France’s Normandy region covers the northernmost half of the country’s northwestern section. From the military campaigns of Joan of Arc during the end of the Hundred Years’ War to the Allied liberation of France beginning with D-Day, Normandy has played an important role in France’s history. With its vast countryside lined with orchards and its tall cliffs standing watch over Atlantic beaches, Normandy’s size and beauty make it a unique French vacation destination. If you’re planning a trip to this historic region, here is a list of things to do in Normandy.
Things to Do in Normandy
Paris isn’t the only place worth exploring in France. Normandy is home to many historic and picturesque sites. About a three to four-hour drive from Paris, a visit to Normandy offers a unique and enriching experience away from the bustle of big city streets. For those looking to explore this beautiful French region, here are some of our favorite things to do in Normandy.
1. D-Day Beaches
Omaha Beach, site of D-Day and the starting point for the Normandy Landings, is approximately a three-hour drive from Paris. Here, you’ll see cliffs such as the Pointe du Hoc towering over serene beaches once laden with carnage.
The weight once borne by Normandy’s beaches has since been lifted higher than the fortifications that once lined Pointe du Hoc, replaced by peaceful solitude and reflection.
2. Rouen Cathedral
A one hour and 45-minute drive from Paris, the city of Rouen, capital of Normandy, is home to the Rouen Cathedral. This 12th-century Gothic cathedral stands 151 meters at its tallest point.
Still standing after centuries of damage including being struck by lightning, multiple fires, and being bombed numerous times during World War II, the Rouen Cathedral is a stunning architectural display that towers over the north banks of the Seine River. Inspired by the Rouen Cathedral, artists such as Claude Monet and Roy Lichtenstein have featured this historic Normandy landmark.
The arrival of allied troops to Omaha Beach in Normandy was one of the bloodiest days of the 20th century for western civilization. Many of our parents and grandparents were involved which makes this day trip even more moving. Our day trip celebrates the heroism of our ancestors and digs into the history of the event. After, we’ll visit one of Normandy’s famous apple orchards to enjoy local cider!
3. Claude Monet’s House
Claude Monet’s house is located 50 miles west of Paris in the village of Giverny. Born in Paris, Monet called Normandy his home from 1883 until his death in 1926. The estate features interiors painted in the pastel colors of Monet’s own palette. You’ll stand amazed at the beauty of Monet’s gardens, real-life portrayals of his famous landscape paintings. Claude Monet’s artwork captured the essence of Normandy’s rustic charm.
4. Mont Saint-Michel
About a four-hour drive from Paris and located on Normandy’s west end, Mont Saint-Michel is a picturesque island that hosts an 8th-century monastery of the same name. Photography enthusiasts will enjoy the walled island’s position above sand beaches next to grassy fields sometimes peppered with grazing sheep.
The monastery’s spire forms the apex of the walled city’s gorgeous and surreal triangular shape. Aside from Mont Saint-Michel’s outward appearance, you’ll find plenty of shops, restaurants and hotels inside its walls.
5. The Church of Saint Joan of Arc
Located in the Normandy capital city of Rouen, The Church of Saint Joan of Arc sits on the site of Joan of Arc’s burning at the stake in 1431. Despite being completed in 1979, The Church of Saint Joan of Arc features beautiful 16th-century stained glass windows that were removed from the Church of Saint Vincent prior to its bombing during World War II. You’ll admire the jaw-dropping beauty of these stained glass windows portraying the life of Christ and other Catholic saints.
6. Normandy’s Cider Orchards
Normandy is renowned for its many varieties of French cider. This is due to the abundance of orchards in the region. There’s no better way to experience Normandy than to drink the nectar of its signature apples. With varieties of French cider including calvados and pommeau, there’s no better way to experience Normandy’s intoxicating lush green scenery than to partake in the gem of its thriving apple-growing industry. Sit down for a snack or brunch and enjoy a traditional meal of French cider with crêpes.
With so much to explore, Normandy’s beauty and history make the region a must-see for travelers to France. Venture outside of Paris and experience this lively region of France for yourself. If you’re not sure where to begin, why not start with our day trip from Paris to Normandy? You’ll see the history of Normandy’s beaches and sample delicious ciders straight from one of Normandy’s orchards. Make the most of your visit to France and cross Normandy off your bucket list with The Tour Guy!
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