Situated in an enviable plot to the northwest of Paris and flanked by the English Channel, Normandy is blessed with a beauty and charm all of its own. With its rich history, infectious culture and extraordinary ease of access from the UK and the rest of Europe, it’s little wonder Normandy continues to pull in gigantic visitor numbers each year above and beyond most other French holiday hotspots.
A look at Normandy from the air paints a picture of idyllic patchwork fields and traditional agriculture – this is after all the region France depends on for the vast majority of its dairy products. However, scratch the surface and you’ll find out first-hand that there’s way more to Normandy than you could possibly fit into a single visit – it hides unique treasures that are well worth taking the time to track down.
As for when to visit, the weather is relatively predictable in Normandy and comes in the form of warm, sunny summers and cold, bitter winters. The region remains a hive of activity all year-round though, so it’s really down to personal preference as to what kinds of conditions suit you best:
But no matter when you decide to take a trip to Normandy, there are some sights and experiences you just cannot go home without soaking up. Some are obvious and some you may not have heard about, but in all cases you’ll be kicking yourself for the rest of the year if you pass up any of the following.
Perhaps the most obvious entry to the list of all but still truly unmissable in every way, Mont Saint-Michel is without question one of the most iconic sights of France…not to mention Europe as a whole. Widely acknowledged as one of the wonders of the Western World, the monastery and the small surrounding village were built on a rocky piece of land that becomes completely separated from the mainland when the tide is in. Even at low-tide, just a single narrow causeway links Mont Saint-Michel with the land – the journey across which is a truly unforgettable experience.
You don’t have to be a historian or even have a deep-seeded interest in World War II to appreciate the incredibly moving tribute to fallen soldiers at the D-Day beaches. It’s the kind of place that anyone visiting the area really should make a visit to in order to pay their respects. In order to get the very most out of the experience, it’s a good idea to use the services of a tour guide who will show you each of the most important points and guide you through the events that claimed so many lives.
As far as picture postcards brought to life are concerned, Rouen ticks all the right boxes and then some. Monet was so fond of the town’s Gothic cathedral that it features in many of his most famous works – one look at the way in which it towers imposingly over the historic streets below and you’ll understand why. Stroll through the medieval quarter and you’ll feel as though you’ve been hurtled back in time to a seemingly forgotten era. You can also visit the precise location at which Joan of Arc was burned at the stake.
When Parisians in the know want to get away from the tourism masses and head out to the real France, they head to Honfleur by the boatload. It’s a tiny town that explodes in numbers over the summer, when people from all over France flock to the old port where so many contrasts come together. Historic buildings nestle with fine-dining restaurants and exclusive shops, superyachts in the harbor float alongside traditional fishing boats – it really is a feast for the senses.
As this is one of Europe’s most famous and celebrated cider regions, what would be the sense in going home without indulging a little? The Cider Route isn’t something that’s just been made up by tour groups – you’ll see the “Route du Cidre” clearly signposted along a stretch of about 40km or so. Along the way, you’ll pass through some of the most stunning villages you’ve ever laid eyes on and have ample opportunity to find out exactly why Normandy has a global reputation for cider excellence.
Last but not least, you’re probably well aware of the fact that mussels are something of a religion in France and that Normandy in particular is famed for having some of the world’s finest seafood. So, if your agenda includes gobbling down a huge pot of the best mussels on Earth in the kind of surrounding you won’t find anywhere else, head over to Trouville. An unpretentious place with a real working port and a brilliantly colorful local community, it’s the king of place that doesn’t have to pretend it’s packed with the true magic of Normandy – it just shines through naturally!