Bayeaux is best known for its vast tapestry illustrating the Norman Conquest of Britain in 1066, but is also renowned as a center of lacemaking. The Conservatoire de la Dentelle de Bayeux was founded in 1901 in a bid to conserve the local tradition of lacemaking, which began in the 17th century. Bayeux lace is made by hand on bobbins and its delicate patterns come in just three colors: white, black and ecru. While once there were more than 5,000 lacemakers in Normandy, today there are less than a dozen exponents of the art and several showcase their handiwork in the Lace Conservatory.
Located in a 16th-century mansion with the figures of Adam and Eve carved into its façade, the conservatory is open for tours of the workshops, where expert lacemakers are always on hand to demonstrate their skills while keeping alive their techniques. Visitors can have a go at creating their own lacy masterpieces and there are year-around exhibitions of delicate shawls, napkins and bookmarks; these are also on sale along with lacemaking implements and books. Individual commissions are undertaken.
A collection of handmade 18th-century Bayeaux lace is on show at the Musée Baron-Gérard (MAHB) on the same street; a side trip to the Lace Conservatory can be combined with touring the Normandy beaches.
Maison Adam et Eve, 6 rue du Bienvenu, Bayeaux. Open Mon-Sat May–Sept 9.30am–12.30pm, 2pm–6pm (Mon & Thur 5pm). Admission is free. Lacemaking courses start at €230. Best accessed by car along the N13; take exit 36 towards Bayeux. Alternatively take the train; the conservatory is a 15-minute walk from the railway station.