France’s northern coast is a favorite destination for many, full of stunning sea coasts, charming villages, and gripping history. In a place with a landscape that inspired Impressionist painters, a dramatic history spanning medieval times to World War II, and delicious regional cuisine, it’s easy to see why there are endless best things to do in Normandy.
What are the best things to do in Normandy? Let’s explore a few favorites!
Normandy Beaches and WWII Memorials
Pay your respects at the World War II sites in Normandy, including the American Cemetery, Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Pointe du Hoc, and more.
A sobering but important stop on your Normandy itinerary, Omaha Beach is the site of the famous D-Day invasion, when the Allied forces lost at least 10,000 troops during WWII. You can pay your respects at the Normandy American Cemetery, learn more at one of the several museums, or simply take in the tranquility of the beach.
Tour the UNESCO-listed Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, a beautiful abbey built on a rocky islet. Explore the stunning island commune, built on the English Channel. Towering spires, a land bridge that is only accessible at low tide, and awe-inspiring views of the sea make Mont-Saint-Michel look like something from a fairytale. Explore this unique island that has served as a military fortress, an abbey, and a pilgrimage site at different points in its lifespan. Visiting the island itself is free, but you’ll need to purchase tickets to enter the abbey.
Enjoy the stunning cliff views of the Alabaster Coast, with its white chalk cliffs and turquoise waters. Another Normandy location made famous by Monet, the alabaster cliffs of Etretat is a gorgeous place to hike and take in the sights. It takes about two hours total to scale the rocks using steep paths that travel up from the beach, and once you get to the top, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the three natural rock arches and surrounding scenery. Alternatively, you can schedule a boat tour and view the cliffs from the ocean.
Normandy Cider Route
Driving along this 25-mile trail is a great way to see the Normandy countryside. The Normandy Cider Route offers you the chance to stop at one of the 20 local cider farms! Enjoy a tour of a cider farm and sample some of the locally-produced cider. The route connects the villages of Beuvron-en-Auge, Cambremer, Bonnebosq, and Beaufour-Druval.
Rouen, the capital of Normandy, is a port city located on the river Seine that’s full of fascinating history and architecture. Its several cathedrals are worth a visit even if you’re not religious, as is the monument marking where the military leader and Catholic Saint Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. Gothic architecture and art buffs might especially enjoy seeing Cathedrale Notre-Dame, which was the subject of a series of paintings by Monet.
Bayeux Museum and Tapestry
Admire this 11th-century embroidered cloth depicting the story of the Norman Conquest of England. One of history’s most fascinating textiles is the Bayeux Tapestry, a 70-foot-long embroidery that tells the story of England’s conquest by William, Duke of Normandy. This stunning tapestry is still intact and can be viewed by visitors. Visit the three museums for a detailed history of the tapestry, and don’t worry about pre-ordering tickets – they’re only required for large groups.
Honfleur is a charming town in Normandy, France, that offers plenty of activities and attractions for everyone to enjoy. Explore the quaint harbor village, with its picturesque port and cobblestone streets. One of the town’s most popular destinations is the Vieux Bassin, a picturesque harbor surrounded by colorful buildings and lively cafes. Take a stroll along the quay or watch the boats bobbing in the water.
The town is also home to several museums, including the Eugene Boudin Museum, which showcases the works of the Impressionist painter, and the Musée du Vieux Honfleur, which provides insight into the town’s history and culture.
Foodies will enjoy exploring the town’s many restaurants, which serve up delicious local specialties like seafood, cheese, and cider. Other activities include visiting the Saint Catherine Church, taking a boat tour of the Seine estuary, or simply wandering the quaint streets and soaking up the town’s relaxed coastal atmosphere.
Château de Falaise
Explore the former home of William the Conqueror, a beautiful castle in the north of France. The Château de Falaise is a castle located in the town of Falaise in Normandy, France. The castle has a long and fascinating history, dating back to the 10th century when it was built by the Duke of Normandy. Over the centuries, the castle has been occupied by various royal and noble families, and it played an important role in the history of England, as it was the birthplace of William the Conqueror, who went on to become the King of England.
You can explore the castle and its grounds, which include a museum, exhibitions, and a guided tour that provides insight into the castle’s history and architecture. The Château de Falaise is an important historical and cultural landmark in Normandy and is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in medieval French history or architecture.
An upscale seaside resort for generations, Deauville is a tiny village of just under 4,000 on the coast of Normandy. The resort was dreamed up by Dr. Joseph Olliffe and the Duke de Morny in the 1860s, and it’s famed for its colorful beachside parasols, sumptuous hotels, and annual Deauville American Film Festival. For a truly luxurious escape, book a stay at Hotel Barriere Le Normandy Deauville, which is located just blocks from the ocean.
Monet’s Gardens at Giverny
Any fan of Impressionist art probably has fond memories of Monet’s famous water lily series. If you visit Normandy, you can experience the actual gardens at Giverny that inspired his tranquil paintings. Buy tickets online and take a few hours to explore the beauty of the artist’s garden and home.
If you’re in the mood to explore a wild, untouched side of the natural world, you can’t miss the Suisse Normande region. Hills, cliffs, and gorges around the Orne River include great spots for hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, and stunning panoramic views. If you feel like walking on the wilder side, stay at a furnished holiday rental out in the countryside and wake up every morning to the sound of singing birds.
Another port city, this one located at the mouth of the River Seine, Le Havre is the largest city in upper Normandy. Nature lovers will enjoy the Hanging Gardens and the beach, while art aficionados will appreciate the Impressionist Trail throughout the city and the Andre Malraux Museum of Modern Art.
Take a step back in time in Le Bec-Hellouin, known as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Built around the Abbey Notre-Dame du Bec, which was completed in 1034, the village still has a peaceful atmosphere from its religious heritage. Schedule a tour at the abbey to witness its stunning architecture and beautiful gardens.
If you’re looking for a fun, quirky adventure, you can’t go wrong with Tatihou Island! Famous for oysters, you can access the island at low tide by walking across the oyster beds. However, you can get there at any time by riding an amphibious vehicle that switches between car and boat when necessary. Once on the island, have fun exploring the gardens and visiting the maritime museum, which has exhibits for adults and children alike.
Another of France’s most beautiful villages, Barfleur is a must-see for anyone who is curious about traditional Norman villages. Situated on the coast of the English Channel, it’s filled with the square granite of traditional Norman architecture. It’s also a fantastic place to sample mussels, since moules de Barfleur are still caught offshore to this day. Le safran, located just blocks from the shore, is a popular choice.
A lively port city on the river Orne, Caen has had historical and military significance since medieval times. Although much of the city was destroyed during WWII, many of the oldest buildings were spared and the rest of Caen was rebuilt stronger than ever. One of the biggest attractions is the famous Château de Caen, which is free to explore and even allows pets. The Château de Caen is an impressive 11th-century castle and the former home of William the Conqueror.
As you can see, Normandy is an exciting place full of nature, history, and culture. From the shores of the English Channel to the mountains of Suisse Normande, and from fascinating Norman history to modern art museums, a trip to Normandy has something for everyone. We hope you got some ideas from this list of the best things to do in Normandy, and enjoy your trip!