Best Places to Visit in Normandy
Normandy is the north westernmost region in France, and one of the country’s most scenic. Diverse in landscape, Normandy comprises rolling hills, lush forests, sandy beaches and rugged coastlines. Here are the best places to visit in Normandy.
1. Town of Honfleur
Easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in Normandy, the picturesque coastal town of Honfleur is full of traditional Norman charm. The town itself is located on an estuary where the Seine and the English Channel meet. Historically, Honfleur was an important fishing town, and is still reputed today for their exquisite seafood. The old port or vieux port is the real hub of the town, and is framed by rows of half timbered houses in the background. Stroll along the old port boardwalk, where you can shop at local merchants while you admire the view. And be sure to stop in one of the local restaurants to try some fresh seafood!
2. Beaches and Racetrack in Deauville
Just a quick hop from Honfleur is one of Normandy’s more famous getaways, Deauville. A seaside town on the Atlantic, Deauville is known for its white sand beaches, chic boutiques, and for horse racing. Since it’s just a two hour drive from the capital, Deauville has been a popular Parisian day trip for centuries. And thanks to the star-studded annual American Film Festival, the sleepy seaside town is starting to gain traction with an international audience.
Deauville’s beaches are a must see, and you’ll probably even be able to spot some surfers. Beyond the seaside, there’s plenty of leisure activities around Deauville. The town is home to a popular horse racetrack, a historic casino and a world-class golf course.
3. Cliffs of Etretat
The cliffs of Etretat certainly earn the domain a spot on my guide to the best places to visit in Normandy. Etretat’s landscape is unlike anywhere else in France, and a walk along the cliffs or a visit to the Jardins d’Etretat showcases vistas you won’t soon forget. The jagged limestone cliff side runs along the coastline for nearly 3 miles, rising up over the crashing waves. Green rolling hills border unusual rock formations, and it’s nearly impossible to tell where the sky meets the sea. The beauty of Etretat has been the inspiration of several well-known Impressionists, and Monet immortalized these very cliffs in several of his works.
As enchanting as the cliffs and park are, the town of Etretat itself is also worth a visit. There’s an old harbor and very classical architecture throughout. Plus, you’ll get to experience all the charm of a small seaside town. You can visit Etretat in a day trip from Paris if you plan it wisely, but it’s best to stay a night there to ensure ample time for exploration.
4. D-Day Beaches and Memorials
The D-Day Beaches and Memorials in Normandy are definitely one of the more somber destinations on my guide, but worth a stop nonetheless. While a war memorial may not be the first thing you think of when planning a vacation, the beach memorials in Normandy pay homage to those fallen in WWII, an important part of the nation’s history. Plus, they’re quite impressive to visit as well.
Whether you’re in search of a history lesson or wish to pay your respects, the many D-Day beaches along the Normandy coast have plenty to offer. While there are several main sites, the most popular are Omaha Beach and the American cemetery, Utah Beach and Caen Memorial Center. The various sites are a bit spread out, so you’ll most likely want to rent a car, or arrange a visit with a tour provider.
5. Le Mont Saint-Michel
Easily one of the best places to visit in Normandy, Le Mont Saint-Michel is also one of the region’s biggest attractions. Le Mont Saint-Michel is an ancient monastery and village, located on a tidal island off the Normandy coast. Sound intriguing? The ancient abbaye is open to visitors, and the island fortress has been around since the 400s. Over the years, the island has been inhabited by Romans, Vikings and eventually monks.
Today, the Mont Saint-Michel is a popular tourist site for those visiting Normandy. And with good reason! The entire island is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the whole landscape is unparalleled. So be sure to bring a camera, and a warm jacket. The wind is pretty strong all year round. You can visit from Paris in a day, though it’s a pretty long one (at least 16 hours) so an overnight stay is recommended.
6. Monet’s Home and Gardens in Giverny
If you’re an Impressionist fan, Giverny of the best places you can visit in Normandy. A tiny village nestled in southern Normandy, Giverny is famous for being home to artist Claude Monet for nearly forty years. The famous impressionist fell in love with the natural beauty of Normandy, and created his estate, Giverny to be a home and studio. You can visit his traditional Norman style home, which has been well-preserved to include many of the original furnishings.
But what’s even more interesting is Monet’s studio and surrounding gardens. He planned it so that there was something in bloom all year round; an eternal inspiration for his paintings. Some of Monet’s most famous works like Les Nymphéas serie were inspired directly from his garden in Giverny. You can easily visit Giverny in a day trip from Paris, it’s just under 2 hours away via car, and a similar trajectory if you opt for a bus.
Now you’ve read my guide to the best places to visit in Normandy! I hope you enjoyed this article, and will have a great time exploring this beautiful French region.