The small port of Honfleur is a miraculously unspoilt example of medieval architecture. Thanks to its old facades and winding back-streets, it has been the inspiration of numerous artists since the 15th century – painters, writers and musicians – all fascinated by the picturesque character of the place. The Eugène Boudin museum, the old dock or Vieux-Bassin, and the Ferme Saint-Siméon all recall the great Impressionist era of the town.
Created at the end of the 17th century on the orders of Colbert, the old port or Vieux-Bassin is one of the most famous sites in Normandy, and one of the most frequently depicted by Corot, Boudin, Monet, and Seurat. The pictureseque port is flanked by the colourful facades of tall, narrow houses built between the 16th and 18th centuries.
Constructed out of wood in the second half of the 15th century, Sainte-Catherine church is unusual in being separated from its bell tower by a little public square. Built in the manner of a market hall, the beamed ceiling has the appearance of an upturned boat’s hull. The bell tower was immortalised in numerous works by Boudin, Jongkind and Dufy, some of which are on display at the Eugène Boudin Museum.
Located in a former chapel, the Eugène Boudin museum has preserved the spirit of its founder by displaying works by artists who, in the 19th century, found their inspiration in the region. Here you can find works by Boudin, Monet, Courbet, Jongkind, Cals, Dubourg, Isabey, Vallotton, Dufy, Marquet and others. One of the rooms on the first floor offers a fabulous view over the Seine estuary.
In 1866, well before he became famous, Claude Monet stayed at the Hotel du Cheval Blanc. While there, he notably finished his painting Femmes au jardin, which is today kept at the Musée d’Orsay. The hotel is also represented in several pictures which can be seen in the Eugène Boudin museum.
In the 19th century, the Ferme Saint-Siméon welcomed Jean-Baptiste Corot, Claude Monet and Eugène Boudin, and today the entire hotel pays hommage to that great era, when painters and poets met in what was then no more than a simple farmhouse inn. Today, it is a 5-star Relais & Château hotel, offering an exceptional view over the estaury.
From Mont-Joli you can look out over the rooftops of the old town, the Seine estuary and the Pont de Normandie (Normandy Bridge). In a few minutes, following the path that leads downhill, you can be back in the town centre. A short distance away, the astonishing chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, built at the beginning of the 17th century, offers a sweeping panorama over the Seine estuary and the port of Le Havre.
The walking tour In the Footsteps of Painters at Honfleur includes fourteen interpretive signs, located in places depicted by the artists. It enables visitors to discover the painters that made this town one of the cradles of Impressionism.
The Tourist Office offers guided tours, with maps available at reception.