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Running in Caen: the city of a hundred steeples

Located just a few kilometers from the coast and two hours from Paris, Caen is a city with a thousand facets, rich in history and heritage, where life is good. A City of Art and History, the city of William the Conqueror has preserved some magnificent buildings from its medieval period, despite the bombings of 1944. The Abbaye aux Hommes (Men's Abbey), the church of Saint-Pierre and the ducal castle all bear witness to the city's heyday. Between a leap into the past and a nature getaway, discover the city of the Dukes of Normandy thanks to the many tourist and sports routes offered by the city.

Saint-Pierre Church in Caen

"This country is very beautiful, and Caen the prettiest city, the most pleasant, the most cheerful, the best located, the most beautiful streets, the most beautiful buildings, the most beautiful churches; meadows, promenades, and finally the source of all our beautiful spirits."

These are the words in which Madame de Sévigné described Caen and the surrounding region, and we can't contradict her. At the time of the famous epistolary writer, the city was undergoing rapid demographic and economic growth, and was undergoing major urban transformation. Centuries later, the city is still as captivating as ever, attracting millions of visitors every year.

Land of history

Although there are traces of human activity in the Caen area dating back to prehistoric and ancient times, it was only in the Middle Ages, after numerous invasions, that Caen experienced a major boom. This was mainly due to the policies of William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders. The Duke of Normandy made Caen his political capital and was responsible for the construction of numerous monuments that can still be seen today. Your walk will take you to the sublime Abbaye aux Hommes and Abbaye aux Dames (home to the tombs of William the Conqueror and his wife, respectively) and the Château de Caen.

Abbaye aux Hommes

The medieval houses of the historic center are joined by Renaissance mansions. During this peaceful period, trade expanded (particularly textiles and tanning) and the wealthy bourgeoisie and aristocracy built magnificent new homes. Take advantage of your stroll to admire the bourgeois houses that line the streets of the town center. The finest example of Renaissance architecture is the Hôtel d'Escoville, whose richly decorated inner courtyard is a real eye-catcher.

The city of Caen and its surroundings were the scene of many conflicts, such as the Hundred Years' War. But one of the most striking was undoubtedly the Second World War, which took a heavy toll on the city. Indeed, the town was on a hotly contested frontline when the Normandy landings took place on June 6, 1944. Almost 70% of its buildings were destroyed in the bombardments, and several thousand inhabitants were killed. The cycling tour takes you to the Caen Memorial, designed to commemorate the Battle of Normandy and dedicated to 20th-century history and peace.

Land of nature

While Caen is undeniably a land of history, nature also plays an important role. Right in the heart of the city, the Jardin des Plantes offers you a peaceful and pleasant moment. This botanical garden, listed since 1942, is filled with rare plants and offers the chance to discover over 2,000 different species.

The "Green and Blue City" route also takes you through the green lung of the Norman city: La Prairie. This 60-hectare green space includes a racecourse, a bird sanctuary and sports facilities. A must for all nature lovers, yet within easy reach of the city center.

The Colline aux Oiseaux

Located on a former landfill site, the Parc de la Colline aux Oiseaux invites visitors to explore its many themed and floral gardens: boxwood and yew labyrinth, rose garden, perennial garden, French city garden... This 17-hectare park is a perfect example of land rehabilitation and enhancement.

During your bike ride, you can enjoy the freshness of the banks of the Orne, which runs alongside the city, and discover Caen's marina, also known as Bassin Saint Pierre. The Bassin is the starting point for the Caen to Sea Canal, which joins the port of Ouistreham on the English Channel. Inaugurated in 1857, the canal can be explored by boat, kayak or even paddle.

"Terre de Jeux"

Hélitas Stadium

With over 250 clubs and numerous sports facilities, the city of Caen prides itself on being a sports territory. Thanks to the presence of several top-level clubs, including the Stade Malherbe de Caen, and the organization of international sporting events, the city of Normandy enjoys a national and even international reputation.

This is undoubtedly why Caen has been awarded the "Terre de Jeux 2024" label for the Paris Olympic Games. Seven sites are likely to welcome delegations from all over the world. With the Caen, "Terre de Jeux" route, discover the certified Games Preparation Center sites, including the Hélitas stadium and the water sports center.

Run, walk or ride with JOOKS, from the Caen Memorial to the Abbaye aux Dames!

Find all the routes in Caen and over 1300 others on the JOOKS app.

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