Things to Know
Those who choose Normandy, one of France’s many distinct regions, will be impressed by its unique landscape, interesting history and sites, as well as its own distinct culture and cuisine. There is no doubt that for recent generations, Normandy is initially associated with World War II and the D-Day invasion, followed by the subsequent bloody battles before the Germans finally retreated. As it happens, Normandy’s associations with warriors goes back far earlier than WWII, and in fact its very name is derived from an early wave of invaders – the Northmen who may be more familiar to you as the Normans who invaded England. Despite its ‘warrior’ past, modern day Normandy is a very peaceful region of contemporary France that charms all of its visitors with its fine old cities, striking buildings, good food and drink, gentle terrain, and varied vegetation.
Things to See
The Bayeux Tapestry Museum
Home to the extraordinary Bayeux Tapestry that is counted among the greatest masterpieces of medieval European art.
The Battle of Normandy Memorial Museum
Recounting the events surrounding the Allied invasion of Normandy, this is one of the finest D-Day landing museums in France.
Caen Memorial Museum
A museum and war memorial in Caen that is dedicated to the history of the twentieth century with a central focus on World War II and the Battle of Caen.
Museum of Modern Art André Malraux
A museum of art containing one of France’s most extensive collections of impressionist paintings.
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen
Founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1801, this museum boasts an impressive collection of sculpture, drawing, decorative art, and paintings that represent every European school from the 15th to the 21st century.
Rising over 100 meters above sea level, Mont Saint-Michel is home to a beautiful Abbey that offers incredible sweeping views over the surrounding landscape.
A splendid Roman Catholic Church that serves as an excellent example of Gothic architecture in the historic city of Rouen.
The Abbey of Saint-Étienne
A former Benedictine Monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen. Founded in 1063 by William the Conqueror, it is regarded as one of the most important Romanesque buildings in Normandy.
Château de Caen
Built in 1060 by William the Conqueror, this is one of the largest medieval monuments in Europe. It houses both the Musée de Normandie and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen.
Things to Do
Visit the American Cemetery and Memorial on Omaha Beach
The landing of the Allies on Omaha Beach on June 6th, 1944 marked the beginning of the Battle of Normandy and it saw some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting of the D-Day invasion. The astounding American Cemetery is the final resting place of over 9000 soldiers that fell during the battle while the history of the Allied landings and the liberation of Paris are expertly presented at the Overlord Museum.
Take in the Magnificent Scenery at Étretat
The soaring cliffs of Étretat are one of Normandy’s most popular and recognizable natural landmarks. Standing atop the dramatic, 300-foot-high, chalk cliffs while gazing at the deep blue waters of the Atlantic, it’s easy to see how this extraordinary landscape has captured the imagination of artists like Eugène Boudin, Gustave Courbet and Claude Monet.
Saunter Through Claude Monet’s Gardens
Nestled in the village of Giverny, you will find the former residence of the acclaimed French impressionist, Claude Monet. While the house is a lovely sight in itself, the real highlight are the estate’s beautiful gardens. Some of these where planted by Claude Monet himself and in the Winter Garden you can also see the place depicted in the artist’s famous “Water Lilies” painting.
Stroll Through Colline aux Oiseaux
First opened in 1994 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of D-Day, Colline aux Oiseaux is a beautiful park on the northwest of Caen. The park is home to a small animal farm, a rose garden, and a labyrinth while its close proximity to Caen Memorial makes it an ideal spot to enjoy a leisurely walk or lunch following a visit to the memorial and museum.
Wander Around the Old Town or Rouen
The old town of Rouen is a great place to enjoy a relaxed walk while taking in the local architecture. Enjoy the area’s distinct historic ambience as you walk through winding cobbled lanes lined with picturesque half-timbered houses and dotted with impressive Gothic churches.
Taste Some of the Finest Oysters in France
While technically in Brittany, the picturesque fishing village of Cancale is located about 31 miles from Mont Saint Michel so if you happen to be in the region it’s well worth the drive to taste some of the best oysters in the whole country!
Try Normandy’s Famous Cheeses
Blessed with an abundance of fertile farmland (and a good number of cows), Normandy is home to some of the best cheeses in France. From the smooth Pont-l’Evêque to the pungent Livarot and the creamy Camembert, a trip to Normandy would not be complete without sampling some of its delicious dairy delicacies.
Take a Day Trip in Suisse Normande
Suisse Normande or Normand Switzerland is a name given to a stretch of land in the Orne Valley that extends between Thury-Harcourt and Flers-de-l'Orne. A beautiful rural landscape made up of green pastures, rolling hills, wooded areas, and tranquil lakes that is bound to captivate you with its peaceful and serene atmosphere. Suisse Normande also includes two regional parks: the Normandie-Maine Regional Natural Park and the Perche Regional Natural Park. Both offer some excellent trails for nature walks and hiking while at the Normandie-Maine Regional Natural Park you can also enjoy canoeing and kayaking.