France

Highlights



Rouen cathedral

Among Europe's finest Gothic buildings, Rouen’s Cathédrale Notre-Dame is a masterpiece of elaborate and intricate stonework, its interior light and spacious, with beautiful stained glass. The awesome west façade inspired Claude Monet to paint it 28 times, each one expressing something different about the interplay between stone and light.  

Rue du Gros Horloge, Rouen

Busy, atmospheric and breathtakingly photogenic, rue du Gros Horloge is the main street of Rouen's old quarter. It's straddled by an archway topped by the twin faces of a gorgeously gilded medieval clock, the Gros Horloge. With just one hand on each clock face, it's still accurate to this day.

Dieppe Market

The crowded, colourful Saturday morning market reaches along Dieppe's Grand’Rue from the busy quayside of the fishing harbour to the heart of the old town, the stalls loaded with cheeses, charcuterie, cider and all the best local produce from Upper Normandy’s dairy farms, orchards and fishing boats.



Etretat cliffs

A charming little 100-year-old seafront resort built around a medieval core, the real attraction of Etretat is its remarkable 'doorways' carved into white cliffs projecting into the water. Admire them from a beachfront promenade or get a more stirring vista from the green cliff tops that inspired numerous Impressionist painters.

St Joseph Church, Le Havre

The very model of Auguste Perret's belief in concrete as the building material of the future, Le Havre's main church is considered the greatest achievement of his post-war reconstruction of the city. Inside, it's just a vast space lit by 6500 fragments of coloured glass set into a 110-m spire.

Giverny: Monet’s house and garden

Claude Monet moved to this spacious village house in 1883. At once he began to create the ravishingly beautiful flower gardens behind the building, and later added the famous lily pond and little bridge that feature in so many of his paintings. Everything is preserved as he left it.



Château Gaillard


A dramatic, picture-book vision of a medieval castle, the ruins of Richard the Lionheart's mighty white fortress, built to defend Normandy from France, stand high on chalk cliffs rising from the River Seine. Climb up to the château on a steep footpath from the pretty waterside at Petit Andelys.

St Etienne Church, Abbaye aux Hommes, Caen

Combining the simple lines of the original Norman Romanesque with a superb and delicate Norman Gothic reconstruction, the majestic and serene church of the Mens' Abbey – built by William the Conqueror, and where he was buried – puts it among the world's greatest architectural achievements.
 
Le Mémorial de Caen

An ambitious, dignified museum encompassing the whole subject of the Second World War, how it happened, its horrors and outcome, displaying a vast amount of astonishing original material ranging from a letter from Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt, to uniforms and newsreels, tanks and equipment.

Caen market

The city's main Sunday market is a huge, colourful, vibrant gathering along the marina quayside where you can choose not just the finest products of the Calvados coast and countryside, but also browse fascinating sections devoted to hats and clothes, shoes, carpets, toys and a multitude of arts and crafts.



Honfleur harbour

Brimming with charm, Honfleur's historic fortified Vieux Bassin wowed the Impressionists as it does artists today. Bars and art galleries line the cobbled quays and picturesque lanes lead to enchanting museums, including one devoted to Honfleur-born Impressionist Eugène Boudin and another to local comic artist and composer Erik Satie.

Beuvron-en-Auge

Of all the pretty villages of the Pays d'Auge, few are more delightful than Beuvron, with whole streets of timber-framed cottages and one of the most handsome Normandy manor houses. All around is richly productive Auge countryside of apple orchards and gently rolling pasture where dairy cows graze.



Bayeux Tapestry

Surely the most remarkable cartoon strip in history, this 900-year-old embroidery tells the whole story of 1066. Vivid pictures along its 70-m length, captioned in Latin, show the background, the invasion and the outcome of the battle between Normans and Saxons for the crown of England.

Arromanches

The little resort of Arromanches-les-Bains, fronting right on to the sand of Gold Beach, is the place to discover what D-Day and the Normandy Landings were about, with its excellent beachfront D-Day Museum, imposing remnants of the Mulberry Harbour still in place and a vivid film reconstruction at Arromanches 360.



Normandy American Cemetery, Omaha Beach

The toughest of the Landing Beaches was Omaha, where the Americans lost thousands of men in just hours. They are laid out in this calm, respectful and deeply affecting cemetery beside the beach. The opening and closing scenes of the film Saving Private Ryan are set here.

Lessay abbey church

This beautifully proportioned little abbey church on the edge of a small country town in the rural Cotentin is one of the best examples of Norman Romanesque architecture: symmetrical, solid and sturdy. Restored after wartime damage using the same stone as the medieval original, it’s a haven of tranquillity.



Coutances cathedral

One of Normandy’s most pleasing examples of Norman Gothic architecture, this huge Cotentin landmark was actually built on to the framework of a much older Romanesque church. The result is an exquisite combination of refined elegance and robust simplicity, with lovely 14th-century sculpture and 13th-century stained glass.



Granville

As well as one of western Normandy’s best sandy beaches, the Cotentin’s main coastal resort has an impressively fortified medieval Upper Town, and fascinating one-off museums ranging from Richard Anacréon’s collection of modern art and rare books, to the Christian Dior museum in the designer’s childhood home.



Le Mont-St-Michel

An ethereal setting between sky and water gives pure magic to this strange abbey-island, reached by a 2-km causeway into the sea. Its stone ramparts are lit up at night, while by day you can climb hundreds of ancient steps on tours of the abbey's evocative churches.

La Suisse Normande

Wild rocks, green hills, sparkling waters and riverside villages are the main attractions of this corner of Normandy, perfect for a leisurely drive, a challenging bike ride or hike, or a thrilling canoe trip. Despite the name, its highest peak is the craggy 120-m Roche d’Oëtre.


This except is taken straight from our beautiful Normandy Travel Guide by Andrew Sanger which is available on our online shop. 
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