Best way to visit the Bayeux Tapestry in Normandy
The Bayeux Tapestry in Normandy is perhaps the most famous embroidered cloth in the world! Although it isn’t technically a tapestry, it is referred to as such. This may be because it rolls off the tongue a lot better than say, the Bayeux embroidered cloth. In any case, it is a must-see if you visit Normandy!
If you’ve never heard of the tapestry, or if you have but aren’t sure what its all about, you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to be giving you a step-by-step guide on the best way to visit the Bayeux Tapestry in Normandy!
The Bayeux Tapestry Museum
Entry fee: 9.50 euros
Opening hours: March-October every day 9am-6pm, November-February every day 9:30am-12:30pm, 2pm-6pm
Address: 13 bis rue de Nesmond, 14400 Bayeux, France
Step 1: Read up on the history of the Bayeux Tapestry
Before you head to Bayeux, it’s important that you learn a little bit about the tapestry itself!
The Bayeux Tapestry is a 70 metres long and 50 centimetres high embroidered cloth that depicts the Norman conquest of England in the 11th century. That means that this tapestry has survived for over 9 centuries! This fact alone makes the tapestry impressive, and the craftsmanship that obviously went into its creation is equally remarkable.
The tapestry tells the story from the point of view of the Normans, and ends with the Battle of Hastings, which was the beginning of the Norman conquest. The cloth includes 58 scenes that were embroidered by hand using wool yarn.
The tapestry’s origins are up for debate, but most scholars and historians agree that it was probably commissioned by a man named Bishop Odo (the half-brother of one of the tapestry’s main characters, William the Conquerer) in the late 11th century. Although it is told from the point of view of the conquerers, it was made in England.
The tapestry was rediscovered in 1729 in the Bayeux Cathedral, where it was put on displace once a year. And now, it is located in the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux (the Bayeux Tapestry Museum)!
Step 2: Head to Bayeux
Now that you know what the Bayeux Tapestry is, it’s time to get to the town of Bayeux in Normandy where it’s located. I’m going to assume that most of you will be coming from Paris, so I’ll share the best way to get to Bayeux from the French capital!
In order to get to Bayeux, you’ll simply have to take a train, bus or by car. The train will take under 3-hours, and a bus will take nearly 5-hours. If you’re traveling on a strict budget, I’d suggest the bus. If you feel comfortable driving in France, a road trip could be fun too. But, the train is the fastest way to get there!
Bus: If you decide to take a bus, you’ll have to book your tickets in advance. There are several FlixBuses (a budget bus line) that leave from the massive Paris bus station named Bercy. It’s located in the 12th arrondissement in southeast Paris.
Tickets range from 11 euros to 18 euros. The bus will drop you off in the city Caen, where you’ll have to hop on a small commuter train to Bayeux. Train tickets range from 6 euros to 27 euros. As mentioned, it is a 5-hour journey.
Car: You also have the option of renting a car in Paris and then driving to Bayeux yourself. Keep in mind that you’ll have to pay for the rental as well as fuel costs. Estimated fuel costs are between 30 euros to 50 euros, and a car rental can cost up to 200 euros for a 3 day rental.
I would only suggest this option if you have the correct drivers license (of course), and are comfortable driving on French highways. By car, you can reach Bayeux from Paris in about 2 and a half hours.
Train: The train is by far the easiest way to get to Bayeux from Paris. I also just love traveling through France by train in general! There is a direct train from Paris to Bayeux that leaves about every hour from the Saint Lazare train station in central Paris.
Tickets range from 40 euros to 70 euros, and it is about a 2-hour and 40 minute journey.
Step 3: Admire the Bayeux Tapestry
Now that you’ve arrived in Bayeux, it’s time to head to the Bayeux Museum to admire the Bayeux Tapestry!
The Bayeux train station is within walking distance from the centre of the town. You’ll have to walk on some pretty busy roads, so make sure to be aware of your surroundings and stay safe! The walk takes about 10 minutes.
Once you get to the Bayeux Museum, I suggest you head straight to the tapestry room. There are some other parts of the museum that you should visit afterwards, but I’ll tell you all about that in the next section.
The tapestry is held in a dark and temperature controlled room. You’ll have the opportunity to use complementary audio guide (available in 16 different languages), which I definitely suggest you use. That way, you’ll know exactly what the scenes you’re looking at represent.
I’ve already briefly mentioned that the tapestry tells the story of the Norman conquest of England. But, I’m sure that many of you are still scorching your heads, wondering what the Norman conquest of England is!
The story begins in 1064, when Edward the Confessor (the king of England at the time) orders his brother-in-law, Harold Godwinson, to go to Normandy to offer the succession of the English throne to his cousin, William Duke of Normandy (William earned his nickname “the Conqueror” after the Norman conquest).
When Edward dies, Harold steps in and takes the crown instead of William, with the support of his Anglo-Saxon brethren. When William gets word, he is understandably furious. He decides to sail across the channel to claim his crown and defeat Harold. This was just the beginning of the battle for the English throne!
In 1066, a bloody battle ensues between the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons. In the end, Harold is shot with an arrow in the eye, and William is able to take back his throne.
You’ll be able to follow all of the details of this tale by admiring the Bayeux tapestry!
Step 4: Discover rest of the Bayeux Tapestry Museum
The Bayeux Tapestry Museum features two other really interesting sections. After you’ve finished admiring the tapestry, head to the permanent collection, where you’ll learn more about the time period, the construction of the tapestry, and the events that led up to the Norman conquest.
After you’ve learned all there is to know about Anglo-Norman relations in the 11th century, go upstairs to watch a 16-minute short movie (in English and French) which tells the story as you saw it on the tapestry.
Overall, a visit to the museum makes for a great afternoon of discovery!
Step 5: Explore the town on Bayeux
Now that you’ve learned more about what makes the town of Bayeux so special, I definitely suggest that you do a little bit of sightseeing around the town! It’s a really small area, and you can see everything you need to see in 1-2 days.
The town features a cathedral, a medieval town centre, timbered houses, and a beautiful canal that runs through most of the town. There are several cute restaurants, cafés and boutiques as well.
Bayeux is a great place to stay if you’re interested in exploring other areas of Normandy. The D-Day beaches are about 1-hour away by car or bus, so if you’re looking for a good home base in Normandy, you’ve found it!
Personally, I’ve visited Bayeux many times! It is the perfect place to spend a weekend, especially if you’re looking to relax after a few hectic days of sightseeing in Paris. In addition to the sites I’ve already mentioned, here are a few other activities I think you’d love:
- The Bayeux Botanical Gardens – a 19th century botanical gardens that are labeled a Historical Monument of France
- The Conservatoire de la Dentelle (Conservatory of Lace) – a museum where you’ll learn about the art of lacemaking
- The Bayeux Market – a market that takes place every Saturday morning where you can buy local goods
Now you have a handy step-by-step guide to visiting the Bayeux Tapestry! Save this article for your next trip to France and I guarantee you’ll have a great time in Normandy if you follow my advice.
A trip to Bayeux from Paris is easy, educational and enjoyable!
If you are in Paris and want to do a little sightseeing before you head to Normandy, why not check out our walking tour options? Click here to discover more!