short guide to Normandy
"D-Day" in June 1944, Allied forces disembarked on the Normandy
beaches, in a massive surprise attack that was to mark the beginning of
the end of the Second World War.
Thousands of Allied troops
– Americans, British, French, Canadians and others, gave
lives in the battles to recapture Normandy and achieve victory over the
Nazis. The Normandy beaches and the area inland are today the site of
many memorials and museums in memory of those who fought through and
those who died during this momentous period of history.
above : memorial on Sword Beach, Ouistreham, near Caen.
is one of the great historic regions of France; in the Middle
Ages, Normandy was a great dukedom which, like Burgundy, rivalled in
power and prestige with the kingdom of France. Indeed, the dukes of
Normandy managed to achieve the same status as the kings of France, to
whom they owed alliegance. Before he died, the king of
England, Edward the Confessor, named his nephew William, duke
of Normandy, as his successor. But after Harold, William's cousin, took
the English crown for himself, William invaded England in 1066, to
assert his claim to a royal crown. The story of Harold and William the
Conqueror is magnificently told in the historic Bayeux Tapestry, which
can be visited in Bayeux, a few miles to the west of Caen.
With their historic links and their
proximity, it is
hardly surprising that the Normandy area has much in common with the
south of England; the rolling countryside is not too different - fields
and meadows bordered by hedges, even bluebell woods. Furthermore, the
historic and vernacular styles of architecture are not too different
The Normandy regions
Normandy is famous for its beaches and its horse riding.
Soon to be reunited, but still today
separate regions of France, the area that was once the
dukedom of Normandy is divided into two administrative regions
(Haute Normandie), capital Rouen
with its two
(27) and Seine Maritime
(76), and Lower
, (Basse Normandie) capital Caen
, comprising the
departments of Calvados
(50), and Orne
There are plenty of people who will be very happy to see the
two regions reunited - which will make historic sense, and leave a
Normandy region still within the norms of French regions, both in size
and in population. This is liable to occur in the not too distant
future when the number of regions in metropolitan France is reduced
from the current 22 to just 13 or 14.
To the south east, the Normandy
area borders on
the Ile de France, the Paris region,
and towns and villages in this area have developed due to their
proximity to the capital. Both Caen and Rouen are sufficiently close to
Paris to benefit from the economic vigour of the Paris region, which is
the most propserous in France, and from their position between two
major hubs of international communications - Paris for air travel(parts
of south east Normandy are less than 100 km from Charles de
Gaulle airport), and the Normandy port of Le Havre,
most important international shipping port.
Towns and cities in Normandy
are the three main
cities in this region. For details of these cities, see below under Tourist attractions
There are four smaller cities - or large towns, these being Evreux, in
the Eure, Cherbourg - still an active
seaport, though less than in its heyday when it was France's gateway to
America - Dieppe, a minor seaport, and
capital of the Orne.
Outside the towns and cities, Normandy
is a prosperous agricultural area, specialising in dairy products,
(notably apples) and mixed farming. The most famous regional products
are the cheese Camembert, and two drinks, Cider and the spirit
distilled from it, Calvados. Normandy is also famous for its
racehorses, and the region has many top breeding stables.
Getting to Normandy
from Paris Gare Saint Lazare.
Direct access by ferry
from the UK, to Cherbourg, Caen (Ouistreham), Le
Havre or Dieppe.
access by plane to Paris or (for western Normandy) to
Hotels in Normandy
Hotels in the
in the Orne
in the Eure
hand-picked selection of
hotels in Normandy.
Normandy hotels have been selected on account of their good
Click hotel name for booking options and best rates.
area (50) :
beaches area (14) :
& Côte Fleurie (14) :
Pays de Caux (76-27- N-E Normandy) :
How we choose which hotels to list:
takes the strain out of finding a good hotel. Before listing any hotel,
we read customer reviews to make sure that it meets our standards or
selection criteria. For our regional lists, the main criterion used is
visitor satisfaction. We only list hotels which are generally
recommended by people who have stayed in them. As a result, our hotel
lists are short and very selective.
Naturally, the type and quality of service
provided will vary
according to the hotel; visitors cannot expect the same service or room
quality in a two-star hotel as in a four-star chateau hotel. Our choice
lists hotels that are generally judged to be above average or well
above average for their category.
See our selection of Paris
(near Vernon, 27) Visit the home of the greatest Impressionist, Claude
Monet, and the Giverny Museum of Impressionism - formerly the Museum of
There are more works by the major Impressionists in the museums at
Rouen and Le Havre (see below).
(14), a large part of which was destroyed in the Second World War, has
museum of the Normandy Landings and the Liberation
(14) - the site of the D-Day Landings in World War 2 - Omaha Beach,
Juno Beach, Utah Beach and the others. The landings are
commemorated in monuments, museums and the war graves of the thousands
who gave their lives. Normandy beach Coach tours depart from
attractive old Norman town where the historic Bayeux tapestry was made,
and is still preserved, 900 years after it was made. The museum is open
7/7. Departure point of coach tours of the Normandy beaches.
(14) - impressive Mediaeval
fortress, birthplace of William the Conqueror.
(14) of lower Normandy, Honfleur, Deauville,
Cabourg, etc. -
genteel resorts that flourished in the ninetenth century, as the
closest to Paris.
St Catherines church, from the 15th century, is the
largest historic wooden church in France.
(76), with its quays on the river Seine, its picturesque historic
centre, with half-timbered houses, an ancient clock, and a magnificent
gothic cathedral, one of the finest in France. The Rouen Fine
Arts museum -
musée des beaux arts - has a good but small collection of
Impressionists, plus a broad collection of old masters from 15th
century to the 20th century, including Rubens, Velasquez, Poussin and
many more. There is also the Joan
of Arc museum .
Havre (76) -In
the 1950's, the old town, destroyed in the war, was rebuilt in concrete
by architect Auguste Perret, to the wishes of the Communist city
council. This example of postwar urban planning is classed as a UNESCO
world heritage site.
Havre: (76) Musée Malraux :
one of the best museums outside Paris for impressionism &
Large collection of 19th & 20th century masters including
Renoir, Boudin, Marquet, Pissaro and many others
White Cliffs of Etretat (76) - the most famous cliffs in
d'Auge (14, 61) - the archetypal Norman countryside, with
its small villages and traditional half-timbered cottages.
(14, 61) - the highest hills in Normandy, around 1000 ft., loved by
hikers and ramblers - though they are a long way from being mountains.
(50) the world famous mediaeval abbey built on a rock in the
- a UNESCO world heritage site. One of France's most visited
Cotentin: (50) countryside, cliffs and sandy beaches, on
this granite promontory jutting out into the English
Cité de la Mer, Cherbourg:
(50) Devoted to underwater exploration, the museum includes a visit of
the Redoutable, the biggest visitable sub in the world, plus the
deepest aquarium in Europe.
in Normandy :
in the Orne
in the Eure
Other types of accommodation in Normandy: