Normandy's most beautiful villages

by Hayley May 25, 2014

The region of Normandy evokes images of the gentle Seine, meandering towards its estuary at the coast where sandy beaches stretch towards rocky cliffs andlooks out on the channel islands, territory disputed for hundreds of years and France’s connection to Great Britain.

On the mainland, acres of rolling countryside are home to dairy cattle and apple orchards along the cider trail. The leopards on Normandy’s provincial flag represent its strength and courageous attitude towards neighboring provinces, calling to mind its turbulent past. But Normandy is one of the best region to have a stay in France. With its unique architecture, flora and fauna, Norman towns, once visited, are not soon forgotten.

Barfleur

Barfleur, a fishing village, is a painter’s paradise. From the Gatteville Lighthouse—7 stories and 349 steps up—you can see a panoramic view of the Pointe de Barfleur, the rocky but green coastline that comes to a point at Gatteville. Barfleur is much less crowded than nearby Arromanches, and it’s worth the trip to see the departure point of William the Conqueror on his way to England in 1066. At low tide, colorful fishing boats are banked at harbor, and you can explore the town and historic church in the area.

Etretat

Seaside town well know for his pillar rising up from the sea.

Honfleur

Honfleur harbour

Another seaside town, Honfleur’s main historical importance lies with the impressionist movement. Claude Monet’s painting Rue de la Bavolle, Honfleur captures the essence of the town, which hasn’t changed much since the 19th century. The slate-facades and bright awnings of the narrow buildings on the old boat basin have been painted many times by the likes of Monet, Courbet, and Boudin. There is even a museum in town honoring the works of Boudin and the “école de Honfleur” of impressionist painting. For an excellent view over the town and the Seine, climb to the Notre Dame de Grace Chapel (rebuilt in 1615). Stoll in one of the town’s many public gardens, or visit the butterfly garden. The town is replete with historic architecture, laying claim to France’s largest church made of wood, 16th century l’Église Sainte-Cathérine.

Giverny

In 1883, Monet moved to Giverny with his family, where he took great pride and joy in the gardens of his house. The elegant Japanese bridge, weeping willows, and water lilies have featured in some of Monet’s best-known works, and the house boasts an eclectic mix of impressionist and orient-influenced style. Even in autumn, the gardens are blooming with all the colors of the rainbow and more flowers than you can name. Absolutely worth the one-hour trek from Paris for any nature lover or Monet enthusiast.

Lyons-la-Fôret

This town is surrounded by the woods of Lyons—the largest state forest in Normandy and one of the largest beech forests in Europe. Its trees have been compared to steeples because of the straightness and height of their trunks. In town, enjoy the beautiful timbered houses typical of the region as well as the historic covered marketplace. Nearby, several palaces await exploration in this town whose aristocratic past stretches into the Middle Ages.

Beuvron-en-Auge


A former stronghold of the Harcourt family, Beuvron-en-Auge lies in the heart of Pays d’Auge country on the Cider Route. It features an historic central market as well as an expansive 16th century timber-framed manor. In town, the window boxes on cafes and houses overflow with colorful flowers, and the village church’s interior glows with light filtered through stained-glass windows and bouncing off chandeliers. A miniature train takes visitors on short tours around town.


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