Coutances in Normandy is an historical market town, set amongst beautiful countryside and close to the coast, that is famous for its beautiful cathedral.
A charming medieval town, Coutances has been awarded both the Ville d'Art et d'Histoire and the Ville Fleurie labels. Occupied by the English for over 30 years during the Hundred Years War, the town developed its craft industry in the 15th and 16th centuries leading to the building of several impressive townhouses in the Old Town that can still be seen today. A network of medieval courtyards and narrow streets, the Old Town retains much of its original charm despite the destruction of 60% of the town during WW2 and at its heart sits the Gothic Coutances cathedral. Built at the start of the 13th century, the cathedral is one of Normandy's most famous architectural monuments and is a remarkable work of Gothic architecture. Tours in English are available, highlighting the history and construction of the cathedral, where you can visit the lantern tower and admire the Gothic stained glass windows. The Eglise St Pierre is also a very pretty church worth taking a look around to discover a wonderful juxtaposition of Gothic and Renaissance architecture topped with a beautiful lantern tower, and the late Gothic Eglise St Nicolas offers a light and airy chancel that is perfect for contemplation.
Uncover beautiful artworks at the Musée Quesnel Morinière, set in a stunning granite 17th century townhouse, where you'll find some curious Norman ceramics, paintings from the 17th to 19th centuries, and a collection of 20th century artworks from painters in and around Coutances. There are many craftsmen in the town, including carpenters, painters and engravers, who give demonstrations in their workshops. Or, why not get out and about and take a literary or heritage walk around the town and countryside? There are 11 hiking routes in the countryside around Coutances, with maps of the routes available from the Tourist Office. Most of the routes are aimed at families and are no longer than 10km, and some routes are also open to mountain bikers and horse riders. The town itself has some very pretty gardens, especially the picturesque Jardin des Plantes botanical garden outside of the Musée Quesnel Morinière. The hilly Jardin Flore et Sens is also perfect for a peaceful walk amongst the paths through the soothing greenery and gentle river. If you enjoy live music, be sure to visit in May when Coutances hosts the annual Jazz Sous les Pommiers, (jazz beneath the apple trees) a week-long jazz and world music festival full of fantastic concerts from a variety of musicians.
Coutances has some great shopping, particularly at the local market on a Thursday. There is also a great fish market where you can buy locally caught fresh fish. With its close proximity to the coast, which is just 20 minutes drive away, fish and seafood, such as oysters and mussels, are popular on Coutances' restaurant menus. The town is also well-known for its namesake cheese, Le Coutances. A rustic soft, creamy cheese with a milky taste, Le Coutances is has a subtle flavour and a soft, bloomy white rind. Be sure to drink some of the local cider, known as cidre, with your meal and try a traditional aperitif of Calvados, a Norman apple brandy.
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