Calvados is one of the three departments of the Lower Normandy region, the other two being Manche and Orne. It gathers 672,000 inhabitants, called the Calvadosiens. It is located in the north east of the region and is composed of many ‘Pays’. Indeed, the creation of Calvados, as many departments in France was totally artificial and gathers many different cultural and geographical areas. Hence, in Calvados there are mainly 4 areas: in the west of the department there is the Bessin area, mainly around Bayeux; in the south west there is the Norman Switzerland, a hilly land run by few rivers; in the centre of the department there is Caen plain land; the Auge Country stands in the east of the department and displays a typical Norman picture with its half-timbered houses; it is one of Calvados main assets as it gathers the most beautiful landscapes and beaches of the area.
When you hear the word Calvados, you cannot help thinking of the renowned apple brandy. However, Calvados has many other assets that we tend to forget that they belong to this department. Some of the most renowned and beautiful places in Normandy (gathering Lower and Upper Normandy) are actually situated in the Calvados department. For instance, it gathers the Deauville American Film Festival, the beautiful town of Caen, the colourful Honfleur harbour, and so on.
Calvados has also its name etched in history. Even though its history started before William the Conqueror, the latter made the area famous and contributed a lot to its development and its wealth. Indeed, most of historical and architectural monuments we can visit today where built under his reign. He was born in Falaise, and as a Normandy Duke he made Caen the centre of the Duchy. Many abbeys (amongst others, the Abbaye-aux-Hommes), castles and churches were built before he left to conquer England. An incontrovertible master piece if you wish to learn more about life during William the Conqueror reign is Bayeux Tapestry.
The other key period in Calvados’ history was the Allies’ landing. This was a sad page of history as the department suffered a lot from bombings. Many towns and cities, such as Caen, were destroyed, and as a consequence were rebuilt afterwards. In these towns, it is interesting to see how modern architecture coexists with vestiges of old monuments.
|Property prices in the Calvados department in April 2009|
|Property types||Price €/ sq m||Average price €||Average size|
|Calvados Total||€2,900/sq m|
Since the national average for house prices is €3,200/sq m in 2009, the Calvados department is rather an expensive department with €2,900sq m. However, this is understandable as the figure is an average which takes into account all goods sold in the department, and that pulls prices up. Indeed, there are some rather expensive towns in Calvados, such as Deauville, which is a very famous beach resort, and where a house is sold €4,780/sq m. That means that the rest of the department is rather affordable, and you can easily find low prices.
Moreover, as in April 2009 prices decreased by almost 2%, it might be the perfect time to buy a house in Calvados. The whole country has suffered from the real estate crisis, but prices in some regions are starting to increase again. It is not the case yet in Calvados as prices are still decreasing, however it might not last long. Owing to the proximity to England, buying a property in Calvados can be a good idea for a second-home, but it is also a good investment for a buy-to-let. With €13.63/sq m/month, once again Calvados is expensive compared to the French average (€12.20/sq m/month). Moreover, as 42% of residents are tenants, and as the department is a touristic destination, Calvados offers great rental opportunities.
To get updated info about property prices in Calvados, please browse our French Property Market Reports published in the News Section every month.
Click here to learn more about Basse Normandie’s Property Prices.
Culture, art and historical heritage: the medieval and modern periods have left major monuments in the Calvados department, both in civil and religious architecture. Castles and most of churches and abbeys date back from the Normandy Dukes period. Gothic style started to dominate during the 12th century, and vestiges of this time can be seen through Bayeux cathedral for instance. At the same time, castles were fortified and we can still see remains of such fortifications in Caen, Falaise, Vire, etc.
Cosmopolitan life: Calvados was inhabited by many different people, from Roman to Vikings, including English and Britons. Moreover, its harbours and beaches attract many wealthy families from all over Europe. When international festivals in Deauville take place, stars from all over the world rush to the charming town which gets very busy. If you like night life and cosmopolitan life, Calvados with its beach resorts is definitely for you!
Good food:Normandy in general, is renowned for its dairy and apples products. Indeed, the department displays some AOC in both field: Isigny butter is famous to be a very smouth and tasty butter; the Camembert was first produced in Normandy before being copied in the rest of France, since 1983 Normandy Camembert is an AOC; the Livarot, another creamy cheese less famous, but more typical, it is easily recognizable as it is surrounded with 5 straps of reed, which deserved it the name of ‘Colonel’. Calvados, and specially Bayeux, has its own pork type; it is only produced by small farmers, hence you can be sure the quality is the best. Finally, but not only, Norman oysters are starting to be famous all around France.
Costal department: Calvados has 116km of sea front, and gathers as well sought after beaches (Deauville) as fish and trade harbours. It was in 1840 when the sea bath started to take place. The first ones were in Trouville, and then Deauville, Honfleur, etc. followed the fashion and adapted their infrastructures to the new tourism. Wealthy people from Paris, as well as show business stars have now their second-home built in one of these famous beach resorts. This explains the presence of many manors and villas along the seafront.
Location – transport infrastructure: Calvados is an attractive department for British people as it is located just the other side of the English Channel, hence it is easy and rather cheap to reach. If you want to go by car, you can take the ferry from Portsmouth until Caen-Ouistreham and Cherbourg, or from Poole and Rosslare Europort to Cherbourg. Calvados is also well linked to the rest of the country, and above all Paris, thanks to motorway and train networks.
Wine and alcoholic drinks: Calvados is worldwide renowned for its homonym brandy. It is made of distilled dry cider and then it has to age in oak casks; the longer it ages, the smoother the drink becomes. Calvados is an AOC label, and the label is divided into 3 categories: ‘Calvados’ represents 74% of the production and is made of cider or poiré distillation; ‘Calvados Pays d’Auge’ represents 25% of the production, and is made of cider double distillation with apples from Pays d’Auge only; and the remaining 1% is the ‘Calvados domfrontais’ and is made of cider and 30% of poiré. As far as cider is concerned, it is made all around the world, but in Normandy you will find a cider made with pears, called Poiré. Finally you will have to taste the Pommeau, which is an aperitif made of apple juice and calvados.
Farmhouses: it was traditionally used by cheese makers or apples growers. This property gathers few buildings under the same roof forming a regular rectangle with an inside courtyard. It is usually a stone house as it was made with local materials, such as Caen stone (a white stone exported to England and that can be seen through famous monuments, such as the London Tower).
Manors: they are luxurious properties that used to represent the power and wealth of their residents. They are mainly found in the countryside around towns and cities, such as Caen or Honfleur. The property comes with a huge piece of land, and is around 300sq m. There have no less than 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, a traditional big kitchen, an office and a living room. They are at least 2 storey high, sometimes 3. It is a perfect investment if you want to let it as a gîte; however you will also enjoy it as a second-home as it can welcome many people.
Half-timbered house: this kind of property is typical almost all around France. In Normandy it is a mix between French, German and English features. Walls are made with cob inserted between wood panels. The down part of the house is in stone while the upper part boasts a beautiful colombage where timber frame and bricks are mixed into beautiful geometrical shapes. The house is big, in average 2 storey high, it comes with 3 or 4 bedrooms, a traditional kitchen, a living room, 2 bathrooms, etc. when located in the countryside it also comes with a piece of land.
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|Take a closer look at the Calvados property market:|
|Bayeux Property Information||Caen Property Information|
|Deauville Property Information||Honfleur Property Information|