Normandy Travel Guide

France  
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Courtesy of PEC Photo/Getty Images

Best Things To Do in Normandy

Normandy's attractions are spread across the region, so we suggest you either spend a few days in just one or two towns or you take a couple of weeks, rent a car and see a cache. If you're a foodie, you'll enjoy the food in Trouville and Honfleur (think: beachside oysters) or Camembert and Pont-l'Évêque (think: cheese). Should you enjoy the Impressionist works of Monet, then consider touring his home in Giverny. You'll find a quaint yet impressive city of cafés, museums and cathedrals in Rouen (it's not called "the city of a thousand spires" for nothing). And then there's the D-Day Beaches and the war cemeteries in Bayeux, Caen and Colleville-sur-Mer. 

How we rank Things to Do
  • #1
    D-Day Beaches
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    #1 in Normandy
    Beaches, Monuments and Memorials, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Monuments and Memorials, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    World War II’s successful Operation Overlord took place on the coast of France. Although there were heavy Allied casualties, this invasion turned the tide in the war and helped lead to the fall of Nazi Germany. Today this piece of coastline, which includes Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah beaches, is collectively known as the D-Day Beaches.

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  • #2
    Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Rouen
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    #2 in Normandy
    Monuments and Memorials, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    This gothic cathedral was the world’s tallest building for about five years -- 1876 to 1880. But its beauty in changing light is what drew the Impressionist artist, Claude Monet, whose work can be viewed at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen, to paint it several times. Today, the cathedral is one of the defining pieces of architecture in this part of Normandy.

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  • #3
    Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
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    #3 in Normandy
    Monuments and Memorials, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Somewhere around 9,000 soldiers are buried in this Colleville-sur-Mer war cemetery, which overlooks Omaha Beach. Most of these lost their lives during the D-Day invasion. There's also a memorial that gives a narrative of the invasion, as well as a reflecting pool and a chapel. And about 1,500 soldiers who were missing-in-action are remembered on the Walls of the Missing, in a semicircle garden to the east of the memorial.

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  • #4
    Bayeux War Cemetery
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    #4 in Normandy
    Monuments and Memorials, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Bayeux War Cemetery is one of the largest of 18 military cemeteries in Normandy, with somewhere around 4,000 graves -- many of which mark the plots of soldiers who were never identified. These headstones are inscribed with "A Solider Known Unto God." Keep in mind that if you're an American looking for your ancestors, you'll most likely have more luck at the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer. This one contains soldiers from the United Kingdom and "the Continent," including some from Germany.

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  • #5
    Mont Saint-Michel Abby (Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel)
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    #5 in Normandy
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Surrounded by sea in the high tide and sand in low, Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel is one of France’s most-toured sites outside of the popular Parisian landmarks. Its first incarnation was raised on the 264-foot-high rock in 1144, but additions were added well into the 19th century. Today, you can tour the abbey and the little village at its base. Tours are offered all year-round, but you can also traipse the massive structure on your own.

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  • #6
    Claude Monet's House and Garden
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    #6 in Normandy
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Who doesn’t love them some water lilies, haystacks and gardens?  Claude Monet, one of the most famous Impressionists, lived and painted many of these subjects in his home in Giverny. Today, Monet fans can tour his excellently preserved home and gardens for about €8 EUR (or approximately $11 USD). Closed in winter, this home is open to visit between 9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., April through November.

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  • #7 in Normandy
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    More than 60 rooms in the Musée des Beaux Arts de Rouenare hang with works by artists, such as Géricault and Delacroix, among others. Monet fans will also find some of his canvasses here, including a few that depict the Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Rouen.

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  • #8
    Eglise Jeanne d'Arc
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    #8 in Normandy
    Churches/Religious Sites, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    This modern-looking church sits on the site of Jeanne d'Arc's (or Joan of Arc, to us Yanks) burning. The 19-year-old girl was burned at the stake for heresy in 1431. Today, you can tour this contemporary church (the exterior of which is reminiscent of fish scales) at Place du Vieux-Marché in Rouen.

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  • #9
    Museum of the Bayeux Tapestry
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    #9 in Normandy
    Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    You might ask why on earth would you make a stop to see a tapestry when Camembert cheese, hard cider and the rolling Normandy hills are beckoning? Well, because the Bayeux Tapestry is big (70 meters long), ornate (more like artwork than your grandma’s embroidery) and tells a story (it chronicles the 1066 Battle of Hastings). In fact, one TripAdvisor user says, “This is one of those attractions that I wasn't sure that I would find that interesting, but it turned out to be one of my favorite attractions in Normandy.”

    ...Read More »

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