Attractions in Normandy

15 Top Tourist Attractions in Normandy

With its beautiful, varied landscape and rich history, Normandy has much to offer visitors. Normandy has one of France’s most famous tourist sites, Mont-Saint-Michel, as well as impressive castles, beautiful churches and picturesque old towns such as Rouen. The seaside resorts of Honfleur and Deauville are popular in the summer and the natural beauty of the region’s coastline, forests and meadows is an attraction in itself.

Along the Channel coast, dramatic limestone cliffs drop into the ocean, while Lower Normandy is characterized by green, peaceful valleys. An idyllic pastoral area known as the “Suisse Normande” (“Norman Switzerland”) attracts nature lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts. Normandy is also known as the site of Allied landings in 1944. There is evidence of World War II events in the region. Tourists can visit the military cemeteries, war memorial museums and the D-Day landing beaches such as Omaha Beach and Arromanches Beach.

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1 Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint Michel
 

A major medieval pilgrimage destination, Mont-Saint-Michel is one of France’s most famous and spectacular sights. The Abbey of Saint-Michel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has a mythical quality, rising more than 100 meters above the sea. Its Gothic spiers seem to reach towards the sky, while the site invites visitors to cross the foreboding Bay of Saint-Michel. During low tide, visitors can take part in a “traditional crossing” (a guided walk or pilgrimage) to reach Mont Saint-Michel. During high tide, Mont Saint-Michel becomes an island accessible only by road. The highlight of a visit is the Abbey Church, reached by a 200-metre footpath and then 350 steps to the top of Mont Saint-Michel. The beautiful abbey built in the 12th century has a serene Romanesque sanctuary and an awe-inspiring Gothic choir. From the abbey’s terrace on the west facade, visitors can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view.

Official site: https://www.ot-montsaintmichel.com/en/accueil.htm

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Normandy

2 Rouen

Rouen
Rouen
 

Wandering the medieval cobbled streets of Rouen, visitors will enjoy the historic ambiance and beautiful half-timbered houses. Beautiful Gothic churches can be found at every turn and many are gems of architectural achievement. The impressive cathedral awaits spectators with its beautiful facade, which Claude Monet depicted in a famous series of paintings. Monet’s pieces show the beauty of the cathedral at different times of the day. Another important monument in Rouen is the Gros-Horloge clock tower in the center of the city. Those who appreciate culture should visit the Beaux-Arts Museum with its famous fine arts collection. Rouen is also known as the location whereJoan of Arc was brought to justice. Tourists can see the tower where this courageous young woman stood before her judges and the place where she was tortured. She later became a saint and now there is a modern-day church dedicated to her invincible spirit.

Accommodation: where to stay in Rouen

3 Honfleur

Honfleur
Honfleur
 

With its picturesque old harbor at the mouth of the Seine, Honfleur is one of the most charming towns in Normandy. About 25 kilometers from Le Havre, the city has quaint cobbled streets and many picturesque half-timbered houses. The old sea harbor was used by sailors who traveled to Canada in the 16th century. On the north side of the harbor stands the 16th-century Lieutenance Building, the old governor’s house, built on the remains of the city’s old walls. One of Honfleur’s most notable attractions, the Musée de la Marine(Maritime Museum), is housed in the former church of Saint-Etienne built between the 14th and 15th centuries. The Maritime Museum tells the history of seafaring, fishing and shipbuilding in Honfleur. A must-see attraction for lovers of Impressionist art, the Musée Eugène Boudin features an extensive collection of 200 works. Boudin’s works represent more than half of the collection; the rest includes pieces by Monet, Courbet, Millet and other Impressionist artists. The main museum can be found on Erik Satie Square, while the annex is located in the church’s detached belfry Church of Sainte-Catherine. An interesting tourist attraction in itself. This late Gothic church was built by local shipbuilders after the Hundred Years’ War.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Honfleur

4 Caen Churches and Memorial Centre

L'Abbaye Aux Hommes in Caen
L’Abbaye Aux Hommes in Caen
 

At the point where the River Orne meets the Channel, Caen is the main city of Lower Normandy and the capital of the Calvados department. Although three-quarters of the city was destroyed during the Allied landings in June-July 1944, the beautiful churches survived virtually unscathed. The Caen-Normandy Memorial Center was created as a tribute to Caen’s suffering during the war and tells the story of the Second World War, the D-Day Landings and the Battle of Normandy. The museum wants to teach and promote the theme of reconciliation. It also offers half-day and full-day tours of the D-Day beaches.

Address: The Caen Memorial, Esplanade Général Eisenhower, Caen

Official site: https://normandy.memorial-caen.com

5 Bayeux and the Bayeux Tapestry Museum

Bayeux tapestry ho visto nina volare / photo modified
Bayeux tapestry ho visto nina volare / photo modified
 

In a fertile plain near the Atlantic coast, the historic town of Bayeaux is most famous for the Bayeux Tapestry (the “Tapisserie de la Reine Mathilde” in French). This masterpiece of medieval art is actually a work of embroidery rather than a tapestry. The beautiful 70 meter long piece is a historical document that tells the story of William the Conqueror’s (Mathilde’s husband) conquest of England in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings. Due to its cultural value, the Bayeux Tapestry has a UNESCO designation. The Bayeux Tapestry is beautifully detailed, displaying 58 pieces in incredible detail, including 623 figures, 759 animals and 37 buildings and ships, along with a scrolling commentary in Latin. Besides the Tapestry Museum, another notable attraction in Bayeux is the Cathedral of Notre-Dame . Built in the 11th and 13th centuries, this cathedral is one of the finest examples of a Norman Gothic church.

Address: 13 bis Rue de Nesmond, Bayeux

6 Omaha Beach: D-Day Landing Beach and Museum

American cemetery
American cemetery
 

The most famous of the five Normandy D-Day beaches, this beach was the scene of the bloodiest battle of World War II. Omaha Beach stretches between Vierville-sur-Mer and Colleville-sur-Mer – the dramatic Atlantic coastline where steep cliffs rise almost 100 meters above the sea. A visit to this site provides a chilling glimpse of the deadly fighting that took place here on D-Day (June 6, 1944). Remnants of German bunkers and military piers can still be seen in the cliff-lined coastline. The American Cemeteryin Colleville-sur-Mer overlooks Omaha Beach. This cemetery contains more than 9,000 perfectly aligned gravestones, making it the largest American cemetery in Normandy. Near Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery is the Overlord Museum , which chronicles the history of the Allied landings and the liberation of Paris. The museum’s collection includes war vehicles, tanks and guns, as well as soldiers’ personal items.

Address: Rondpunt van de American Cemetery, Omaha Center Housing Estate, Colleville-sur-Mer

Official site: www.overlordmuseum.com

7 Deauville

Deauville
Deauville
 

The luxury seaside resort of Deauville is one of the largest and most popular tourist destinations in Normandy. The beautiful coast has two kilometers of sandy beachand a promenade (promenade) for beach walks along the coast. Lifeguards are on duty daily from 10am to 7pm in July and August and in June and September (with more limited supervision hours). Visitors can rent umbrellas, lounge chairs and beach huts. The colorful old-fashioned beach umbrellas and tents give the beach a classic 1920s look. Sunbathers can take a break from the beach to shop in fashionable boutiques or enjoy a meal in one of Deauville’s stylish restaurants. Another attraction is the harbour. There are several marinas and the port of Morny, with the Deauville Yacht Club. The yacht club organizes many high level regattas , and the city of Deauville hosts sailing eventssuch as Deauville International Week, attract visitors from many countries. From the port, tourists can continue along the scenic Côte Fleurie (“Flower Coast”), which stretches 30 kilometers southwest of Cabourg.

8 Giverny: Monet’s Garden

Giverny: Monet's Garden
Giverny: Monet’s Garden
 

Monet’s Garden is a must-see destination for lovers of Impressionist art. Claude Monet’s former home, Giverny, is a lovely property in the countryside about an hour’s drive from Paris. The house is charming, but the beautiful gardens set this place apart. The vibrant flower garden is a delight, as is the famous water garden with the Japanese bridge and a water lily pond surrounded by lush weeping willows. Monet devoted many years to painting various aspects of his garden; he was inspired by the changing reflections in the water and how the lighting changed the landscape throughout the day. Visitors can visit Monet’s Garden and recognize the different elements Monet painted, especially in his “ Water Liliespaintings.

Address: Rue Claude Monet, Giverny

Official site: https://giverny.org/gardens/fcm/visitgb.htm

9 Fécamp

Fécamp
Fécamp
 

Another popular summer destination on the Côte d’Albâtre, the beaches of Fécamp attract many holidaymakers looking for a relaxing break. Founded in 1832, Fécamp was one of France’s first seaside resorts, attracting a storied and high-society crowd. Nowadays, sunbathers and social groups enjoy refreshing ocean scenery . The writer Guy de Maupassant lived for some time in Fécamp, and some of his stories are set in the city. Apart from the fishing port , the main tourist attraction here is the old abbey church of Sainte-Trinité, originally built in the 12th and 13th centuries. The interior is remarkably spacious with an exquisite choir and beautiful Renaissance altar. The medieval pilgrimage chapel, Notre-Dame-du-Salut, sits on a steep chalk cliff north of the town, while 11 kilometers away is the village of Valmont with a medieval castle and the ruins of a 12th-century abbey.

10 Étretat

Étretat
Étretat
 

The popular seaside resort of Étretat lies on Normandy’s picturesque Côte d’Albâtre coastline at the foot of spectacular white limestone cliffs. The cliffs reach 90 meters in height, and from the top are sensational panoramic views. The beautiful landscape of Étretat appealed to Claude Monet who spent a winter here in 1868 while capturing the dramatic landscapes and waterfront in his paintings. Étretat’s beaches are popular with sun seekers, and the ocean is a source of livelihood for fishermen who catch fresh seafood, which is an important part of the local cuisine . Étretat also has many beautiful Belle Epoque villas, the most famous is the Villa Orphée. There is also the Villa La Guillette, which was built for the author Guy de Maupassant.

11 Suisse Normande (Norman Switzerland)

Suisse Normande (Norman Switzerland)
Suisse Normande (Norman Switzerland)
 

The name Suisse Normande (Norman Switzerland) is given to the beautiful stretch of countryside in the Orne Valley, which stretches between Thury-Harcourt (south of Caen) in the north, Flers-de-l’Orne in the south and Falaise in the East. With its green rolling hills, lush forests and pristine lakes, this idyllic part of Lower Normandy offers an escape into nature. The Suisse Normande is a hub of outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking, climbing, canoeing and kayaking. The winding river, the rocky cliffs along the banks and the intricate patchwork of hedges give the landscape a special charm. Its most notable features are the Rocher d’Oëtre in the hilliest part of the area and the exceptional views from the gorges of the Rouvre.

12 Château de Fontaine-Henry

Château de Fontaine-Henry Albert Vieten / modified photo
Château de Fontaine-Henry Albert Vieten / modified photo
 

The Castle of Fontaine-Henry, Normandy’s most spectacular castle, enjoys a peaceful setting in the green Mue Valley of Lower Normandy (about 14 kilometers from Caen). The castle was built in the early 13th century, and the family who own Fontaine-Henry Castle trace their ancestry back to the year 1200. During the Renaissance, the building was expanded with beautiful decorations and is a remarkable example of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. The castle has an impressive stone facade and an interior that is just as beautiful. The rooms are filled with beautiful furnishings and a beautiful collection of paintings, including works by Mignard, Rigaud and Robert. There is also a separate 13th century chapel which was renovated in the 16th century. The Château de Fontaine-Henry is surrounded by forests and parks.

Address: 3 Place du Château, Fontaine-Henry

13 Caen Castle

Caen Castle
Caen Castle
 

This castle was built in 1060 by Guillaume le Conquérant (William the Conqueror), the King of England. It is one of the largest medieval monuments in Europe and a typical symbol of Caen’s heritage. The castle was a royal fortress in the Middle Ages and an English stronghold during the Hundred Years’ War. During the Second World War it was used as a barracks by an infantry regiment. Both Musée de Normandie and the Musée des Beaux-Arts(Museum of Fine Arts) are housed in the castle. The Normandy Museum provides an overview of the culture and history of the region, including the history of the castle. The Museum of Fine Arts of Caen is considered one of the most important art museums in France. The collection focuses on European painting (French, Italian, Flemish and Dutch) from the 16th and 17th centuries. The museum’s treasures include masterpieces by Poussin, Rubens, Veronese and Brueghel. The museum’s collection also extends back to the 19th century with beautiful Impressionist works, such as paintings by Monet, Boudin and Courbet.

Address: Le Château, Caen

Official site: https://www.chateau.caen.fr/ANGLAIS

14 Battle of Normandy Memorial Museum, Bayeux

Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy, Bayeux
Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy, Bayeux
 

Bayeux has a British World War II cemetery and the Battle of Normandy Memorial Museum. The museum features an extensive exhibition space that tells the story of the Battle of Normandy from August 7 to 22, 1944. There is also an auditorium that shows the film “Normandy 44, a decisive victory in the West”, based on archival documents. Created by a World War II historian, the film explains the major operations involved in the Battle of Normandy. The main purpose of the museum is to share history with the public and serve as a memorial site, honoring the memory of fallen civilians and soldiers.

Address: Boulevard Fabian Ware, Bayeux

Official site: https://www.bayeuxmuseum.com/en/accueil_nl.html

15 Arromanches D-Day Museum

Near Omaha beach, the Arromanches landing beaches were successfully captured by the British. The British 50th Northumberland Division destroyed German bunkers and installed an immense artificial harbour, the Mulberry Harbour. The museum is located near the coast, close to where one of the harbors was built. It offers guided tours with working models showing how the artificial harbor works. Visitors can also watch a documentary featuring exceptional archive material from World War II. It is possible to see remains of the harbors in the area, which now features a busy public square with many cafes and shops.

Address: Place du 6 Juin, Arromanches

Other sights

Dieppe

Dieppe
Dieppe
 

Dieppe, another popular seaside resort on the Côte d’Albâtre coast, is located about 60 kilometers north of Rouen on the Channel. The two-kilometre-long bathing beach extends to the 15th-century castle on a limestone cliff above the town. The castle now contains a museum. Northwest of the castle, the Boulevard de la Mer offers exceptional sea views. In the center of the city is the charming Place du Puits-Salé . Dieppe has two important churches: the Baroque Church of Saint-Rémy built in the 16th and 17th centuries and the beautiful Gothic Church of Saint-Jacqueswith its beautiful doorways and richly decorated interior. Dieppe was the site of a crucial Allied landing of the Second World War and there are a number of memorials to the Canadian troops who landed here as part of the disastrous raid that took place in 1942. Nearby Pourville-sur-Mer, a museum is dedicated to the history of the Dieppe attack.

Evreux

Attractions in Normandy
Evreux Town Hall
 

An important commercial and market centre, Evreux is the main town of the Eure department. The main tourist attraction is the Cathedral of Notre-Dame founded in the 11th century. The cathedral has beautiful 16th-century stained glass windows and delicately carved Renaissance grilles in the chapels around the choir. Other interesting sights include the 15th century Bishop’s Palace , which now houses the Municipal Museum , and the Tour de l’Horloge (Clock-Tower) dating from 1490. The former abbey church of Saint-Taurin contains the 13th-century reliquary of Saint Taurinus, considered as a masterpiece of the work of the French goldsmith.

Trouville

Attractions in Normandy
Trouville
 

The popular seaside resort of Trouville is located about two kilometers northeast of Deauville, beyond a bridge over the River Touques. The beautiful beach and a marina attract many visitors, especially in summer. A highly recommended excursion from Trouville is a drive along the Corniche Normande , which runs along the coast high above the sea. This beautiful ride offers extensive views as far as Honfleur.

Le Havre

Attractions in Normandy
Le Havre
 

In a beautiful location at the mouth of the Seine, Le Havre is the largest port in France after Marseille. From 1840 to 1926, Claude Monet lived in Le Havre and painted many important works here. Le Havre suffered extensive damage during World War II and was almost completely rebuilt with many buildings designed by the architect Auguste Perret. The rebuilt city center offers interesting examples of modern architecture, such as the spacious Place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville with its functional tower blocks.

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