The town was founded by a vassal of William the Conqueror, on land occupied by the Vikings, in the 11th century. The old privateer city and fortification, for the defence of Mont Saint-Michel, became a seaside resort in the 19th century which was frequented by many artists, and equipped with a golf course and a horse racing course. Home of the Dior family of industrialists, an important commune which absorbed the village of Saint-Nicolas-près-Granville in 1962, port and airport of South Manche, it has also been a Douzelage city since 1991, twinned with twenty European cities. Administratively, the islands of Chausey, which include a small harbour, are part of the commune of Granville.
The town is populated by 13,021 inhabitants, who are called Granvillais.
Granville is located at the edge of the English Channel at the extremity of the natural region (fr) of the Cotentin, it closes the north of the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel and the south of the Côte des Havres (fr). The upper town is located on a peninsula surrounded by schist cliffs, known as Pointe du Roc or Cap Lihou. The rest of the town extends eastward inland, bounded on the north by the Boscq (fr), a short coastal river, and on the south by alternating cliffs and beaches up to the Saigue stream. The commune has four sand beaches, one to the north between the peninsula and the river, three to the south on the bay. It occupies 990 acres (400 ha), of mostly urbanised territory but this urbanisation is now limited by the Natura 2000 European directive and the law of preservation of the coastline (fr). The town is part of the association (fr) of Les Plus Beaux Détours de France (fr). The National Institute of Geographic Information and Forestry gives the coordinates as 48°50′17″N 1°35′13″W / 48.83806°N 1.58694°W / 48.83806; -1.58694. It is at the centre of the Urban Area of Granville (fr).
Closing in the north of the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel and its foreshore of a very gentle gradient, it enjoys the highest tides in Europe, up to 14 m (46 ft) of tidal range. This situation also sometimes leads to significant changes of the coastal features of the nearby beaches.
Off the coast, the archipelago of the Chausey Islands is administered by the commune of Granville. It is one of the only island quarters of France. It consists of 52 islands of granite at high tide and more than 365 at low tide covering almost 5,000 ha (12,000 acres).
Granville is located 17 km (11 mi) south-west of its insular district of Chausey, 288 km (179 mi) to the west of Notre-Dame in Paris, point zero of the roads of France (fr), 40 km (25 mi) south-west of Saint-Lô, 24 km (15 mi) north-west of Avranches, 27 km (17 mi) south-west of Coutances, 90 km (56 mi) to the south of Cherbourg-Octeville, 23 km (14 mi) north of Mont Saint-Michel, 26 km (16 mi) northeast of Cancale and 99 km (62 mi) to the southwest of Caen.
A legacy of generations of sailors from the commune, it is also located 5,356 km (3,328 mi) from Granville in the State of New York, 6,053 km (3,761 mi) from Granville, West Virginia and 6,196 km (3,850 mi) from Granville, Ohio, among others.
Granville has natural limits materialised by the Boscq (fr) river to the north and the Saigue stream in the south. For a few years, an artificial river pierced between the mainland and the peninsula. It was filled and is now replaced by Place du Maréchal-Foch.
The commune is largely at sea level. It rises only towards the interior, a little more on the peninsula from the Pointe du Roc to reach 67 m (220 ft).
Granville, located on the Pointe du Roc is washed to the north, south and to the west by the English Channel. To the northeast lies the commune of Donville-les-Bains, the village of Yquelon is to the east and to the southeast are the small seaside resort of Saint-Pair-sur-Mer and the village of Saint-Planchers. The island quarter of Chausey is located off to the northwest, and Mont Saint-Michel is to the south.