BEST THINGS TO DO IN NORMANDY (NORMANDIE)
Normandy has so much to offer and it is a real jewel within France and Europe. Its steeped in rich history and culture, it has varied and beautiful scenery and the Normandy beaches are among the best in Europe! It is a unique rural escape and the perfect location for your self-catering holiday rental!
From Mont St Michel to the Bayeux Tapestry to countless grand Chateaus, Castles, Churches and Abbeys to stunning towns such as Rouen, Honfleur and Deauville. Normandy is teaming with places to visit. In just this one region you'll find beautiful, sandy beaches, rich woodland and lush meadows all a worthy attraction in their own right.
Normandy is also famed for its being the site of the Allied landings in 1944 and this history is very evident throughout the region with military cemeteries and war museums throughout. The D-Day beaches of Omaha and Arromanches are also a reminder to a somewhat darkest past in Normandy.
For the active, Normandy has much to offer in terms of water and outdoor sports - the area known as "Suisse Normande" (Norman Switzerland) is an idyllic greenland that attracts many adventure holiday makers and nature lovers alike.
Normandy really is the perfect holiday destination and if you are wondering 'what are the best things to do in Normandy', here is our top Normandy list. There are also many leaflets of things to do in Normandy in your holiday home of Glatigny Farmhouse.
Mont St Michel
Mont St Michel is a UNESCO world heritage site and for good reason, it is a breathtaking place and not to far away from Glatigny Farmhouse, we highly recommend a visit. For centuries, Mont St Michel has been a sacred pilgrimage destination and it is described as one of the most spectacular and mythical sights of France.
The commune is build on a small island out at sea, with the Abbey of Mont St Michel reaching 100 meters above sea level. At low tide it is possible to walk across the sands around Mont St Michel (a 'traditional' or 'pilgrimage' crossing), but at high tide the island is accessible by the single road leading into the town.
From the truly magnificent Abbey (which was constructed in the 12th century) you take in outstanding panoramic views of the area.
If you travel to Glatigny Farmhouse via Brittany Ferries, do keep your ticket as this gives you a discount on the entry fee for the Abbey.
The Bayeux Tapestry only a short drive away and while being magnificent in its own right, the town of Bayeux also has many other local attractions in the beautiful historic town.
"Tapisserie de la Reine Mathilde" as The Bayeux Tapestry is called in French is a detailed 70 metre long embroidered historic account documenting the events and times around the conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings. Again UNESCO designated for it's enormous cultural value.
It exquisitely depicts 58 different scenes in surprising detail with a short Latin summary below each scene.
As already mentioned, the town of Bayeux is worthy of a visit in its own right due to many of the beautiful buildings and gardens throughout. The Notre-Dame Cathedral built in the 11th Century is regarded as one of the best examples of a Norman Gothic church.
Honfleur is known by many who haven't even visited France and this is due in no small part to its architecture of quaint timbered houses and cobbled streets overlooking the Seine estuary.
Honfleur is a charming port town that dates back to at least 1027 and was a seafaring port during the 16th Century for voyages to Canada.
Dating back to the 14th Century, the chuch of Saint-Etienne, which now houses the 'Musée de la Marine' (Maritime Museum) is one of of Honfleurs most popular attractions.
Another museum high on the list of attractions is the main museum in Place Erik Satie (the composer) with an annex in the belfry of Sainte-Catherine's church (which was build by local shipwrights after the Hundred Years' War) and is and of itself a worthy place to visit.
Honfleur also has a very impressive art gallery (the Musée Eugène Boudin) which attracts Impressionist art lovers from all over the world. It houses more the 200 works, many of which are Boudin's, with other peices by Monet, Millet, Courbet and similar Impressionists.
Honfleur has lots to offer the tourist and you won't be disappointed if you visit - depending how you arrive or depart from Glatigny Farmhouse, a visit en-route can be a very enjoyable stop!
Rouen is located on the River Seine and is the capital of Normandy - no trifling title!
It was originally founded by a Gaulish tribe before it was taken over by the Romans. Since then it became on of the most prosperous and largest cities in Europe and the capital of the Anglo-Norman dynasties during the 11th to the 15th century.
Today, Rouen's history and culture are almost palpable... As you wander the cobbled streets, drinking in the magnificent architecture of timbered houses and Gothic buildings, it's not hard to imagine Rouen of old!
Rouen Cathedral is awe-inspiring and a veritable achievement of architecture! So much so that Monet painted a series showings its beauty at numerous time of the day.
One can't mention the architecture of Rouen, without mentioning the Gros-Horloge clock tower which is simply stunning - do make sure you make time (pun intended!) to see this!
It is hard not to think of Joan of Arc (or 'Jeanne d'Arc' as she is called in French) when one thinks of Rouen. Rouen is where her trial took place and where you'll find a recently opened museum that helps tourists understand the life of this courageous women and the events leading up to her execution.
The Beaux Arts Museum is renowned for its fine arts collection and is something quite special if this is something that interests you.
Aside from the architecture and culture, Rouen offers much for visitor wanting to do some shopping or enjoy a good meal - you really are spoilt for choice!
During October, Rouen holds a Food festival every year that is famed throughout France and beyond. If you are a 'foodie' this is something not to be missed!
Omaha Beach: D-Day Landing Beach and Museum
Normandy is rich with history, but one of the darker moments of its past is World War Two and of these, the bloodiest battle of Omaha beach stands outs.
Omaha beach is the most famous of the five D-Day landing beaches and encompasses Vierville-sur-Mer to Colleville-sur-Mer which is where the sheer cliffs rise to up 100 meters out of the sea.
This area is a very important part of World War Two history and visiting Omaha beach is a powerful and chilling recount into the bloody battle that took place on 6th June 1944.
There is The American Cemetery which contains more than 9000 perfectly aligned graves, again giving a powerful impression of the atrocities that took place.
Not far away is the Overlord Museum, which showcases many of the soldiers items and vehicles (including tanks, trucks, guns and personal belongings).
Whilst not an 'easy' day out, this is such an important part of history and Normandy that it is not something that should be forgotten. These museums and memorials highlight the deadly battles and losses powerfully and are something we would encourage you to visit.
Giverny: Monet's Garden
Claude Monet is synonymous with art and impressionism and his gardens have to be on the list of things to see in Normandy. The gardens are at his former house in Giverny. The house itself is beautiful but it is the gardens that marks it out as something special.
If you are a lover of art, you will easily recognise the various elements and views that Monet painted - the most recognisable being his "Water Lilies" pieces.
Even if Impressionist art is not your things, the gardens are a beauty to behold and are stunning in every season.
Whilst still in Normandy, Giverny is around 3 hours away from Glatigny Farmhouse and we'd recommend you take in some other sights en-route to make the most of this journey.
Caen Churches and Memorial Centre
Caen is very close by and is the main town in the Manche area of Normandy (Lower Normandy) - it is designated as the capital of the 'Calvados' region.
Caen does have a long and rich history, but this can sometimes be less felt compared to places such as Bayeux or Rouen, as around three-quarters of it was destroyed during the allied landings.
That said, some of the most magnificent buildings, including its churches, remained remarkably untouched during the battles.
The Caen-Normandy Memorial Centre features accounts of World War Two, The Battle of Normandy and the D-Day landings.
As it is so close to Glatigny Farmhouse and there are many other attractions close by, we'd recommend taking advantage of one of the half-day or full-day guided tours of the D-Day Landing beaches.
Deauville should really be further up this list as it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Normandy!
It is a charming port town with a stunning seafront of sandy beach.
Due to its popularity, there is much to do in Deauville, as well as manly places to eat and shop.
From the pretty seafront of classic 1920s beach huts and umbrellas you can stroll to one of many style fashion boutiques or to the "Côte Fleurie" ("Coast of Flowers") which goes on for many kilometres and it is a beauty to behold.
Deauville is known for its upmarket restaurants and you'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out!
If you can, try to coincide your visit with one of Deauville's very exclusive regattas, which attracts visitors from all over the world. It has a number of boating marinas, but the Deauville yacht club is located within Port of Morny.
Deuville has a more upmarket and stylish feel than some of the surrounding areas, but if this is a pull to you, then we'd definitely recommend it - we love it!
Suisse Normande (Norman Switzerland)
As mentioned at the outset, this beautiful pastoral countryside is very popular for outdoor and sports activities - it's the centre for kayaking, climbing, mountain biking, hiking and activities of this sort.
The area itself is located South of Caen, right down to Flers-de l'Orne in the North and its beauty is in its lush countryside of forests, meadows and rolling hills punctuated by idyllic lakes and snaking rivers.
Whilst we've dwelt on the outdoor activities, it would be misleading not to mention the nature and wildlife in the area, which is the reason many visit the area.
Some of more famous sights of the Suisse Normande include the panoramic vistas from the gorges of the Rouvre and the Rocher d'Oëtre. Other bucolic sights can be found in the valleys of Vère and Noireau and the part of the Orne Valley between Pont-d'Ouilly and Thury-Harcourt.
This area is a lovely natural haven and we hope you enjoy it; whatever you choose to do!
Famed for its beaches and cultured 'high living', Fécamp attracts many holidaymakers during the summer months.
Fécamp was the first seaside resort in France, being established in 1832 and was geared toward the more cultured and affluent in society. Today much of the sophistication remains and draws many to this area on the Côte d'Albâtre, including the Writer Guy de Maupassant who lived here and set many of his stories in Fécamp.
The 12th Century Church of Sainte-Trinité is a main attraction for visitors, boosting a stunning Renaissance altar and impressive interiors. Further along on the coast of iconic chalk cliffs is the village of Valmont with a large castle built during medieval times and the ruins of the 12th Century Abbey
Another seaside resort that attracts many visitors to Normandy and the Côte d'Albâtre, is Étretat. It sits at the foot of the impressive and iconic chalk cliffs, which are nearly 100 meters high. From the top of these you get fantastic views of the surrounding area and can really appreciate the spectacular scenery.
As one would expect from a seaside resort, the beaches are beautiful and very popular with tourists, but the area also is the main source of livelihood for the many fisherman who fish here (the results of which you can find in seafood restaurants nearby).
The architecture in Étretat is also worthy of note, many large houses being designed and built in the Belle Epoque era.
The beauty of Étretat was a draw for Claude Monet too, who painted many landscapes and waterfronts in this location.
Château de Fontaine-Henry
Normandy is known worldwide for its impressive châteaux (some of which you can still buy at prices that are almost affordable!), however arguably one of the most impressive châteaux in Normandy is the Château de Fontaine-Henry in the luscious Mue Valley.
Château de Fontaine-Henry was built in the 13th century and was later magnificently embellished with additions during the Renaissance. The whole château is beautiful, but you are met by its bold and ornate stone facade. The rooms are exquisitely furnished with period pieces and paintings (including pieces by Rigaud, Mignard and Robert). The lovely parkland and forests of the Chateau are a great setting for a walk and you'll also find a chapel in the grounds which dates back to the 13th century and was renovated in the 16th century.
Château de Caen
Another iconic château in the area, is the Château de Caen which was constructed by William the Conqueror (or Guillaume le Conquérant as he is called in French) in 1060, the then King of England. This castle is one of the largest medieval monuments in Europe, giving a strong sense of the power of Caen and Normandy in times gone by.
It was originally a fortress of the royal family back in the Middle Ages and during the Hundred Years' War later became an English stronghold. Continuing it's military usage, it was used by the infantry as barracks during the Second World War.
Today the Château de Caen houses two museums, the museum of Normandy and the Museum of fine arts (Musée de Normandie and Musée des Beaux-Arts respectively).
The Museum of Normandy showcases the areas history, culture and the castle itself, whilst the Museum of fine arts has one of the most important and extensive collation of fine arts in the whole of France. Pieces include those painted by Rubens, Poussin, Monet, Boudin, Brueghel, Courbet and Veronese and many more.
Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy, Bayeux
Although we've mentioned Bayeux in relation to the Tapestry, it also has World War Two cemetery which is the British counterpart to the American World War Two cemetery in Caen.
It also hosts the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy. Amongst other pieces and exhibitions, the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy, which focuses on the time period from the 7th June to the 22nd August, 1944, shows the film 'Normandy 44, a Decisive Victory in the West'.
The mission of the museum is to honour and remember those lost in battle, both solders and civilians alike.
Arromanches D-Day Museum
One of the many World War Two museums in the area is the D-Day Museum in Arromanches, not far from Omaha Beach.
Close to the sea, the museum is located on the same spot where the famed Mulberry harbour was built. The British 50th Northumberland Division built this harbour after destroying German bunkers.
The Arromanches D-Day Museum offers guided tours that include working models that show how these ports operated.
The remains of these harbours can still be seen today close to the public square, where you'll also fine lots of cafés and shops, these offer a nice break during visits.