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Exploring Normandy? Your Ultimate Travel Guide for this beautiful region of France!


view on the harbor of Honfleur, Normandy

Normandy is a region in France that is absolutely worth a visit. The natural beauty along the coastline is breathtaking, with stunning cliffs and impressive beaches. Additionally, there are plenty of charming towns perfect for leisurely strolls. In this 5-day travel guide for Normandy, we will explore the most beautiful places and attractions in this delightful area. Of course, the gastronomy will also be covered, as this region is the perfect place to taste delicious dishes like the famous 'Fruits de Mer'.


Day 1: Discover Historic Rouen

Le Gros Horloge in Rouen, Normandy

If you are driving from Belgium or the Netherlands to Normandy, Rouen is the perfect city for your first stop. This historic city, known for its beautiful cathedral and picturesque streets, offers a wonderful mix of culture and history. Visit the Gros Horloge, a stunning astronomical clock, and wander through the old town to admire the charming half-timbered houses. One of the most charming places in Rouen is Saint Maclou, where you can also visit Aître Saint-Maclou.








Aître Saint-Maclou:


  • History and Function: Built in the 16th century as a cemetery for the victims of the Black Death. From the 17th century, the building was used as a school for art and sculpture, and you can still see the macabre remnants.

  • Architecture: Gothic style with decorations that refer to death (skulls, bones, and skeletons). The courtyard is located in the middle of the square building, where you will also find a café.



Continue your walk to the Marché de la Place Saint Marc, where a market is held on Sundays. On the way, you will pass some of my favorite spots like Linda Artiste Florale, a very decorative and artistic shop, and Les Pâtisseries de Gill where you can enjoy delicious coffee and pastries.



Favorite Restaurants in Rouen:

  • Simone: Located near Saint-Maclou, 214 rue Martainville, 76000 Rouen

  • Okto: At the vieux place, 26 rue du Vieux Palais, 76000 Rouen

  • Tempo: Near the Seine, 5 Place de la République, 76000 Rouen


Tip: It's best to make a reservation, especially on Fridays and Saturdays. These restaurants are closed on Sundays and Mondays.


Day 2: From Rouen to Mont Saint-Michel

view on Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy

On the second day of your road trip, head towards one of France's most iconic landmarks: Mont Saint-Michel. This impressive abbey, located on a rocky island, attracts millions of visitors annually.


How to Get to Mont Saint-Michel: Mont Saint-Michel is about 100 km southwest of Rouen and easily accessible by car. There are various parking lots on the mainland, from where you can take a free shuttle bus or a horse-drawn carriage to the island. If you are staying on or near the island, your hotel will provide a code to pass through the barrier, though this does come with a fee ranging from €6-12 for 24 hours, depending on the season.


History of Mont Saint-Michel: Mont Saint-Michel has a rich history dating back to the 8th century when Saint Aubert, the Bishop of Avranches, had a vision of the Archangel Michael instructing him to build an abbey on the rock. Over the centuries, Mont Saint-Michel grew into an important pilgrimage site and strategic fortress. During the Hundred Years' War, the island withstood English sieges thanks to its impregnable location and fortifications.


What to See and Do on Mont Saint-Michel:

small cobblestoned streets in Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy
The Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel:
  • Tip: Reserve your ticket in advance to visit the abbey. Book here. Take a guided tour of this Gothic masterpiece and admire the church, cloisters, and impressive vaults. The view from the top of the abbey over the bay is breathtaking.

  • Opening Hours: Daily from 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM (varies by season)

  • Entrance Fee: Approximately €11 per adult

Wander Through the Narrow Streets:
  • Stroll through the medieval streets of Mont Saint-Michel, filled with charming shops, museums, and historic buildings. The Grand Rue is the main street leading to the abbey, but don’t forget to explore the smaller side streets for a quieter experience.

tidal flats in the bay of Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy

The Bay of Mont Saint-Michel:
  • Take a guided walk on the tidal flats around Mont Saint-Michel at low tide. Only do this with a guide, as the water can rise quickly and there are areas of quicksand. This unique way to explore the bay’s landscape and wildlife can be booked here.

Dining:
  • Mont Saint-Michel has various restaurants and cafés where you can enjoy local specialties. Be sure to try the omelet from La Mère Poulard, famous for its fluffy texture. For a more luxurious dining experience, have dinner with a view of the bay at one of the terrace restaurants.


Tips for Visiting Mont Saint-Michel:


  • Arrive Early: To avoid the crowds, take your time to wander through the narrow streets and admire the breathtaking views.

  • Dress Appropriately: The streets of Mont Saint-Michel are steep and cobbled, so wear comfortable shoes. The weather can be unpredictable, so bring a jacket, even in summer.

  • Photography: For the best photos of Mont Saint-Michel, plan your visit around sunrise or sunset when the light is most dramatic.


Accommodation Tip: Book one of the hotels near Mont Saint-Michel, such as Relais Saint Michel. We had a fantastic view from the terrace of the Mont Saint-Michel. The hotel offers free shuttle buses to and from the island, which is about a half-hour walk away.



Day 3: Mont Saint-Michel to the D-Day Beaches and Bayeux


Your third day is dedicated to history. A visit to the D-Day beaches of Normandy is an emotional and educational experience. These locations play a crucial role in World War II history and provide insight into the bravery and sacrifices of the Allied troops. During your Normandy road trip, a visit to Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach, and Juno Beach is a must.

visiting Pointe du Hoc, D-Day beaches, Normandy

Pointe du Hoc: A Testimony of Heroism

Pointe du Hoc is a 30-meter high cliff between Utah Beach and Omaha Beach, which was stormed by American Rangers on June 6, 1944 (D-Day, this year exactly 80 years ago).

What to See:


  • Memorial: In memory of the American Rangers who risked their lives here. It offers a beautiful view of the cliffs and coastline.

  • Bunkers and Craters: The cliff is dotted with bomb craters and remnants of German bunkers, a grim reminder of the intensity of the fighting.


Tip: You can visit the site for free, and there is also a visitor center where you can learn more about Pointe du Hoc. If you prefer a guided tour, you can book it here.


Omaha Beach: The Bloodbath of Normandy

Ohama Beach pier, D-Day beaches, Normandy

Discover one of the five landing beaches of the Allied invasion. Visit the Omaha Beach Memorial Museum, located near the landing site.


  • Opening Hours: The museum is open from 10 AM to 7 PM, depending on the period. Closed on December 24-25 and from December 30 to February 10, 2025.

  • Entrance Fee: Adults: €7.70, children (7-15 years): €4.50


Also visit the Normandy American Cemetery, located on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach, where 9,387 American soldiers are buried.





Discover the Historical Treasures of Bayeux while exploring Normandy


The Bayeux Tapestry: Next, visit Bayeux to see the famous tapestry, a medieval masterpiece that tells the story of the Norman conquest of England in 1066. This nearly 70-meter long tapestry is considered one of the oldest comic strips in the world.


  • Location: Centre Guillaume le Conquérant

  • Opening Hours: Daily (varies by season)

  • Entrance Fee: Approximately €10 per adult


Tip: Take the audio tour for a detailed explanation of the scenes on the tapestry.

You can also enjoy a pleasant walk along the river and the historic center of Bayeux. Starting point: Bayeux Tourist Office.



Botanical Garden of Bayeux: This beautiful garden, established in the 19th century, offers a peaceful place to walk and enjoy a variety of plants and flowers. The garden also features a remarkable 200-year-old tree, the "Weeping Beech."


  • Location: Route de Port-en-Bessin

  • Opening Hours: Daily

  • Entrance Fee: Free

Dining in Bayeux: Bayeux offers numerous culinary options, from cozy cafés to refined restaurants. Here are some recommendations for a delightful dining experience:


  • La Rapière: This romantic restaurant, located in a charming historic building, offers excellent French cuisine with a focus on local ingredients.

  • Le P'tit Resto: A small, cozy restaurant serving delicious Norman dishes in a warm atmosphere.


Juno Beach: The Canadian Invasion

Memorial of WOII on Juno Beach, Normandy

Juno Beach was the landing site for Canadian troops on D-Day. Here you can find many remnants on the beach, such as bunkers, and there is also a museum about the Canadian contribution to World War II. Unfortunately, we only stayed briefly due to bad weather.













Tips for Visiting the D-Day Beaches:


  • Dress Appropriately: The wind along the coast can be strong, even in summer, so dress suitably.

  • Guided Tours: Consider booking a guided tour for in-depth historical context and stories you might otherwise miss. You can also book a tour to visit the beaches from Paris.

  • Respect and Reflection: These locations are places of remembrance and respect. Behave appropriately and take time to reflect on the soldiers' sacrifices.


After this last beach, end your third day in Honfleur, a charming port town in Normandy.


Day 4: Enchanting Harbors and Luxurious Beaches - Honfleur, Deauville, and Trouville


On the fourth day of your road trip through Normandy, explore some of the most picturesque and charming coastal towns in the region: Honfleur, Deauville, and Trouville. These destinations offer a perfect mix of historic charm, art, and culinary highlights, ideal for travelers seeking unique destinations and affordable luxury experiences.

watching sunset at le Vieux Bassin in Honfleur, Normandy

Honfleur: Art and History in a Picturesque Port Town

Honfleur is a beautiful port town at the mouth of the Seine, known for its colorful houses and vibrant art scene. It is a popular destination among artists because of the beautiful light and picturesque surroundings.












What to See and Do:


  • Vieux Bassin: The old harbor of Honfleur, surrounded by tall, narrow houses, is one of the most photographed spots in Normandy. Take a walk along the quay and enjoy the charm of this delightful town.

  • Musée Eugène Boudin: This museum is dedicated to the Impressionist painter Eugène Boudin, who was born in Honfleur. The museum features works by Boudin and other Impressionist painters inspired by Honfleur.

  • Saint-Catherine’s Church: The largest wooden church in France, built by shipbuilders in the 15th century. The unique architecture and maritime interior are worth a visit.



Dining:

  • Le vieux Honfleur: A refined restaurant with a terrace on the quay of the old harbor. Enjoy a delicious dinner while watching a beautiful sunset.

  • L'Âtre: Haute cuisine restaurant by Julien Lefebvre. The chef creates artistic masterpieces on your plate. The restaurant is recommended by both Michelin and Gault-Millau.



Favorite Places to Stay in Honfleur:

  • Les Maisons de Léa: This extremely charming hotel is fantastically located in the center of Honfleur, close to Saint-Catherine’s Church and within walking distance of the old harbor. Despite its location, the hotel also has its own parking.



  • La Maison de Lucie: This particularly charming hotel is located slightly further from the center but still within walking distance of the attractions. It features a charming garden and wellness facilities.


Deauville: Elegance and Luxury on the Normandy Coast


From Honfleur, it's easy to visit Deauville, known for its luxury hotels and elegant beaches. It is one of the most glamorous destinations in Normandy.


What to See and Do:


  • Promenade des Planches: An iconic wooden promenade along the beach, where you can enjoy the sea air and admire the colorful beach huts. You will also find cabins with the names of famous actors and directors who have stayed here for the annual Deauville American Film Festival.

  • Casino Barrière de Deauville: One of the most prestigious casinos in France, perfect for an evening out in style.

  • Villa Strassburger: A beautiful Belle Époque mansion that offers a glimpse into Deauville's rich history.



Trouville: Authentic Charm and Fresh Seafood


Trouville, the twin town of Deauville, offers a more relaxed and authentic atmosphere. It is an ideal place to enjoy fresh seafood and the charm of a traditional fishing port.

fresh seafood in Trouville, Normandy

What to See and Do:


  • Marché aux Poissons: The fish market of Trouville is a must-visit for seafood lovers. Here you can view the catch of the day and sample freshly prepared dishes.

  • Les Planches de Trouville: Like in Deauville, Trouville has a beautiful promenade along the beach, perfect for a leisurely walk.










Day 5: The Spectacular Cliffs of Étretat and the Maritime History of Fécamp

cliffs in Étretat, Normandy

On the last day of your road trip, visit the impressive cliffs of Étretat and the historic port town of Fécamp. These destinations offer breathtaking views, rich history, and unique experiences, ideal for travelers seeking unique destinations and affordable luxury.


Étretat: Natural Beauty and Stunning Views


Étretat is famous for its dramatic chalk cliffs and natural arch formations that line the coast. These natural wonders have inspired numerous artists and writers over the years, including Claude Monet and Guy de Maupassant. This town is also known for the house of Maurice Blanc, the writer of the Arsène Lupin books, which was adapted into a popular Netflix series.


What to See and Do:


  • Falaise d'Aval and L'Aiguille: Take a walk along the coastal paths to admire the famous rock formations of the "Falaise d'Aval" and the pointed "Aiguille." These iconic views are perfect for photography, especially at sunrise or sunset.

  • Falaise d'Amont: On the other side of the beach, you will find the "Falaise d'Amont," where you can visit the Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Garde and enjoy panoramic views of the sea and the town of Étretat.

  • Jardins d'Étretat: These beautiful gardens on the cliffs feature artworks, sculptures, and breathtaking views. They are a peaceful place to walk and enjoy nature.



Fécamp: Historic Port Town and Benedictine Heritage


Fécamp, located slightly north of Étretat, is a town with a rich maritime history and known for its Benedictine abbey and the namesake liqueur.


Palais Bénédictine in Fécamp, Normandy

What to See and Do:


  • Palais Bénédictine: This imposing palace, a combination of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, is dedicated to the production of the famous Bénédictine liqueur. You can take a tour of the distillery, admire the art collection, and of course, sample the liqueur.

the famous Liquor de Bénédictine, Fécamp, Normandy
  • Abbaye de la Trinité: The abbey of Fécamp, founded in the 11th century, is an impressive example of Norman Gothic architecture. Visit the church and the adjacent cloister to learn more about the history of this spiritual place.



  • Cap Fagnet: Just outside the town, Cap Fagnet offers spectacular views of the cliffs and the sea. It is also the location of several World War II bunkers that you can explore.
















Tips for an Affordable Luxury Road Trip in Normandy:


  • Accommodation: Choose charming B&Bs or boutique hotels that offer an authentic experience without the high price tag of luxury hotels.

  • Dining: Sample local specialties like Norman cider, camembert, and seafood in small, local restaurants instead of touristy eateries. You often get better quality for a lower price.

  • Transportation: Consider renting a bike so you can enjoy the beautiful landscapes at your own pace.


With this travel guide for a road trip in Normandy, you can enjoy the perfect mix of nature, history, and gastronomy. Have a great trip!


For more travel guides and tips, keep following our blog and prepare for unforgettable adventures in unique destinations.


*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliated links which means that purchases made through these links reward Destination Explorer a small commission without any additional charge for the purchaser. 


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Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

This takes me back to French holidays from my childhood, when we would drive across from the UK. We never got to the beautiful area of Étretat. We must return. You reminded me how much there is to see in this beautiful region. This really is the ultimate guide that I'll return to when we do.

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