Normandy is a northern region of France that lies just 220,7 kilometers north west of Paris. It has a population of 3,37 million people constituting 5% of the French population. Since 1956 Normandy had been divided into two parts, Lower Normandy (Basse Normandie) and Upper Normandy (Haute Normandie). The two parts were just recently unified in 2016. Normandy is well-known for its delicious Camembert cheese, cows and hard ciders. However, it most famously known for its beaches whereupon the D-day landings occurred during the Second World War.
Things to do & Places to see in Normandy, France
1. Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel is a beautiful little rocky island that lies almost a kilometer off the coast of Manche, Normandy. It consists of a little village and monastery and is only 100 hectares in size, with a mere population of 44 people. Its most famous attribute is it's abbey that towers over the island. The magical fairy tale like island is one of France's most well-known attractions and has actually been recorded as the most visited attraction in France. Having even inspired the castle in one of Disney's most recent movies, Tangled. The island is accessible by way of a bridge that leads you from the coast to the island. In the past the bridge was originally quite low, causing the island to only be accessible when the tide was low. This has changed since however, allowing tourists in and out at all times of the day. When visiting the island you can either catch a shuttle, from the parking lot, across the bridge otherwise you can walk if you are comfortable to do so.
2. Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
Based in the Colleville-sur-Mer area, on a cliff overlooking one of the beaches where the main sea-land invasion happened, Omaha Beach, lies the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. This is a definite must visit destination as it is one of Normandy's most famous happenings in history. The D-day landings played a huge role in the Second World war and the memorial centre pays tribute to American soldiers who died whilst fighting in Europe.
The cemetery is open all year round to the public from 9am to 6pm in April to September and then from 9am to 5pm for the rest of the year. You can tour around and say respects to those who died in the war and take in the full extent of its consequences. There are assistants that are around in case you have any queries.
If you are in Normandy and you wish to experience true Normandy styled architecture from the medieval ages Rouen is the place to visit. There is a medieval quarter that captures the style of architecture so magnificently that you would think you had been transported back in time. Rouen is home to historic events, much like most places in France. For example it was the place where Joan d'Arc was burnt at the sake for speaking against the English in 1431.
Rouen is also home to the beautiful Gothic Cathedrale, who's spires reach high above the modern city of Rouen. It is this cathedral that inspired Monet, resulting in the famous cathedral paintings we know today by the brilliant artist. So whilst you are in Normandy take a stroll through the streets of Rouen and embrace traditional Normandy that has lasted throughout the centuries.
4. President Cheese Farm
Normandy is extremely well-known for its cows so its no wonder that its famous for its cheeses too! Most famously for its camembert cheese which no surprise comes from the small village of Camembert in Normandy. Camembert is a famous French cheese that is creamy and almost like Brie, but a bit milder. If you are a cheese fanatic it is absolutely obligatory that you visit the President Farm in the village of Camembert, to truly experience Normandy's famous cheese. For only 5 € you will receive a guided tour of the farm. They will show you how camembert is traditionally made and their vintage collection of cheese making tools. Finally and most importantly you will receive samples of the village's most famous cheese.
5. La Route du Cidre
What would a trip to Normandy be without tasting their famous ciders? With their abundance of apple orchards the region is extremely famous for their hard ciders that are truly refreshing. The best way to truly experience Normandy's famous ciders is to do the cider route. The route runs for over 40 kilometers and is clearly marked with signs. This allows you stop in at all the best little pubs and try their local speciality. Not only will you be able to try the famous apple ciders but also the aperitif, Pommeau, and the apple brandy, Calvados. Taking the cider route not only allows you to sample great ciders but it also allows you to experience the brilliance of Normandy's little villages along the way too! The route starts in the village of Camembert, so just follow the apple marked signs from there and have a jolly time.
How Do I Get Here From Paris?
Getting to Normandy from Paris is pretty easy considering its only just over 200 kilometers away. Of course the most convenient way to travel in France is always the train. Its hassle free and almost always more budget friendly. A train ride between Paris and Normandy can take anything between 1 hour to 2,5 hours, depending on where in the Normandy region you are going. This can cost around 20-30€. Its important to remember however that whilst the main cities in Normandy are well connected rail-wise, the smaller villages may not be so well connected, and thus it could be that you will be restricted by bus or train times.
The other option would be to hire a car. Whilst this may cost more, the travel time is relatively the same around 2 hours, it will provide you with the convenience of being able to tour Normandy however you like, whenever you like. Just hop onto the A13 and make your way to the Normandy city of your choice. The cost of a rental car in France is anything between €200-€600 for three days.