Whether you are a local looking for a quick weekend getaway from Paris or intend to add a side trip to your Paris trip: Normandy is your perfect destination.
Firstly, the Normandy region is close enough to Paris, so you don’t need to spend too much time on the road. In fact, it takes only an hour-long drive to reach the highlight, the Garden of Monet in Giverny. But the region also offers a plethora of interesting locations and historical sites, so you’re certainly not running out of things to do.
In this article, I introduce you to the 7 best things to do in Normandy, that you can easily squeeze in one weekend. Let’s go!
1. Monet Giverny
Your first destination on your weekend in Normandy is the gardens of the renowned impressionist painter Claude Monet. They are located in Giverny, a little town roughly 1 hour from Paris and its lovely cafes. It’s here where he lived most of his life and found inspiration for many of his paintings.
The most famous of all is surely his water lilies series, with the weeping willows and the green bridge. All these motives are still in his garden today and are a wonderful place to visit.
From Giverny, it’s an hour’s drive to the capital of the Normandy Region, Rouen. If you start your day early, you’re here just in time for lunch.
Rouen has a long history and was a very significant city during medieval times. It was here where Jeanne d’Arc was famously burned for heresy. The best thing to do in Rouen is simply stroll around and enjoy the old town with its cobblestone alleys and half-timbered houses.
It’s inevitable that you pass by the two highlights of the city: The Notre Dame de Rouen Cathedral, the tallest church in France and the 14th-century Clock Tower.
From Rouen, you’ll head to the Sea, to a watersport paradise. The beautiful town Étretat is again just an hour’s drive, and you’ll be granted with the most spectacular white cliff formations that are so typical of the French Alabaster coastline.
Étretat is by far the most beautiful town in northern Normandy. It’s perfect for leisure hikes on the cliffs, sampling regional specialties like Crêpes and Cider, but also to stock up on lovely Souvenirs from France. As Étretat is a popular destination from Paris, you find here many boutiques, souvenir and gift shops to buy regional products.
While Étretat is famous for it pebble beaches, Trouville offers you sandy shores as far as the eye can see. But Trouville is more than just beaches because it is the most charming example of regional architecture and vibes.
From half-timbered houses to almost castle-like mansions, countless seafood restaurants, and cute boutiques, Trouville is a treasure trove on cobblestones.
It’s also a perfect location to spend the night on your weekend away. As Trouville is one of nearest beaches to Paris, you can choose from a big range of hotels.
Bayeux is a millennia-old village in the Calvados region within Normandy and was a central scene for all sorts of medieval events.
Richard Lionhard, William the Conqueror and Henry V, all three had an influence on Bayeux. This might have been hundreds of years ago, but one artifact remained intact until today: The famous tapestry of Bayeux. You can marvel at the 1000-year-old tapestry in Bayeux most popular tourist attraction: The Bayeux Museum.
6. Landing Beaches
The Normandy was not only a central venue for medieval history, it was here as well where the WW2 reached its long-awaited turning point. The D-Day landing beaches are located on the coastline of the Normandy region.
It’s here where the Allied Invasion happened and visiting memorial sites on Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno or Sword Beach is certainly something you should add to your weekend in Normandy.
If you have a bit more time, you can also visit one of the many WW2 museums or cemeteries.
The last – and probably most magical – place to visit on your Normandy weekend is the Mont Saint Michel. The tidal island with its majestic Abbey is a World Heritage Site and lies at the most western border of Normandy.
During high tides, the Mont Saint Michel is only connected to the mainland by a bridge and lately, the bridge is not open to for public usage anymore. But don’t worry, they have plenty of parking places and shuttle buses. For a more unique experience, you can also book a horse carriage ride to the Mont Saint Michel.
Don’t forget to get yourself a box of “Les Galettes de La Mère Poulard”. These butter biscuits are famous all over France, but have their origin on the Mont-Saint-Michel.
Lena fell in love with Paris 16 years ago and is eager to show you her adopted home beyond the Eiffel Tower. On her website Salut from Paris she provides you with many valuable local Paris insider knowledge and essential Paris tips, but also hotel recommendations, itineraries, neighbourhood info and things to know and to avoid. Follow Lena from Salut from Paris on Facebook.
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