Ravaged during World War II and rebuilt thereafter, Caen is unlike most cities in France. While its history is still honoured and remembered, this capital of Lower Normandy has transformed into a youthful university town. Its energy is felt pulsing throughout the streets come nightfall, as thirsty Caennais make their way to their favourite watering hole. Find yours with the help of our picks for the best bars in Caen.
Brasserie, American, French, $$$
The street side terrace of Les Déserteurs
Pouring a wide selection of craft beers and bartenders sporting vests and bowties, Les Deserteurs moves away from the traditional style of French bars and cafés and offers instead a hip and modern vibe, with industrial-style exposed brick and piping that could have you fooled you’ve left France for New York. For those not partial to beer, they also serve spirits and wine alongside a small menu with simple but tasty snacks, such as chips and house-made guacamole and a carpaccio of noix de St Jacques. They also have a small boutique shop, La Cave des Deserteurs, located right around the corner where you can purchase brews from their carefully curated selection to enjoy at home.
The Belgian beer legend marked by a pink cartoon elephant has opened up shop on Quai Vendeuvre. Self-proclaimed as “The Place to Be(er)” in Caen, Delirium Café offers 20 beers on tap and more than 350 bottled options. Sounds overwhelming? Fear not – a friendly and helpful staff, knowledgeable in their product, are happy to advise depending on your tastes. Strong Belgian beers are best consumed on a full stomach, so they also offer a small menu with items such as charcuterie and cheese boards made with local product. While enjoyable day or night, the best time to visit is on a sunny day to make use of their backyard beer garden or front port side terrace.
You can’t miss Vous Êtes Ici with its funky bright blue and red metal bar stools lining the street in an old and traditional part of town. Inside you’ll find a multi-level space, with polaroids and plants lining the walls and couches to settle into, preferably with one of their cocktails in hand. Weekends can transform this typically chill space into a party, with DJ sets hosted on the upper floor. DJ or not, the bartenders are always playing great music. Ideal for large groups, you can also block off the top floor if you’re gathering for a special occasion.
The chic outdoor terrace of La Môme in historic Vaugueux
Caen’s historic Vaugueux district is one of the few parts of Caen that still bears resemblance to the city it was before the war. It’s here you will find La Môme: a wine and tapas bar with a selection of organic and natural wines from France and beyond, craft beers, and cocktails. The name La Môme is an homage to the famous French singer, Edith Piaf, whose grandparents at one time had a bistro in the corner that Piaf visited often. Your drink of choice is best enjoyed on their front terrace with views of the old quarter. However on colder days, their cosy art deco interior is just as inviting.
Trappist beer is a strong, ripe, slightly-fruity brew crafted in monasteries that must adhere to strict criteria before being designated with the official mark of Authentic Trappist Product. You’ll find them all, along with over 15 beers on tap, at Le Trappist – as authentic a Belgian bar you can visit outside of Belgium. Head here early for a classic “apéro Belge” from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm for discounted brews that you can sip at one of their barrel tables on the heated front terrace overlooking the Port de Plaisance. A small snack menu, including abbey-style artisan cheese, will keep you satiated during your visit.
A quirky pub next to Saint Sauveur square, locals can often be found at Chez Paulette enjoying their apéro, sipping on a pint or glass of wine while snacking on a saucisson on the front terrace. Inside sits a chapeau-wearing mannequin: “Madame Paulette Chombier” herself. Meant to personify the “crazy aunt” who is always encouraging you to let loose and have some fun, Madame Paulette is the fictional character that embodies the spirit of the bar. Exposed beams, wallpapered-walls adorned with framed pictures, and various vintage knick knacks create a homey feel of spending the evening in her home.
Outside L'Hydropathe on the charming Rue Saint-Laurent
L’Hydropathe is a wine and tapas bar tucked away on rue Saint Laurent in the heart of the town centre, popular particularly among young nine to fivers looking for a place to gather after work. Their sleek wooden bar and stone walls offer elegant decor and warm atmosphere to mingle among friends. Each week, they offer a complimentary appetiser, such as a tartine or house-made Fois Gras, upon purchase of a bottle of wine of their choosing. With a wine list like theirs, you’re sure to not be disappointed.
It’s impossible to have a list of bars in Caen and not mention any on Rue Écuyère, the bustling street in the town centre lined with cafés and bars frequented by students. Bar le 23 is the classic dive bar, with a rock and roll vibe and your choice of 49 different types of shooters for only 2 euro each. Those looking for a more refined experience can opt instead for beer or wine. Their street side terrace is covered and heated and perfect for people watching and taking in the city buzzing at night. It’s also a favourite local’s spot to gather for football matches.
L’Aca Bière on the prettiest street corner in Caen
Located on the picturesque corner of Rue Froide and Rue Saint Sauveur, L’Aca Bière boasts a wide variety of bottled beers from all over the world, as well as proudly from independent local breweries, available either to go or to enjoy on their terrace. Simple and unassuming, you might not even notice this tiny spot as you walk past, however its warm service and knowledge of product continues to attract beer enthusiasts night after night.
Praised for its fun atmosphere and warm hospitality, Au Chef Raide masters the careful process of combining quality product, particularly when it comes to their rums, whiskeys, and beers, with simple good times. They offer 11 beers on tap, two of which are in rotation to allow you to enjoy seasonal favourites and new local finds, as well as a perfect pub menu with burgers and Croque Monsieurs. Head here for their special event evenings, such as quiz nights, karaokes, and DJ sets that are all local favourites.