Normandy Region of France: What to see


Normandy is a historic region and region located in northwestern France, stretching along the English Channel. Its name was coined in the ninth century, when the land fell to the Vikings (Normans), and their leader Robert of Normandy founded the first duchy on the coastal plains.

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Normandy’s emerald valleys and pastel skies have always inspired great artists and writers. Here Claude Monet wrote his immortal paintings, Gustave Flaubert composed his novel Madame Bovary, and Guy de Maupassant and Marcel Proust came up with plots for their novels.

The romantic French countryside is very popular with visiting tourists. From Paris to Normandy is convenient to get by train, bus or car. Northwest regions and the capital of France are separated by only a hundred and fifty kilometers, and the road to Normandy cities takes 2-3 hours.

Local resorts – Trouville, Deauville and Honfleur – have always been popular with artists and bohemian elite. In addition, gastronomic tourism is well developed in Normandy. Visitors come here to taste the famous Norman cheeses, apple cider, Calvados and delicious seafood. The peak tourist season in Normandy is from May to October.

Normandy regions

Upper Normandy is an administrative region in northern France, including the Seine and Eure departments. Its territory corresponds to the eastern part of the historic Normandy region, and the word “Haute” in the name of the region is used because it is located at higher geographic latitudes than Lower Normandy. The area is best known for the ancient city of Rouen with one of the most important Gothic cathedrals in France, the alabaster cliffs of Etretat and the picturesque town of Vernon with its traditional half-timbered houses.

Lower Normandy covers the west coast of the region. A narrow strip of coastline stretches south of the city of Le Havre. It became very famous as the landing place of the Allied landings during World War II. There are several popular seaside resorts, such as the town of Honfleur opposite Le Havre. These are often referred to as the Norman Riviera. The place of pilgrimage of tourists from all over the world has also become a medieval abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, standing on a small island 2 km from the coast.

World War II The city of Caen – the capital of Lower Normandy

Caen, which served William the Conqueror as his residence some 900 years ago, is considered the capital of Lower Normandy. Many old buildings have survived in the towns of Bayeux, Barfleur, Coutance, Granville and Cherbourg.

Inland Normandy is remote from the English Channel and less popular with tourists. It is a picturesque agricultural region, which produces fine-tasting soft cheeses. In some of its towns there are ancient castles and the ruins of medieval fortresses. The southern part of Normandy is famous for its dense forests, lacemaking in the town of Alanson, and the thermal resort of Bagnoles de l’Orne.

Sights in Deauville

Deauville, a resort for Parisian nobility, was built in the mid-19th century not far from the French capital, on the coast of the English Channel. It is known for its long promenade – a 2-kilometer promenade, a great blown beach, expensive restaurants and snow-white yachts. There are famous thalassotherapy centers, where people come for baths with sea water and mud treatment.

Deauville has always been a place where you can show your level of wealth, so it is not difficult to meet wealthy businessmen and showbiz stars in the Normandy seaside resort. And the entertainment that exists here, to match the regulars – it’s a casino and expensive nightclubs. For active holidaymakers, Deauville offers golf, tennis, polo and hang-glider and paraglider flights.

Deauville Resort in Normandy

Deauville hosts popular jazz and American film festivals, an annual contemporary art exhibition, a luxury convertible parade, polo championships, the country’s largest horse auction and races at the La Touques racetrack, and rallies featuring retro cars.

What to see in Trouville

Trouville was built on the site of a small village of fishermen in Normandy since Viking times. The history of the seaside resort began with a hydrotherapy clinic opened in 1860. Today it has the status of an appendage of elite Deauville.

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Today Trouville attracts visitors with its clean sandy beaches, developed tourist infrastructure and an abundance of fresh fish and seafood. The resort offers golf, horseback riding, and windsurfing. There are marked hiking trails that allow hikers to explore the surrounding area. Those who want to explore the coast usually use the services of tour operators, organizing boat trips.

As in other Normandy resorts, Trouville has a beautiful promenade. Along it nestles a number of restaurants, bars and cafes where tourists love to spend their evenings. There’s also a casino and a resort museum, established in 1972.

Inimitable Honfleur

At the mouth of the Seine, Honfleur is a seaside resort 10km from Deauville. It has a picturesque St Helena promenade, a Gothic church overlooking the harbour, 17th century salt works and of course the narrow streets lined with neatly built houses which draw Normandy travellers. It’s no coincidence that views of Honfleur and its blue-and-white boats so often appeared in the paintings of the famous Impressionists. The Normandy resort is also famous for its many antique stores selling genuine works of art.

Honfleur became rich in the 17th and 18th centuries, when many ships sailed from the local port to the shores of the New World. Today, the port life of the town is not so rich, and it plays a modest role in the economy of the country. Those who want to know more about the history of the resort should check out the local museum.

Mont Saint-Michel Island

Two kilometers off the coast of Normandy is an island that has become a place of true pilgrimage and is second only to Paris in terms of the number of tourists. The inhabitants of Mont Saint-Michel are very proud of the ancient abbey built here and call it “the eighth wonder of the world. The history and architecture of the small island is so significant that UNESCO has included it in the list of World Heritage Sites.

The island of Mont Saint-Michel at high tide Street within the monastery walls

Mont Saint-Michel is part of a group of islands in the bay of the same name. It is connected to the mainland by a road built on an embankment over the sea. However, it can be difficult to access at high tide.

If you come to the island in the summer, you may find yourself in a crowd of tourists, so experienced travelers love to visit Mont Saint-Michel and Normandy in the off-season. They make sure to visit the island at high tide to get the most spectacular photos.

The fortress walls were erected on the island in 709, and over the centuries they have witnessed the most important events of French history. The main street Grande Rue is built up with houses of the XV-XVI centuries. Today they house hotels and stores, small souvenir shops and cozy restaurants where visitors are treated to traditional Breton cuisine.

The monastery itself consists of several medieval buildings. You can enter it through the grand Royal Gate. Inside, the refectory and the vast Knights’ Hall have been preserved. Crowning the entire architectural complex is the tall spire of the Church of Saint-Pierre.

In the center of the cloister there is a not very large vaulted room, which is called “Notre Dame underground”. For many hundreds of years it served as a prison, and therefore holds many terrible secrets. For tourists, the island of Mont Saint-Michel is open year round.

City of Joan of Arc – Rouen

In Upper Normandy, on the banks of the Seine stands the city of Rouen. Today it is part of the sprawling Paris agglomeration. The river divides the city in two and the main attractions are in the Old City, located on the right bank. The opposite bank of the Seine was badly damaged during the bombing of World War II, and so there are mostly modern buildings.

The old town is very compact and easily navigated on foot. The jewel in Rouen, and all of Normandy, is the magnificent Gothic cathedral, topped by a 152-meter spire. Until 1880 Rouen Cathedral was the highest Gothic cathedral in the world. The magnificent temple began to be built in the IV century, and the oldest elements of the building, which survived until today, belong to the XII century. Severe bombing of the Second World War caused considerable damage to Rouen Cathedral, but in the postwar years it was rebuilt rather quickly.

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There are many landmarks associated with Joan of Arc in Rouen. The Old Market Square was the place where she was executed. There is now a church here. Nearby is the tower where the brave warrior was imprisoned.

In the old town you can also see the beautiful Roman Catholic Church of Saint-Maclou, built in the XV-XVI centuries. The Gothic exterior of the church is decorated with numerous stone statues. To the east, there is an old cemetery where townspeople who died during plague epidemics were buried.

Church of Saint-Maclou Street, Rouen

Famous painters in Giverny

The picturesque town of Giverny in Haute-Normandie is only 80 km from the French capital. The oldest street in the city is Rue aux Juifs. The houses along it were built in the Middle Ages and to this day there are remnants of an ancient monastery.

Rue aux Juifs in Giverny, Normandy

Many celebrities have visited Giverny – Cézanne, Renoir, Matisse, Sisley and Pissarro. Especially popular with tourists is the small, colorful restaurant “Hôtel Baudy”, which is located on 81 Rue Claude Monet. At the end of the 19th century, this house housed a hotel, where many famous French impressionists stayed. Today the restaurant serves French cuisine.

A long time ago Giverny became a place of pilgrimage of admirers of Claude Monet’s works. The great artist painted his house, garden and pond for 43 years. The surrounding area of the town is filled with an atmosphere of tranquility. There is always a lot of greenery and flowers. The burial place of Monet’s family is located near the ancient church of St. Radegunda.

The staff of the Musée Claude Monet, now run by the Académie des Beaux-Arts, try to keep the green surroundings of the estate almost as they were during the artist’s lifetime. The openwork Japanese bridge over the water surface of the pond with water lilies has become a place where tourists make memorable photos. The best time to visit the estate is late spring and early summer, when wisteria and rhododendrons bloom all around. The museum welcomes visitors every day from March to November, from 9.30 to 18.00.

In addition to Monet’s estate, Giverny has an Impressionist museum with regular art exhibitions. Its rooms are open to visitors from April to the end of October.

The White Cliffs in Normandy

Gastronomic tourism in Normandy

A trip to northwest France is unthinkable without tasting the local food and drink. Calvados has always been produced in huge quantities in Normandy. Originally Calvados was served as a digestif, that is, at the very end of the meal. It was considered that it reveals its rich taste to the fullest extent when served with fruit, chocolate and coffee. Today there are no such strict rules, and Calvados is often served with hot dishes. The minimum ageing period for Calvados is two years, but there are collectible specimens with an ageing period of 20 years.

Calvados is an apple or pear brandy, obtained by distilling cider, from the French region of Lower Normandy.

Another local drink for which Normandy has long been famous is cider. It, like Calvados, is made from apples. Traditionally, you can taste cider in the creperie. This is the name of the snackbar where they make delicious pancakes with different fillings – crepes. There are jugs of cider on the tables, and visitors pour the apple drink into ceramic cups. There are two kinds of cider: sour dry brut and sweet cider. The best way to learn about their peculiarities and production technologies is to visit the cider museum in Valoni.

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Another alcoholic drink has been made for several centuries in the small fishing town of Fecan. It is a famous liqueur infused with 27 herbs. The Benedictine monk invented the recipe in the 16th century. The secret of its production is still closely guarded; all that is known is that it contains melissa, cinnamon, lemon and cloves.

At the end of the 19th century, an entire palace appeared in Fekan where liquor was made. Today its halls are turned into a museum. Here you can see old distillers, bottles and samples of fake Benedictine brought from around the world. Visitors to the museum can peek into the cool cellars and taste the historic liquor there.

Fecan is a town in northern Normandy

Normandy produces several kinds of soft cheeses. One of them, Camembert, is recognized far beyond the borders of France. For the first time this cheese was made at the end of the XVIII century by local native Marie Harel. In the village of Camembert they even established a monument and organized a museum dedicated to the famous cheese.

The woman was given the recipe for the cheese by a monk from Brie. Camembert is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. The real cheese in packages of 350 g matured for about 2 months, and under industrial conditions the process takes 3 weeks. During the First World War, Camembert became part of the daily ration of French soldiers. It quickly spread and gained fame as a people’s cheese.

Another type of Norman cheese, livaro, was named after the area where it was first produced. It has a strong flavor and is tied with three strips of vine. Livaro matures for three months.

Point Leveque cheese was made in Normandy in the 17th century. It has a golden color and a slightly sweet taste. Normandy has been producing Noshatel cheese for the longest time. The first cheese dairies appeared in the Norman villages in the 11th century. Noshatel is made in the shape of a heart, square or cylinder, and matures for only one month.

The French province stretches along the English Channel, so the traditional cuisine includes many dishes from seafood and fish. Oysters, sea snails and scallops are especially popular here. They are usually generously topped with butter or cream. The farming region is also famous for its cows, so Normandy beef steaks and Boudin Noir blood sausage are considered some of the best in France.

Seafood from Normandy Breakfast in Etrette

How to get there

Normandy’s resorts and towns can be reached from the French capital. Direct trains connect Paris with Le Havre, fashionable Deauville and nearby Trouville. Only an hour by train separates Paris and the historic capital of Normandy, medieval Rouen. To get to Bayeux, you need to change trains in Caen, Rouen, Lisieux or Cherbourg.

Trains to Normandy depart from Paris Saint Lazare train station, which is easily accessible by the city metro (station “Saint Lazare”).

Normandy is also connected to the central regions of the country by road. An expressway leads from Paris to Deauville.

From Paris to Normandy there are bus tours, so you can see the sights of the French province, and in organized travel groups.

Normandy: a city worth visiting

Mont Saint-Michel

Normandy is a historic region in northwestern France, located on the coast of the Channel, between Picardy and Brittany, home of Camembert cheese and a suitable place to spend a weekend, from the point of view of Parisians. Upper Normandy is famous for apple orchards and cider, flood meadows and excellent dairy products, secluded provincial places and fashionable resorts. The Lower is famous for sunny Atlantic beaches and robust Calvados. Today we will tell you about 10 cities in the region that are definitely worth visiting.

The best way to travel is from Paris. Normandy airports do not take flights from Russia. But from Paris you can easily travel by train, train or bus.

Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel

An architectural marvel of France, Mont Saint-Michel is an island fortress with only a few dozen inhabitants. At the very top of the rock rises a church with a gilded statue of St. Michael on its bell tower. The spires reaching up into the sky create a mesmerizing picture against the background of the silver strip of the sea bay.

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The three-tiered building on the left of the church is called La Merveille, built in 1220. You’ll understand why the abbey is called “the eighth wonder of the world” when you see the monastery courtyard, suspended between heaven and earth. Right from there you’ll be led to the refectory, where symposia are now held, followed by banquets.

Entertainment for tourists in the abbey is plentiful: “living paintings”, classical music, museums, various installations and special effects. In the city’s restaurants, chefs prepare dishes based on recipes from the 19th century.

At low tide, when the city is surrounded by sands, you will definitely want to take a walk. We don’t recommend doing this alone – there’s a lot of quicksand around the abbey, and the tide can take you by surprise if you haven’t checked the tide schedule at the entrance to the town. Book a tour of Mont Saint-Michel and purchase tickets at this link.

Deauville and Trouville


Deauville and Trouville (Deauville, Trouville-sur-Mer) are two towns separated by the river Touques. Deauville is a high-end luxury resort two hours from the French capital by train. Hundreds of snow-white yachts and boats moor alongside the seafront, where celebrities relax and sunbathe. All year round Deauville hosts prestigious exhibitions, film festivals, car rallies and parades, horse races. Vacationers not only play golf and tennis, but also try their luck in the casinos and relax in the thalassotherapy centers.

Trouville is an old port, a former fishing village. Here too has a beach with pure golden sand, its own casino, fish and clothing markets. Hotels to choose from, cozy cafes, leisurely horseback riding – everything is as in any seaside town in Normandy.



Honfleur is situated at the mouth of the Seine, 10km from Deauville and 200km from Paris. The French love to spend their weekends here. Delightful port on the river and sea at the same time has always attracted artists like a magnet.

Onfleur is full of modern art galleries and interesting monuments. The church of St. Catherine is famous for being made entirely of wood. Saint-Etienne Cathedral is the oldest in the city, built during the Hundred Years’ War. The medieval streets of Honfleur are permeated with themes of the sea, the facades are decorated with images of sailing ships, on the roofs you can see ceramic sculptures, such as cat sculptures.

The Old Port is always very lively, there are many nice restaurants serving fresh seafood. We advise tourists to buy tickets for the pleasure boat, admire the picturesque shores, the lighthouse, sail under the bridge. An incredible work of engineering, the cable-stayed bridge Normandy, 2.3 km long, connects Honfleur with Le Havre.



Étretat was until the 19th century a fishing village. Impressionist painters discovered a picturesque corner nestled among the steep cliffs of the Cote d’Albatre. The alabaster cliffs are still the main local attraction. Their natural splendor is the reason for the development of a chic resort with a long beach, a six-kilometer-long golf course, pleasant fish restaurants, and a charming old church.


Rouen, the capital of Northern Normandy, is located 130 km from Paris. The name of this beautiful ancient city is forever associated with the famous cycle of paintings by Claude Monet, dedicated to the Cathedral of Rouen, and, of course, with the image of Joan of Arc. To commemorate the indomitable will of the Maid of Orleans, a cross was erected on the site of her burning, and an unusual cathedral resembling a sailing ship or a strange spaceship was built.

The old part of the city is built up with neat half-timbered houses. Following the pedestrian street to the cathedral, it is impossible to pass by the astronomical clock Gros-Horloge on the arch of the 16th century. Just think that Gustave Flaubert and Claude Monet often wandered here.

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The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen towers proudly above the narrow medieval streets that encircle it. The majestic Catholic temple was built over hundreds of years, and later suffered many fires and bombings. Claude Monet devoted a whole series of paintings to this beautiful construction, portraying the cathedral always different depending on the weather and time of day. For hotels see this link.



For painting lovers visit Giverny, a small town not far from Rouen. The tiny municipality is a picturesque village on the banks of the Seine. Visit the estate museum of Claude Monet. The artist lived in Giverny for 40 years, until his death.

The house is surrounded by a garden, which was lovingly planted and nurtured in his time by the owner of the estate. Fabulous beauty, everywhere you look – everywhere ready-made compositions for landscapes. In the store at the museum for a pleasant price are sold beautifully executed copies and posters of paintings by Monet. The works are easily mistaken for originals, and are flying around the world in tourists’ suitcases. Handbags painted “by the hand of the master himself” are hugely popular.

A day trip to Giverny from Paris can be booked here.


Dieppe is a small coastal town 60 km from Rouen, a port and vacation spot of the French middle class. Already in the 19th century Parisians came here to bathe in seawater, refresh and recover. Today in Dieppe there is a casino, golf courses and hippodrome. The town museum is housed in the 15th century Chateau de Dieppe. On Saturday you can look at a flea market. On the outskirts of the town is a visit to the Château de Miroménil, surrounded by an orchard. Every two years, usually in October, there’s a colorful kite festival.

Le Havre

Le Havre (Lé Hâvre) is a major port, second only to Marseille in France. In the last century after the war the city lay in ruins, it was rebuilt according to the designs of Auguste Pere. In addition to similar, as twins, houses, the architect created the monumental Church of St. Joseph (Eglise Saint-Joseph), the Town Hall building, which houses the City Hall. The Museum of Old Havre is housed in one of the few surviving prewar buildings. The Galerie Malraux (right at the entrance to the harbor) has a rich collection of paintings. Restaurants in Le Havre serve fresh seafood, delicate pancakes, famous Norman cheeses and excellent cider.


Caen is the capital of Lower Normandy. During the war Caen suffered heavy losses from Allied bombing raids, which turned Norman towns into ashes with blunt ferocity, but the valuable monuments have been restored. Today you can see the Gothic church of St. Peter in one piece, and we recommend visiting the cathedral church of Saint-Etienne and the 12th century castle of Caen.

A trip to the outskirts of the city to the Peace Museum leaves a deep and grievous impression. The exhibits are devoted to the theme of preventing war, and the main symbol is a pistol with a muzzle tied in a knot. A walk through the botanical garden and a hot lunch in one of the Kansk restaurants will help lift your spirits. The town is also home to the famous historic Memorial de Caen museum, dedicated to the events of these places and all of France, and you can buy tickets here.



Cherbourg-Octeville is a picturesque port town on the English Channel made famous by the music of Michel Legrand and the romantic role of Catherine Deneuve in the film Umbrellas of Cherbourg. After visiting the monuments and museums, of which there are plenty in Cherbourg, find time for tasting fresh mussels, scallops, aromatic camembert. The city botanical gardens, the park on Mount Ruehl and the Montebello garden are also worthy of attention.

Normandy cities are delightfully clean, well-groomed, balconies are decorated with flowers, and the walls of houses are covered with greenery. Tourists admire the charming outdoor cafes, really good food, hard work and hospitality of the Normans. Travel through the different regions of France, admire the beauty and enjoy the aesthetic pleasure.

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