Mont Saint-Michel Abbey (Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel)#2 in Best Things To Do in Normandy
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. It's also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its first incarnation was raised on the 264-foot-high rock beginning in the 10th century, but additions were added well into the 19th century. Today, you can tour the abbey and the little village at its base, as well as several museums. Tours are offered year-round, but you can also traipse the massive structure on your own.
Guided tours – which are included in the cost of admission – do not require advance booking and are offered in French and English year-round. Tours are also offered in German, Italian and Spanish in July and August.
Recent visitors said the abbey is a must-see sight, though some cautioned that the village is filled with overpriced food and drink. Reviewers advised wearing comfortable shoes as you'll want to make the trek to the top for the unparalleled views. Others suggested taking advantage of either the audio guide or guided tour to better understand the site's far-reaching history and the mechanics of building it.
You'll find this impressive abbey on a skinny strip of land in the English Channel. To reach it, you'll have to hop on a free shuttle bus from the parking lot. You can also walk – a recommendation from recent visitors. Admission is 10 euros (about $11) for adults and free for children ages 17 and younger. Audio guides are available for 3 euros (around $3.30). The abbey is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., with extended hours from May through August (9 a.m. to 7 p.m.). Entrance to the abbey is free the first Sunday of the month from to November to March. On-site facilities include restrooms and two shops. For more information, visit the abbey's official 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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