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
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.
Bucket List Things To Do In Normandy
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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?
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?
Where to Eat in Normandy
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.