201km (125 miles) NW of Paris; 63km (39 miles) NE of Caen
This exquisite fishing port dating from the 11th century has been the focus of artists for hundreds of years—native son Eugène Boudin, Gustave Courbet and Claude Monet, to name but three. Stroll along the Vieux Bassin (old harbor) and you can still see art students with their sketchbooks trying to capture the enchanting light that dances off the white boats and glistening water. Impossibly tall 18th-century townhouses tower over the harbor, where cafes and restaurants crowd around the pleasure boats.
It’s busy and, yes, full of tourists from all over the world. But it’s such a beguiling place that it’s worth putting up with the throngs. Time your visit so that you have lunch a bit early, about noon. Then you’ll have the streets to yourself while everyone else is still eating.
The approach from the east is along the impressive Pont de Normandie bridge that spans the Seine River from Le Havre. And the Côte de Grace—the start of the alluring Côte Fleurie—meanders westwards from here, passing half-timbered Norman homes and ancient chapels en route to Trouville.