Dieppe in Normandy is a bustling fishing port with a long and eventful history that became France's first seaside resort in the 1800s.
Although Henry III is said to have visited Dieppe to bathe in the sea waters in the 13th century on advice of his doctors', it was not until the 1800s that bathing in the sea here became truly popular. The Duchesse de Berry began the seabathing ritual that attracted English aristocrats from across the Channel, and rich Parisians (as Dieppe is the closest beach to the capital) in the 19th century. Dieppe's history extends as far back as the Saxons when the Normans in the 7th to 8th centuries named the town Dieppe from the Anglo-Saxon word for 'deep'. Dieppe became famous, and prosperous, between the 14th and 15th centuries as a port for adventurers and it was from here that adventurers set sail to discover Canada. The 16th century onwards saw Dieppe become an important port for trade on the high seas with Jehan Argo, a local shipowner, sending his vessels to such far-flung places as Brazil, Africa and North America. Ships, in the 17th century, brought ivory from Guinea and the town became famous throughout France, and beyond, for its ivory carvers who were inspired by the sea.
The 15th century château de Dieppe stands on a dry, rocky hill, with a commanding view of the town and sea, and is now a Château-Musée housing artefacts from the town including maritime objects, paintings and a unique collection of sculpted ivory pieces. The town's other museums are L'Estran, a maritime and conservation centre with aquariums inhabited by marine species from the Channel and North Sea, and a memorial exhibition commemorating the ill-fated Operation Jubilee in WW2. On 19th August 1942, the Allieds launched a raid from the sea along the coast of Dieppe with 6100 men, mainly Canadians, which went catastrophically and resulted in the death or capture of 3000 soldiers. In honour of those who lost their lives in this scuppered operation, the 2nd Canadian Division was given the honour of liberating Dieppe in 1944. You can visit the beaches where the Allied troops landed, and which are today a great place to try some water sports such as kayaking, yachting and diving. Why not hire a boat or take a boat trip and go fishing? Or, if you'd rather enjoy the sea for its medicinal and beauty benefits, Les Bains, the 19th century baths, are now a water sports centre and health spa with indoor and outdoor heated pools filled with sea water.
The coast of Dieppe is great for hiking and the GR 21 trail runs along the beautiful Alabaster Coast between Dieppe and Etretat (around 35km), taking you past pretty ports, savage coasts and atop striking chalk and limestone cliffs. There is also a stunning forest just outside of the town to the south-east that stretches acorss the chalk plateau with clusters of oak trees and beeches, and wide trails that are great for walks. Just 15 minutes out of the town by car is the beautiful Château de Miromesnil, a fairytale château built in 1590 that has a wonderful park with a pretty kitchen garden, beech grove and 200 year old Lebanese cedar tree amongst other horticultural delights.
A fishing port, Dieppe has a lively fish market and many fishmongers where you can buy herrings and shellfish, especially scallops - for which Dieppe is the leading French port for catching these fruits de mer. On a Saturday there is a traditional town market selling regional foods, clothes and more, or you can buy some regional cheeses, cidre and other local specialities from the specialist food and wine shops in the town. Seafood is, of course, high up on the menu and be sure to try some dishes that come á la Dieppoise - in a cream and mushroom sauce. Why not take home some sweet pickled herrings and bubbly cidre bouché and enjoy the delicious tastes of Norman cuisine for longer?
Why visit Dieppe?
- Château museum filled with maritime and ivory exhibits
- Excellent shellfish especially scallops
- WW2 Operation Jubilee history and memorial
- Château de Miromesnil and gardens
- Country: France
- Region: Normandy
- Department: Seine-Maritime
- Population: 34,500
- Coordinates: 49.92277,1.077583
Coordinates shown are based on the WGS84 system, please check driving directions before departing.