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Picturesque Granville is located on the west coast of Normandy in France. The city has a rich history dating back to the Middle Ages. There are therefore several historical sites and monuments. The most famous sight is the charming Haute-Ville. This old part of the city is completely surrounded by high city walls. In addition, Granville is known for fishing, the spa for thalassotherapy, the casino and carnival. A must to visit when you stay in this region.
History of Granville
Haute-Ville was built by the English during the Hundred Years War, on top of high rocks directly on the sea. After the war, the 400 meter long and 200 meter wide Haute-Ville was reinforced by King Charles VII with fortress walls. In the centuries that followed, fishing was Granville’s main source, putting the town in competition with Saint-Malo. As in Saint-Malo, privateers (pirates) were also employed by the crown in Granville. A privateer immortalized in bronze is Georges-René Pléville Le Pelley; you will find a statue of him in Granville. At the end of the 19th century, a railway line was built from Paris to various places along the coast, including Granville. Like Deauville, Granville became an important seaside resort from that moment on, it was even nicknamed Monaco of the North.
What most people come to Granville for is La Haute-Ville, the old town area. You really have the feeling of stepping back in time here. During our visit in high season it is very quiet and peaceful. Some streets even look a bit spooky. I love it! Of course you also have a slightly busier spot in Haute-Ville, Place Cambernon. Here you will find a few terraces, bars and shops. There are stately buildings and charming hotels in Haute-Ville, as the grand houses of the rich used to be called. Mainly built in Breton style, as you also see in Saint-Malo.
Places of interest in Haute-Ville Granville
Haute-Ville is not big and you can enter the old part of town at various places. We park the car along the harbor on Rue du Port, where there is a lot of parking space. Cross the road towards the city wall, then you will find an alley between restaurant Le Soleil Levant and the customs office. Walk into this alley and the path will automatically take you up along the city wall.
Walk on the city wall of Haute-Ville
Once at the top, the panoramic views are immediately stunning. Not surprising, the city wall around Haute-Ville is between 6 and 10 meters high. From this side you immediately have a beautiful view of the newer part of Granville and the harbor. La Haute-Ville is wonderful to stroll through at your leisure. You can follow the city wall completely, or walk zigzagging through the old city center. You will come across beautiful buildings, beautiful views and cozy streets again and again, wherever you walk. Below are a number of sights in Haute-Ville that you will encounter during your walk.
Église Notre-Dame du Cap Lihou
The church Église Notre-Dame du Cap Lihou is a must-see in Haute-Ville. The Église Notre-Dame dates from the 17th century and was built on the site of an old chapel. The church has an impressive interior with beautiful stained glass windows and an altarpiece depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Pointe du Roc and Phare du cap Lihou
Pointe du Roc is the viewpoint at the far end of Haute-Ville. Here is also the 24 meter high lighthouse Phare du cap Lihou. In addition to this lighthouse from the 19th century, you can enjoy a wide view of the sea, Granville and the coastline. You can walk to the sea line via the Chemin des Douaniers hiking trail and there are several other historical sites at Pointe du Roc. There is a museum, Le Roc des Curiosités Musée & Aquarium, which you can read more about later in this article. There are several bunkers that were part of the Atlantic Wall (La Batterie du Roc de Granville) and there is a memorial stone for dead sailors. Pointe du Roc is also the perfect place to watch the sunset. If you are in Haute-Ville at the end of a beautiful day, this is definitely a place to end a visit to the old town in the evening.
Museums in La Haute-Ville
There are several museums in Haute-Ville. Musée d’Art Moderne Richard Anacréon has an impressive collection of modern and contemporary works of art. Musée du Vieux Granville is dedicated to the history of the city and offers visitors a glimpse into the former daily life of the inhabitants of Granville. Le Roc des Curiosités Musée & Aquarium is a museum with an aquarium and a lot of information about the history of the cliff on which Haute-Ville is built.
Jardin partagé de La Haute-Ville
On the northern side of Haute-Ville is Jardin partagé de La Haute-Ville, a communal garden. A beautiful and peaceful place where you can enjoy nature. For residents of Haute-Ville, the garden has a number of extra functions in addition to enjoying all the greenery. For example, herbs, vegetables and fruit are grown. Barbecues and picnics are also organised. Walking paths and stairs through the garden lead you to the beach below.
Be sure to pass by the Pont-Levis bridge, an impressive example of medieval technology and architecture. The bridge was built in the 15th century as part of the defenses to protect the city from outside attacks. As a pedestrian you can easily enter the walled center of Haute-Ville via the bridge.
Beaches and pools in Granville
Granville’s beaches are not only beautiful to behold, but have also played an important role in the city’s history. During the Second World War, Granville was a key location for the Allied invasion of Normandy and the beaches here were also the scene of fierce fighting.
Just like in Saint-Malo, there is also a seawater swimming pool in Granville: Piscine de mer de Granville. This swimming pool is located on Le Plat Gousset, a wide sandy beach. Looking for more miles of beach? Then Plage de Bréville-sur-mer, which is slightly more northerly, is the right place for you. Here you will also find another swimming pool filled with sea water: Piscine de Mer De Donville Les Bains.
Musée Christian Dior
Granville is the birthplace of the famous fashion designer Christian Dior. His former residence Les Rhumbs in the city is now the Musée Christian Dior. The former residence is surrounded by beautiful gardens. Here you can learn everything about the history of haute couture and about Dior’s haute couture collections.
Port of Granville
The port of Granville has been an important trading and fishing hub for centuries. It is home to a large number of fishing boats and trawlers that bring in fresh fish daily for the local market and for export. The port is also an important landing stage for ferries operating between France and the Channel Islands. On the quay of the harbor are several restaurants, cafes and shops from where you can enjoy the view of boats in the harbor.
Day trip to the Chausey Islands
There are several islands off the coast of Granville that are worth a visit. The most famous islands are the Chausey Islands, an archipelago consisting of more than fifty small islands and reefs. At low tide, around 350 islands even appear. The Chausey Islands are a protected natural area and accessible by boat from Granville. You will find beautiful sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, popular with swimmers, snorkelers, divers and sailors.
Spend the night in Haute Ville, Granville
In Haute-Ville itself there are various options when it comes to staying the night. There are mainly B&Bs and apartments available. Two accommodations that stand out are La Maison de l’Amiral vue sur mer à Granville and La Maison de Juliette, in the middle of Haute-Ville. You have to like peace and quiet, there is not much to do in Haute-Ville at night. Do you want more excitement? Then you are probably better in the “newer” part of Granville. There are also more hotels available here, if you want to walk past a richly filled breakfast buffet in the morning. Think of Mercure Granville Le Grand Large, Hôtel du Musée ex Maison Pléville – Hôtel L’Arrivée and Au Bout Du Quai. If you want to follow thalassotherapy, then the Hôtel de la Baie – Thalassothérapie PREVITHAL, located slightly to the north, is the right place for you.
Want to see more in Normandy?
There is so much to see in Normandy. Le Mont-Saint-Michel, for example, will immediately come to mind for most people. To get even more inspiration for this region, you might find the article beautiful places, cities and villages in Normandy useful. Because you are already quite south in Granville, a trip to the north of Brittany is also doable. In that case, don’t forget to visit the beautiful fortified city of Saint-Malo, highly recommended if you ask me.