Magnificent coastlines, “chocolate box” architecture, and a rich gastronomic heritage make Normandy one of France’s most beloved regions. Start planning a trip to nourish your mind, body, and soul.
Normandy’s luscious, green fields span hundreds of kilometers to the west of Paris, all the way to the Atlantic coast. It is a fertile land, known for the orchards, rivers, hunting grounds, and farms that dot its valleys. The area has long supplied many culinary staples to the capital – various fruits, camembert, and livestock, to name just a few.
Affluent and fertile, the region was no stranger to conflict over several centuries. Traversed by Caesar, it was given to Viking raiders who bequeathed it Normandy (French for “men from the North”). The following period – from the Middle Ages until the Hundred Years War – saw rule under English kings. Today it’s most commonly referred to as the site of the famous D-Day landings, where the Allied Troops stormed across the sandy Norman coast (known as the “landing beaches”) and effectively ended World War II.
Normandy has long been a popular destination to escape the bustle of Parisian life. The historical city of Rouen, the chic seaside town of Deauville, Monet’s garden, and the aforementioned landing beaches are all within easy reach from the city by car or train. The train service – which departs from the center of Paris – is one of France’s most popular routes and is used by scores of Parisians zooming off for a luxurious weekend retraite (“retreat”) or a quick Sunday afternoon on the beach.
But we suggest you take your time! Brimming with a variety of beautiful hotels and restaurants, all surrounded by quintessentially French scenery – soft green valleys, rolling hills, fields, and orchards of ever-changing colors… Normandy is worthy of a longer visit.
Things To Do
For history buffs, the Route Des Abbayes (“Abbey route”) is a must. To the west of Rouen lies a string of medieval abbeys built along the Seine river which today remain in various states of preservation. Some have only their old walls left to admire, while others, such as Saint-Georges de Boscherville, offer beautiful gardens (take a guided tour to hear how the monks tended to them several centuries ago!).
Normandy farmer’s markets are always worth a visit. Before visiting any town, check their market days using the website above. Be sure to pick up one of the famous local cheeses: Camembert, Livarot or Pont-l’Evêque.
Shopping for Antiques
Normandy is a haven for antiques. There are choice country fairs worth visiting – namely Grandvilliers, Crevecoeur, and Lisieux – which take place twice a year and cover the whole town.
The most impressive specialists are:
790 Rue de la Plaine, 76116 Auzouville-sur-Ry
On the grounds of a traditional Norman manor house, Jardin Plume is a whimsical mix of billowing perennials, sprawling grasses, and perfectly trimmed hedging, shaped in straight lines and undulating waves. Should it rain during your visit, the light can be quite beautiful.
1 Impasse Agapanthe, 76850 Grigneuseville
Created by renowned landscape designer Alexandre Thomas, Jardin Agapanthe is a true source of inspiration and delight. The garden has beautiful topiary and architectural elements, antique garden pieces for sale, as well as friendly advice on design and planting.
8 Route du Château, 27110 Sainte Opportune du Bosc
This 17th-century château and its magnificent gardens have been restored to glory thanks to the sure eye and incredible energy of Jacques Garcia – one of France’s best-known interior designers – and his landscape partner, Patrick Pottier. Together they created an artificial hill, an amphitheater, and a Moghul Palace with numerous parterres, rose gardens, and greenhouses. A portion of the château is open to visitors, but the real draw of this property is its landscapes, including a park and garden. It also has a small restaurant and a boutique.
D73, 14490 Castillon
A lesson in garden design using huge, mixed borders and colored “rooms.” Conceived and maintained by the talented and knowledgeable couple Hubert and Colette de Sainte Beuve, Les Jardins de Castillon is both a garden to visit and a nursery to buy from.
Where To Stay
4 Rue de la Foulerie, 14600 Honfleur
A delightful hotel tucked away in a former schoolhouse built in 1878. The rooms are cozy and beautifully furnished, and its convenient location allows you to see the whole town on foot. There’s a charming, sunny courtyard, and a delicious breakfast is served every morning.
20 Route Adolphe Marais, 14600 Honfleur
One of the most luxurious hotels in Normandy. Set on a hill between Trouville and Honfleur, this 5-star hotel and spa is loved for its adorable architecture, stunning gardens and refined country interiors. It is also heralded for its Michelin-ranked restaurant, Les Impressionistes.
Escures-Commes, 14520 Port-en-Bessin
This luxurious hotel makes the most of its beautiful 18th-century manor house architecture. It boasts generous grounds and spacious, comfortable rooms rounded off by delightful decor. You’ll be perfectly located for a visit to the landing beaches and Bayeux or a drive down to Mont-Saint-Michel.
Where To Eat
40 Route d’Amfreville Sous les Monts, 27430 Connelles
This traditional hotel and restaurant sit along the river Seine, providing guests with an unparalleled picturesque dining experience. Situated halfway between Paris and Rouen, it is a great pitstop while touring by car.
1 Rue du Milieu, 27620 Giverny
A prestigious Michelin-starred restaurant in the heart of Giverny. Eat inside, or enjoy the outdoor terrace and gardens. Their haute cuisine and fine wines are a fitting end to a day of taking in Monet’s gardens.
20 Rue Gustave Lennier, 76620 Le Havre
Based in Le Havre port, Les Enfants Sages offers delicious and authentic French food. Open as a bar and tearoom during the afternoon, it is one of the most popular addresses in town.
158 Boulevard Fernand Moureaux, 14360 Trouville-sur-Mer
Situated opposite the local fish market where the daily catch is directly unloaded from the boats, this brasserie never disappoints. A friendly welcome is guaranteed, here the specialty are fruits de mer (seafood) platters and mussels.