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Normandy - Things to do

Our Things To Do In Normandy Guide

Have you ever thought of visiting this historical and cultural gold mine?

Normandy was notably once the site of one of the most pivotal battles of World War 2, and the coastline of Normandy is peppered with museums, memorials, bunkers and beaches.

Aside from the rich historical value of this region, Normandy also boasts of its architectural gems in the form of striking castles, grand churches, and quaint towns like Rouen.

Normandy also houses France's most iconic tourist site, the Mont-Saint-Michel. Aside from those, the Honfleur and Deauville beach resorts are also popular summer destinations, although the natural magnificence of the region’s meadows, coastline, and woodlands are attractions in their own right.

Down the Channel coast, striking limestone precipices drop off into the blue green waters below, while Lower Normandy is characterized by lush, green valleys.

A pleasant rustic area known as the “Suisse Normande”  (Norman Switzerland) charms nature enthusiasts and outdoor sports lovers.

Normandy is also known as the place of the Allied Powers landings in 1944. There are a lot of traces of World War 2 action throughout the region. Here, tourists can see military cemeteries, war museums, and D-Day landing beaches, including Omaha and Gold Beaches.

Here's A Lovely Overview Of The Region

Things To Do In Normandy

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Where Is Normandy?

Normandy is a region in North Western France in Europe. It is comprised of 5 counties: Calvados, Manche, Orne, Eure, and Seine-Maritime.

The region has a coastline that stretches for 350 miles with verdantly varied landscapes. 

Normandy also offers you a superb choice of scenery and culture: the striking beauty of the cliffs in Etretat or the picturesque sandy beaches, rich in historical value, from Caen to Arromanches, the Seine Valley meandering amid wooded hills and chalk escarpments, the rocky hills of the Suisse Normande, the urban excitement of Rouen and the hodgepodge of fields and hedges of the Calvados province with its orchards and timber-framed cottages.

Take pleasure in Normandy's exceptional marriage of maritime traditions and rural lifestyle. 

Be in awe of its remarkable towns and memorials, stroll down serene country lanes and dig in to local and authentic cuisine in quaint towns, or enjoy a drink by the dock of one of its old harbours while fishermen fix their nets and seagulls fly overhead

The Weather In Normandy

Normandy is located on the western part  of France, so the overall climate in the region is warm with a moderate amount of annual rainfall, resulting in verdant green countryside. 

The temperatures here are rarely too extreme, but could be unpredictable. The  usual daytime high on summer months of May to August is 27C, while the winter months are fairly mild. August is the warmest month, while January is typically the coldest.

In spite of rumours that it always rains in Normandy, it isn’t always the case, but it is advised for tourists to always bring an umbrella, just in case. The weather in the region is erratic, with the four seasons sometimes making a showing in one day.

Things To Do In Normandy

normandy chateau

Bucket List Things To Do In Normandy

Mont Saint Michel

Mont Saint Michel
Mont-Saint-Michel

 

Here you'll get to discover one of the world's first UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Mont-Saint-Michel abbey. 

The adulation to Saint Michel was presented on the holy mount in 708 and it turned into one of the most significant sites of medieval pilgrimage. Benedictine Monks started constructing an abbey here sometime in the 10th century.

The abbey has survived the assaults of man, wars, time and the elements. The epic resistance of the mount to English assaults in the Hundred Years’ War (14th and 15th centuries) made it a symbol of French national identity. Monks left the abbey in 1790 and it was recognized as a historic memorial in 1874. The entire site has been restored to its former glory thanks to ongoing renovation work.

The abbey has a fairy-tale like quality, with its structure ascending to more than 100 meters above the sea. The Gothic spires seem to extend towards heaven, as the site invites tourists to go across the intimidating bay of Saint-Michel. 

Visitors may cross the bay on foot during low tide, but during high tides, Mont-Saint-Michel is only accessible by one road.

Where Is Mont Saint Michel?

How To Get To Mont Saint-Michel

From Paris : 
- A13 motorway to Caen, then A84 motorway towards Avranches (main direction Rennes)
- A11 motorway to Le Mans, then A81 towards Fougères, then A84 direction Caen

From Nantes : 
- A84 motorway towards Rennes, then towards Caen  

Coach :  from Paris : http://fr.ouibus.com/fr
Coach Granville - Le Mont Saint-Michel : line 6  Manéo : Phone 02 14 39 00 96 ou www.transports.manche.fr
Coach towards Saint-Malo, Caen, Paris : www.flixbus.fr 

Mont Saint-Michel Guide

Rouen

Rouen, Normandy, France
Rouen, Normandy, France

A trip to the quaint town of Rouen is a treat for history lovers and art enthusiasts. The medieval cobblestone streets gives off a historic vibe, which adds value to the beautiful half-timbered houses. 

Glorious Gothic churches are found at almost every turn. These striking cathedrals awe viewers with their impressive façade and structures that are architectural delights.

Claude Monet has captured the riveting beauty of these churches in his famous series of paintings. 

His masterpieces showed the grandeur of  the  cathedrals at different times of day.

 Another notable structure in Rouen is the Gros-Horloge clock tower in the heart of town.

Monet's paintings of Rouen Cathedral

Art enthusiasts should also visit the Beaux Arts Museum with  its collection of exquisite masterpieces.  

Rouen is also the place where Joan of Arc was brought to trial. 

Tourists can visit where the heroic young woman stood before her adjudicators and the site where she was martyred. She is now a saint and there is a church dedicated to her memories.

Honfleur

Honfleur Fishing Village

Honfleur is one of the loveliest towns in Normandy with  its charming old harbour on the  Seine estuary. 

Around 25 kilometres away from Le Havre, this town also has medieval cobblestone streets and fascinating houses. The old seafaring dock was used by seamen who made expeditions to Canada in the 16th century.  

The Lieutenance building, the old governor’s house, can be found on the north side of the harbour and it was built on the ruins of the town’s ancient walls. 

Another one of Honfleur’s most remarkable attractions is the Musee de la Marine. 

It is in the former church of Saint-Etienne constructed between the 14th and 15th centuries. 

This museum tells  the history  of seafaring, shipbuilding, and fishing in Honfleur. 

Impressionist art lovers  will delight at Musee Eugene Boudin, which features a vast collection of over 200 Impressionist art works. The museum is located at Place Erik Satie, while its annexe is found in the Church of Sainte-Catherine.

Omaha Beach

One of the most beautiful spots in Normandy now, once held the bloodiest battles of the  2nd World  War. 

Omaha Beach stretches between Vierville-sur-Mer and Colleville-sur-Mer, where the panoramic Atlantic coastline and dramatic cliffs soar to almost 100 meters above the sea. 

Touring to this site gives a chilling glimpse of the fatal battle that happened there on D-Day (June 6, 1944). Remains of the German bunkers and military aircraft are still present along the coastline. 

The American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer has a view over this beach.

The American Cemetery has 9000 perfectly aligned gravestones. Near the cemetery is the Overlord Museum which shows the history of the  Allied Landings and the Paris liberation. 

The museum also features war memorabilia, like war vehicles, tanks, as well as the soldiers’ personal items.

American Cemetery

Deauville

Parasols Beach

The high-end Deauville resort is one of the biggest and most coveted tourist spot in Normandy. 

Its gorgeous waterfront features a two-kilometre stretch of sandy beach and a boardwalk for seaside strolls.  There are lifeguards on duty within the area, and tourists can rent parasols, beach cabins, and chairs. 

The quirky old-fashioned beach umbrellas give the beach a circa 1920’s look. Tourists can take a break from the sun to shop ‘til they drop at trendy boutiques or grab a bite at any of Deauville’s posh restaurants.

 Another attraction in Deauville is the dock. Several yacht clubs organise sailing events that the tourists can participate in.

Where Is Deauville?

Monet's Garden

Monet's Garden Pond

If you adore Impressionism, then Monet’s Garden is the place for you. Giverny, Claude Monet’s former residence, is a charming property in the countryside approximately an hour’s drive away from Paris. 

The house is lovely, but the spectacular garden is what makes the place stand out.

 The vivacious flower garden is a pleasure to behold, and the popular water garden with the Japanese bridge and water lily pond are enveloped by verdant weeping willow trees. 

Monet committed many years to painting his garden at different times; he was inspired by the beautiful reflections in the water and how the sunlight altered the landscape throughout the entire day.

Where Is Monet's Garden?

Looking For Even More Things To See in Normandy?

Things To Do In Normandy

Where to Eat in Normandy

Restaurant Gill

Restaurant Gill, located in the heart of Rouen, is one of Normandy’s best gastronomic choices. 

The restaurant is run by power couple Sylvie and Gilles Tournade. They serve seasonal and traditional French cuisine from succulent meat dishes like roasted pigeon with foie gras, and sweetbread veal medallions, as well as seafood goodness like pan-fried sea bass and Brittany lobster roasted to perfection.  

We absolutely recommend trying the tasting menu which offers seven “surprise” taster courses of the chef’s latest creations, coupled with fine wines.

Address8-9, Quai de la Bourse, 76000 Rouen, France

 

Hours

 
Friday12–1:45PM, 7:30–9:45PM
Saturday12–1:45PM, 7:30–9:45PM
SundayClosed
MondayClosed
Tuesday12–1:45PM, 7:30–9:45PM
Wednesday12–1:45PM, 7:30–9:45PM
Thursday12–1:45PM, 7:30–9:45PM
 
Reservations: lafourchette.com

Calvados Christian Drouin

Calvados is one of the creations that Normandy is most proud of. 

It is an apple brandy made by pressing fresh apples into juice, fermenting them into cider, distilling the solution in eau de vie, and then ageing the spirit In oak casks.

 Christian Drouin is a distillery located near to Pont-I’Eveque with a famous reputation for producing excellent calvados, and it is open to both locals and tourists. 

Free and educational tours are available all year long, ending each with a tasting session and an opportunity to purchase bottles of the finished product. 

Even if you’re not into liquor, the beautiful Victorian 17th century half-timbered structure make the tour worth it.

Restaurant Le Pily

Le Pily, an intimate and lovely little restaurant in the heart of Cherbourg, exclusively specializes  in fresh and local produce. 

That means  they do not offer a fixed menu and it varies depending on the availability of ingredients. 

Nevertheless, the chef’s superb mastery of the region’s cuisine and delicacies, such as locally-caught crustaceans, fish,  pigeons, farmhouse cheese, and fresh vegetables ensure that each meal will be something to remember. It didn’t hold the Michelin star for  nothing, after all.

Address39 Rue Grande Rue, 50100 Cherbourg-Octeville, France

 

Hours

 
Friday10AM–9PM
Saturday10AM–9PM
Sunday10AM–9PM
Monday10AM–9PM
Tuesday10AM–9PM
Wednesday10AM–9PM
Thursday10AM–9PM
 

Wilde Kitchen Cookery School

Wilde Kitchen Cookery School

If you wish to know Normandy beyond skin-deep, you’ll need to learn and understand its culinary background. 

Luckily, that is just what Wilde Kitchen provides. This famous culinary school in Benoîtville, managed by Irish expat Sinéad Allart, offers small-group gourmet tours that include classes in cooking traditional Norman food such as poulet Vallée d’Auge and teurgoule (rice pudding), plus trips to local markets, farms and cider manufacturers. 

One-day courses are also available, but we extremely recommend the three-day or six-day options – accommodation included.

Address50340, Benoîtville, France

Hours

 
Saturday9AM–6PM
SundayClosed
Monday9AM–6PM
Tuesday9AM–6PM
Wednesday9AM–6PM
Thursday9AM–6PM
Friday9AM–6PM

Restaurant Jean-Luc Tartarin

Restaurant Jean-Luc Tartarin is arguably one of Normandy’s most posh fine dining options. 

A winner of two esteemed Michelin stars, the Le Havre favourite proudly sustains French culinary traditions but with a varying monthly menu of seasonal dishes.

 The dégustation menu has a little bit of everything Restaurant Jean-Luc Tartarin  has to offer, although they also offer simpler set menus. 

If you are looking for the fine dining experience on a tighter budget, consider booking the restaurant for breakfast.

Address73 Avenue Foch, 76600 Le Havre, France

 
 

Hours

 
SundayClosed
MondayClosed
Tuesday12–2PM, 7:30–10PM
Wednesday12–2PM, 7:30–10PM
Thursday12–2PM, 7:30–10PM
Friday12–2PM, 7:30–10PM
Saturday12–2PM, 7:30–10PM
Reservations: lafourchette.com

Yver Chocolatier

Yver is the ultimate go-to place to satisfy your sweet tooth. Normandy’s most esteemed chocolatier, Yver has been hand-crafting excellent and extraordinary chocolates way back 1946.

It serves up a mouth-watering assortment of chocolate products: slabs, pastilles, truffles, hot drinks, and a whole lot more.

 Yver is a talented patisserie as well, and the chocolatier offers macarons, cakes, and pastries that are sure to impress your friends and family back home.

Address189 Route de Villedieu, 50400 Yquelon, France

Hours

SundayClosed
Monday2:30–7:30PM
Tuesday10AM–12:30PM, 2:30–7:30PM
Wednesday10AM–12:30PM, 2:30–7:30PM
Thursday10AM–12:30PM, 2:30–7:30PM
Friday10AM–12:30PM, 2:30–7:30PM
Saturday10AM–12:30PM, 2:30–7:30PM

Other Things To Do In Normandy

Aside from housing several architectural gems, which included dramatic cathedrals, Victorian castles, and quaint towns; as well as panoramic coastlines and verdant woodlands, Normandy also boasts of lovely vineyards and fine wines, striking lighthouses, and marmoreal monuments of the bloody history of war that transpired here.

Grapevine and Winery Tours

Domain DUPONT

Jules Dupont established the family estate Domain Dupont back in the year 1887.

 Today, though, the establishment is managed by Jerome and his sister Anne-Pamy Dupont. 

The tours of the vineyard and winery are open all-year long. Tourists and guests can sample traditional ciders and special cuvées, pommeau, a range of 15 calvados as well as calvados cream. Tours are available at 3 pm during the weekdays and 11 am on Saturdays.

Open today: 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Acres of The Sun

Acres of the Sun

The Arpents du Soleil (Acres of the Sun) is located in the heart of Normandy, near Saint Pierre sur Dives. It has a dry and hot microclimate, a hill facing south and excellent soil that only produces the best grapes for their fine wines.

 

From the medieval times up to the end of the 18th century, this vineyard already thrived. Because this area is ideally exposed and is getting lots of sun, their elders called it “The Sun.”

 

Gerard Samson, the owner, is a passionate winemaker and connoisseur. After an exceptional training in Burgundy, he traveled  across Europe to discover the secrets of the best winemakers.

14170 SAINT PIERRE SUR DIVES 

GUIDED TOURS

Every Thursday at 14:30 from April to mid-November - Duration approximately 2:00.
Possibility of purchase at the end of the visit.
Reservations and information: 

02 31 40 71 82

 or 

gerard.samson979@orange.fr


Price: 8,00 €, free for children under 12 years old

Cheese and Cider Tasting Tour in Caen

The Cheese and Cider Tasting Tour in Caen offers  a scenic countryside tour to sample authentic raw milk camembert that is made fresh on-site at the farm. 

After tasting different cheeses, guests are offered to sample hard apple cider, hard pear cider, pommeau and calvados. The tour ends with a visit a traditional cider farm near Camembert.

Price: $140.70 USD

World War II Sites

Batteries du Mont Canisy

Batteries du Mont Canisy

Mont Canisy became a crucial link in the German Atlantic Wall. 

The structure was originally built by the French Navy to guard the Le Havre harbor. The centre is still impressively maintained, and it is possible to tour the gun emplacements and the stretch of cavernous galleries. 

Guided tours in the Batteries du Mont Canisy are available in the summer time.

Address8 Rue du Canisy, 14910 Benerville-sur-Mer, France

To secure the Pegasus Bridge that extends over the Caen Canal was one of the major objectives  of the Allies, and they were able to achieve it in one of the earliest actions of Operation Overlord. 

Today, the original bridge has been maintained as a memorial, and the visitor centre close by narrates its story with archive footage and wartime artifacts to match. 

Moreover, there is a replica of a Horse glider, the craft used to drop British paratroopers behind enemy lines on D-Day.

Longues-sur-Mer Gun Battery

The Longues-sur-Mer is located on toof 200ft cliffs and is enveloped by wheat fields. 

It is the only structure in the Atlantic Wall to retain its original guns. Seeing the terrifying 150mm cannons at close range gives a fearsome insight into the magnitude of the challenge encountered by the Allied Forces.

Batterie de Maisy

The Maisy Battery was exhumed and reopened in 2007, after being buried for more than half a century. 

Now, tourists and guests can visit almost a mile of ditches, tunnels, and subterranean fortifications, and  even  gun emplacements themselves. 

The battery’s cannons covered Omaha and Utah beaches, and silencing the artilleries was the Allied key objective.

Lighthouses

Phare de Gatteville

Pointe de Barfleur Light, or more commonly known as Phare de Gateville, is an active and fully-functioning lighthouse near Gatteville-le-Phare at the tip of Barfleur, in the lower Normandy region. With the height of 75 meters, it is the third tallest “traditional lighthouse” in the world.

Its tower is cylindrical with a gallery and a lantern. It is 82ft in diameter at the base and 20 ft at the bridge. It is attached to a keeper’s complex which forms a U-shape around the base of the tower. 

Guests and visitors can climb 365 stairs to visit the gallery.

Pointe du Roc

phare granville

The Pointe du Roc lighthouse marks the end of Granville old town, and the northern end of Mont St. Michel Bay. 

It offers a superb and unobstructed view of the white waves and waters below, and  towards Chausey Isles. 

It has free car parking facilities and a picnic area.

Take a tour of take a tour of Bayeux Cathedral

Normandy may not be at the top of most people’s top travel destinations, and the sights here may not be exactly what other people see as “fun” but it is a place where history’s major events took place.

 It is one of the places where humanity manifested its worst. And even now, remnants of the war could still be seen here. 

Normandy may not have the best of theme parks, but it would give you a glimpse of the events  that helped shape our society today.

 

The region may not have a lot of picturesque beaches, or fancy clubs and high-end malls, but it has plenty of architectural gems to  present.

 

If you would take the time  to appreciate  the art and beauty that  Normandy offers, you might even want to visit Normandy a second or even third time.

Meet The Author
Hello, I’m Alan and my wife, Lisbeth, and I own Vestervang, a small farm in the Middle of Bornholm – The small Danish island south of Sweden.
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Places to Stay
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St Josse Farmhouse
From £180 per night