Chateau Gaillard#15 in Best Things To Do in Normandy
This castle fortress was amazingly built in a mere two years, between 1196 and 1198, at the direction of Richard the Lionheart, King of England and the Duke of Normandy to protect Rouen against the French. It was captured by Philip II after a six-month siege; Henry IV later ordered that it be destroyed. Today, its clifftop ruins are a reminder of its dramatic past and a fascinating place to visit.
Recent visitors were fascinated by the complex history of the fortress. Others raved about the views and recommend bringing a picnic to enjoy on the grounds. According to recent travelers, there is a large free parking lot within walking distance.
The property is open from the end of March through the beginning of November from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. It's closed on Tuesdays. From July through August it is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission for adults costs 3.50 euros (about $4) and free for children 6 and younger. For more information, visit the Normandy tourism website.
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#1 D-Day Beaches
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.
Visitors can tour the approximately 50-mile stretch of sand and pop by a number of museums, memorials and cemeteries that are spread out alongside the coastline either with a tour or on their own. If you're driving yourself, start in the town of Arromanches, which hosts two museums that help provide context for the battle sites. The American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer and the Pointe-du-Hoc bomb craters are also especially moving. If you'd rather let someone else do the driving, recent visitors recommend going with a tour guide to fully appreciate the area's historic importance and receive a comprehensive overview. If you're visiting in June, you'll likely come across several ceremonies and reenactment groups commemorating the anniversary. Thanks to Normandy's unpredictable weather, you'll want to dress in layers (no matter the time of your visit) and bring rain gear, according to past visitors.
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