Barfleur is a coastal town of the English Channel in the Normandy region, northeast of the Cotentin peninsula, 27 km east of Cherbourg. At first occupied by Vikings, Barfleur knew a prestigious era when the locality became in the eleventh century the official port from where the dukes of Normandy and the British sovereigns embarked to return to England. The city has a population of 9,000 and is proud to be the first port in Normandy. However, in 1346, King Edward III ravaged the region. Barfleur is ransacked and destroyed. This is the beginning of the Hundred Years War. It was not until the nineteenth century that the present port was redeveloped, the sea having meanwhile gained on the land.
Fishing (notably the so-called open-sea mussel) remains one of the centers of activity of the small town which only has about 650 inhabitants but has retained an authentic charm, with its many granite houses and covered with Schist from the 16th to the 19th century.
Member of the Association of Most Beautiful Villages of France, Barfleur has preserved other elements of historical heritage. With its cultural vitality, its port of "postcard" as the beauty of its landscapes, this makes the small town a major tourist pole of the Cotentin.
Like the painters Antoine Guillemet and Paul Signac, the writers Victor Hugo and Jules Renard, among others, who appreciated it since the 19th century, thousands of visitors discover and now enjoy this character station.
A walk in the small city is necessary. The Sainte Catherine courtyard, where the only house still dating back to the Middle Ages, with an entrance, mullioned windows and an external staircase, can be opened.
Along the main axis, Saint-Thomas-Becket Street, one will appreciate the old houses of the sixteenth to the nineteenth century which form a remarkable architectural unit. The alignment of the granite facades, the bluish roofs, offer a perspective towards the harbor that does not lack seal. In this street we must mention the convent of the Augustinians (1739) and its remarkable garden.
On the other side of the port, you have to stop at the birthplace of Saint Mary Magdalene Postel (17th century). The neighboring chapel built in 1893 in honor of the beatification of the saint is of neo-Gothic style, and the stained glass windows retrace the life in Normandy of that which founded the Christian schools of Mercy.
After a passage through the typical beach, where the "landings" of fish, mussels and crustaceans is always a spectacle, then a view on the tip of Barfleur and the lighthouse of Gatteville, second highest lighthouse in Europe (Two sites outside the municipality itself), one will linger again at the church of Saint-Nicolas (built in the 17th century then enlarged and reworked). The nave was only completed in the nineteenth century! In addition to the stained-glass windows, there is a rich interior and a number of sacred works (Flemish paintings of Visitation (16th century), bas-reliefs and statues, including a superb Pietà from the 18th century.
Once discovered this true open-air museum with colorful shops and cafés (guided tours are possible, contact +33 2 33 54 02 48), many leisure and sport activities are available for visitors and holidaymakers.
The nautical base hosts a sailing school and more experienced sailors. Contact the +33 2 33 54 79 08. Diving can be preferred: the club can be reached at +33 6 74 36 90 26, offering baptisms for novices or more technical excursions for specialists.
For relaxation and swimming, three sandy beaches are to be discovered: the Sambière, the Masse and the beach of the church.
To play tennis, reserve the courts on +33 2 33 23 43 00.
Another type of leisure, fishing on foot. For information on tide timetables and legislation, please call +33 2 33 54 02 48.
Finally, there is the huge range of hikes possible on Barfleur and its surroundings, to discover heritage, landscapes of dunes and bocage.
Thus the GR 223 which runs along the coast as the old customs route passes obviously through the city. As for the GRP8, it explores the Val de Saire, this stream which flows into the sea near Barfleur.
Many other trails and circuits exist, which you can for some mountain biking. Brochures, maps and information on +33 2 33 54 02 48.
Note that you can rent bicycles. Rates and information on +33 2 33 23 15 40.
To discover the gourmet treasures of the local terroir... and the sea, go all year on the market, on Saturday. In the summer, a market is also scheduled on Tuesday.
Other highlights are the joy of the inhabitants and especially the tourists.
From late July to mid August, the Barfleur musical summer festival features six concerts of classical music in the Saint-Nicolas church, with remarkable acoustics. The guest artists are renowned. Information and reservation on +33 2 33 54 02 48 and +33 6 14 49 95 71.
Over four days, after August 15, the Village des Antiquaires is set up on the harbor docks and welcomes more than 40 exhibitors. For both amateurs and curious people, real treasures are visible and thousands of visitors flock every year.
Finally, the first weekend of September, MusiKenSaire is a festival that also takes place on the docks and offers free concerts of regional groups in a festive and convivial atmosphere (pop, rock, electro).