The most visited city in France is without any surprise Paris but, next to it, many places worth your time to visit. I am writing about the beautiful and probably the greenest “Région” of Normandy next to Paris (A region is like a little state in France).
Normandy is the home of the Camembert and Guillaume le Conquérant who conquered England during the Middle Ages. Normandy is easy to access from Paris by train (Around 1h30) from the train station of Saint-Lazare or by car (Around 2h). Here is my selection of places to visit in Normandy, it would take a minimum of four days to visit the following list 🙂
1 – Rouen (1 day)
For your information, I studied in Rouen for three years and I loved it. Rouen is one of the main cities in Normandy. This old city was unfortunately bombed during the WW2 most of the side left of the river Seine was destroyed (Same river that goes through Paris). The right side was preserved the architecture is from the Middle Ages, it is called half-timbered architecture. You will have the chance to visit the highest cathedral of France 151 meters high the Notre Dame de Rouen.To make a comparison, the Notre Dame Cathedral de Paris was 96 meters high (Before the fire in April 2019).
I am not a religious person, but I enjoy visiting religious places. You can also visit the wonderful Church of Saint-Maclou and the Abbey Saint-Ouen. Around the Church of Saint Maclou you can find great restaurants, my favorite one: La Vieille Auberge. It was in Rouen that Jeanne d’Arcs was burned by the English, many streets and squares make reference to this Heroin. You should visit the excellent museum about her: Historial Jeanne d’Arc. One must-see in Rouen is the main street called la Rue du Gros Horloge translated into English gives Big Clock Street 🙂
2 – Étretat (0,5 day)
Not so far away from Rouen, you can visit the cliffs of Étretat. Those cliffs are quite impressive, and you can walk around. You need a half-day to visit it, you can enjoy the sea and hopefully the sun.
3 – Honfleur (0,5 day)
Close to Étretat, you can visit the beautiful little town of Honfleur. I recommend you to go to eat in a restaurant around the Harbor for the view.
4 – Caen (1 day)
The Second-biggest city of Normandy is the hometown of the famous French rapper Orelsan. You can learn a little bit about Orelsan by reading this article. In terms of monuments like Rouen, Caen is full of religious places to visit. The most impressive place to see is the Abbey of Men (Abbaye aux Hommes). It is worth your time to visit the district of Vaugueux to enjoy the half-timbered architecture. You can also visit the museum of Mémorial de Caen about WW1 and WW2.
5 – Normandy Beaches (1 day)
From this list of best things to do in Normandy, this is an area you should not miss. Landing Beaches were an important part of WW2 and if you are passionate about history and D-Day, you must visit some of those beaches. The Normandy Beaches can be divided into five areas: Utah Beach (USA), Omaha Beach (USA), Gold Beach (UK), Juno Beach (UK & Canada), and Sword Beach (UK & France).
1 – Utah Beach
It was chosen by the allies for the D-Day in order to be able to take over the port of Cherbourg quicker. Built at the very spot where American troops landed on June 6, 1944, the Utah Beach Museum offers you a complete chronological journey. The must-see of the museum is an authentic B-26 bomber.
2 – Omaha Beach
Also named later on Bloody Omaha since the USA lost many soldiers. in 1956, France inaugurated an American cemetery, with 9,387 tombstones (It is an American territory now). The cemetery overlooks the huge Omaha beach. To me, it is probably the most impressive beach from D-Day, there is strong energy coming from this place.
3 – Gold Beach
It is a large artificial harbor was built, it is located in Arromanches. We can still see the remains of the artificial harbor. The goal of the British was to free Bayeux, the first big city liberated. Arromanches 360 offers a circular cinema that presents the integral history of the Battle of Normandy.
4 – Juno Beach
It was where the Canadian landed. On D-Day, 14,000 Canadians, and 9,000 British arrived. They lost many men in this sector.
5 – Sword Beach
It was the only sector composed of French soldiers, with other nationalities, mainly English.
6 – Bayeux (less than 0,5 day)
This is a nice little town around Caen. You can go for a walk in its streets and enjoy the little shops for tea or buy a souvenir.
7 – Le Mont-Saint-Michel (1 day)
I am writing about a super controversial subject. Officially, le Mont-Saint-Michel belongs to Normandy but the people of the region Brittany (Bretagne) do not agree with it and claim that it is in Brittany’s territory. The reason why is that the Mont-Saint-Michel switched territory in its history between Normandy and Brittany. Le Mont-Saint-Michel is one of the most visited places in France and it can be crowded but it is worth the time to visit this unique place surrounded by a vast beach. Does this wonderful village remind you of something? It is because le Mont-Saint-Michel inspired the castle of Disneyland.
Here a map of the places to visit in Normandy:
The list of the best things to do in Normandy is over 🙂 Did you know this area of France? Do you want to know other places? Let me know in the comments section! 🙂 I invite you to read the article about 6 Things to Do in Corsica for a Road Trip.