Falaise is a town (population 9,000) on the Ante River in the French region of Lower Normandy, south of the regional center Caen. It is famous as the birthplace of William the Conqueror and as the scene of remarkably fierce fighting in August 1944 during the Battle of Normandy, after the D-Day landings on the coast north of Caen.
In August 1944, two German armies were encircled in the area west of Falaise and mostly destroyed by the Allies, though they fought hard to escape via the Falaise gap to the east. Some 10,000 German troops were killed and 50,000 taken prisoner. Two-thirds of Falaise was destroyed by Allied bombing before the town was eventually taken by Canadian and Polish troops. Falaise was largely restored after the war.
From Paris, Falaise is a 262 km (3 h) drive west of the French capital by the A13, then south from Caen.
Located in the southern reaches of Normandy, Falaise represents half a day's excursion from the other major towns of Normandy:
- from Caen: 40 km (30 min)
- from Bayeux: 69 km (1 h)
- from Cherbourg: 159 km (2 h)
- from Rouen: 156 km (2 h)
- 1 Château Guillaume-le-Conquérant de Falaise, ☏ +33 2 31 41 61 44, fax: +33 2 31 41 66 87. The, Place Guillaume le Conquérant, open Feb—Dec 10AM-6PM (closes 7PM Jul and Aug), NB: closed 8 Jan—9 Feb inclusive and Christmas Day, admission adults €6.50, concessions and students €5, children 6-16 €3 - William the Conquerer's birthplace and an important stronghold of the Dukes of Normandy and English kings until the French king Phillipe Augustus wrested the castle from the hands of King John in 1204. The castle remains an impressive example of Norman fortification. Excellent audio-visual displays. English guided tours available (phone ahead). Castle shop.
- 2 Mémorial de Coudehard-Montormel, Les Hayettes, 61160 MontOrme. a memorial and museum devoted the 1944 battle of Falaise pocket
- Falaise Market, Place du marche. Saturdays. Every Saturday in and around the main square and Market hall. Fresh food, including fabulous fish and shellfish, vegetables, meat, poultry and cheese. Also clothes, plants and even furniture.
Having visited Falaise, you might like an excursion to other places that were important in the life of William the Conqueror. Caen and Bayeux lie less than 1 h to the north of the city.