, making it an engaging and educational visit for individuals of all ages.
Hotel du Doyen (Dean's Hotel)

6) Hotel du Doyen (Dean's Hotel)

The Dean's Hotel, a former private mansion, was originally utilized as an episcopal palace by the bishops of Bayeux and later by the bishops of Bayeux and Lisieux during the Concorda.

The Dean's Hotel occupies a prominent place in the architectural landscape. This stately mansion is a designated historic monument, a testament to its cultural and historical significance, recognized by decree on December 9, 1929. Distinct from the episcopal palace of Bayeux, now housing the town hall and the Baron-Gérard museum, the Dean's Hotel holds a unique position in the city's heritage. Its location, flanked by the cathedral and the remnants of the old surrounding wall, underscores its central role in the historical fabric of the region.

In bygone times, the canons of the cathedral were established in a canonical district to the southwest, including the Maitrise Street and the aptly named Street of the Canons. The Dean's Hotel, positioned between the square and the crossroads near the Saint-Vigoret gate, serves as the focal point of this southeastern district, bridging the gap between the south aisle of the cathedral and the vestiges of the ancient city wall.
Musee Memorial de la Bataille de Normandie (The Memorial Museum of The Battle of Normandy)

7) Musee Memorial de la Bataille de Normandie (The Memorial Museum of The Battle of Normandy) (must see)

The Memorial Museum of The Battle of Normandy, inaugurated in 1981, stands as a poignant tribute to the harrowing events that unfolded during the pivotal Battle of Normandy from June 7 to August 29, 1944. Situated in the heart of Bayeux, the first city liberated in continental France on June 7, 1944, the museum holds a strategic location in the narrative of World War II.

Nestled within the city's "memory center," known as Liberty Alley, the museum shares its space with significant landmarks, including the War Reporters Memorial Garden and the British military cemetery. This proximity to hallowed grounds adds an emotional depth to the museum's mission of preserving and recounting the historical significance of the Battle of Normandy.

The collections within the museum serve as a testament to the 77 days of intense fighting, showcasing artifacts that provide characteristic illustrations of the events and a demonstration of the implements used by the various belligerent camps during the battle.

As one of the three museums managed by the city of Bayeux under the Bayeux Museum brand, alongside the renowned Bayeux Tapestry and the Baron-Gérard Museum of Art and History, the Battle of Normandy Memorial Museum plays a crucial role in preserving the historical legacy of the region.
Cimetiere Militaire Britannique (War Cemetery)

8) Cimetiere Militaire Britannique (War Cemetery) (must see)

The Bayeux War Cemetery -the largest of its kind in France, stands as a profound testament to the sacrifices made during one of the most significant chapters of the Second World War. This sacred ground holds deep historical significance, as it encompasses the graves of servicemen originally interred on battlefields and those who succumbed to their injuries in military hospitals in Bayeux.

Initiated during the war by the 48th Graves Concentration Unit—a unit dedicated to the recovery, identification, and burial of the fallen—the cemetery was completed in 1952. Today, it serves as the eternal resting place for over 4,100 Commonwealth servicemen, with nearly 340 remaining unidentified. Additionally, the cemetery honors approximately 500 servicemen from other nations.

Opposite the Bayeux War Cemetery stands the Bayeux Memorial, bearing the names of more than 1,800 men and women of the Commonwealth land forces who fell during Operation Overlord and have no known grave. The memorial, along with the cemetery, was designed by Philip Hepworth, and its Latin inscription commemorates the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066. It reads: “We, once conquered by William, have now set free the Conqueror’s native land.”

Every year, veterans of D-Day gather at the cemetery in June to pay their respects to fallen comrades who now rest in peace within its hallowed grounds. The cemetery is open daily, welcoming all who wish to pay homage to the brave souls who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.