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Dieppe Beach – Birthplace of Seaside Swimming & Loved by the Painters

Dieppe beach is known as the birthplace of seaside swimming in France. As soon as the train route from Paris to Dieppe was completed in 1848, Dieppe beach and the surrounding area became the fashionable place to visit by the French aristocracy. Centuries later, the white-chalked cliffs, beaches & town of Dieppe continue to seduce the summer crowds! 

Dieppe Beach
Dieppe beach

The Impressionists & Dieppe Beach

The impressionism painters quickly followed. These painters loved the white chalk cliffs and the small fishing towns of the Alabaster Coast. Dieppe beach, it’s port & town are subjects of many paintings of impressionism artists, including Gauguin, Pissarro, Boudin, Gonzales, Renoir, Monet, Lebourg and others.

Dieppe Port painted by Paul Gauguin [Public Domain]
Dieppe Port painted by Paul Gauguin [Public Domain]
Port of Dieppe, Evening - Claude Monet
Port of Dieppe, Evening – Claude Monet [Public Domain]

Royalty & Dieppe Beach

Other famous celebs of the past who favoured the shores of Dieppe beach and it’s seaside town were Caroline de Bourbon, duchesse de Berry, King Léopold II de Belgique, the duke of Westminster, Camille Saint-Saëns, Claude Debussy, Madeleine Lemaire, la comtesse de Greffulhe, Robert de Montesquiou, Jacques-Émile Blanche, Walter Sickert, Marcel Proust, Oscar Wilde. Napoléon III and Empress Eugénie had their honeymoon in Dieppe.

Dieppe beach and the aristocratic sunseekers painted by Eugene Boudin
Dieppe beach and the aristocratic sunseekers painted by Eugene Boudin [Public Domain]

Cliffs at Dieppe -  Claude Monet Painting
Cliffs at Dieppe by Claude Monet [Public Domain]

Five Best Places to Visit in Dieppe

Dieppe is a fairly small town which is great for us tourists!. This means that you can visit most of the sites in Dieppe by foot. Dieppe is fairly off the tourist track. However, if painters flocked to this town over the centuries and immortalized the views on their canvases, there must be a reason. In fact, they all fell in love with the light and seascapes of this town.

Dieppe is much more than France’s oldest seaside resort. The port is in fact an active port, which means that Dieppe is active and open all year round. Although Dieppe is buzzing much more in the summer months, this town can be visited all throughout the year.

1. The Old Town on Dieppe and the Ports

Dieppe Port - Camille Pissarro Painting
Dieppe Port – Camille Pissarro Painting [Public Domain]

The old town of Dieppe is enchanting. The small streets around the beautiful Eglise St Jacques (St James church) take you back in time. You will see many charming and well kept 18th century half timbered Norman buildings. Go to La Place du Puits Salé. This square with the well is in the heart of the old town. Many of the buildings around the square have historical links to many famous visitors to Dieppe.

Take a walk along the pier that stretches out into the sea. You will see the most gorgeous views of the cliffs, Dieppe beach and the promenade. Continue to follow the promenade to the swimming area and go for a swim either in the pool or in the sea, weather permitting of course!

Dieppe port
Dieppe Port – Photo by Pierre-Julien Grizel(CC BY-NC 2.0)

2. Chateau Museum

This small museum is a must for all art lovers. It is located on a hill and it is a hike but so worth the effort! Firstly, the museum showcases a lovely art collection of 19th century impression. Here you will see Dieppe landscapes painted by all the famous impressionists including Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley, Boudin and several British artists, including Walter Sickert. However, even if you are not an art-lover, then walk up this hill anyway as you get the best views of Dieppe and the beach below. Go!! You will not be disappointed!

3. Buzzing Saturday Morning Dieppe Market

If you’re in Dieppe on a Saturday morning you can hardly miss this fascinating market as it fills streets, squares and more or less every available space. But I am warning you!!! This is a very popular and crowded market. The market sells everything! Fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, delicous cheeses, fragrant and colorful flowers, bric-a-brac, clothes etc. If you need to rest your feet, just sit in a cafe and enjoy the buzzing atmosphere. This is a morning market only. At around 1.00 pm the stall-holders pack up their wares.

An old postcard showing the centuries old Dieppe market
An old postcard showing the centuries old Dieppe market [Public Domain]

4. Chapelle Notre Dame de Bonsecours

This is not a very ancient church but it is an icon of Dieppe. It is visible from across the other side of town and is well worth a visit. Dieppe has many lost souls who never returned from the sea, including both fishermen and sailors. This church remembers them. Outside, the views are gorgeous. There are benches to sit on. Sit and relax and savor those wonderful harbour and city views!

5. Le Memorial du 19 Aout 1942

The Dieppe Raid was an Allied assault on the German-occupied port of Dieppe, on 19 August 1942, during World War Two. Less than 10 hours after the first landings, the last Allied troops had all been either killed, evacuated, or left behind to be captured by the Germans.

The Albaster Coast - Dieppe beach
The Albaster Coast – Dieppe beach Photo by Riccardo Maria Mantero (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Allied raid went badly. About 68 percent of the Canadian force alone was killed, wounded, or captured. Each year on August 19th a memorial service takes place in their honour.

Be sure to walk down the boardwalk to visit the various regimental memorials and other information boards. It is an important and sobering experience… Lest we forget!

For more information about Dieppe, press here

Just in case you are planning a trip to Normandy in September… note that every second September there is a world renowned kite festival in Dieppe!!!

Dieppe’s Kite Festival

Every second year (on the even number year), Dieppe is the location of a beautiful kite festival, the biggest of its kind in the world.

With around 40 countries and 1000 participants, the skies of Dieppe are full of hundreds of colorful & creative flying kites. It is a feast to the eyes!, This festival is listed among the 300 biggest world events.

The Dieppe kite festival is free and offers a range of workshops by professionals. In addition, there are tons of activities for kids. The streets of Dieppe are alive and buzzing with kite flying demonstrations, parades, music and street entertainment.

More than half a million visitors attend this festival! So book accommodation early if you want to stay in Dieppe.

Dieppe Kite Festival
Dieppe Kite Festival photo by Narisa (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Going on a Road Trip to Normandy? Check Out My Tips & Trips of Where to Go & What to See!