In honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Musement takes a look at 10 essential places to visit in Normandy.
June 6 marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, so if you’ve been planning to visit Normandy, 2019 is the year to do so. With its dizzying cliffs, pleasant, flowery villages, and historical beaches, Normandy, a picturesque and history-rich region of northern France, has plenty of appeal to travelers. Here’s a look at ten of the best places to visit in Normandy,
1. Mont Saint-Michel
For hundreds of years, Bretons and Normans fiercely competed to claim ownership of Mont Saint-Michel. Why has this ancient quarrel persisted for so long? The answer is simple: according to UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre, Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most visited sites in France, and for a good reason. This rocky isle owes its fame to both its enchanting architecture at its extraordinary location. The tides around Mont Saint-Michel vary enormously. The mound is either totally surrounded by sand or completely cut off from the mainland by the channel waters.
2. The cliffs of Etretat
If the silhouette of the cliffs of Etreta sounds familiar to you, you might recognize it from the works of Courbet, Delacroix, Matisse, Monet or one of the other artists who’ve succumbed to the charms of this spectacular natural wonder. Trails along the coast allow you to admire these cliffs from every angle. If you’re afraid of heights, be forewarned: the views can be dizzying!
3. Côte Fleurie: Honfleur, Deauville, Trouville, and Cabourg
From Cabourg to Honfleur, the Côte Fleurie (Flower Coast) has enchanted travelers since the 18th century. The wealthy vacationers of yesteryear wholeheartedly enjoyed the immense waterfront villas, one more decadent than the other. Each of the small Côte Fleurie resort towns has its own trademark: families flock to Trouville, the posher to Deauville, the artistic to Honfleur, and the romantic to Cabourg.
4. The D-Day landing beaches
Utah, Omaha, Gold and Sword. These names, which sound more American than French, yet they’re an integral part of Normandy. Less than a century ago, a decisive page in world history was written on these very beaches. The guided tours of the D-Day beaches invite you to explore the beaches, revealing a darker, but equally inescapable facet of Normandy.
Today, Caen is a vibrant college town sure to delight shopping and beer enthusiasts. But life has not always been rosy in this former stronghold of William the Conqueror. A World War II battle site, Caen is best known for its Memorial Museum. Movies, cartoons, and reconstructions trace the history of the 20th century, from World War II to the Cold War. Modern, fun and educational, the Memorial is organized in a thematic chronological path, suitable for kids and adults alike.
In Rouen, there is just one slogan: stroll. With its half-timbered facades and picturesque cobblestone streets, the city seems to have remained frozen in the Middle Ages. The famous 12th-century Cathedral of Notre Dame is a source of inspiration for artists. Turner, Monet or Pissarro were all left enchanted by its asymmetry. Perhaps it will awaken the artist in you.
The term “Water Lilies” is practically synonymous with Claude Monet, and the artist found his inspiration for these paintings in his home garden in Giverny, which is now considered one of the landmarks of the Impressionist art movement. The house and gardens of Monet have been kept just as they were during the life of the painter. When you’re in town, don’t miss Giverny’s Museum of Impressionism.
No need to travel back in time to drop in on the Middle Ages; a trip to Bayeux is all it takes! Located in the core of Calvados, this old medieval town miraculously escaped the bombing that destroyed much of the historical Norman heritage. The town owes its fame to the Bayeux Tapestry, a seven-meter embroidery dating back to the 11th century that made the UNESCO World Heritage List.
9. Granville and Chausey
Once a paradise for privateers–or corsaires, pirates faithful to the French king–, Granville is a peaceful haven perched on a rocky outcropping. Linger along the cobblestone streets of the Upper Town, see the small fishing port and admire the lovely beaches. Granville has yet another perk: the Chausey archipelago. A quick ferry ride will shuttle you to these islands where seals, dolphins, and birds abound.
10. Le Havre
Le Havre doesn’t have a reputation for being one of Normandy’s most attractive sites, but don’t be fooled by appearances, Le Havre’s days as a dismal industrial port are long gone. Devastated during World War II, the city was rebuilt by some of the most daring and innovative 20th-century architects. The surprising and innovative result is well worth seeing.