"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.
For more on the Normandy landings area, and a map, see Bayeux
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.
historic and vernacular styles of architecture are not too different
The areas of Normandy
Normandy is famous for its beaches and its horse riding.
Recently reunited as a single
region, the area that was once the
dukedom of Normandy was until 2015 divided into two administrative
(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
Since 2016, the region of Normandy has
been once again reunited, to the satisfaction of many Normans.
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
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. Two particularly interesting small towns in
Normandy are Bayeux
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
- By train
from Paris Gare Saint Lazare. Buy tickets online at Trainline.eu
- Direct access by ferry
from the UK, to Cherbourg, Caen (Ouistreham), Le
Havre or Dieppe.
- By air:
access by plane to Paris or (for western Normandy) to Rennes, Caen or Deauville See Fly to France