Shrimps taking over a French town? Doesn’t seem possible, does it? But when the beautiful harbour town of Honfleur in France holds the Fête de la Crevette, shrimps really do take over the town for a whole weekend.
The Honfleur shrimp festival 2020 is from the 3rd and 4th of October. It is a two-day homage to the humble, but very tasty morsels of seafood which abound on Honfleur’s shores.
During the festival the cobbled streets of this medieval port town, also famous for its artistic influence on impressionist painters, come alive with anything and everything to do with shrimps and a lot more besides.
Honfleur, is and always has been a French town of fishing. Stroll around the stalls set up on the harbour-side for the festival and you’ll be impressed, not only by the quantity and quality of the crevette grise, but by the size of the crabs and lobsters too.
Watch how fresh herring is smoked in the traditional way, in barrels covered with sackcloth and you’re bound to be tempted to try a fillet or even two alongside your shrimps.
The colour and light of the Normandy region of France and especially Honfleur, has attracted artists from all over the world for centuries.
From the famous to the hobbyists, they’ve all tried to capture its special magic on their canvases. In celebration of that special interest, Honfleur hosts a painting competition during the weekend of the Fete de la Crevette.
The entries are exhibited, weather permitting, around the harbour along with some great handicrafts from local artisans.
You’ll be shouting ship ahoy if you’re down at the waterfront of the Vieux Bassin, the old harbour, in Honfleur. During the shrimp festival many of the old sailing rigs lay there at anchor with their sails unfurled to put on a stunning maritime exhibition.
If you hear some unusual sounds, it won’t be the squawking of the seagulls flying overhead, but something quite different.
Sea Shanty Sing-a-Long
If you’ve ever watched Pirates of the Caribbean then you’ll probably know a little about sea shanties. Yes, they’re those haunting tunes sung by sailors of old accompanied by the lilting music of a mouth organ or concertina.
When you’re in Honfleur, you’ll hear a few too. When local musicians take their positions on the decks of the rigs moored in the Vieux Bassin and belt out their renditions of the seafaring songs of old, the crowds gathered on the quay soon join in and so will you.
There’s a lot of different ways to cook shrimps, including some which may not even have entered your head. You’ll find out all about this amazing culinary ingredient and other seafood, at the professional chef’s cooking demonstration at the shrimp festival.
Be on the Quai de quarantaine in the port when the chef knock out some fantastic dishes and you’ll get to sample them for free too.
By David McClenaghan, CSIRO
After a weekend in Honfleur, you’ll probably think you know everything there is to know about shrimps. The question is, can you peel them and if the answer is yes, then how fast?
Because to win the shrimp peeling competition, you’re going to have to strip the skins from as many as you can in just two minutes. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but if you do manage to outstrip the other competitors then you’ll win – a plate of peeled shrimps. Enjoy!
So Why Honfluer Shrimp Festival?
Visiting Honfleur in the Normandy region of France will bring out your artistic streak.
Whether you’re an painter or a musician, when you see all of those delicious shrimp and whether you want to draw them or eat them, you’ll certainly be singing their praises. Come and have a bite at the Honfleur shrimp festival.
If you have any kind of seafood allergy, it’s probably better if you avoid Honfleur during Shrimp Festival weekend.
#2 Be Punctual
If you’re planning on dining out take note that French restaurants tend to have quite rigid service hours. Lunch is from midday until around two in the afternoon. Dinner is from seven-thirtyish until about ten-thirty. So don’t be late and definitely don’t be early either.
#3 Polish Your French
Learning a few words of the language before you go will give you an added advantage.
What To Do?
Honfleur could easily be compared to an oil painting which has sprung to life. It’s full of light and shade.
The colourful, harbour-front terraced houses hide the contrast of the dark, and somewhat Gothic, medieval streets behind them.
There, cobbled courtyards and slate fronted buildings stand alongside houses of wattle and daub and pointed bell towers. Wander through the narrow alleyways and you’ll find Honfleur’s true character.
Museum Eugene Boudin
It would be impossible to visit Honfleur without going to the Museum Eugene Boudin. The museum houses works from the great masters such as Monet and Duborg who often used Honfleur for inspiration for their works. View the paintings then step outside the door to see the real thing and you’ll fully appreciate the talent they had for putting paint on canvas.
If you’ve never been in a real French château before then take the time to visit the spectacular Château D’Orcher. Perched on a hillside between Honfleur and Le Havre it’s a magnificent example of 15th century architecture. When you’ve had time to admire the structure, explore the ornate gardens and enjoy the stunning views of the Seine estuary from the terrace of Le Potager.
Le Vintage Cafe
For something just a little different to traditional sea shanties, pop in to Le Vintage Cafe for a night of live music with a more modern style. Listen to some rock, pop or folk tunes while enjoying a great cocktail, a glass of wine or some of the locally brewed cider.
Where to Stay?
Honfleur is not a big town, but it is one of the most visited places in France so there’s plenty of hotels to choose from. If you’re planning on going to Honfleur for the shrimp festival, book early or you could miss out on getting a room.
When you’re going to stay in a place which is picturesquely quaint, why not choose a hotel with a matching style? Although Le Cheval Blanc facade may blend externally with other buildings in Honfleur, there’s nothing medieval about it inside.
Fresh and modern, it offers everything from basic rooms to suites for five people with a Jacuzzi. It’s also perfectly located for the shrimp festival as it’s right on the harbour.
L’Ex-Voto is a super central bed and breakfast is ideal for couples or single travellers who want to be close to the centre of Honfleur.
Comfortable in an old-world way, it’s just a five minute stroll to the Vieux Bassin where the shrimp festival is held and close to most of the other popular sights too. It also has its own restaurant with a street terrace so you won’t have far to go for dinner.
Where to Eat?
Honfleur’s close proximity to the sea means fish and seafood find their way on to many restaurant menus and are often the star ingredient.
Some oyster instead?
Oysters are the shellfish which take the limelight at the Bar a Huitres or Oyster Bar at the Hotel Entre Terre et Mer in Honfleur.
They don’t just serve them for dinner, you can grab a plateful any time of the day.
Not a fishy place
If you’ve had your fill of seafood at the festival try the chef’s style tripe with Calvados for something just a little different and which is definitely not fishy.
Typical French Cuisine
For a true taste of typical French cuisine served with style, try the Entrecôte Française at the Côté Resto.
You’ll find it succulent and perfect if you just want some meat with vegetables. They also have several set three-course menus which start at 24 euros and are excellent value for money.
A Vegetarian Meal
For a satisfying vegetarian meal try La Cidrerie who serve some enormous, stuffed savory pancakes in a rustic setting.
If it’s been a bit chilly wandering around Honfleur harbour pop in to the Cote Bassin for a warming and hearty ratatouille.
How To Get There?
The closest international airport to Honfleur is the Le Havre-Octeville Airport. There are no direct public transport services from Le Havre Airport to Honfleur, but there are from Le Havre itself.
Deauville-Normandie airport is also close to Honfleur and receives flights from Spain, Italy and Portugal.
If you’re flying into the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and hiring a car, the drive to Honfleur will take around two and a half hours depending on traffic.
You can also take the Rer Metro service into the city and take the train to Le Havre or Trouville-Deauville from there.
Honfleur doesn’t have it’s own train station. The closest stations area in Le Havre or Trouville-Deauville.
After arriving at either of those stations you will need to take a connecting service, the Bus Vert line 20 to reach Honfleur.
From Paris to Trouville-Deauville takes around two hours and fifteen minutes by train and to Le Havre the same. The bus journey from either is around half an hour and costs approximately 2.50 euros.
If you’re travelling to Honfleur from Caen, then take the Bus Vert 20 for Le Havre which passes through Honfleur.
If you’re driving in from outer lying areas such as Rouen, Lisieux or Amiens expect a one hour, forty-five minutes and two and a half hour drive respectively.
Honfleur has very limited parking on a normal day so during the festival weekend be prepared to park away from the busy harbour-side and walk in.
The Fête de la Crevette was first held in Honfleur in 1994. Now celebrating its twenty-fourth year, it continues to honor its fishing heritage, the sea which yields the catch and the fishermen who brave all weathers to bring it to shore.
It’s a time for all to relax, enjoy some delicious seafood and be reminded of Honfleur’s maritime nature with some traditional and very rousing sea shanties.