What to Visit in Normandy
What to see in Normandy: the most interesting attractions, you should to visit in the historical region of France. Description and how to get there from Paris…
Normandy is one of the most popular tourist areas in France. And of course, not only because it is located not so far from Paris. Its top places can be combined in a rich, but interesting one-day excursion route.
- So you should go in this direction right after visiting main Parisian sights!
However, we advise you not to rush. After all, there are so many interesting things here!
In Normandy, green water meadows smoothly flow into seascapes, and ancient cities delight with coziness, lacy Gothic cathedrals and original embankments, on which time seems to slow down its run.
No wonder 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 vodka, Calvados, Chartreuse liqueur. And it is here that the legendary French cheeses are born – the same Camembert!
Local beaches are a great place for swimming in summer and surfing in autumn. If you like seafood in all its forms, then Normandy is the best place to taste seafood in all of France. It is here that you will taste the best lobsters and scallops, oysters and mussels.
TOP-10 Sights in Normandy
The first thing you should see when aiming to explore the region is
Abbey of Mont Saint Michel
Spread out 285 km west of Paris, the rocky island is notable for its majestic monastery, a real city with many towers and houses, ladders and spiers, an ancient city (founded in the 8th century), museums, and tides.
Equal to which in scale does not exist anywhere else in the Old World! Only the Bay of Fundy in Canada can be compared with Normandy in this respect!
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 16 meters and rises to the very walls of the castle.
You obligatory should to see in Normandy Mont-Saint-Michel, as it’s one of the key attractions of France, visited by millions of tourists every year. To a large extent, the convenient location contributes – you can come here from Paris for just a day on a sightseeing bus.
Mont-Saint-Michel is located near the coast of the Manche department of the Lower Normandy region near the town of Avranches. And at a slightly greater distance (55 km) from another popular seaside town, Saint-Malo. However, he is already based in Brittany.
The total area of the island does not exceed 1 km2 (97 ha). The main attraction of Mount Archangel Michael – and this is how the name of the rocky island is translated – is a medieval Benedictine monastery. Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979 – whc.unesco.org/en/list/80/.
It 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 were the first to appreciate the amazing natural advantages of the rock.
According to legend, the site for the construction of the church on Mont Saint-Michel was chosen by the Archangel Michael himself. In 708, he personally appeared to Bishop Avranches Aubert.
The bishop at first rejected the instructions of the heavenly stranger, and was punished for intractability with a fiery finger. The archangel burned a hole in the head of the priest.
Mont Saint-Michel Island, by the way, can be called with some stretch. Since it is connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land, which is used as a bridge.
Until a thorough reconstruction in 1879, this connecting thread disappeared under water during high tides.
Interestingly, it is often the tides that are the main attraction for tourists, who are already enough in these parts. It is worth announcing some especially high one and there is no longer enough space on the bridge!
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 suggests that you should rent a car. Moreover, on the mainland near the island there is a large parking lot.
However, if the tourist is not going to get too nervous and learn the nuances of driving in France, or maybe you just don’t know how to drive, you can also get there by public transport. Or take part in an organized tour from Paris.
Rouen, one of the most visited cities in France and also the capital of Normandy, has largely retained its medieval appearance. Its ancient streets are like a historical record
Business cards of the city: spectacular half-timbered houses and Rouen Cathedral. The latter served as a backdrop for the paintings of Claude Monet many times. On summer evenings, a light show is arranged on the walls of the cathedral for guests and residents of the city.
One of the most tragic events in the history of France took place on Vieux-Marche Square – the unbroken Virgin of Orleans, Joan of Arc, was burned here.
In the suburbs (40 km from Rouen) is the dilapidated castle of Richard the Lionheart – Château Gaillard. You can look into it from mid-March to early November.
The village of Eure, listed among the “most beautiful villages in France” is another attraction in Normandy.
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 slowly rock on the waves.
Honfleur belongs to the Calvados department in Normandy, famous for its apple brandy of the same name. And it is located on the other side of the Seine from the large port city of Le Havre.
Connected to the last huge cable-stayed bridge, Pont de Normandie, thrown over the mouth of the most famous French river.
Unlike, by the way, from Le Havre, founded under King Francis I, Honfleur is a much more ancient settlement. It is first mentioned in chronicles dating back to the 11th century.
In the Hundred Years War, it acquired the importance of almost a strategic point. And starting from the 16th century, it organically joined the era of great geographical discoveries.
Honfleur was brought to fame by the English Romantic painters Joseph Turner and Richard Bonington. This city was the birthplace of the French marine painter Eugène Boudin, who loved to gather his colleagues in the brush, the Impressionists Claude Monet and the Dutchman Johan Jongkind in the Saint-Simeon tavern.
Courbet and Daubigny visited Honfleur, the poet Charles Baudelaire, who later genuinely admired the beauties of the town, rested in his mother’s house.
Today Honfleur is notable not only for the port, but also for the old docks and numerous antique shops. As well as the Church of St. Catherine and the salt warehouses of the XVII century.
The local Church of St. Catherine (Sainte-Catherine) is the largest wooden church in France. In addition, from Honfleur it is convenient to make a trip to the north of the region in order to admire the coastal chalk cliffs in the town of Etretat.
The beaches of Honfleur, of course, cannot compete with the real Deauville airfield or the beaches of Trouville. But even here you can perfectly swim, sunbathe or wander along the seashore. On the city beach Le Butin or on the much more private and quiet Vasouy.
The easiest way to get to the resort town is from Le Havre or Deauville, connected by direct rail connection with Paris (there is no station in Honfleur itself).
Etretat attracts with beautiful steep banks and no less spectacular alabaster rocks. The most famous are the Needle and the Triple Arch, whose bizarre shapes can be admired for hours.
Walking along the trails along the cliffs or along the coast here is a real pleasure. After all, here every now and then open new pictures that are breathtaking.
Sunrise and dawn in Etretat, fishing boats near the coast, and similar scenes were reproduced in paintings and etchings tens, if not hundreds of thousands of times. And if people who knew a lot about “impression” got so attached to the coastal cliffs in Normandy, then modern travelers who are hungry for the unusual should visit here. Maybe not for sketches – today a photo on a smartphone is enough.
Etretat is not very convenient in terms of transport accessibility: it is in Upper Normandy, between the cities of Le Havre and Fécamp. However, a regular bus runs the distance from Fécamp in 15-20 minutes (about 16 km).
Trouville and Deauville
Once a small fishing village, with the growing popularity of sea baths, Trouville has acquired villas and hotels, becoming a real beach resort. Naturally, the coast is full of restaurants offering chic fish dishes and the freshest seafood.
Near Trouville lies a much more famous city – Deauville. There is a large casino and a couple of hippodromes. And also a boulevard with the names of movie stars who have visited Deauville. And in itself, this city deserves a visit: cozy houses and clean streets with an abundance of flower beds caress the eye.
An excellent port with marinas, a hippodrome where the best horses of the world perform, magnificent golf courses – this is what modern Deauville is. Do not forget about casinos and thalassotherapy centers – local mud, of course, heals everything.
The best stables in Europe are also located near the resort – thoroughbred horses benefit from iodine-saturated sea air. In addition, the city is the capital of the famous international film festival.
Which is not surprising – it was on its streets and beaches that Claude Lelouch’s film “Man and Woman” was filmed.
The easiest way to get to Deauville from Paris is by car – along the A13 highway. Trains leave Gare Saint-Lazare three times a day – on the way 2’15).
Another popular destination in Normandy, this is where you can see the famous Bayeux Tapestry. This unique medieval wall hanging tells the story of how William the Conqueror took over England in 1066.
Also in Bayeux there is an excellent museum dedicated to the landing of the allied forces in 1944, the Museum of the Battle of Normandy.
In the department of Calvados, you can also visit the Cathedral of Lisieux, a major center of Christian pilgrimage. And in the city of Falaise – see the medieval castle of William the Conqueror.
In the small town of Giverny in Upper Normandy, the famous Impressionist artist Claude Monet once lived and worked. He painted his paintings in his favorite garden, maybe that’s why they make an indelible impression?
Today, anyone can visit the artist’s house. Admire graceful pavilions, openwork bridges and a park ensemble, seemingly simple and natural, but being the result of painstaking work.
It is worth considering that Giverny is open daily only in the summer. In winter you can visit the manor usually only on weekends.