The D-Day beaches, Rouen, the splendid coastal towns... there is no shortage of reasons to visit Normandy. The region is vast but easily accessible from the French capital, especially if you choose an organised excursion.
Among the things to see and do in Paris, a visit to the surrounding regions is a must. Normandy will surprise you with its cliffs that end in the Atlantic and a green countryside of extraordinary beauty.
1. Day trip to the landing sites in Normandy
On 6 June 1944, Allied troops landed on Omaha Beach. What has gone down in history as "D-Day" marked a turning point in the Second World War and the definitive decline of the German advance.
These tours leave Paris very early in the morning (around 7:00) and include the following stops:
- Omaha Beach, where units of the US 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions made landfall. The Les Braves monument commemorates this incredible feat.
- American Cemetery and Memorial, the eternal resting place of soldiers who gave their lives for freedom. Located in the town of Colleville-sur-Mer
- Arromanches-les-Bains, a coastal town known for its white cliffs plunging into the Atlantic. As usual, the price of the excursion includes admission to the Arromanches 360° photographic archive which brings together the snapshots of D-Day.
- Juno Beach, the beach conquered by Canadian troops
An expert guide and entrance tickets to the main attractions are available throughout the tour. Lunch and cider tasting are included on some Normandy tours, but if not you can also find a bar or restaurant in Arromanches-les-Bains. The bus usually returns to Paris in the afternoon.
- Duration: about 13 hours
- Price: between 150 € and 200 €.
2. Two days in Normandy
These tours include one night in a hotel and usually take in four cities: Rouen, Honfleur, Saint-Malo and Mont St-Michel plus the Normandy landing beaches.
The first day starts in Rouen, the historic capital of Normandy. Nicknamed the "city of 100 bell towers" by Victor Hugo, it is known for the medieval Norman centre that not even the Hundred Years' War and the Second World War could damage.
The visits necessarily touch on the Notre-Dame Cathedral; you will recognise it by the large rose window and the three slender towers that complete its silhouette.
After the visit, you will arrive in the seaside resort of Honfleur. From the 12th century, it became an important port for goods on their way to England.
The Vieux Bassin is undoubtedly the must-see attraction. This is the name of the small harbour surrounded by historic buildings that are reflected in the water.
After a free lunch - personally, I recommend La Cidrerie - you will get back on the bus to see the beaches and the Normandy landing sites. Normally, you'll spend a night in a hotel in Caen.
On the second day, you'll leave Caen to reach Saint-Malo, home to pirates and legendary explorers such as Jacques Cartier, the discoverer of Canada. The historic centre dates back to the 6th century and, although it was almost completely destroyed during the Second World War, it has lost none of its charm.
After a visit to the cathedral, you can recharge your batteries at Le Bistro Autour du beurre, an authentic place that favours butter and seasonal ingredients. In the afternoon, the bus will take you to another world-famous village: Mont St-Michel.
It stands on a rocky islet surrounded by a large bay. In the Middle Ages, monks settled here and built the abbey that has survived to this day.
If you want to see it surrounded by the waters of the sea, I recommend you consult the official website which details the tide times. After leaving Mont Saint-Michel, you will arrive in the French capital in the evening.
- Duration: 2 days
- Price: more or less 500 €.
3. Three-day trip to Normandy with a visit to the Loire Châteaux
This last tour is very similar to the previous one. The only difference is that it includes an extra day to be used to visit the Loire châteaux.
Normally, the tours touch two châteaux - Château de Langeais and Chambord - and the Château de Chenonceau. For more information, I recommend you read the post about tours to the Loire Châteaux from Paris.
- Duration: 3 days
- Price: around 700 €.
4. Gastronomic tour in Normandy
Normandy is a paradise for foodies. Many associate it with cheese, but this is not the only attraction: fish and seafood are excellent, as are lamb, duck, pork and beef.
Tastings are usually held in Honfleur, a beautiful town on the Atlantic coast.
- Camembert, the region's most famous cheese. In its native place, it is even more appreciated
- Livarot, with the typical orange-coloured rind and spicy aroma. It is often enjoyed at the end of a meal with a full-bodied wine or a glass of cider.
- Coulommiers, the dairy product that resembles brie. It goes well with champagne or Alsatian wines.
- Pont-L'Eveque, a soft cheese with a creamy heart. It is the oldest cheese in the region, presumably dating back to the 12th century.
- Cider, the famous apple-based alcoholic drink. It can be sweet and light or brut and with a more decided flavour.
- Calvados, a wine obtained from the fermentation of apples with a low alcohol content and a touch of acidity. It is often drunk both as an aperitif and with meals.
Crepes are often on the menu and are an icon of the local culinary tradition. If you like good food, you can repeat the experience on your return to the capital with a gastronomic tour of Paris.
- Duration: about 12 hours
- Price: around 300 €.
How to book an excursion to Normandy
Paris is a metropolis and there are thousands of things to see and do. My advice is to book your excursions to Normandy in advance so that you don't have to go to a tourist centre or to the office of an agency specialised in guided tours.
It'seasier online: just select the tour you like and complete the payment in a few clicks. You will receive your tickets by post and you don't even have to print them out.
Why should I take a trip to Normandy?
The north-west region of France has a lot to offer. Its historical attractions and natural beauties make it one of the top 10 tours and excursions from Paris. I've put together a short list of five reasons to get out of the "City of Light" for a day or two:
- Calvados, the famous apple brandy with Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée,is produced here. There is a route called "La Route du Cidre" through the countryside and the most beautiful villages. The Calvados Pierre Huet estate is often a must (Manoir la Brière des Fontaines, 5 Av. des Tilleuls, Cambremer).
- The famous landing of the Allies during the Second World War took place on Omaha Beach. Nearby are the American Cemetery, German fortified bases and the D-Day Museum.
- It includes the splendid Mont Saint-Michel Abbey which, depending on the tides, can be either an island or a hill. For more information, I recommend you read the article on excursions to Mont St Michel from Paris.
- There are countless charming villages. Among the most beautiful are Bayeux, Les Andelys, Honfleur and Beuvron-en-Auge, although the list could go on for longer.
- Normandy is home to Camembert, but also to Livarot, Pont L'Evêque and Neufchâtel cheeses. In the local gastronomies you will find the best dairy products in France.
When is the best time to visit Normandy?
To enjoy the beaches, you should visit the region in summer. At this time of year, temperatures rarely rise above 25 degrees Celsius, making for a cool and pleasant atmosphere.
If you visit Paris in June, a trip to Normandy is highly recommended. In addition, the anniversary of D-Day is celebrated every 6 June, while in July, medieval festivals are held in Caen, Bayeux, Harcourt, and elsewhere.
For the intermediate seasons, spring is preferable to autumn. The temperatures are not very different but the rains are less frequent and the spectacle of flowering is simply marvellous. If you like live music, don't miss Jazz sous les pommiers, a jazz festival held in May.
Can I travel to Normandy on my own?
Yes, you can. The easiest way is to rent a car at the airport or at the agencies in town. Once behind the wheel, take the A13 motorway which passes through the main towns in the region.
Arrival time depends on the town: Rouen takes 1.5 hours, while Bayeux takes at least 3 hours.
Alternatively, you can take a train from Saint-Lazare station (to Caen or Bayeaux). The journey takes 2 hours or a little more. For more information on timetables and tickets, I recommend you check the French Railways website.
What are the advantages of taking a guided tour vs. visiting Normandy on my own?
It is a very large region and if you want to do it on your own, you will have to study prices, itineraries and accommodation in case you stay one or more nights. An organised tour avoids all this.
In addition, it takes place on board a comfortable, air-conditioned bus and usually includes breakfast and dinner (always in the case of longer tours).
Another plus point is that entrance fees are also included. You may have to add a little extra, but the main expenses are covered.
If you stay in Paris for a week or more, you can take other little trips. For more ideas, I recommend you read the post about the best excursions from Paris.
Where can I eat?
As you have read in the previous point, breakfast and dinner are usually included in the price. Therefore, you will only need to find a place for lunch. Here are some recommended options in Saint-Malo and Honfleur, two classic stops on a two-day trip:
- Le Cambusier, a restaurant serving French cuisine with a modern twist. It also has lunch menus and recipes for vegetarians and vegans. It is located at Rue des Cordiers 6 in Saint-Malo, a stone's throw from the old town.
- Breizh Cafe, the crepe paradise. It has several establishments in Saint-Malo and I recommend you check the official website for the menu and locations.
- Chez D.D., a wine bar serving tasty snacks. It is a two-minute walk from the port (Rue Cachin 28).
- La Cidrerie, an informal restaurant in Honfleur. I recommend you try their galettes, a buckwheat crepe typical of Normandy. It also has an extensive dessert menu (Place Hamelin 26).
What should I bring on a trip to Normandy?
Trips to Normandy are usually long and in some cases last two or more days. You'll see countless monuments, historic centres and natural sites and I'm sure you'll want to take some photos. To avoid your mobile phone going dead, I recommend bringing an external battery.
Be aware that rainfall is frequent at all times of the year (with a peak during autumn and winter). Make sure to pack a rain jacket and an umbrella in your backpack. If you have enough space, you should also pack some rubber boots.
If you're travelling to Paris in August and want to escape the city, you can take a swimming costume with you. Don't expect the same heat as the Mediterranean, but this is the best month to dive into the Atlantic. This "warm season" lasts until the beginning of September.