Relatively small in both size and population, accounting for only 5% of today’s France and its population, this rugged region of exceptional beauty and glorious heritage stands proud and tall withstanding the signs of the times.
Have you ever felt that some countries stand alone like islands, even if they are most firmly lodged in a continental landmass? A wave of nostalgia and quietude that Normandy exudes at every breath, sight, lull or stroll relates without words, inspires without motion and takes you on a personal journey of profound self-discovery. Engross yourself in the splendour of fantastic scenery and cultural heritage par excellence while taking a step towards the world beyond!
Inspiring Homeland of Mighty Normans
The land of William the Conqueror is a gem that impresses and excites every step of the way! You may be thrilled and enthused by the outstanding heritage of renowned monuments, splendid medieval cities and the celebrated royal past, or you may simply opt for nature’s imposing grandeur and the abundant delights of wanderlust that this region offers, but one things is certain: the distinctive noble air of Norman homeland will invigorate your spirit, enlighten your mind and permeate your entire being!
Key Things To Check Out
Chateaux of Normandy tell gripping stories of ascent and descent in a more direct and convincing manner than the written word could ever do. One just has to stroll around towering cathedrals, great manors, imposing castles and resilient forts to envision the medieval interplay of wits and wills in famous ancestral battles for the throne. Grand Normandy however has a more intimate and gentler side too, conveyed in boundless scenic routes of powerful evoking images eternally carved on a great vigorous canvas of pulsating Mother Nature.
Le Mont Saint-Michel
Le Mont Saint-Michel is a rocky tidal island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of France’s most recognizable landmarks, visited by more than 3 million people each year. The island has held strategic fortifications since ancient times and from the 8th century AD onwards it has been the seat of the monastery from which it draws its name. As tides can vary greatly, at roughly 14 metres between high and low water marks, Mont Saint-Michel has been popularly nicknamed “St. Michael in peril of the sea”.
Évreux Cathedral is a remarkable 10th century cathedral that combines all the main trends of religious architecture. You will be amazed by the 70 stained-glass windows, considered as masterpieces of French 13th to 16th century stained-glass art, and the 13 radiating chapels enclosed with wood fences, sculpted between the 15th and the 18th century, which are among the most beautiful ones in France.
The Normandy landings
Several museums, memorials, and war cemeteries in the area commemorate more than 20,000 casualties of the Normandy landings (Tuesday, 6 June 1944, termed D-Day). Some of the most prominent ones that host numerous visitors each year are: the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial near Colleville-sur-Mer, the Utah Beach D-Day Museum at Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, and The Juno Beach Centre in Courseulles-sur-Mer.
Parks and gardens
Normandy is a horticultural heaven and boasts an extraordinary number of outstanding parks and gardens open to the public. The amazing array of floral styles owes its diversity and charm to passionate owners, but also to the region itself, where endless summers, autumn glories, spring freshness and winter wonders showcase the seasons spectacularly.
When to Visit
First and Foremost, April to August
You may visit any part of Normandy at any time of the year and you will return deeply impressed and forever enriched, however try to make the most of its peaking months throughout late spring and summer, when high season of music, film, garden and gastronomy festivals, accompanied by assorted sports fairs and art exhibitions, offers ceaseless events and colourful entertainment all in the midst of nature’s blooming splendour.
Key Events in Normandy
D-Day Festival Normandy
Each year since 2007 D-Day Festival Normandy (late May to mid-June – Bayeux-Bessin, Calvados) has been offering a program of festive events and selection of free celebrations around the anniversary of the largest seaborne invasion in history, including impressive firework displays and grand parades. (source – ddayfestival.com)
Rendez-vous aux Jardins
Rendez-vous aux Jardins (early June – all over Normandy) is an original event designed with the aim of showing the public how important it is to protect green spaces in France. Around 2 million visitors in over 2,000 public and private gardens enjoy around 1,300 guided tours, 215 exhibitions, many conferences, readings, gardening workshops and skills demonstrations in the participating gardens and green spaces. (source – france-voyage.com)
Regatta Tour des Ports de la Manche
Regatta “Tour des Ports de la Manche” (mid-July – Harbours of the Channel) is one of the major regattas on the French coast and a key nautical event. The race stops in the most important harbours of la Manche, where some 700 sailors and the public gather around many festive events. (source – manche-tourism.com)
Slice of Nostalgia
Birthplace of Impressionism
The Impressionist movement is named after Claude Monet’s painting “Impression, Sunrise”, painted in 1872 in Le Havre. Inspired by the unique light, the beauty and the mystery of Normandy, Impressionist painters set up their easels along the Channel coast and the banks of the Seine, in Rouen’s Old Town and Monet’s private gardens in Giverny. (source – en.normandie-tourisme.fr)
What to do
What do do in Normany?
Circuits around Normandy are signposted, easy to follow and accessible throughout the year, and they lead visitors through a bountiful and varied environment, revealing the lush richness of the Norman hinterland with its picturesque villages. Some of the more scenic ones are: the ivory and spice trail, the fruit trail, the Camembert trail, the cider trail, the mill trail, and the tradition trail. (source – en.normandie-tourisme.fr)
Normandy’s Big Four
Do not miss to explore the largest four urban centres in the area and experience rich diversity they have to offer. Rouen, Caen, Le Havre and Cherbourg all appeal and enchant in their own unique way, so you should definitely spare some time to discover their main sights individually and at length. (autorski tekst)
With its extensive coastline, shellfish is naturally one of Normandy’s specialities, from tasty lobster, clams, whelks and scallops to juicy mussels and oysters. (source – en.normandie-tourisme.fr)
Normandy’s cheese board is among the most impressive ones in France. Its most famous cheese is Camembert, which comes from the village of the same name, but you might also try Neufchâtel, Pont-L’Evêque and Livarot. (source – en.normandie-tourisme.fr)
The abundance of apples that flavour both savoury and sweet dishes also means that Normandy boasts a wide range of apple bi-products, most notably cider, pommeau and calvados. (source – en.normandie-tourisme.fr)
Haute Cuisine of Authentic Experience
Famous for its dairy products, like butter, milk, cream and cheese, the region is also widely renowned for its apples. Most restaurants in Normandy will use locally sourced products and some producers are delighted to welcome visitors. Normandy is haute cuisine heaven for food lovers and visitors seeking authentic culinary experiences. (source – en.normandie-tourisme.fr)
Tripes à la mode de Caen
Tripes à la mode de Caen is a traditional dish originally consisting of all four chambers of a cow’s stomach, part of the large intestine (outlawed in France in 1996), plus the hoofs and bones, cut up and placed on a bed of carrots, onions, leaks, garlic, cloves, peppercorns, a bouquet garni, a bottle of cider and a glass of calvados in a tripière (a special earthenware pot for cooking tripe). (source – wikipedia.org)
Canard à la Rouennaise
Canard à la Rouennaise
Pressed duck is a traditional complex dish developed in the 19th century that consists of various parts of a duck served in a sauce of its blood and bone marrow, which is extracted by way of a specially designed press. It has been considered “the height of elegance”. (source – wikipedia.org)
Teurgoule is a rice pudding and a family dish traditionally very popular at village festivals in Lower Normandy, which even has a brotherhood that still keeps the original recipe and presides over the annual cooking competition. It consists of rice cooked in milk, sweetened with sugar and is flavoured with cinnamon and sometimes nutmeg. (source – wikipedia.org)
Confiture de lait
Confiture de lait, or milk jam, is made from two quintessentially natural ingredients: semi-skimmed milk and granulated sugar. Thanks to a very long (over 8 hours) and gentle cooking process, the milk and the sugar are transformed into a superb creamy paste with a delicious caramel flavour. (source – calvados-tourisme.co.uk)
Where to Stay?
Gîtes for Everyone’s Taste
Normandy has a wide range of private accommodation, from seaside apartments, village rooms and campsites to guesthouses, B&Bs and holiday cottages. Self-catering options are available from the Gîtes de France network and staying in a local holiday cottage is an ideal way of experiencing the French way of life. Normandy also offers a wide selection of hotels, from luxurious 5* hotels to family run auberges (inns). (source – en.normandie-tourisme.fr)
How to Get There?
By Sea, Air or Land, Normandy is Always at Hand
Plane There are a few smaller airports in Normandy if you are determined to fly directly into the region, however Normandy is located close to Paris, so it is definitely not worth flying from Paris to this region of France. It is probably best to fly into Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and then hop on the train to Normandy from there. Paris’ Beauvais airport is also less than an hour’s drive from Normandy. (source – francetravelguide.com)
Car It is easy and fast to reach Normandy by car for those coming from the UK, Spain or Paris. From the Chunnel, the drive takes about 90 minutes via the A28/E402. From Paris, take the A13, which passes near Evreux, Rouen and Caen through Normandy. The drive from Paris takes about 2 hours, depending on where in Normandy you decide to head. (source – francetravelguide.com)
Ship Because Normandy is just a quick hop across the English Channel, there are several ferry services that travel between the UK and Ireland to Normandy. Ferries from England and Ireland dock at Cherbourg, Ouistreham, Le Havre and Dieppe. June through October, there is also service between Portsmouth and Le Havre and Newhaven to Le Havre. There is also ferry service that runs from Brittany, with daily services to Caen and Cherbourg from Poole. (source – francetravelguide.com)
Railroad While renting a car in France can allow you some added convenience and independence for touring the smaller villages and towns not connected by rail, taking the train in France will almost always save you time. Because France has such a well-connected TGV high-speed train system, you can be whisked to your destination at more than 320 km/h, so it may be a good idea to first take a train from Paris to one of the towns or cities in Normandy and then pick up your wheels from there. (source – francetravelguide.com)
Tips & Hints
Tips & Hints
Browse online for excellent and comprehensive brochures that cover various points of interests, including accommodation, heritage, parks and gardens, cycling, horse riding, the D-Day landings and many others. (source – en.normandie-tourisme.fr)
Normandy has a maritime climate with warm summers and mild winters and rain is a part of the climate all year round, with winter seeing more rain than summer. The ongoing rain isn’t enough to spoil a vacation most of the time and it does have a benefit as the nature is incredibly lush and green. (source – francetravelguide.com)
It’s raining? Don’t worry! Take the opportunity to visit one of the many museums from Impressionism to WW II and even under-sea exploration! (source – en.normandie-tourisme.fr)
Cycling is a great way to see Normandy and with more than 500 km of cycle paths you can combine fresh air with inspiring sightseeing. There are plenty of cycle routes on offer for just a day out or even short breaks, which suit all levels of ability and present a great way to soak up a local atmosphere and traditions. (source – en.normandie-tourisme.fr)
For detailed information on a variety of subjects that enhance your overall experience, en.normandie-tourisme.fr offers comprehensive and practical tips on what and where to do when in Normandy.