Divided only by the River Touques, the twin beach towns of Deauville and Trouville are distinctly different in character. The latter, arguably France’s oldest seaside resort, was discovered by artists and the upper crust in the days of Louis-Philippe; by the mid-1800s, it was the beach à la mode and painters like Eugène Boudin captured its beauty. Then the Duc de Mornay (half-brother of Napoléon III) and other aristocrats on the hunt for something more exclusive began building their villas along the deserted beach across the river. Thus was launched Deauville, a vigorous grande dame who started kicking up her heels in the Second Empire, kept swinging through the Belle Époque, and is still frequented by Rothschilds, princes, and movie stars. Few of them ever actually get in the water, though, because other attractions (including a gilt-edge casino and a fabled racecourse—to say nothing of the extravagant shops along Rue Eugène-Colas) prove so distracting. But perhaps Deauville is known best for its promenade des Planches—a boardwalk extending along the seafront that's lined with deck chairs, bars, striped cabanas, elegant hotels, plus an array of lovely half-timber Norman villas and block after block of prewar apartment houses.
Overbuilding has diminished the charm of both towns, yet the two maintain their popularity. Deauville is sometimes jokingly referred to as Paris's 21st arrondissement; while Trouville is a more of a family resort, harboring few pretensions. Moreover, shuttling between them is still easy by means of a five-minute drive or boat crossing.