What to do in Normandy: main attractions to visit. The most famous sights of the historical region of France, what to buy and try, how to get to Normandy from Paris – explored good Time for Trip.
Normandy is one of the most popular tourist areas of France. Mostly perhaps because this region is located not far Paris – the distance to Rouen, its capital, is about 135 km.
Fortunately, it is not difficult to combine them into a rich, but interesting one-day excursion route.
If you can afford to take your time, then that’s exactly what you should do. After all, there is something to do in Normandy for a week, or even a month!
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, and the old cities delight with comfort, lacy Gothic cathedrals. Also, incredibly beautiful old houses and streets where time seems to slow down.
It is not for nothing that famous artists drew inspiration from here. And, including one of the founders of Impressionism, Claude Monet.
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 brandy, which you can hardly buy anywhere outside of France.
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. Yo 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 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.
If you like seafood dishes in all their manifestations, then it is difficult to find a better time 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 make a reservation right away – we are subjective. And when compiling our rating of the most interesting places you need to visit in Normandy, we focused primarily on their historical and cultural value. And also – we’re sorry – popularity among the tourist fraternity.
Therefore, the first you should do in Normandy, in spring and summer or in late autumn and winter, is to visit
Located 285 km west of Paris, the rocky island is notable for its majestic medieval abbey. In fact – a real city with many beautiful buildings, towers and spires. As well Mont-Saint-Michel is famous with the tides and together with the surrounding bay, it is listed as a 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 going to visit Paris in March or in April.
Again, there will be fewer tourists around. This is important – 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 the town 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.
The complex was built in the harsh era of the Middle Ages. It is a little surprising that it was the monks, and not some seniors, who first appreciated the amazing natural advantages of the rock.
According to legend, the place for the construction of 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 for that was punished – 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 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
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 of Mont-Saint-Michel.
However, if a tourist is not going to be too nervous and study the nuances of driving in France, or maybe – you just don’t know how to drive – you can get there by public transport. Or take part in an organized excursion from Paris.
One of the most visited cities in France and also the capital of Normandy, Rouen has largely preserved its medieval appearance. Its ancient streets are like a historical chronicle.
Main sights of the city an 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.
On summer evenings, a light show is arranged on the walls of Rouen Cathedral for guests and residents of the city. 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 stop here for the night. At least because there are many interesting places near the capital of Normandy that you will definitely want to go to in the morning…
Just 40 km from Rouen is the extremely legendary place in Normandy, the castle of Richard the Lionheart
The English king built this fortress in the bend of the Seine, of course, not to admire the beautiful scenery. On the contrary, the monarch pursued a very practical goal – 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.
Today, tourists can only see the ruins of Chateau Gaillard and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area. The courtyard of the castle can only be accessed from mid-March to November.
Not far from Rouen, 35 km almost to the east is Lyon-la-Foret, which the guidebook calls “the most beautiful village in Normandy”. Equally, this locality is regularly included in the list of the most attractive villages in all of France.
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!
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 beautiful places to visit in Normandy – the Etretat rocks. These natural limestone cliffs framing the English Channel, and – especially – natural stone arches, impressed even famous artists in their time.
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 famous of the local natural sculptures are the “Needle” sticking out of the sea and the “Triple Arch” still docked in the shore.
Sunrises and sunrises in Etretat, fishing boats near the coast and other pastoral scenes were reproduced on canvas more than one hundred 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 the port of Le Havre (train from Paris Saint-Lazare station). And from there take the bus to Etretat.
Note that the fishing town itself is shrouded in an indescribable French charm. Which can be experienced only in the provinces – not in Paris!
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.
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. And not only the body, but also the soul – the medieval town is full of cozy, unforgettable charm.
Honfleur belongs to the department of Calvados in Normandy, famous for its eponymous apple brandy. And it is located on the other side of the Seine from the major port city Le Havre.
It is connected to the last huge cable-stayed Pont de Normandie bridge, spanning the mouth of the most famous French river.
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.
This city of Normandy is mainly known for its unique tapestry. Tapisserie de Bayeux, about 70 meters long and 50 meters high, is a peculiar painting depicting the landing of William the Conqueror in England in 1066.
Curiously, the tapestry dates from the XI century. Although the version that he was even forged 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 in Bayeux. And they will also visit the pretty Gothic cathedral of the city.
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 relax by the sea.
For Deauville, perhaps, is the main beach resort in Normandy. A city with excellent and wide sandy beaches.
Again, it is famous as a very healthy and local air. Well, this can be understood!
Deauville is located on the seashore and is surrounded by pine groves and green water meadows
There is also enough entertainment – La Touques, a racetrack, is located in the city, where horse races are held at any time of the year. There are magnificent golf courses around the resort. And there is also a casino for the gambling public.
A prestigious international film festival is held annually in Deauville. People who want to improve their health are also coming here. As local thalassotherapy centers enjoy well-deserved fame.
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 your energy.