Caen’s most important medieval site is the Men’s Abbey – now city hall – and, right next door, the magnificent, multi-turreted Église St-Étienne (St Stephen’s Church), with its Romanesque nave, Gothic choir and William the Conqueror’s tomb (rebuilt; the original was destroyed by a 16th-century Calvinist mob and, in 1793, by fevered revolutionaries).

The complex is 1km southwest of the Château de Caen; to get there by car, follow the signs to the ‘Hôtel de Ville’.

You can visit the cloister (access is via the adjoining Hôtel de Ville) and the abbey church (11th, 13th and 17th centuries) on your own, but the only way to see the interior of the 18th-century monastery is to take a 1½-hour tour (adult €4.50 or €7 depending one time of year, child free). From April to September, these begin daily at 10.30am, 2pm and 4pm; the rest of the year there are tours on weekdays at 10.30am and 2pm. English tours are only available in July and August, at 11am, 1.30pm and 4pm. Tickets are sold at the information desk inside the Hôtel de Ville.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Caen attractions

1. Musée de Normandie

0.51 MILES

A handy primer for fathoming the character of the region, this two-part museum situated within the former Logis des Gouverneurs in the Château de Caen…

2. Jardin des Simples

0.53 MILES

The Jardin des Simples is a garden of medicinal and aromatic herbs cultivated during the Middle Ages, some of them poisonous.

3. Échiquier

0.53 MILES

Inside the Château de Caen, the Échiquier (more fully the Salle de l’Échiquier) – or the Exchequer – is a venerable building dating from the 12th century.

4. Maison des Quatrans

0.53 MILES

The 15th-century Maison des Quatrans is one of only two prewar buildings left in the city centre near Château de Guillaume le Conquérant, though it lost a…

5. Église St-Georges

0.56 MILES

Doubling as a very useful tourist information centre, this medieval church within the Château de Caen has gorgeous stained-glass works as well as several…

6. Château de Caen

0.57 MILES

Looming above the centre of the city, Caen’s magnificent castle walls – massive battlements overlooking a now dry moat – were established by William the…

7. Église St-Pierre

0.57 MILES

Across from the Château de Caen, the soaring Église St-Pierre was built between the 13th and 16th centuries and was being renovated at the time of writing.

8. Donjon

0.59 MILES

The castle's vast 12th-century donjon (keep) was pretty much destroyed after the French Revolution in the late 18th century, so little remains today…