Wondering what to see and do in Deauville? The list is endless.
The French seaside town of Deauville is testament to the enduring appeal of luxury and celebrity. Less internationally famous than the Mediterranean resorts of Monaco and Monte Carlo, Deauville is, nonetheless, a watchword throughout France for luxurious high living, aristocratic abandon and - above all - the stylish lifestyles of the rich and famous. But the good news for 21st century travelers is that you don’t have to be a millionaire to enjoy what this unique resort has to offer.
A very French history
Just a short train ride from Paris, Deauville became famous as a rich Parisian’s playground around the turn of the 20th century. The arrival of the railway and the promise of a direct route from the capital was pivotal in that development. The establishment of luxurious hotels, a race course, an impressive casino and abundant spas followed as the town’s administrators laid down a model that has since been followed with conspicuous success by more recent entrepreneurs. Combined with the timeless appeal of the road trip potential of Northern French Normandy coast and a harbor perfectly suited to leisure, these attractions saw Deauville quickly establish itself as a resort to rival any on the continent.
The fact that Coco Chanel opened her first boutique in Deauville is testament to the social cachet that the town’s administrators worked to capture and promote. In more recent times the staging of a prestigious annual film festival - the Festival du Cinéma Américain de Deauville - has ensured that the sparkle of celebrity remains undimmed.
Something for everyone
Like all such resorts - and parallels with Vegas and New Jersey most certainly apply - Deauville depends on being able to attract visitors and to keep them coming back time and time again. That old-world charm may be completely beguiling, but it is still founded on an entirely pragmatic approach to business.
In the 21st century, when the distinction between society’s upper echelon and the rest of us is not quite as stark as it once was, that means Deauville is bound to offer accommodation and attractions that are affordable to everybody. There is a fine line to tread between attracting visitor numbers and maintaining the sense of somewhere special and refined. But to the great credit of the town’s administrators, it is a trick that Deauville pulls off with what seems like an effortless aplomb.
Attracting the mainstream
The town’s airport has recently agreed routes with budget airlines Ryan Air and Flybe. The old world dependency on weekend visitors from the Paris beau monde has been replaced by a thoroughly modern acceptance of more mainstream holidaymakers. Deauville is well supplied with hotel and self-catering accommodation to suit all budgets, and there are also plenty of campsites for those really keen to stretch their budgets with things like camping in the rain.
At the other end of the scale, of course, are the famous Hôtel Barrière Le Royal Deauville and the exotically styled Hôtel Barrière Le Normandy. Both specialize in the sort of five star pampering that are part of Deauville’s historic appeal.
Five star razzmatazz
The Hôtel Barrière in particular, with its franco-gothic styling and its emphatically European sense of well-upholstered history, is a spectacle in its own right. And complementing these magnificent testaments to opulence is the no-less imposing Casino Barrière de Deauville, strikingly set against the broad white strand of Normandy’s perfect beaches.
Built at the height of Deauville’s early 20th century boom (1912), the casino’s architects left nothing to chance. Its 20 meter high ceiling spans two magnificent baroque gaming salons, an 18th century styled theatre - Le Petit Trianon - modelled on Marie Antoinette’s original Trianon at Versailles, two cinemas, three restaurants, two bars and a reception suite guaranteed to impress.
That same sense of theatrical majesty is captured in a more dynamic fashion at the prestigious race meetings held at the nearby racecourse - La Touques - which stages internationally renowned events such as the Prix Rothschild, the Prix Morny, and the Prix Jacques Le Marois which are staged each year. Deauville is situated in some of France’s most equine friendly countryside and the entire region is a homeland for racing breeders and trainers.
Perhaps inevitably the rolling countryside that is so favorable for the local horse breeders is equally suited to golf. In recognition of the rise in so-called golf-tourism, Deauville boasts four championship courses as well as the splendidly appointed Barriere L'Hotel du Golf Deauville. There is even a floodlit course for those who are keen to save the daylight for the sightseeing to play at night. Night-time golf is not something you get the chance to enjoy just anywhere!
For those who like the water, the purpose-built harbor regularly accommodates up to 850 private yachts. The town is a popular destination for all water sports lovers although it is worth acknowledging that whilst Deauville itself is self-consciously up market, the neighboring Trouville is far more egalitarian (and reasonably priced!).
Capturing the value
If all this sounds a bit expensive, have no fear. Whilst it is easy to spend like there is no tomorrow in a place like Deauville, where conspicuous consumption is part of the attraction, there is no absolute necessity to do so. You can pick and choose how much time to spend in the casino or at the race track, just as you can make the most of the architectural splendor and the maritime scenery simply by passing through and feasting your eyes.
There is no doubt that Deauville is a beautiful destination and that the town’s developers have gone to extraordinary lengths to make it as luxurious and glamourous as possible. But it is equally true that you can go a long way with a good beach, good company and great and inexpensive food and wine. Deauville offers all of those things.
Have you been to Deauville or Northern France? What are your favourite things to explore?
If you enjoyed this article, you'll also like:
A Sentimental Visit to St Symphorien
Maple Leaf Memories in Ville-sur-Haine
Exploring the Rural Belgium Countryside
This is a guest post written by Sophie McDermott