Best places to visit and vacation ideas
Lower Normandy is home to some of the most popular landmarks in France, including Mont St Michel and the world famous Bayeux Tapestry.
Millions come every year to see the Normandy battlefields and D-Day landing beaches.
Famous Places In France: Mont St Michel
Lower Normandy is also a great holiday destination if you’d lke to get off the beaten path and explore the french countryside. The region is packed with lots of things to see and do, whether your interest is beaches, nature, history, art or food.
Here are our top recommendations if you’re planning a holiday in Lower Normandy. We’ll touch on some of the major sites, but we’ll steer more towards the peaceful and less discovered spots.
Lower Normandy: The Popular Destinations
Mont St Michel is a must-see, and is course very popular (see map – on the left hand side, north of Rennes).
Our bed and breakfast host recommended we go first thing in the morning (around 9am), this was a great piece of advice because it wasn’t nearly as crowded.
For something different, how about visiting the abbey at night, when it’s illuminated? You can do this from May to September, between 9pm and midnight (assuming the tide is out of course ). The Mont St Michel website provides more information.
Bayeux is also a lovely town to visit (north-west of Caen). Not only does it have the Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Norman Conquest of England, but a stunning cathedral, a beautifully preserved medieval centre and markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Honfleur is a popular holiday destination for parisians (west of Rouen on the map, on the coast) and is a picturesque harbourside town – characterised by tall, narrow pastel coloured buildings, full of galleries, quaint shops and fish restaurants. Other things to do include:
- Église Ste-Catherine is a pretty 15th century church made entirely from wood;
- Markets held in the town every Saturday;
- The Musée Eugène Boudin, on rue de l’Homme du Bois, has a good collection of impressionist paintings – Boudin lived and painted here.
- The composer Satie was born here and there is a museum, Les Maisons Satie, dedicated to him.
Lower Normandy: Inland
The area to the south of Honfleur is the Pays d’Auge, a lush region filled with half-timbered homes, thatched cottages, rolling green pastures and apple orchards.
South of Caen, the landscape is referred to as Swiss Normandy – you’ll find rocky cliffs, rivers, wooded valleys and gorges (it’s not mountainous though). It’s a popular spot for hiking, canoeing and kayaking.
The Roche d’Oetre (address on map is Saint Philbert Sur Orne) overlooks the valley of La Rouvre and has stunning views. This is where the French go on Sunday afternoons.
Further south is The Forêt d’Ecouves, with pine, oak and beech trees, deer and wild boar (there is deer hunting in the autumn).
Going further south again, Saint-Ceneri-le-Gerei, southwest of Alençon, is a beautiful village on the banks of the river Sarthe, surrounded by woods and with an old bridge. The village has been an inspiration to Courbet and Corot. The homes are more slate and stone and it has a lovely 14th century chapel.
Lower Normandy: The Cider Route
How about taking the Cider Route (Route du Cidre) – sampling local cider of course. It’s a relaxing one or two day trip, passing through some of the most beautiful villages in the region (such as Beuvron-en-Auge). You can start at Cambremer (about 1hr30mins drive west of Rouen; 45 mins east of Caen) and follow the signs “Route du Cidre”; the producers are signposted ‘Cru de Cambremer’.
Here is the Route du Cidre website, which has a map of the route and list of producers.
Around this area too, is Saint-Germain-de-Livet, a little hamlet with a sweet 15th century château which has pepperpot turrets and a moat. Very cute!
Beuvron-en-Auge and Beaumont-en-Auge are both gems, with half-timbered (colombage) houses, some with ornate woodcarvings. Beauvron-en-Auge has a large cider festival towards the end of October every year (it’s also part of the cider route).
Want some Cheese with that?
If you enjoyed the Cider Route, you might enjoy the Route du Fromage (Cheese Route) as well! You could start in the town of Camembert and pick up a Route du Fromage map in the town.
Lower Normandy: Coast and Beaches
Looking at the northwest tip of Normandy, you’ll find Barfleur, a seaside fishing village that has only around 100 inhabitants, mainly fisherman. It is probably one of the most unspoilt villages in Normandy. It has an incredible history though: this was where the Norman conquest was launched, and Prince William of England died here in 1120 after his ship sunk. The painter Paul Signac lived the last five years of his life in Barfleur.
The best beaches are on the sheltered west coast, around the inlet near Avranches and stretching towards Mont St Michel (just to the right of Mont St Michel on the map).
Trouville and Deauville are more resort type places; there are other beaches we visited which were completely deserted and we didn’t even know the name.