Aerial view of Granville's Upper TownAerial view of Granville's Upper Town
©Aerial view of Granville's Upper Town|Philippe Fauvel
La Haute VilleA walk around Granville's ramparts

The Upper Town of Granville

The ramparts of Granville’s Haute-Ville are some 450 meters long and 100 meters wide. Walking around them is the first thing to do when discovering Granville. You’ll get a view of the different facets that make up the port city from its earliest past, dating back to the Middle Ages, to the present day. Not forgetting the epic of the corsaires and Terre-Neuvas, true adventurers of the seas, who are still the pride of Granvillais history. Wars, economic booms and busts, great fishing, the French Revolution, the birth of tourism… Granville alone recounts the major turning points in the last five centuries of French history. So, are you ready for the big trip?

Visit the

Granville's historic district

and enjoy the many panoramic views!
Pointe du Roc and Granville's Upper Town
Pointe du Roc and Granville's Upper Town
Entourée par la mer, la Pointe du Roc de Granville est une presqu'île chargée d'histoire. De la Haute-Ville au phare emblématique de la cité portuaire, baladez-vous en empruntant les rues et les sentiers foulés autrefois par les corsaires et les Terre-Neuvas.

Good to know

Find your Granville Upper Town tour card among the 19 family walks to do in Destination Granville Terre et Mer!

From the casino to the Grand Porte

Starting from the place du casino, i.e. “down below”, you take the measure of the height of this old rock. To avoid too steep a climb, it’s time to head for rue des Juifs.

La rue des Juifs

This street is the traditional access, once used by carts, to reach the foot of the remparts. You’ll appreciate its artistic atmosphere between art galleries, bookstores, antique shops and other businesses giving a quiet charm to this little climb. Rue des Juifs owes its name to the settlement of Jewish families along what would form the first suburb of Granville. At the time, only the north side of the street was built, as the sea was still pounding the rock on the south side.

But where is Mont-Saint-Michel?

Arrived at the top of Rue des Juifs, you enjoy a first viewpoint looking south. This is your chance to look for Mont Saint-Michel… Which you won’t find! In fact, the famous monument is hidden just behind the Pointe de Carolles. And that’s one of the reasons why Granville exists…

The genesis of Granville

In 1439, on the heights of the Pointe du Roc, when this granite peninsula was only inhabited by a handful of fishermen, the English seneschal Sir Thomas de Scales decided to build a stronghold in order to make progress in the conquest of Norman lands.

Why? Because this stretch of rock is out of sight of Mont Saint-Michel, the English’s coveted goal of conquest! So they obtained the land by buying it from local lord Jean d’Argouges, and began by digging a 7-meter-wide trench where the Casino now stands. This allowed them to establish the best natural defense of all: turning Granville into an island at every high tide!

In front of the Grand Porte

Turn around, cross the street and stop in this little square opposite the pont-levis. You’ll see a plaque evoking a “charte de franchise“. In 1442, three years after their arrival, the English were “booted” by the Norman knights of Louis d’Estouteville, captain of Mont-Saint-Michel.

Charles VII, then king in the twilight of the Hundred Years’ War, realized the strategic military interest represented by this strong place and, through a charter of franchise in 1445, granted a coat of arms and tax exemption to the inhabitants of what would later become the corsair city of Granville.

From the Grand Porte to Notre-Dame du Cap Lihou church

The Grand Porte: historical witness to the siege of Granville by the Vendéens

The history of Granville was marked by a key military episode in the Guerres de Vendée.

In autumn 1793, the royalist armies were in the midst of their “virée de galerne” following the defeat at Cholet. On November 14, they laid siege to Granville in order to control a port and rally the English. This battle saw more than 20,000 “whites” face off against 5,500 “blue” soldiers aided by civilians taking refuge in the place forte. With no effective siege equipment, a lot of bad information and facing artillery more powerful than expected, the Vendéens beat a retreat on November 15 without having seen the shadow of an English ship.

The plaque under the porch lists the Granvillais civilians who fell during this siege, including Jacques-François Clément-Desmaisons, a municipal officer, whose heroism has been immortalized on a canvas by Maurice Orange.

On Cambernon Square

After crossing the pont-levis and walking up the winding cobbled street, you arrive at the heart of the Haute-Ville: the place Cambernon.

Some shops remain here, but you have to imagine that the whole area was filled with stalls until the middle of the 20th century.

At the corner of rue Cambernon and rue Notre-Dame, you’ll spot a plaque. This was recently revealed by Prince Albert II of Monaco as a descendant of the Counts of Matignon. The Matignons ruled Granville for several generations and stayed in this private mansion. Jacques IV de Gouyon de Matignon then became Jacques I de Grimaldi after the death of his wife, Louise-Hippolyte, sovereign of Monaco. Was it then that Granville became known as the Monaco of the North? No, because the origin of the nickname is more recent, but we must admit that these stories of crowned heads are always very juicy! Especially as James I was not a very exemplary husband…

The Watch House

Then head back up the rue Notre-Dame towards the church and go around it to the south. You’ll then pass by the Maison du Guet. This charming building is an integral part of the fortified town’s skyline. Its medieval allure and Hogwarts-like turrets raise many questions. In fact, it’s a private seaside home dating back to the early 20th century. Astonishing, isn’t it? The view of the outer harbor and the dock is quite remarkable.

Now enter the church through a small doorway to the north of the building.

Notre-Dame du Cap Lihou church

A chapel was erected on this very site as early as the XIIth century when, according to legend, local fishermen miraculously captured a statue of the Virgin Mary in their nets. The foundations of today’s church date back to English times (1440), but it took over three centuries for the edifice to appear in its current form. Proudly perched on the Roc de Granville, it constantly confronts the sea spray with its body of granite from Chausey.

Inside, we discover a church definitely oriented towards the sea with its north chapel dedicated to the Virgin and its south chapel dedicated to Saint-Clément adorned with remarkable ex-votos. Finally, a tour of the ambulatory is an absolute must to observe the magnificent stained-glass windows by master glassworker Jacques Le Chevallier dating from the second half of the 20th century.

From the church to Place de l'Isthme

Now you’re about to cross the whole district from west to east. Don’t worry, it’s only a 500m walk!

Rue du Nord

After discovering the church, head for the rempart nord. You’re close to Granville’s former barracks, which housed various infantry regiments until 1984. Enjoy the view and the sea spray from the windy Rue du Nord! You can see Chausey in the distance, this archipelago of a thousand mineral shades. Walk along the rampart and take a deep breath until you fork right onto rue des Platriers. Follow this road to reach the corner of rue du marché au Pain and rue Notre-Dame.

In the streets of a port city

At this crossroads, you’ll see both tenement buildings, where families lived in apartments, and private mansions. The latter often belonged to wealthy shipowners who contributed to the growth and renown of the port of Granville. Sometimes privateers, sometimes Newfoundlanders, Granville’s sailors have long been valiant adventurers, never really sure of returning home… That’s why, before each fishing season, they celebrated Carnival, a tradition that is still perpetuated today and recognized by Unesco.

You’re also standing in front of the Théatre de la Haute-Ville. This is an ancient court where the many commercial disputes that could arise in such a trading city were judged.

Place de l'Isthme

Reaching the top of Rue Notre-Dame, you arrive place de l’Isthme. It’s divided into two parts separated by a 19th-century moat. The Musée d’art moderne Richard Anacréon, formerly a convent and then a school, stands on the western side of the square. The famous Tranchée aux Anglais, meanwhile, is visible from the eastern side, when you come to tickle the Casino spires. From this vantage point, it’s easy to grasp the importance of the rise of seaside tourism in Granville. Casino, hotels or former hotels, promenade dyke, bathing cabins… Just one look from these heights and our minds are on vacation

If you want to return to the starting point, you can take the staircase on the north side, the one with a white banister. It leads directly down to the place du casino.