Caen ("kehn") is a city of about 117,000 people (including 30,000 students) in the Lower Normandy region of France. It is located 238km (148 miles) northwest of Paris and 119km (74 miles) southeast of Cherbourg. In the mid-11th century, Caen became the preferred residence of William the Conquerer and Queen Matilda, and the beautiful twin abbeys they founded still remain, along with eight old churches. The survival of these landmarks is remarkable, given that three-quarters of the city - totalling 10,000 buildings - was destroyed during the 1944 invasion of Normandy. Thus today's Caen today is essentially modern, with broad avenues, new apartment buildings, and traffic congestion. A major rail and ferry junction, Caen makes a good base for exploring the region of Normandy.
St. Peter's Church in Caen is a splendid example of the transition between Gothic and Renaissance forms. Built in the 13th and 14th centuries, it was expanded in the early 16th century.
Established in 1988 and dedicated to peace, the Caen Memorial is regarded as the best World War II museum in France. It also includes exhibits on other failures and triumphs of peace, such as 9/11.
Abbaye aux Hommes
The Men's Abbey was founded by William the Conquerer in the 11th century. Its church, the Romanesque Église St-Etienne, is the largest and most impressive church in Caen.
Located next to the Abbaye aux Hommes are the handsome ruins of Old St-Etienne, a large church destroyed in World War II.
Abbaye aux Dames
The Ladies' Abbey was founded by Queen Mathilda, the wife of William the Conqueror, in 1063. Its church, La Trinité, is a fine example of Romanesque architecture.