Low tide in Hauteville-sur-Mer

Reasons To Visit Normandy

Normandy is definitely the place to visit in 2024 with a wide range of events taking place. Here are some of the best reasons to visit Normandy.

1. Explore the Coast

An ever-changing landscape of golden beaches, dunes, fantastic views, sunset and sunrise viewing points set against the rhythm of the high and low tides. You’ll have a different experience depending on which part of the Normandy coastline you visit. 

2. The 80th Anniversary of D-Day Commemorations

From the 1st to 16th June 2024 Normandy will be commemorating this significant event with ceremonies, dances, parades, firework displays, re-enactments and a lot more. The programme is currently being finalised but is promising to give many visitors the opportunity to be involved with a wide variety of activities.

3. Visit Caen

Caen is the capital of the Calvados department and a vibrant city with its mix of history, fine dining and high quality shopping. William the Conqueror made Caen his main place of residence and you can relive his influence on the city by visiting various sites. Highlights include the castle, two abbeys, endless shopping opportunities, a huge choice of eating and drinking outlets, museums, green spaces and historic buildings.

4. Watch the Olympic Torch Relay

With the 2024 summer Olympics due to take place in Paris, the torch will be relayed throughout France prior to the start of the games. If you are in Normandy from 30 – 31 May or 5 – 6 July, you’ll be able to watch the relay. There’s more information on the Olympic Torch Relay site

5. Immerse Yourself in the Impressionist Festival

The 5th edition of the Normandy Impressionist Festival will take place from 22 March to 22 September to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Impressionist movement. The programme will include numerous Impressionist and contemporary exhibitions, performing arts, concerts, light shows, street art, international conferences, and much more. For over half a century seaside resorts such as Dieppe, Le Havre, Honfleur, Deauville and Trouville-sur-Mer attracted artists from Paris who were mesmerised by the Normandy light. As well as the seaside resorts, Rouen, the Pays de Caux region and Monet’s home in Giverny inspired numerous canvases. The programme of events is available here.

6. Celebrate Being a Foodie

One of the most enjoyable reasons to visit Normandy is tasting the many food and drink specialities. Normandy is best know for dairy products (cheese, butter, cream and caramels), apples and seafood.. 

The nearby coastline ensures a plentiful supply of fish, seafood and shellfish. Normandy apple orchards produce cider, Calvados (an apple brandy), pommeau, apple juice, pear juice, poiré (a sparkling drink similar to babycham). Or how about beautiful apple tarts, apple jelly, and apple pastries made from this very versatile food.

7. Discover an Abbey

An abbey is defined as a monastery or convent, which is either composed of monks or nuns who have withdrawn from society to live a life of poverty and chastity. An abbot or an abbess would be in charge. The cloister is usually at the centre of the building with all other rooms and buildings able to be accessed from it. Some of the most notable ones include Mont Saint-Michel, Abbaye aux Dames and Abbaye aux Hommes in Caen, Abbaye de Jumièges near Rouen, Abbaye de Saint-Wandrille in the Seine Valley, Abbaye de Saint-Vigor, Cerisy-la-Forêt  in La Manche), Abbaye de la Lucerne in La Lucerne-d’Outremer in Manche, Abbaye de Hambye located in the Cotentin Peninsula.

8. Visit a Museum

Normandy has so many museums including ones dedicated to D-Day, fine arts, food, history, typography, lace production, copper pans, Christian Dior, cheese, cider, meteorites, whales, dinosaurs, textiles, medicine and much more besides. They’re the perfect place to visit on either a rainy day or when it’s too hot to be outside.

9. Enjoy Some Family Friendly Fun

Normandy is a very welcoming to families and has much to offer children. Younger children will enjoy wide sandy beaches with shallow waters, ancient castles, miniature railways, zoos, forests to explore, theme parks and soft play areas. Older children will enjoy kayaking, laser quest games, the D-Day museums, Cité de la Mer where you get to go on a nuclear submarine, the cliffs at Etretat, maize mazes and much more besides.

10. Explore Mont Saint-Michel

One of the most popular reasons to visit Normandy is Mont Saint-Michel which is a small village topped with an impressive abbey. The island has been a sanctuary since the 8th century although it wasn’t until 966 that the first Benedictine monks arrived and built a church and subsequently the abbey. The abbey is unusually spread over 3 levels and the views from the top are magnificent.

11. Visit a Cathedral or a Church

Many Normandy cathedrals and churches have been returned to their former glory giving an insight into their history and the restoration work. The difference between a cathedral and a church is that the former is run by a bishop. Normandy cathedrals include Rouen, Le Havre, Bayeux and Coutances. Sometimes they are known as basilicas rather than cathedrals such as those in Avranches, Lisieux and Douvres-la-Délivrande. Generally they are linked to particular saint or an important historical event.

12. Take a Walking or Cycling Holiday

Normandy has a huge network of paths making it a great location for a walking holiday. You can choose walks along the coast, through the countryside or around cities. For long treks it is crossed by numerous GR routes (Grand Randonnées). For easier flat routes many old railway lines have been made into paths.

If you’d prefer to discover Normandy’s rural landscape on two wheels there are plenty of cycling routes. If you don’t have your own bike you can rent one at numerous places throughout the region. There are 7 long distance cycle paths that cross Normandy. For a circular route or a shorter route for either cycling or walking then head to a local tourist office either in person or online. They will all have details of local circuits and you can either download or buy information sheets for each route.

13. Visit a D-Day Site (and not only in June)

Although many visitors come to Normandy to visit the D-Day sites in June for the anniversary on 6th June there is still plenty to see during the rest of the year. The fortnight of the D-Day Festival is often busy so visiting when it’s quieter is a good option. Some D-Day museums do close during January but a few are open. The memorials, monuments, the five D-Day beaches and cemeteries are open all year.

14. Visit a Château

 A castle is usually defined as a large building from the medieval period, fortified against attack with thick walls, battlements, towers and sometimes a moat. A second meaning is a magnificent and imposing old mansion. The same is true in French but there is also a third definition meaning that a château was where a king or a lord lived. This explains why we see quite different styles of châteaux and why manor houses (manoirs) are also included in this category. A fortified castle is known as a château fort while a stately home/mansion can also be known as a manoir or a hôtel. 

Some of the more well known and impressive Normandy châteaux in Calvados include: Falaise, Caen, Fontaine-Henry, Creully and Balleroy.

In Manche there is Gratot near Coutances, Hôtel de Beaumont in Valognes, Pirou and Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte. Domfront and Carrouges castles are in the Orne department. And finally Upper Normandy castles include the châteaux Gaillon, Beaumesnil, Dieppe and Taillis.

15. Discover parks/gardens/flowers

An annual competition held throughout France called ‘villes et villages fleuris’ aims to improve the quality of residents’ lives and maintain green spaces. They include Caen in Calvados which has a landscaped park called La Collins Aux Oiseux, a botanical park and a public garden. Evreux, Dieppe, Domfront, Domfront and Bagnoles de l’Orne show the diversity of the towns meeting the award criteria. Coutances in La Manche has a themed mosaiculture public garden and an annual dahlia festival. As well as these towns and villages, elsewhere in Normandy you can find botanical gardens, landscaped parks and public gardens called a jardin public or jardin des plantes.

16. Marvel at the Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth measuring nearly 70 metres long and depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England. The conquest culminated in the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The tapestry is thought to date from the 11th century and was originally hung in Bayeux Cathedral. It is now displayed in the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux. The 58 scenes are embroidered on linen with coloured woollen yarns and Latin descriptions. Each scene is made up of nine linen panels sewn together after each was embroidered and the joins were disguised with subsequent embroidery.

17. Visit a Food Festival

Normandy has some of the best food festivals in France which celebrate the wonderful food produced in this region. Whilst dates are yet to be released expect festivals focussing on the following during 2024: Apples and cider, cheese, seafood, mushrooms, andouille, boudin noir (black pudding) and caramel. 

18. Go To a Summer Event 

As well as food festivals there is a whole range of events planned for the summer of 2024. Here are some examples to whet your appetite:

  • Festival of the Sea – Courseulles-sur-Mer 
  • Papillons de Nuit music festival – between Villedieu and Saint Hilaire du Harcouët
  • Jazz sous les Pommiers Jazz Festival – Coutances
  • Festival Grand Marées music festival – Jullouville
  • Beauregard Music Festival near Caen
  • Classical Music Festivals 
  • Various medieval festivals
  • Cidre et Dragon – steampunk/medieval 

There are also local festivals and summer events advertised by the nearby tourist offices.

19.  Travel To One of Les Plus Beaux Villages

All across France you will find villages designated as “les plus beaux villages”i.e. the most beautiful villages. Normandy has 6: Beaverton en Auge, Barfleur, Saint-Céneri-Le-Gérei, Le Bec-Hellouin, Lyons-la-Forêt and Veules-les-Roses. They are all very different and have been chosen for their charm and individuality.

20. Take a Day Trip from Normandy

Widen your horizons by exploring a little further afield by taking a day trip or even an overnight stay. How about St Malo, Dinan, Rennes or Dinard in Brittany? Fougères in Ille-et-Vilaine is peppered with historic buildings whereas Le Mans in Pays de la Loire is known for its car race. You can also take a day trip to Paris by train if you fancy a very different experience. For an overnight stay, a trip to the Palace of Versailles near Versailles is unforgettable. There are plenty of options if you’d like to go exploring just beyond the Normandy borders.

21. Discover Nature and the Countryside

Normandy is a largely agricultural region but due to the terrain it still retains very much a landscape of small fields surrounded by hedges with areas of woodland and marshland. This makes it ideal for spotting wildlife or for exploring one of the four regional parks. From large mammals such as wild boar and red deer through to stunning spring wild flowers there is always something for the wildlife enthusiast to discover. 

22. Get Yourself an Adrenalin Rush

Are you one of those people who likes to get their adrenalin pumping on holiday? Do you like to scare yourself a bit or push yourself outside your comfort zone? If yes, then Normandy might have what you are looking for … Bungee jumping, giant zip wire, enormous swings, accrobranches (high wire trails through the treetops), rock climbing, kayaking, Via Ferrata (a trail along the edge of a cliff-side ie think mountain goat), theme parks with scary rides, galloping on horseback along the beach, windsurfing, yachting, kite sailing, sand sailing, paragliding … it’s all here in Normandy and waiting for you!

23. Visit Historic Rouen

Suggestions of things not to miss in Rouen are the Cathedral, old medieval buildings and narrow streets, the Gros Horlorge – a 14th century astronomical clock, Rouen Castle, its museums including those celebrating Joan of Arc (who was burned at the stake in Rouen), natural history, fine art, ceramics and Rouen through the ages, the Church of Saint Joan of Arc, Saint-Ouen Abbey and new for 2024 is the new immersive Viking Museum.

24. Take a Trip to Giverny

Giverny in Eure is where Impressionist painter Claude Monet lived and worked from 1883 until his death in 1926. His former home and amazing gardens, where he produced his famous water lily series, are now owned by the Fondation Claude Monet museum. Nearby, the Musée des Impressionnismes highlights the Impressionist art movement. As part of the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Impressionism in 1874, the Museum is organising an exhibition in spring 2024 entitled “Impressionism and the sea”. Through the works of artists such as Eugène Boudin, Johan Barthold Jongkind, Claude Monet, Gustave Courbet or Paul Gauguin, the exhibition will present a new vision of the impressionist artists’ attraction to the sea. 

So that’s 24 reasons to visit Normandy in 2024. There are lots more though and new attractions and visits are being created. Even if you’ve visited Normandy before there will be new things to see and do in 2024.

For much more information about Normandy please join the Facebook group I run with a fellow gite owner that is called: Holidays in Normandy – What to Do and Where to Stay.  We have an interactive map of places to visit in the group so you can use it to plan your trip. If you are not a Facebook user you can still access the map by clicking here.  The map is a work in progress but why not add a comment if you have any suggestions for any other places we can add to the map.

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  1. Normandy really is such an amazing region to visit as there is such a huge range of things to see and do. I bet you have guests staying with you again so they do more on later visits.

    1. There’s far too much to do in one week so repeat guests don’t get bored. I have guests that come back each year and there’s always something new for them to see or do.

  2. I’m always a sucker for les plus beaux villages and despite knowing Normandy quite well I haven’t been to any on the list. A good reason to visit your lovely region

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