What to Visit in Normandy

Etretat - one of the best attractions of Normandy

What to do in Normandy: main attractions to visit. The most famous sights of the historical region of France, description and historical facts, how to get from Paris – explored good Time for Trip.

Normandy is one of the most popular tourist areas of France. Mostly perhaps due its location not far from Paris – the distance to Rouen, its main city, is about 135 km. But not least because traveling here is guaranteed to give you a lot of vivid impressions!

After all, there is something to do in Normandy for 3 to 5 days, even a week!

The views here are such beautiful that you unwittingly want to capture them on paper or at least on a smartphone camera. The green water meadows in Normandy smoothly flow into seascapes, old towns delight with coziness, lacy Gothic cathedrals and incredibly beautiful old streets where time seems to slow down.

It is not for nothing that famous artists, including one of the founders of Impressionism, Claude Monet, once upon drew inspiration from here

Key Symbols

Normandy is also known for orchards and dairy farms. It produces the world-famous cider and apple brandy, Calvados, liqueur Chartreuse.

As well as Pommeau, an alcoholic beverage made from a blend of one year-old apple brandies. The drink which you should obviously buy in France. For a plain reason – you can’t anywhere outside of this country!

Some of the legendary French cheeses are also born in Normandy. In particular, the same world-famous Camembert!

In short, the region produces a lot of things that you will definitely want to take away from France as a gift. Well, or for personal use. You know – it’s nice, after returning home, to treat yourself to almost a delicacy, a slice of fragrant cheese Livarot or Nefshatel.

Normandy beaches are a great place for swimming and surfing in summer and in autumn. If you are not afraid of cool water, of course – the temperature of the North Sea, of course, will not be able to compete with the Mediterranean one.

The multi-faceted Rouen is Normandy top attraction

If you like seafood dishes in all their manifestations, it is difficult to find a better chance to try them than during your trip to Normandy. So if you are a gourmet and would like to taste the best dishes of French cuisine: lobsters and scallops, oysters and mussels – go straight to Rouen or Deauville.

Main Attractions of Normandy

Let’s admit at once – we are subjective. As compiling our rating of the most interesting places you need to visit in this region, we focused primarily on their historical and cultural value. And also – we’re sorry – popularity among the tourist fraternity.

Therefore, first you should do in Normandy at any time of the year – to pay a visit to

Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey

Located 285 km west of Paris, the rocky island is notable for its majestic medieval abbey. In fact – it’s a real town with beautiful buildings, towers and spires. As well Mont-Saint-Michel is famous with the tides which, along with the abbey, were listed in UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The latter has no equals in scale anywhere else in the whole world! Only the Bay of Fundy in Canada can compare with Normandy in this regard!

On all sides Mont-Saint-Michel is surrounded by water and sandbanks, which are flooded by the sea at high tide. The water rises to a height of up to 16 meters and approaches the very walls of the castle.

Most often this happens in the spring. That is why we especially recommend going to see Normandy to those who are traveling to Paris in March or in April.

Again, there will be fewer tourists around. And this is very important circumstance – Mont-Saint-Michel is one of the key attractions of France, visited annually by millions of tourists. Which is greatly facilitated by the convenient location – you can come here from Paris on a tour bus for just a day.

Mont-Saint-Michel is located near the coast of the Manche department of the Lower Normandy region near Avranches. And at a slightly greater distance (55 km) from another popular seaside town, Saint-Malo. However, the latter is located already in Brittany.

The total area of the island Mont-Saint-Michel doesn’t exceed 1 km2 (97 ha). The main attraction of the Archangel Michael Mountain – which is how its name is translated – is a medieval Benedictine abbey.

Mont Saint-Michel is one of the main attractions of Normandy

Brief History

The complex was built in the harsh era of the Middle Ages. Therefore, it is a little surprising that it was the monks, not some feudal lords, who first appreciated the amazing natural advantages of the rock.

According to legend, the place for the church on Mont-Saint-Michel was chosen by the Archangel Michael himself. In 708, he personally appeared to the bishop of Avranches Aubert.

The bishop at first rejected the instruction from the Heaven. And was punished for that – the Archangel burned a hole in the priest’s head with a fiery finger. It is curious that the priest didn’t die from this, but only “regained his sight”.

By the way, the skull of bishop Aubert with a hole is now kept in the Basilica of Saint-Gervais in Avranches

The island of Mont-Saint-Michel, by the way, is called a stretch. Since it is connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land, which is used as a bridge. Before the thorough reconstruction of 1879, this connecting thread disappeared under water during tides.

Interestingly, it is often the tides in Normandy that are the main attraction for tourists, who are already enough in these parts. It is worth announcing some particularly high and there is not enough space on the bridge anymore!

The next “Tide of the Century” is expected no earlier than March 3, 2033

How to Get to Mont-Saint-Michel

The distance between Paris and the abbey hints that you should rent a car. Moreover, there is a large parking lot on the mainland near the island.

However, if a tourist is not going to be too nervous and study the nuances of driving in France, or maybe – just doesn’t know how to drive – he can get there by public transport. Or take part in an organized excursion from Paris.

Where is to stay? There are some places near Mont-Saint-Michel.

Rouen

One of the most visited (small) cities in France and the capital of historical region, Rouen preserved its medieval appearance in a large scale. Its ancient streets are like a historical chronicle!

The main sights of the city and Normandy itself: spectacular half-timbered houses and Rouen Cathedral. The latter served many times as a backdrop for Claude Monet’s canvases.

If you don’t know, we will inform you that Monet is considered one of the founders of impressionism, as a trend in painting. And his estate in Giverny is definitely one of the places to visit in Normandy.

Moreover, you can go to the Fondation Monet in Giverny right from Paris in a matter of hours. And then continue the route by traveling to Rouen

Medieval Rouen's street

On summer evenings, a light show is arranged on the walls of Rouen Cathedral for guests and residents. And inside – if you are lucky – you will hear the solemn playing of the organ.

It should be noted that one of the most tragic events in the history of France took place on the Place du Vieux Marché – Old Market square in Rouen. The “Maid of Orleans”, Joan of Arc, who was never broken, was burned here.

Arriving in Rouen for just a few hours, many travelers then stop here for the night. At least because there are so many interesting places near the capital of Normandy to see the next day…

Just 40 km from Rouen is the extremely legendary place in Normandy, the castle of Richard the Lionheart

Chateau Gaillard

The English king built this fortress in the bend of the Seine, of course, not for admiring the beautiful scenery. On the contrary, the monarch pursued a very practical aim – to protect Normandy from French attacks.

However, the chronicles claim that Chateau Gaillard was Richard’s favorite fortress. Apparently, because the English king considered it an impregnable stronghold

To this day, the castle has been preserved only in the form of ruins. But tourists can still reward themselves for perseverance with stunning panoramic views from the walls. The courtyard of the Gaillard Castle is accessible only from mid-March to November.

Lyon-la-Foret

which is located far from Rouen, 35 km almost to the east, the guidebook calls “the most beautiful village in Normandy”. Equally, this place is regularly included in the list of the most attractive small settlement in all of France.

Lyon-la-Forêt - a worth visiting village in Normandy

Naturally, Lyon-la-Foret is small, but it is built up with incredibly nice-looking houses, including those in the half-timbered style. And it settled down in a very picturesque place – in the middle of the huge beech Forest of Lyons.

Along which you can walk both on foot and by bicycle. And in summer or autumn, also collect mushrooms!

Etretat

This seaside village in France on the shores of the English Channel by itself does not belong to the most beautiful places in the country and, moreover, in the world. But, however, it is a popular tourist destination.

The fact is that next to it there is one of the most picturesque attractions in Normandy – the Etretat rocks. These natural limestone cliffs framing the English Channel, and – especially – natural stone arches, once impressed many famous people.

In particular, Claude Monet and Gustave Courbet lived here for a long time and regularly came to the beach in the morning to capture the Etretat rocks, the sea and the sky. The most well-known of the local natural sculptures are the “Needle” sticking out of the sea and the “Triple Arch” still docked in the shore.

Sunrises in Etretat, fishing boats near the coast and other pastoral scenes were reproduced on canvas more many times. And in theory, you can see them just by going to one of the art museums in Paris.

But we still advise you to spare no time and visit Etretat in person. Even though you will have to get to it (if not by car) from Paris with at least 1 transfer

First you will have to arrive at Le Havre (train from Paris Saint-Lazare station). And only there take the bus to Etretat.

Note that the fishing town of the same name is shrouded in an indescribable French charm. Which can be experienced only in the provinces – not in Paris!

Honfleur

is one of the most atmospheric port towns in Normandy: the picturesque bay is surrounded by old houses. Once there was a brisk trade with the New World, and today snow-white yachts and fishing boats are slowly rocking on the waves.

Honfleur is notable not only for the port, but also for the old docks, numerous antique shops, the church of St. Catherine and salt warehouses of the XVII century

Honfleur is one of the most atmospheric seaside towns in France

Along the way, it is also considered a seaside resort. Not in the beach sense, of course, but as a place of relaxation from the hustle and bustle of life in megacities.

A vacation spent in such a place, on the gentle shore of the English Channel, really heals: as well as the body as the soul – the medieval town is full of cozy, unforgettable charm.

Honfleur is situated the department Calvados, world-known due its eponymous apple brandy. On the other side of the Seine from it is spreading out the port city Le Havre.

By the way, you should know that it was from Honfleur that Samuel de Champlain sailed to Canada. In 1608, he founded the port of Quebec beyond the seas and thereby initiated the colonization of the overseas territory by France

Bayeux

This city in Normandy is mainly known for its unique tapestry, Tapisserie de Bayeux. The great handmade painting illustrating the landing of William the Conqueror in England in 1066 has huge dimensions: about 70 meters long and 50 meters high.

Curiously, the tapestry dates from the XI century. Although the version that it was woven by the hands of Wilhelm’s wife, the queen Matilda, has long been refuted.

Another tourist attraction of Bayeux is the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy. It is dedicated to “Day D”, tells about all the circumstances of the Allied landings in Normandy in 1944.

Architecture lovers will undoubtedly appreciate the charm of the old town of Bayeux. Also, they can visit the local Gothic cathedral.

Deauville

This place in Normandy is best visited in summer. Well, or at least in early September, when the local climate will allow not only to admire the architecture of Belle Époque and natural landscapes, but also to swim in the sea.

For Deauville, perhaps, is the main beach resort in Normandy. The city with excellent and wide sandy beaches

Again, the local air is considered incredibly healthy. Well, this can be understood – Deauville is located on the seashore and is surrounded by pine groves and green water meadows. Also, enjoy well-deserved fame the local thalassotherapy centers .

There are also some intriguing entertainments. Such as La Touques, the racetrack, where horse races are held at any time of the year or magnificent golf courses around the resort. Deauville has also its own Casino.

A prestigious international film festival is held there annually

Next to Deauville, on the other side of the Touques River, there is another best-known Norman resort, Trouville. It is aimed at a less “brilliant” and more family-friendly audience, has the same huge sandy beaches.

And it is a very nice seaside town. Where in just a week you will regain your presence of mind and recharge the energy.

© Goodtimefortrip.com

About STen 184 Articles
Traveling is like a life: the further you go, the more understand. I am not a writer or a journalist, but believe that my real & reach experience gained on trips can be useful. The whole Europe and Turkey are enough for me so far... Spent a lot of time in Turkey, lived in Italy and Spain, visited France and the Czech Republic, Greece and Hungary, now I am exploring Montenegro)

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