Normandy Travel Guide

by Natalie Becci
Photos by: Teddy Verneuil

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.

a pontoon with a dressed table ready for lunch, beside a lake

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

La Route Des Abbayes

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!). 

Farmer’s Markets

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.

Omaha Beach & Arromanches Museum

There are several large museums dedicated to the D-Day Landings, but this smaller one in Arromanches is a favorite. This museum explains the landing operation in great detail and situated on the port, it directly overlooks the beaches where the troops first touched the Norman ground. American visitors should not miss the incredibly moving cemetery at Omaha Beach, just a short walk from the museum along the coastline.

Haras national du Pin

Pin 61310, Le Pin-au-Haras

Normandy is the official home of French horse breeding, and this national stud farm, which is open to the public, is quite impressive. Check their website for a schedule of live demonstrations and guided tours of the spectacular stables.

Monet’s House & Garden

84 Rue Claude Monet, 27620 Giverny

Little introduction is required for Claude Monet’s remarkable garden, which today remains cultivated according to his original design. Throughout the season (April 1 to November 1), a small and devoted army of gardeners ensures that its flower beds are nothing less than spectacular. Crowds are inevitable – we strongly recommend buying tickets online to avoid queues.

The Coastline


This seaside destination enjoys a sprawl of endless sandy beaches, where racehorses can be seen exercising in the early morning. A popular weekend and holiday destination for Parisians, this small, affluent town has designer-label shopping, a casino, a racecourse, and the annual American Film Festival. 

Christian Dior Museum

1 Rue d’Estouteville, 50400 Granville

On the Atlantic coastline near the Brittany border, Christian Dior’s childhood home has been transformed into a museum of his work. Visitors are free to walk about the house to enjoy both permanent and seasonal fashion exhibitions. The property also has charming gardens and a path leading directly down to the sea.


Wander around this stunning, ancient town. Despite its close proximity to the landing beaches, Bayeux remained largely untouched by the war and today is one of Normandy’s most well-preserved examples of typical local architecture. Don’t miss the cathedral and its impressive Bayeux tapestry. 

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:

Bca Matériaux Anciens 

4 Avenue de Paris, 14370 Méry-Corbon

The best place to find period architectural elements and building materials for renovations.

Brocante de Balines

Route Nationale 12, Les Petites Turgeres, 27130 Bâlines

Ten expert brocante and antique dealers have grouped together to create this fantastic supply of antiques, large and small.

Max Tetelin

199 Allée de la Plaine, 76230 Isneauville

Nobody has ever packed so much antique treasure into one barn –  give yourself plenty of time to browse! Visits by appointment only.

Pretty Villages


Also known as the “Little Venice” of Normandy, Pont-Audemer is undeniably charming. Built across two forks of the river Risle, water weaves around the back of the houses and along flower-lined pathways. Spend your time getting lost amongst its cobbled alleys and lanes before touring the rest of the Risle Valley.


With its pastel-colored architecture and immense forest, it’s not hard to see why Lyons-la-Forêt is classed as one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France.
Historically important due to its strategic position between the French and English kingdoms, today, this pretty village has a quieter life with its open squares and trendy boutiques. The forest, spanning over 10 000 hectares, offers plenty to explore, including one of the most beautiful tree “cathedrals” in Europe.

Le Bec-Hellouin

Positioned between Rouen and Lisieux, Le Bec-Hellouin is surrounded by a picturesque landscape of farmland and apple orchards. Named after the stream that borders it, the village has a typically Norman aesthetic – half-timbered buildings and rose-filled gardens. Make sure you visit the local permaculture farm with its rainbow-colored potager, as well as the Benedictine abbey.


Jardin Plume

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.

Jardin Agapanthe

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.

Champ de Bataille

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.

Jardins de Castillon

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

A L'École Buissonnière

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.

La Ferme Saint Simeon

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.

Hôtel Barrière Le Normandy

38 Rue Jean Mermoz, 14804 Deauville

A traditional half-timbered building in the center of this elegant coastal town. Every room of this hotel is beautifully decorated in classic toile de Jouy print. Here, designer shopping and beautiful sandy beaches are at your doorstep.

Where To Eat

Le Moulin de Connelles

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.

Jardin des Plumes

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.

Les Enfants Sages

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.

Le Central

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.

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