19 must-do things to do in Normandy

Juno Beach

Looking for greenery? Want to breathe in the sea air? Follow the guide with these 19 must-do ideas for Normandy!

If you’re dreaming of bucolic landscapes, you’ve come to the right place! The Normandy region, cradle of seaside tourism, continues to attract crowds. It’s hard to resist its flower-filled bocages, comforting gastronomy and historic heritage. A visit to Normandy is a promise to stop paying attention to the passage of time, as its cliff-side paths and picturesque harbors give it a perpetual vacation feel.

While it’s impossible to list all the things to do in the region, here’s a quick idea of what’s in store with this list of 19 must-sees in Normandy. Follow the guide!

1. Honfleur

Honfleur

Photo credit: Flickr – Patrick Müller

It’s Normandy’s mythical, must-see port! The one whose tall houses are known the world over and whose village atmosphere is as charming as ever. After a stroll around the port, take the time to climb the narrow streets to gain height and enjoy the beautiful views.

2. The Deauville, Trouville, Houlgate, Cabourg quartet

Le Grand'Hotel de Cabourg

Photo credit: Flickr – shogunangel

They are the jewel in the crown of the Côte Fleurie, with their Belle Époque villas that testify to their success from the end of the 19th century. A success that continues to this day, with its long sandy beaches and mild climate. All you need to do here is take the time to stroll around and reread Proust.

3. Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint Michel

Photo credit: Shutterstock – 4Max

Some claim it’s Breton, but it’s in Normandy that you have to go to see it. At first, you can see it in the distance, then it appears in all its majesty. The view from the abbey’s terraces is simply magical! Before setting off again, don’t miss a last glimpse of it in the light of sunset.

4. Monet’s gardens at Giverny

jardins de monet giverny lac et passerelle glycine

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Oleg Bakhirev

Located on the border of the Île de France region, this is a site to visit in Normandy, preferably in spring. It’s in this season that you’ll understand why Monet chose this place, and the urge to pick up your paintbrushes, in turn, may well come to you. Indeed, it’s impossible to resist the palette of colors and the softness of life near the water lilies.

5. The Memorial and the landing beaches

Old german bunker in Normandy, Gold beach

Photo credit: Shutterstock / photoneye

In Normandy, a land of remembrance, the D-Day landing beaches are a must-see, as is the Memorial, a museum dedicated to the history of the 20th century, against the backdrop of the Second World War. The museum, far from being academic, offers a number of scenographies to help visitors reflect on the challenges of peace, while the Gardens of Remembrance commemorate the commitment of the Allied nations.

6. Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s abbeys

abbaye caen normandie

Photo Credit: Flickr / Melinda * Young

Still in Caen, take a trip down memory lane, this time in the footsteps of William the Conqueror. The two abbeys were respectively founded by the Duke for the Men’s Abbey and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, for the Ladies’ Abbey. The buildings have been refurbished over the centuries, but they still house the couple’s tombs.

7. Cotentin

Cotentin

Photo Credit: Flickr / jean-daniel pauget

What will you choose to visit on the Normandy peninsula? Will you be strolling through the Nature Park to observe migratory birds, or the dunes of Vauville ? Or would you prefer the charm of the picturesque port of Barfleur at landing time? The choice is yours!

8. Cherbourg Cité de la mer

Cité de la mer de Cherbourg

Photo Credit: Flickr / Julien

If you’re a lover of the sea, this is the place to visit in Normandy. Housed in the former transatlantic ferry terminal, it’s here that you can discover what lurks in the abyss, visit France’s first nuclear submarine and relive the story of the Titanic.

9. Chausey Islands

îles Chausey

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Jef Wodniack

It’s time to set sail for this archipelago, less well known than its Channel Islands neighbors, and yet! There’s no better word than « paradise » to describe this little piece of Normandy, 17km from the mainland. We dare you not to fall under the spell of the granite rocks, turquoise waters and panoramic views.

10. Granville

Granville

Photo Credit: Flickr / Robert Lihou

Before setting sail for the islands, it would be a shame not to take advantage of Granville’s charm. It’s France’s leading shellfish port, which will delight gourmets, while its fortified upper town will appeal to budding historians. Finally, fashion lovers won’t want to miss a visit to Christian Dior‘s house museum. For the more festive, the famous carnival awaits you.

11. Rouen

Eglise Sainte-Madeleine, Rouen

Photo credit: Wikipedia – Giogo

A visit to Normandy includes a visit to the city of a hundred steeples, which is said to boast some 2,000 medieval half-timbered houses. The Gothic cathedral, with France’s tallest spire, is a must-see, not to mention the Gros-Horloge belfry. If you’re not afraid of crowds, come and see the Armada one of these days.

12. Le Haras du Pin

Haras du Pin

Photo Credit: Flickr / Karen

Nicknamed the Versailles of the horse, it is the oldest of the national stud farms, founded by Louis XIV. Today, it’s renowned for promoting the Percheron breed, as well as hosting artists-in-residence and equestrian competitions. But above all, it’s a very interesting museum in a majestic setting.

13. The Pays d’Auge

Pays d'Auge

Photo Credit: Flickr / Odile Blanvillain

If visiting Normandy is synonymous with bocage landscapes and half-timbered houses, the Pays d’Auge is the place to go. Situated inland to the south of Deauville, this corner of Normandy personifies charm to perfection. Don’t miss the villages of :

  • Beuvron-en-Auge
  • Pierrefite-en-Auge
  • Beaumont-en-Auge

14. The Camembert route

Camembert

Photo credit: Shutterstock – PHILIPIMAGE

It’s the symbol of France around the world! So it’s impossible to visit the region without tasting it and learning more about this Normandy staple. Let’s set off on a mini road-trip in the Orne region, following in the footsteps of the famous cheese through some superb pastoral landscapes. And, as luck would have it, the Route du Cidre also passes through the area.

15. Bayeux tapestry

tapisserie de Bayeux

Photo Credit: Flickr / Raidsvikings

69 meters of tapestry, that’s quite a lot! More precisely, it’s an embroidery retracing the conquest of England by the Duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror. The tapestry features no fewer than 626 characters, over 30 buildings including Mont-Saint-Michel, and perspective effects, as explained in the dedicated museum.

16. Hiking in Suisse Normande

Randonner suisse normande

Photo credit: Wikipedia / Roi.dagobert

The name may sound funny, but there are mountains to be seen in Normandy, or rather 300-metre-high reliefs carved out by the Orne gorges. Magnificent vantage points and outdoor activities, which have nothing to envy the Alps, await you. These include the Roche d’Oëtre(see itinerary) and the Rochers des Parcs(see itinerary).

17. Château-Gaillard

Château-Gaillard

Photo credit: Wikipedia / Osbern

Perched on a cliff above Les Andelys, the ruins of Richard the Lionheart’ s castle look like something out of a fairy tale, especially when they emerge from the fog. Built here for military purposes, today visitors can admire its breathtaking view over the loops of the Seine.

18. The cliffs of Etretat

Falaise d'Etretat

Photo credit: Flickr – Francois R THOMAS

Immortalized by Monet, the cliffs are one of Normandy’s must-see landscapes. The views, whether from the sea or from the pathway above, are truly breathtaking. Admiring the Aiguille, Manneporte and Courtine in the late afternoon light is the height of romance.

19. Le Havre

Forêt de Mongeon, Le Havre

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Picturereflex

All too often reduced to concrete and its industrial port, the city is nevertheless listed by UNESCO for its 20th-century architectural heritage. Destroyed by bombing during the Second World War, the town was rebuilt by Auguste Perret, and its landmark monument is the Saint-Joseph church. The Musée d’Art Moderne is also highly regarded.

Our Normandy workshop

Take advantage of your stay in Normandy to meet oenologist Christian Drouin’s team, and discover the secrets behind the production of the region’s best-known spirit: calvados!

After a tour of the cider farm and a detailed explanation of the various stages of production, you’ll have the chance to put your new-found knowledge to good use, by assembling your own calvados!

How to get to Normandy

By car

That’s the advantage of visiting Normandy: it’s right on the doorstep of the Paris region. All you have to do is take the A13, which crosses the region via Rouen and Caen. For sustainable travel, don’t hesitate to carpool!

By bus

Several bus companies run services to and from the region’s main cities, especially Rouen. Most places of interest are therefore accessible by public transport at a modest cost.

By train

The Paris-Normandie railway lines are among the oldest in France, as Zola’s novels testify. While there are currently no TGV high-speed trains, intercity trains provide connections to Le Havre, Deauville, Cherbourg and Granville, among others, with a wide range of stops.

By plane

Not served by Paris, the region does have 4 airports, but only Caen airport offers connections to several regions in France. You can use a flight comparator like Ulysse, for example, to see the different possibilities.

Where to stay in Normandy?

When it comes to accommodation in Normandy, there’s plenty to choose from. From caravans and glamping to traditional hotels, gites and guest houses, there’s something for everyone! And it’s just as likely to be found in remote villages as in large towns. Visit a hotel comparator to get an overview of what’s on offer and to benefit from the best rates.

Map of hotels and accommodation – Normandy