Greentraveller's Guide to Normandy, France
Written by Harriet O'Brien, Paul Bloomfield and Sarah Baxter
Artwork for Greentraveller's Guides by Tina Smith and Mark Edwards
Foreword by Alison Weatherhead, UK & Ireland Marketing Manager, Normandy Tourist Board
My love affair with Normandy began just over twenty years ago when my husband and I moved to a bucolic corner of the southern Manche. This beautiful part of France is best known for William the Conqueror, the D-Day Landings, Monet’s water lilies and the Mont-Saint-Michel but if you head off the beaten track, there are lots of welcome surprises in store. As Normandy is just a stone’s throw from the south coast and 45 minutes by train from Paris, it is extremely easy to get here via ferry or train.
Cycling is a great way to get around and take in the sites and sounds of Normandy with greenways and quiet country roads in abundance. With 600km of coastline, you can take in picture perfect fishing villages, belle époque seaside resorts and dramatic landscapes far from the madding crowd.
And one of the real joys of Normandy is the excellent food and drink. Head to the nearest local market and picnic al fresco in the apple orchards on camembert and cider. Or relax and let someone else do the cooking at one of the many traditional bistros or michelin starred restaurants.
What our writers discovered in Normandy
French but not quite French, Normandy is a truly unique region, a place with its own distinctive character and flavour. Since the Viking ‘northmen’ invaded in the 9th century, the history of this area has been tumultuous, with evidence of key episodes (William the Conqueror’s campaigns; D-Day) still to be found in the Bayeux Tapestry and the landing beaches around Arromanches.
The quieter moments in Normandy’s history are etched into the landscape, too: the abbey-island of Mont St-Michel, the countryside and gardens that inspired Monet, stately chateaus, farms and orchards tended as they have been for centuries. Visiting here provides an insight into Normandy’s heritage and culture, as well as some great places to stay and eat.
A foodie tour of Normandy
Harriet O’Brien tastes ice cider and succulent scallops, and visits some of the region's Michelin-starred restaurants
Mont Saint-Michel Bay Walk
Paul Bloomfield follows in the (bare) footsteps of pilgrims on a walk across the sands to Normandy’s famous coastal monastery-mount.
A foodie break in Caen là Mer
Sarah Baxter joins Parisians stocking up on fresh fish and learning about Normandy's love of all things apples and pears.
Green Caen là Mer
Sarah Baxter travels to the French region of Caen via train, ferry and bike, discovering its many green spaces and rich history
Stay, Eat, See & Do
Our pick of places across Normandy
Written by Paul Bloomfield
Google Map Key:
Click on the coloured icons for more information about each listing
Green = Places to stay
Blue = Places to eat
Yellow = Attractions
Purple = Activities
Click on the square brackets top right of map to reveal expanded map
- 6 Norman villages appear on the list of France’s prettiest villages (Plus Beaux Villages de France): Barfleur, Le Bec-Hellouin, Beuvron-en-Auge, Lyons-la-Forêt, Veules-les-Roses andSaint-Céneri-le-Gérei.
- Normandy boasts four A.O.C. quality status cheeses: Camembert, Livarot, Neufchâtel and Pont-l'Evêque.
- There are 100 miles of cycle routes in Normandy.
- La Couronne restaurant in Rouen dates back to 1345 and is said to be the oldest Inn in France.
- The Chêne d’Allouville, in the small village of Allouville-Bellefosse, is one of France’s oldest and most enchanting trees. It boasts a staircase, a balcony and even two tiny chapels hidden in the trunk!
- La Grande Cascade de Mortain, in the Manche region, in the highest waterfall in western France.
- Impressionism was born in Le Havre with Monet’s painting of the port - Impression, Sunrise - in 1872
- Normandy boasts France’s smallest port, Port Racine on the Cotentin Peninsula.
- The world's first solar panel road opened in Normandy in 2016. This one-mile route located in the small village of Tourouvre-au-Perche is covered with 2,800 square-metres of electricity-generating panels, which can generate enough energy to power street lighting in the village of 3,400 residents.
- The quayside redevelopment scheme on Rouen’s South Bank was awarded the 2018 National Landscape Prize. Over the past four years, this urban space which was previously used as a huge car park, has been transformed into two miles of green haven, where tourists and locals alike come to stroll, play and relax.
- Europe’s very first on-demand shared mobility service to use autonomous vehicles on open roads is currently being tested in Rouen. The service will be made available to the public in the final quarter of 2018 with four autonomous Renault ZOE all-electric vehicles which will run on three routes covering a distance of 10 kilometres, with 17 stops across the district and a link to Rouen’s public transportation system.
- Le Havre is one of France’s greenest cities, boasting over 700 hectares of parks, gardens and green areas, the most iconic of which being the Suspended Gardens. Up the Alabaster Coast, Dieppe’s seafront lawns are Europe’s largest. Let’s not forget Caen, which is the country’s 5th greenest city, with 500 hectares of green land.
Photo credits: La Roche D'Oëtre (c) George the Explorer; Honfleur (c) Ben Collier; Moutiers-au-Perche (c) Ben Collier; New quaysides Rouen ©B. Collier; Mont St-Michel, E Tessier; Honfleur, Richard Hammond/Greentraveller; Cycling, M Lerouge CDT50; Domaine St Claire, Etretat; Mont St-Michel, Paul Bloomfield/Greentraveller; M Lerouge CDT50; La Ferme des Mares, Cyril Combe; Cotentin National Park, M Lerouge CDT50. Small photos, left to right: L'Esprit du Bocage; Honfleur market; Mont St-Michel, Paul Bloomfield/Greentraveller; G Wait, Calvados Tourism. Ferry photo: Brittany Ferries