Things to do in Normandy, France
Ready to discover the best 10 things to do in Normandy, France? Let’s get started!
1. Mont Saint-Michel, one of the best places to visit in Normandy
This list couldn’t start with any other place than Mont Saint-Michel, one of the most beautiful spots in Normandy and France. You probably already have this place on your map, but if you’re not familiar, Mont Saint-Michel is a small village, known for its abbey, built on a massive rocky islet located in a bay.
Due to the tides, one of the largest on the continental European coast, you can find Mont Saint-Michel surrounded by land and meadows or by seawater. During the highest tides, Mont Saint-Michel becomes completely isolated from the mainland, becoming an island for a few hours.
The upcoming dates when Mont Saint-Michel will be completely surrounded by water are from October 7th to 9th and from November 5th to 7th.
It is recommended to arrive two hours before high tide. My recommendation is to visit Mont Saint-Michel during high tide because, although it’s beautiful at any time of the day, when it’s surrounded by water, it has a unique magic and charm.
Approach the walkway and wander through the streets of this incredible place to uncover all its secrets. It’s possible to visit the interior of the abbey. If you wish to do so, I recommend purchasing your ticket in advance to avoid waiting in line during your visit and wasting time. You can purchase your ticket here.
There is a free shuttle bus that connects the parking area to the famous islet. Although I recommend walking to the islet on the way there, taking the bus back to the parking area can be a good idea if you’re tired.
2. D-Day beaches: Omaha Beach
It’s impossible to think of Normandy without World War II coming to mind. As you may already know, this region of France was one of the most significant operations of the war: Operation Overlord. It started on June 6, 1944, a date known as D-Day, with the Normandy landings. The beaches where the landings took place were Sword, Gold, Juno, Utah, and Omaha.
If you only have time to visit one of these beaches, I recommend going to Omaha Beach. This approximately 10-kilometer-long beach witnessed one of the bloodiest episodes of the operation. German forces had already erected a series of obstacles here to impede the advance of enemy troops. This, combined with horrendous weather conditions, resulted in a massacre.
3. Normandy American Cemetery
Very close to Omaha Beach, you’ll find the Normandy American Cemetery. It’s one of the best things to do in Normandy, France, if you truly want to grasp the significance of this historical event. Besides the nearly 10,000 graves marked with white crosses, which will give you chills, make sure to visit the visitor center. There, you can learn some very intriguing yet very sad facts about the operation and stories of soldiers.
4. Bayeux and its 70-meter tapestry
What has made Bayeux famous is the incredible Bayeux Tapestry which you can find in the museum of the same name. It’s a woolen canvas embroidered with nearly a thousand years of history. It measures 70 meters in length and 50 meters in height. Quite impressive! It depicts the epic tale of the conquest of England by William the Conqueror in the year 1066.
The Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy and the Baron Gérard Museum of Art and History complement the city’s artistic and cultural offerings. But there’s more. The Bayeux historic center offers a charming promenade for those who venture into its streets. Don’t miss visiting Bayeux Cathedral, the Bayeux Botanical Garden, Place Charles de Gaulle, and, of course, the famous watermill on the Aure River.
From Bayeux, it’s possible to book an organized tour of the Normandy D-Day beaches. You can opt for a half-day or full-day excursion. The tour typically includes visits to Omaha and Utah Beaches, Pointe du Hoc, and the American Cemetery, among other tourist attractions in Normandy.
5. Caen, a historically rich city to visit in Normandy, France
We continue this journey through the best of Normandy with Caen, a city steeped in history. While it’s true that Caen suffered considerable damage during the invasion and parts of it had to be rebuilt, its streets still house numerous historical buildings. Among them, the highlights include the Church of Saint-Pierre, Caen Castle, the Abbey of Sainte-Trinité (Ladies’ Abbey), and the Abbey of Saint-Étienne (Men’s Abbey).
Also, don’t miss taking a stroll through Vaugueux, the city’s medieval district. It’s a perfect place for dining as it boasts many restaurants serving traditional cuisine. The Caen Botanical Garden is another highly interesting visit. However, the essential visit is to the Caen Memorial, where you can gain an even deeper understanding of the Battle of Normandy.
6. Deauville and Trouville-sur-Mer
I’ve included Deauville and Trouville together in one section because they are located right next to each other.
Deauville is an elegant seaside town, known for having been a vacation destination for famous movie stars for many years. In fact, the Deauville American Film Festival is held here every year. It’s also essential to mention horses, as the passion for these animals is part of Deauville’s history. As evidence, their racecourse was built in 1864.
During your visit to Deauville, you can enjoy a swim on its expansive beach. Also, don’t miss taking a stroll along Les Planches, a boardwalk filled with beach cabins bearing the names of famous Hollywood actors and directors.
On the other hand, Trouville-sur-Mer is a coastal town with a lively and welcoming atmosphere. If you feel like spending an afternoon on the beach and at terraces, this town is ideal. Trouville-sur-Mer is known for its fish market, considered a historical monument.
7. Honfleur, the most beautiful village in Normandy
The Normandy region is home to several charming towns, and among them, Honfleur is one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful village in Normandy. I’ve visited this Norman town twice, and I must admit that it has managed to surprise me both times. This is especially due to the Port of Honfleur, one of the most picturesque and charming things to do in Normandy.
The harbor won’t be the only thing that surprises you in Honfleur. Its narrow streets filled with restaurants and shops hide other gems that you will love. Let your feet wander and enjoy getting lost in each of them. But be sure not to miss the Saint Catherine’s Church, another symbol of the town.
¿Quieres conocer lo mejor de Honfleur junto a un guía? No te pierdas esta visita guiada por Honfleur. Se trata de un recorrido de una hora y media que te llevará por lo mejor del centro histórico de este pintoresco pueblo.
Do you want to discover the best things to do in Honfleur with a guide? Don’t miss this guided tour of Honfleur. It’s a 1.5-hour excursion that will take you through the highlights of the historic center of this picturesque town.
8. Pont-Audemer, a village crossed by canals
You might not come across Pont-Audemer in other articles about this region. However, I wanted to include this little village in my list of the best 10 things to do in Normandy, France. It’s a small town built between two branches of the Risle River, connected by several canals. These canals run through the streets of Pont-Audemer, lending its historic center a unique charm.
Pont-Audemer is on the way to Rouen if you’re traveling from Caen, Honfleur, or Deauville. It’s well worth making a brief stop and strolling through the old town. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by its half-timbered houses, old washhouses, and, of course, the canals and bridges. Also, don’t miss the Church of Saint Ouen, a blend of Gothic, Romanesque, and Renaissance styles.
9. Rouen, the capital of Normandy
Rouen, the capital of Normandy, is another city that hides numerous treasures and secrets. For example, did you know that Rouen was the city where Joan of Arc was executed at the stake? The Church of St Joan of Arc is dedicated to her. When we talk about Rouen, it’s impossible not to mention the spectacular Rouen Cathedral, which was painted by Monet on numerous occasions.
It’s also worth highlighting the Gros-Horloge, another icon of Rouen. This is a 14th-century astronomical clock. During your stroll through the historic center of Rouen, don’t miss the Vieux-Marché Square and the Museum of Fine Arts. Near Rouen, you can visit the Abbey of Saint-Georges-de-Boscherville and the remains of the Jumièges Abbey.
10. The Cliffs of Étretat, Normandy’s natural wonder
If you have a preference for natural destinations over other types of places, Étretat will delight you just as much as it delighted me. This Norman town located on the Alabaster Coast is famous for its incredible seafront cliffs, which you can explore through trails that wind through green meadows. The landscapes stand out for the contrast between the deep blue sea and the white cliffs. You’ll also be amazed by the pebble beaches and the various geological formations.
Don’t miss taking a stroll through the village, which is also well worth exploring. Be sure to visit the Jardins d’Étretat; it’s a place that will surprise you. If your visit to this town coincides with lunch or dinner time, I recommend going to the La Flottille restaurant. We had a great meal there.
Where to stay in Normandy, France
Normandy is a fairly large region; however, if you stay in a central area, you can visit all the places I’ve mentioned from the same location. Changing your base once and dividing your stay between two accommodations is also a great idea.
With that in mind, the best places to stay in Normandy are the surroundings of Bayeux, Caen, and Deauville.
Map of things to do in Normandy, France.
In the following map of Normandy, I’ve marked all the places mentioned in this blog post. You can find them in order of mention. Additionally, I’ve marked other best places to visit in Normandy that, while not included in this top 10, are also worth considering. If you’re going to spend a good amount of time in the region, don’t hesitate to add them to your itinerary.
Don’t miss my France travel guide to get all the information about this country. Additionally, if you’re also planning to visit the Brittany region, I recommend reading this post with my top 20 things to do in Brittany, France.
I hope this article on the best 10 things to do in Normandy, France has been helpful in preparing your trip to this beautiful French region. If you want to share your experience or have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or email me. Until next time, travelers!