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Step back in time in Caen, France

Less than half an hour from the coast and the English Channel, the beautiful city of Caen in northern France is well worth a visit.

From the grand Abbey of Saint-Étienne to the historical Chateau de Caen, there is so much French heritage to explore in just this one town.

The Abbey of Saint-Étienne, also known as Abbaye Aux Hommes (the Abbey for Men), was founded in 1063 by William the Conquerer, who was then the Duke of Normandy. Three years later, in 1066, they began constructing this stunning building with direction from Lanfranc de Pavie.

Inspired by Norman Romanesque architecture initially, the abbey's chancel was given an update in the 13th Century in a Gothic style and it is now sheltering William's tomb.

Entry costs as little as €4.50, depending on what time of year you visit, and there are guided tours throughout the weekdays.

Something not to miss whilst visiting this French town is the Memorial de Caen, a museum and war memorial commemorating the Second World War and the Battle of Caen. It was established in 1988 and is one of the more architecturally unusual buildings.

There are stunning video presentations that show D-Day from the perspective of both the Allied and the German using a split screen as well as a poignant tribute to the victims of the Holocaust. There are also exhibits about the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the September 11 attacks in the US. Housed in an old bunker, there is a Gallery of Nobel Peace Prize winners including Andrei Sakharov, Elie Wiesel and Desmond Tutu.

Whilst in Caen, the Chateau de Caen is a must visit for its beautiful architecture. It was built in 1060 and used to be where the Dukes of Normandy and Kings of England held their larger assemblies. Now, it is home to the Normandy Museum and the Fine Arts Museum. Unfortunately, some of the castle has been damaged as it was used as a barracks during World War II but the destruction adds to its aesthetically pleasing state.

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