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267km (166 miles) NW of Paris; 25km (16 miles) NW of Caen

Bayeux’s alluring medieval heart was spared bombardment in 1944, and was the first town to be liberated—the day after D-Day, in fact. Its half-timbered houses, stone mansions, cobblestoned streets, and ancient watermills have remained more or less intact, making this immensely pleasant town a joy to explore. It does get busy in the summer—with the double whammy of the nearby D-Day beaches and the extraordinary historical document that is the Bayeux Tapestry—but it retains its agreeable Norman atmosphere and the sense that it exists beyond the tourist crowds.