The oldest of the French seaside resorts and the leading fishing port for scallops, Dieppe cultivates charm and a gentle way of life. For a thousand years, it has been married to the sea and has enclosed it between its streets and its houses full of history. In addition to its important cultural and culinary offer, one of the richnesses of Dieppe resides on its seafront. Indeed, the municipality took advantage of the creation of an important aquatic center, with a spa area and an outdoor Olympic pool heated all year round, to develop the city's waterfront. Large lawns, children's gardens, restaurants, a wide esplanade 2 km long ... Everything has been designed to make a stroll in Dieppe a moment of relaxation
Dieppe, a fishing port steeped in history
To soak up the atmosphere of Dieppe, head first for the Pollet district. This is THE traditional district of the city, inhabited by fishermen, called the "Polletais", since the Middle Ages. The place is made up of modest flint houses, and its narrow streets still resound with the songs of the sailors of the past. Spared during the fire of the city in 1694, the district was deeply marked by the industrialization of the port and, from 1880, by the digging of a channel which cut it in two. Once despised by many Dieppois as being unhealthy, the Pollet has become popular in recent years. This enthusiasm can be explained in particular by a successful urban rehabilitation programme which has given a boost to the streets, without altering the ancestral architectural heritage
To continue our immersion, we can go to the other side of the port in the Bout du Quai district, one of the oldest in the Norman city. The rue des Cordiers, the rue des Veulets and the place du Moulin-à-Vent are home to a large number of timber-framed houses, classified as historical monuments, which predate the great fire that ravaged the town in 1694. Like the Pollet, located on the other side of the port, the Bout-du-Quai was traditionally a fishermen's district, as evidenced by the many Virgins located in niches on the facades of houses, evidence of a lively popular cult.
Finally, being a flourishing town with a renowned port exposes it to dangers, both maritime and terrestrial. In the 14th century, the city therefore built ramparts to protect itself. All that remains of these fortifications is the western port gate (visible from Boulevard de Verdun) and its two stone and flint turrets. But what could have made the walls of Dieppe fall? Paradoxically, it was an invasion, but a largely positive one: in order to enhance the city at the beginning of the 19th century and to meet the ever-increasing demands of tourists who had come to enjoy the joys of sea bathing, the other five gates of the city were destroyed. This transformation is partly due to Marie-Caroline, Duchess of Berry, who played an important role in the development of the seaside town.
Must-see tours of the maritime city
To understand the rich maritime history of the city, you should not miss a visit to the castle-museum. From a keep (14th century), the flint and sandstone castle was built by Captain Desmarets after 1435 to defend the town against the English during the Hundred Years' War. It was then linked to the fortifications that surrounded the city. Seat of the governor until the French Revolution, place of garrison until 1820, the castle has been expanded and redesigned several times. Bought by the municipality, it became a museum in 1923 and houses an exceptional collection of ivories sculpted in Dieppe workshops. Ancient cartography, models of traditional boats, ivory pieces, paintings from the great European schools evoke the maritime adventure of Dieppe and its port from the time of the great discoveries of the 16th century to the 20th century of ocean liners. The museum also regularly hosts temporary exhibitions. Not to spoil anything, outside the esplanade of the Belvedere offers an exceptional view of the city and the beach
Dieppe was also strongly affected during the Second World War. In a dozen hours, nearly 1,197 Allied soldiers lost their lives in 1942 while fighting to liberate the town: of the 6,000 soldiers who landed, the majority of whom were Canadians, few were able to bear witness to the horror of this historic episode. You must therefore pay tribute to them at the Memorial, which explains, beach by beach, the course of the fighting, thanks to models, documents and photographs. The testimonies of the soldiers add a touch of emotion to the story of these tragic hours, and make this memorial a deeply memorable place, to always remember the sacrifice of these men in the name of freedom. In fact, since 1952, a town in Canada has been renamed Dieppe as a tribute to this part of history.
Finally, after a tour of the Place du Puits-Salé, you can visit the Saint-Jacques church, the Saint-Rémy church and, of course, the Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours chapel, which offers an exceptional panorama of the Dieppe waterfront and its surroundings in total tranquility. After having taken a breath of fresh air at the top of the cliff sheltering the chapel, you will inevitably have the curiosity to pass the door of this historical monument, impossible to circumvent of the city. From an architectural point of view, the chapel combines Romanesque, Byzantine and Oriental elements. Originally built as a place of pilgrimage, the building has become a place dedicated to the memory of sailors who disappeared off the coast of Dieppe at the beginning of the 20th century. Inside, you will be moved by the sight of the many commemorative plaques which keep alive the memory of these men swept away by the sea. A must-see visit before a beautiful and invigorating walk on the town's beach
When to visit? Dieppe can be visited all year round, although the arrival of fine weather is a good time to plan a stay to enjoy the coastline
How to get there. To come to Dieppe, prefer the train (via Rouen, from Paris) or the car.
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