This summer, we spent two months in Normandy discovering towns that were each more pleasant than the last. Fécamp was our second stopover in Normandy and we discovered there a very rich heritage and history. Not a dull moment! And since we didn’t know the town at all, we decided to capture the must-do activities to do during a weekend in Fécamp in this article. Who knows, it might make you want to discover this former cod port yourself…
Admire the magnificent cliffs of the Alabaster Coast
The cliffs of the Alabaster Coast are the first thing that strikes us as we sail towards Fécamp. We have just arrived from Dieppe, where we spent a few days, so we have a few hours to admire the view of the cliffs from the sea. They rise up, majestic. They reveal their immensity when we notice a small fishing boat at their feet. We are amazed.
The decision was made: we would spend part of our weekend in Fécamp admiring the surrounding cliffs.
The Alabaster Coast is located between Le Tréport and Le Havre and extends over 130 km, i.e. almost the entire coastline of the department. Made up of chalk, clay and sand, it is characterised by its white colour, its cliffs which are up to 120 metres high in places, and its valleys which allow access to the sea. A unique landscape… And it is in Normandy!
And it is precisely in the Valmont valley that Fécamp is located. The town has literally grown up around the port and between two cliffs. You just have to leave the port, to stroll along the pebble beach or to venture towards the pier along the entrance of the port to admire the Alabaster Coast. We particularly enjoyed going there at the end of the day to admire the changing lights and colours reflected in the water. This should definitely be on your list of things to do during your weekend in Fécamp.
Of course, it is also possible to admire the cliffs of the Alabaster Coast from a height. Located to the north of the marina, Cap Fagnet, for example, offers an unobstructed view as far as Veulettes-sur-Mer, i.e. 20 kilometres of coastline. Various valleys and paths along the coastline also offer very varied and sometimes surprising views of the cliffs of the Alabaster Coast. If you are spending more than a weekend in Fécamp, a walk along the coastal path of Életot, a descent into the valley of Senneville-sur-Fécamp, and an exploration of the valley of Yport are a must.
Discover the town's heritage and treasures during a weekend in Fécamp
When we stop off at a new place, we like to soak up the general atmosphere but also the history and heritage of the town. This stop in Normandy is obviously no exception. During our weekend in Fécamp, we discovered two emblematic places that allow us to learn more about the richness of the town: the Palais Bénédictine and the Fisheries Museum.
Visit the Fisheries Museum and learn more about Fécamp and its inhabitants
Open every day from 10am to 6pm except Tuesdays between September and April
7€ full price – 4€ reduced price – free for children under 18
Located just a stone’s throw from the marina, the Fisheries Museum is probably the place to start your weekend in Fécamp. Housed in a former cod drying plant, the museum plunges us into the history of the town and into the heart of local life. Each floor of the museum reveals a different facet of the town and its inhabitants over the centuries.
The visit begins with the fully glazed belvedere on the fifth floor, which offers a 360° panoramic view of the town, the port and the sea. There are also relief maps showing the evolution of Fécamp at different key moments in the city’s history. The fourth floor contains a collection of objects tracing the fascinating history of the town over the centuries: life in prehistoric times, capital of the first Dukes of Normandy in the Middle Ages, a major fishing port from the 19th century onwards, a seaside resort and then a strategic location for the Atlantic Wall during World War II.
The second floor is interesting for those who want to immerse themselves in the local life before the industrial era, the place of women in society, and the traditions that gave rhythm to daily life in Fécamp and the surrounding area. There is also a space hosting a collection of works paying tribute to the cliffs of the Alabaster Coast as well as a section dedicated to childhood and the evolution of infant care and practices. The first floor is reserved for temporary exhibitions.
But it was the third floor that particularly caught our attention. Entirely dedicated to the history of the fishing port of Fécamp, we learned a lot about the men and women who have dedicated their lives to it over the centuries, the evolution of working and sailing conditions between the 16th century and today, the cod fishing expeditions in the icy waters of Newfoundland, as well as the rise and consecration of the town as the first cod fishing port in France in the 20th century.
In addition to what we have learned, the exhibition also includes various accounts of daily life and the evolution of fishing techniques that would leave no visitor indifferent. For example:
Context at the end of the 19th century: The longboat, which took the entire crew of the sailing ship to fish for cod, is replaced by the dory. Only two men take place in this flat-bottomed boat.
Context: When the men boarded a sailing ship to go cod fishing off the coast of Newfoundland, they were away for very long months. The women stayed at home to look after the children and manage the family's daily life.
Fécamp is not the only town to have developed its economic activity around the port and fishing. It is quite common to read figures on the evolution of the activity over the centuries and the positioning of the port on a national and even European level. This exhibition is obviously no exception. But it goes much further. It takes us right to the heart of the lives of the men and women whose day-to-day were punctuated by fishing, fish processing, the manufacture and repair of fishing nets and sailing boats, as well as the trade and export of the final product. We discover the different facets of the fishing port and the human implications of working in the first cod port in France.
You will have understood: a visit to the Fisheries Museum is, in our opinion, a must during a weekend in Fécamp. And we would have been very disappointed if we had not visited it.
Visit the Palais Bénédictine and enjoy an exceptional experience
Visible from the marina, the Palais Bénédictine is a mythical place. It is indeed a place built in the 19th century to the glory of the famous Bénédictine liqueur and where it is made. It is therefore impossible to spend a weekend in Fécamp without making a stop there.
The history of Bénédictine liqueur dates back to the 16th century. Dom Bernardo Vincelli, a Benedictine monk who arrived in Fécamp from Italy at the beginning of the century, was known for his knowledge of alchemy. He developed many elixirs during his lifetime, including the famous liqueur, and the Benedictine monks perpetuated the recipe for nearly three centuries. The French Revolution put an end to this and it was not until the middle of the 19th century that Alexander the Great rediscovered the recipe for the Bénédictine liqueur. With this discovery, he immediately had big plans. Export and trade beyond the territory were the keystone of his strategy and brought the liqueur its international fame.
The visit to the Palais Bénédictine plunges us into the heart of this history full of twists and turns, while showing us an exceptional place where each room is unique. Some of the rooms through which the tour passes were used for bottling and labelling the liqueur until the early 1970s.
And even if wandering from one room to another to learn more about Bénédictine is very pleasant, it is possible to take the immersion even further. The Palais Bénédictine offers various experiences from €14/person which allow you to discover part of the secret recipe of the liqueur, the stages of its production, the subtle art of distillation, or an introduction to cocktails based on Bénédictine liqueur. It was unthinkable for us to miss out on this!
We had the opportunity to live the Privilege experience, which is without doubt the most complete in the Palais, and we didn’t see the time pass.
Learn more about the
ingredients of the secret
distillation stages of
Access to the palace's
the liquor ages nicely
Unravell the secret recipe: understanding
when each ingredient is added, the impact
of distillation and ageing
Try your hand at
the art of the
Recipe for the Bene-Rinha cocktail
50 ml of Bénédictine liquor • 1 lime • crushed ice
- Cut off the ends of the lime and slice it thinly.
- Put the slices in a shaker, add crushed ice and 50 ml of Bénédictine.
- Shake gently for 3 minutes.
Special thanks to Salomé who was our guide and who gave us a unique experience at the Palais Bénédictine.
Getting lost in the countryside and on the cliffs during a weekend in Fécamp
You start to know us by now: if we enjoy discovering a town steeped in history and heritage, we are very quick to seek out nature. And if you are spending a weekend in Fécamp, there is nothing easier to do!
We had spotted a greenway near Coffee Bike where we rented bikes for the day but had not prepared our day any more than that. Thanks to the advice of Valérie Loisel, the owner of the place, we defined the broad outline of our route for the day and it was armed with a map of the local cycling routes that we got on our bikes.
We started our day cycling in Fécamp on the Véloroute du Lin. Eighty kilometres long, it is built on the old railway tracks linking Pourville-sur-Mer to Fécamp and takes us to the heart of the Pays de Caux and its flax fields, hence its name. Along the way, we discover fish-filled ponds, meadows where cows and calves graze, colourful fields, and places perfect for a picnic or a break on a deckchair.
Needless to say, we did not intend to ride the entire Véloroute du Lin. Just before reaching Valmont, we turned north. And it was precisely at this point that we regretted not having opted for electric bikes. The first part of the journey was easy and accessible to the less athletic among us, but the difference in altitude to Angerville-la-Martel made me put my foot down and push the bike.
We then continued northwards without taking a greenway or any other dedicated bicycle route. But as these are small country roads, we only saw a few vehicles. Be careful though, this part of the route is not shaded at all.
Once we reached Saint-Pierre-en-Port, we stopped at the small local grocery shop before heading to a green area near a campsite for a picnic while enjoying the unobstructed view of the sea and the cliffs of the Alabaster Coast.
As we mentioned earlier, the Alabaster Coast is dotted with valleys offering access to the sea and around which towns and villages have developed. To finish this day on our bikes and go back to Fécamp, we took the Vélomaritime route going from Roscoff to Dunkirk and found some valleys to explore.
First stop: Elelot. We passed through an undergrowth that gave us the feeling of being miles from the coast. And yet… The view of the Alabaster Coast is not far away. However, it is impossible to explore its valley, access to which is forbidden due to landslides. Unfortunately, this does not surprise us and reflects what we had observed from the sea when we arrived by sailboat. So we decide not to venture further.
Second stop: the Senneville-sur-Fécamp valley. After cycling through the Norman cows grazing in the meadows along the road, we reach the top of a dizzying staircase between two cliffs. Once we reach sea level, the atmosphere changes radically. You feel as if you are either on a pebble beach or on the moon. The walkers are rare despite the sunny weather and we enjoy the almost empty place. A real must-see during a weekend in Fécamp.
We then continued on the Vélomaritime to Cap Fagnet, its semaphore, blockhouses and other marks of the World War II before starting our descent towards the port of Fécamp.
In total, we cycled about 30 kilometres around Fécamp. And even if some of the climbs made our thighs hot, we loved it!
Being at the heart of a strategic location on the Atlantic Wall
As we said earlier, we like to immerse ourselves in the history of the places we visit. It was therefore impossible for us to spend a weekend in Fécamp without going to Cap Fagnet to learn more about this strategic site of the Atlantic Wall.
Even though we knew the history and role of these fortifications, we always had some difficulty in grasping the extent of them. Fécamp is one of the ideal places in Normandy to make it all much more concrete.
Fécamp was occupied by German troops from June 1940 to September 1944. At the beginning of 1942, Hitler already feared an Anglo-American landing and ordered the engineer Todt to design a protection system for the European coast. These fortifications extended along the entire Atlantic coast between the north of Norway and the south of France, and were particularly reinforced in the Channel. The famous Atlantic Wall was born.
During our day of cycling, we saw a lot of blockhouses along the coast and the Velomaritime. This line of defence is clearly visible from Cap Fagnet, but that is not the only reason why we recommend a visit. In addition to its role in the defence of the port, as evidenced by the blockhouses and tobruks, Cap Fagnet was first and foremost an important detection station for ships and aircraft. Thanks to a parabola with a diameter of 7.4 metres, the German troops could detect any movement from the open sea over a distance of 40 to 80 km. On the basis of these observations, firing instructions were then transmitted.
Given its strategic position and its exceptional panorama over the open sea, the Germans had the ambition to install a Mammut radar with a range of 300 km at Cap Fagnet. Fortunately, they did not have the time before the landing, but the enormous bunker that was supposed to house it can still be seen there. With a concrete volume of 1800 m3 and fifteen rooms, the construction is very imposing and suggests a very different outcome if the German troops had carried out their plans for Cap Fagnet.
It seems that guided tours are organised, but we found that the information shared near each of the World War II relics was rich enough to satisfy our curiosity and duty of remembrance.
Discover Yport, a fishing village full of poetry
If you are staying a little longer than a weekend in Fécamp, we really encourage you to discover Yport, just 5 kilometres away. It is a small fishing village with less than 800 inhabitants and we were completely charmed by it.
Nestled in the heart of a wooded valley, Yport is probably one of the little-known gems of Normandy. Many artists have stayed here and been inspired by its narrow streets, its seafront and its cliffs. For example, there are countless paintings and literary works set in Yport. And this is not surprising, as it only takes a few steps in its narrow streets to grasp the charm and poetry of the place.
The brick houses in the town centre give the village an almost family atmosphere and an undeniable old-world charm. The Belle Époque style villas and cottages on the beach remind us that Yport was a very fashionable seaside resort from 1929. And although there are not so many fishermen here today, the colourful boats and nets on the pebbles are a tribute to this profession.
We didn’t get to spend much time there so we just strolled around the city centre and the seafront. But if you have a bit more time than we did, look for the Villa des Roses and the Moorish Villa, for example. They will give you a true taste of the Belle Époque architecture.
As you probably guessed, Yport has nothing to envy to Étretat, which is however much more famous.
This article is the result of a collaboration with the Comité Régional de Tourisme de Normandie.
Its content is based on our personal experience and we remain totally free in our comments and recommendations.
Visiting Fécamp: Practical advice
How long should one stay to visit Fécamp?
If, like us, you like to combine aimless strolling with the discovery of the town’s history and heritage, we recommend that you spend at least a weekend in Fécamp.
How to get to Fécamp?
- From Paris: Fécamp is about 200 km away, i.e. a 2.5 hour drive
- From Lille: allow 3 hours to cover the almost 300 km to Fécamp
In Fécamp, parking is free. You can take advantage of car parks on the outskirts of the town for your entire stay or you can park in the town centre, which is a blue zone where parking is free for 2 hours thanks to the disc. More information on parking in Fécamp here.
No matter which station you start from, you will need to make at least one connection at Breauté-Beuzeville before reaching Fécamp by train. For more information on train timetables and fares to spend a weekend in Fécamp, consult the SNCF.
The marina of Fécamp is located about 30 nautical miles from Dieppe and less than 30 NM from Le Havre. A day sailing is all that is needed to get there when you start exploring Normandy by sailboat.
However, check the tide times as the access to the harbour is dredged to 1.5 metres, which may not always be sufficient if you have a large draught.
In case of heavy seas or offshore gales, access to the harbour between the two piers can be tricky.
Where to stay in Fécamp?
As you can imagine, we did not test any hotel or B&B in Fécamp as we slept on board Kerguelen. We don’t want to suggest to you a hotel found randomly on the internet just to fill this section, so we will leave you the heavy task of looking for an accommodation by yourself 🙂
Where to berth your motorboat or sailboat in Fécamp?
If you are planning to come on board your boat, you can find here the daily rates in high and low season according to the length of your boat. Pontoon C in the outer harbour is dedicated to visitors.
Where to eat in Fécamp?
When travelling on board Kerguelen, we cook and eat almost every meal “at home”. Nevertheless, we have found a very good address if you want to eat locally caught food:
- Chez Nounoute and its incredible seafood platter (3 place Nicolas Selle, Fécamp), about 80€ for two people.
Our Facebook posts about our visit to Fécamp
Immerse yourself in our weekend in Fécamp