Normandy is most famous for its role in WWII and the allied invasion on D-Day. But Normandy has so much more to offer like the most adorably quaint seaside villages and amazing food!
Be sure to taste the apple cider and Calvados, a delicious apple brandy often used in baking and cooking in the region. Seafood specialties such as Coquilles St. Jacques (sea scallops in a rich creamy sauce) is a must while there. And then there’s the cheeses – Camembert, Port l’Evêque, Pavé d’Auge – I could go on but I’m drooling now.
Normandy is a region in the north of France, about 200 kilometers from Paris. To get there, take a train from Paris to Bayeux, Caen or Rouen and then rent a car once there. If you feel brave enough to drive from Paris, it’s about a two hour drive. Of course, there are day tours from Paris as well.
Don’t miss a visit to Mont St. Michel! It is truly one of the gems of Normandy. You can read all about it in my Guide to Mont St. Michel.
These are some of my favorite things to see and do while in Normandy.
Bayeux is a gorgeous medieval town famous for its cathedral and a tapestry of the Norman conquest of England. It’s a perfect town to base yourself in to visit all that Normandy has to offer, and there are several hotels for all budgets.
In 1077, William the Conqueror sanctified the Bayeux Cathedral. The cathedral was originally built in the Norman Romanesque style. All of the Gothic features were added after the cathedral sustained damage in the 12th century. Be sure to check out the many murals and crypts inside.
Called the Cloth of Conquest, as it depicts the Norman conquest of England, the Tapestry of Bayeux is a beautiful sight. You’ll find the 68-meter long cloth in the Tapestry Museum. The tapestry is actually embroidered on linen cloth and is over 900 years old! Sorry, I have no photo of it because photography is not allowed in the museum.
Take some time to stroll around old town Bayeux along the Aure River. Surprisingly, it is one of the only towns in Normandy that wasn’t ruined during WWII. Be sure to check out the famous waterwheel on the river.
For lunch, or dinner, stop at La Fringale and enjoy some delicious Coquilles St. Jacques – their version is fabulous!
North American Memorial & Cemetery
With over 10,000 crosses and spreading over 173 acres, this site is a must see. Take a drive to Colleville-sur-Mer to visit the gravesites of our brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives on June 6, 1944 in what is officially called Operation Overlord (D-Day).
You’ll also find a memorial wall with the names of those fallen soldiers, beautiful gardens and a map of the allied invasion on that infamous day in history.
The first time I visited was in middle school and I had just studied D-Day in World History class. I was awed by the huge number of crosses, they literally go on forever. Seeing the reality of all those crosses and names on the wall of our brave soldiers is a vision you will never forget.
Close to the cemetery lies Omaha Beach, one of the 5 landing beaches for the Allied Invasion on D-Day – and probably the most famous. Be sure to view the stainless steel sculptures “Les Braves” commemorating the American soldiers.
If you walk along the beach, you’ll see the remains of some German bunkers.
Nearby, you will find the Musée Mémorial d’Omaha Beach with amazing documentation about D-Day. Another interesting museum is the Overlord Museum with tanks and artillery from the Invasion.
This adorable seaside resort village is a one hour drive from Bayeux. You will find a 2 kilometer long sandy beach with a great boardwalk for a leisurely stroll. Built in the 1920’s, the boardwalk has shops, restaurants, and the cutest belle époque beach cabins. In fact, all of the Art Deco architecture in the town is amazing.
Horse race fans should head to the famous Deauville La Touques racetrack. Or, perhaps a polo match at the oldest polo club in France is more your style?
Gamblers can try their luck at Baccarat or Roulette at the Casino Barrière de Deauville.
Of course, the shopping is fantastic in Deauville, with tons of fashionable boutiques.
Fun fact: Coco Chanel came to Deauville and was inspired by the clothing she saw at the racetrack, the beach and the yachts. So, she designed a range of casual clothing and opened her boutique there in 1913!
Check out Normandy next time you are in France, it’s a beautiful region with tons to see and do.
Leave me any comments or questions below!
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