Things to do in Normandy

Things to do in  Normandy

Somber beauty on the coast

From Vikings and Franco-British Kings to World War II battlefields, the wind-ravaged shores of Normandy sit steeped in history. Some of France’s most memorable attractions are found here. Stroll the storied sands of the D-Day beaches, visit the island monastery of Mont St. Michel and the inimitable Bayeux Tapestry, and then escape to the pretty coastal resorts of Honfleur and Deauville. Tasting tours also top the list of the best things to do in Normandy, and the northern department is famed for its three Cs—cider, Calvados, and camembert cheese.

Top 15 attractions in Normandy

Mont-Saint-Michel

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Crowned by a Gothic abbey, the UNESCO-recognized medieval island village of Mont-Saint-Michel rises dramatically from the tidal flats of the bay, creating one of France's most iconic scenes. This island, situated at the mouth of the Couesnon River, is a must-see for history buffs and anyone interested in religious sites—and also surrounded by some of the largest tidal variations in Europe.More

Le Havre Cruise Port (Terminal Croisières Le Havre)

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Set on France’s western coast at the mouth of the English Channel and the Seine River, the Le Havre Cruise Port (Terminal Croisières Le Havre) serves as a popular stop for European cruise liners and is considered the “gateway to Paris.” Once on shore, explore the World War II history of the UNESCO-listed Le Havre and take advantage of the town’s proximity to Normandy.More

Omaha Beach

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As one of Normandy’s D-Day landing beaches, Omaha Beach was the backdrop to one of the most significant events of World War II, immortalized in the movie Saving Private Ryan and forever etched into history. Today, visitors to Omaha Beach can follow in the footsteps of the Allied soldiers and pay their respects at the American Cemetery.More

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

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Located above Omaha Beach, just outside Bayeaux, the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial is a moving site. The cemetery is the final resting place of more than 9,000 soldiers, the vast majority of whom lost their lives fighting the D-Day battles of Normandy. Other World War II heroes are buried here as well.More

Giverny

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A short train ride from Paris, Giverny is best known as the home of Claude Monet, who created many of his iconic paintings. Head to this tiny, bucolic village to see the impressionist master's beautifully preserved home and gardens. Here you can see the famous water lily pond and Japanese gardens that inspired so many of the world's best-known Monet paintings.More

Pointe du Hoc

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One of France’s most important World War II landmarks, Pointe du Hoc is best known for its role in the D-Day Landings. Today, the promontory overlooking the Normandy coast is a destination for history buffs, those with personal ties to the conflict, and others wishing to pay tribute to the many soldiers who lost their lives here.More

Caen Memorial Museum (Mémorial de Caen)

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Located a short drive from the D-Day Landing Beaches, the Caen Memorial Museum (Mémorial de Caen) puts one of the most significant battles of World War II into historical context. The museum gardens serve as a poignant tribute to the international soldiers that lost their lives on Norman soil.More

Rouen Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts)

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Rouen’s Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts) was created in 1801 by Napoleon I. It features a collection of over 8000 paintings, sculptures, drawings and decorative art collections from the Renaissance to the present age, including household names like Renoir, Degas, Fragonard, and many more. The museum also has an exceptional Depeaux collection, and is considered one of the most outstanding public collections in France. Visitors can also enjoy sought-after temporary exhibitions and occasional contemporary art exhibitions.More

Honfleur

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Famously painted by artists, such as Claude Monet, Gustave Courbet, and Eugene Boudin, the picturesque waterfront and colorful harbor of Honfleur are among the most memorable in Normandy. The historic port is renowned for its architecture, especially Vieux Bassin harbor’s 16th-century buildings and the wooden church of Sainte Catherine.More

Joan of Arc Historial (Historial Jeanne d’Arc)

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Opened in 2015, the Joan of Arc Historial (Historial Jeanne d’Arc) is an interactive history exhibition that commemorates one of Rouen’s most famous trials (and heroines). Housed in the city’s centuries-old Archbishop’s Palace, where Joan of Arc’s trial was held in 1431, the museum invites guests to interact directly with her legacy.More

Arromanches 360

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On the coast of Normandy, Arromanches 360 is a circular cinema with nine screens that work together to create an immersive cinematic experience. Here, visitors can watch an HD film that tells the story of the 100-day Battle of Normandy during World War II, complete with archival footage from France, Germany, the UK, Canada, and the US.More

Arromanches-les-Bains

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The tiny village of Arromanches-les-Bains played a big role during the Second World War, when Allied troops installed a prefabricated marina just off the coast here. The remains are still visible, and the town’s fascinating Musee du Debarquement explores that wartime history. Now, the village is a key stop for travelers exploring D-Day sites in Normandy.More

La Cambe German War Cemetery

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As the largest German WWII cemetery in France, the La Cambe German War Cemetery serves as a poignant reminder of the lives lost on both sides of the war. It’s a moving site, with its grey schist crosses and dark, flat headstones offering a more somber atmosphere than that of the American and Commonwealth cemeteries nearby.Although initially serving as a temporary American cemetery, today 21,222 soldiers from the German Armed Forces are buried at La Cambe. At the center of the cemetery, a 6-meter-high grassy hillock is capped with a single cross and serves as a mass grave for 296 soldiers, many of which are unknown. Just outside of the cemetery, the La Cambe Peace Garden opened in 1996, and is home to 1,200 maple trees, each planted by an individual or organization to symbolize reconciliation and lasting peace. A visitor center is also located at the entrance to the cemetery and offers further insight into the soldiers buried on-site.More

Cherbourg

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Located on the coast of Normandy, Cherbourg is both a seaside retreat and a bustling port. Immortalized by Catherine Deneuve in the classic 1964 filmThe Umbrellas of Cherbourg, the city has deep connections with French naval history.More

Brittany (Bretagne)

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Brittany (Bretagne) is the westernmost region in France, a peninsula on the northwest coast that stretches out into the Atlantic. Home to destinations such as Rennes, which has a thriving student community; Brest, an off-the-beaten-path city; and the walled former island of Saint-Malo, Brittany is rich in history, naturally beautiful, and too often overlooked in favor of Paris and the French Riviera.More

Top activities in Normandy

Utah & Omaha Beaches D-Day Group Tour from Bayeux
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Mont St Michel Full Day Tour with a National Guide from Bayeux
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Paris City Tour : Private Tour from Le Havre

Paris City Tour : Private Tour from Le Havre

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From
$1,404.56
per group
Omaha and Utah beaches

Omaha and Utah beaches

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From
$153.54
Private Day Tour including Normandy Landing Beaches & Battlefields from Bayeux
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Operators have paid Viator more to have their experiences featured here

All about Normandy

When to visit

The weather in northwestern France can be temperamental, especially along the Atlantic Coast. Late spring and early summer is the most popular time to explore, but don’t expect every day to be a beach day—coastal winds pick up quickly, and showers are possible even in July and August. The annual D-Day Anniversary on June 6 pulls in huge crowds to the D-Day beaches, but it’s worth the hassle to experience the moving ceremonies at least once.

Getting around

Most travelers arrive in Normandy by ferry (there are four cross-Channel ports with routes to the UK) or train (it’s two hours from Paris). However, it’s easier to get around with your own transport. Buses and trains link the main towns, but you’ll need a car or to join a tour to explore the beaches, cideries, and WWII memorials. A slow travel alternative is to rent a bike—Normandy has 310 miles (500 kilometers) of cycling routes.

Traveler tips

You can’t visit Normandy without trying Camembert, one of France’s most famous cheeses, and a popular local dish is Camembert roti, or baked Camembert. The circular cheese is baked whole in its wooden box, topped with honey and walnuts, and served with sliced bread to dip into the melted cheese. Wash it all down with a local cider (yum!).

Local Currency
Euro (€)
Time Zone
CEST (UTC +1)
Country Code
+33
Language(s)
French
Attractions
54
Tours
364
Reviews
13,648
EN
4bd761c8-62a2-4dba-8234-58d36233ea27
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People Also Ask

Why is Normandy famous?

Normandy is one of France’s most visited regions, famous for the magnificent island monastery of Mont Saint-Michel, D-Day beaches and WWII memorials, Bayeux Tapestry, and white chalk cliffs of Etretat. Norman gastronomy is equally world-renowned—Camembert, cider, Calvados, and the French apple tart known as tarte Normande hail from here.

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How do I spend a day in Normandy?

With only one day in Normandy, it’s best to choose just one or two attractions. Combine a tour of the Mont Saint-Michel with a cider tasting, a visit to Bayeux Tapestry with D-Day beaches, or a day trip to Honfleur and Deauville with the white cliffs of Etretat.

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What is the most visited place in Normandy?

The island monastery of Mont Saint-Michel is the most visited attraction in Normandy, with more than 2.5 million annual visitors. Other popular sites include the D-Day beaches and Caen Memorial Museum, the Bayeux Tapestry museum, and the coastal towns of Honfleur and Deauville.

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How many days should you spend in Normandy?

Give yourself at least three days in Normandy to cover the highlights—Mont Saint-Michel, Bayeux Tapestry, and D-Day beaches and memorials. With a full week, you could include the historic cities of Caen and Rouen, the coastal towns of Honfleur and Deauville, and the famous white cliffs of Etretat.

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Can you swim at Normandy’s beaches?

Yes, it’s also possible to swim along the Channel coast—if you don’t mind the cold. Normandy’s golden beaches are better known for their D-Day memorials and soaring white chalk cliffs. The best time to swim is in July and August, when water temperatures average 65°F (18°C).

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Can you tour Normandy on your own?

Yes, Normandy is easy to explore on your own with a vehicle, and traveling independently gives you flexibility. Day trips to Normandy’s cities and towns can also be made by train or bus, but to explore the D-Day beaches, it’s best to hire a car.

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Frequently Asked Questions
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