Beside the Seaside: Things to Do In Deauville
Deauville, on Normandy’s Côte Fleurie, was known for a long time as a seaside escape for well-heeled Parisians. A bit formal and a bit fancy, it became a place famous for horse racing, yachting galas, casinos, film festivals, and all the things that well-heeled Parisians liked to do to entertain themselves. These days, it’s more accessible to us regular folk – but it still has all those fabulous attractions to keep you entertained, and you don’t have to be one of the Rothschild family (or Orlando Bloom) to enjoy them!
Hit the beach
Above all else, Deauville is a beach resort. The beach is where it’s at. It’s a big, wide, beautiful golden expanse of a strand, punctuated by hundreds of colourful parasols which have now become an iconic symbol of the town. It’s the place to sit and relax, to see and be seen, to feel the sand between your toes. Don’t forget to take your picture of the parasols – that would be like going to New York and forgetting to take a picture of the Empire State Building.
Take a stroll down Les Planches
Les Planches is Deauville’s waterfront promenade. Its wooden beach huts are painted and pretty, and a stroll along the promenade in the sun will make you feel a bit like you’re on a film set. Take a walk early in the morning before the town’s woken up, or an evening stroll to see the sun set, or both – just make a boardwalk walk part of your day when you’re here. Keep an eye out for the famous names painted along the boardwalk too – France’s answer to the walk of fame on Hollywood boulevard!
It’s got two ports and a sailing school, not to mention the famous regattas and sailing events that draw sailors from all over the world to compete. If you’re into sailing, learning to sail, or even just doing absolutely nothing except relaxing on deck while a skipper takes you out for an exhilarating spin out on the English Channel, Deauville is the perfect place to do it.
See the Casino
Whether you’re the gambling kind or not you’ll enjoy a visit to see Deauville’s famous casino, the Casino Barrière de Deauville. It’s been around since the early 1900s and it’s a beautiful big building that’s even featured in James Bond (it was Fleming’s inspiration for the ‘Casino of Royale-les-Eaux’ in the novel Casino Royale). At night, its bright lights the seafront just like they have since it first opened in 1912.
Normandy is a superb destination for golfers, and Deauville makes the perfect base for anyone who wants to go and get a few rounds in during their holidays. There are nine great courses within easy reach of the town but if you have to choose, don’t miss the beautiful and challenging 36 Hole Omaha Beach golf course (a bit of a drive from Deauville, but worth it), or the Golf Barrière de Deauville just outside the town on Mount Canisy. Even if you have a terrible game, you’ll at least enjoy the superb views from up here down over the bay and the town!
Take a Trip to Trouville
Deauville’s older sibling Trouville is similar to Deauville in a lot of ways, but it’s totally different too. Yes, they are two seaside resort towns in Normandy that are so close that they actually border each other on the Côte Fleurie. Yes, they both have big golden beaches and boardwalk. Yes, they’re both full of beautiful second empire French mansions… but they’re different. Where Deauville is glitzy and a little exclusive, Trouville is casual and laid-back – and definitely a less expensive place to spend time than its fancy neighbour. If you’re staying in Deauville, make sure to visit Trouville’s promenade for at least one stroll, and eat in some of its restaurants.
Normandy is horse country. The region is home to two French National Studs and Deauville itself is home to two hippodromes where you can go to the races (maybe bet a little money, if the casino wasn’t enough for you). If you can get to Deauville-La Touques for the ‘Meeting d’Eté’ in August when some of the finest horses and the best jockeys in the world meet, you won’t regret it; the atmosphere is absolutely electric. Throughout the year there are racing events though, and you’ll love whichever one you get to. If you want to get more hands on than that, go to one of the local riding centres and go for a beach trek.
See the Bayeux Tapestry
70 metres long and almost a thousand years old, the Bayeux Tapestry might have been made in the UK but it resides in the Bayeux Tapestry Museum in Bayeux, just an hours’ drive from Deauville. It’s quite an impressive thing to have been made by human hands, and definitely worth seeing – the museum has audio guides that will help make the meaning and story behind the tapestry easy to understand.
Visit the D-Day Beaches
If you’ve gone to see the Bayeux Tapestry, you are only a short distance from Arromanches with its Mulberry Harbour, 360° cinema and the five D-Day Landing Beaches, which still go by their code names; Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. To get an all-round view of what happened in WW2 and learn about Normandy’s key role in the beginning of the end of the war, a trip to the Caen Mémorial is a must.
Cannes isn’t the only French seaside resort with form when it comes to film festivals – Deauville’s American Film Festival has been running since 1975, and it’s a fantastic one to experience. The town gets jam-packed with people during the festival (some of them quite famous), so if you do plan on going make sure to book your flights and accommodation early!