5 Best Day Trips from Paris to Normandy
Normandy has seen its fair share of historic wars, battles, and invasions yet it remains a serene, idyllic, and inviting region that attracts travelers from Europe and the rest of the world. Here are five of the best day trips to include in your Normandy itinerary.
Normandy got its name from the Vikings in the 9th century, and these Norsemen settlers proclaimed Rouen as the region’s capital. Now, it’s the country’s second largest city and widely known as the place where Joan of Arc, France’s iconic heroine, was burned in 1431 on account of heresy. The city is not just for history buffs but also for architecture fans. It is home to one of the tallest cathedrals and most artistic landmarks in France: the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen.
Take a stroll along Rouen’s traffic-free streets and admire the city’s quaint half-timbered buildings at Rue St. Romain. Bring your camera and take a picture of an ornately designed public clock (about 500 years old) decorating the former city hall. Other sights worth your visit are the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Ironworks, St. Maclou Church, and more. Since you are in Normandy, it is easy to stop for delicious crêpes, tea, and coffee offered at excellent prices. A few spots that are great for lunch or snacks include Dame Cakes, Crêperie le St. Romain, and Restaurant Le Parvis.
When Normandy arts and crafts are inspired by significant historical events, what you get is brilliant work, such as the Bayeux Tapestry. It’s no wonder why it is one of the world’s most famous embroideries ever made. In 1077, Bishop Odo commissioned this treasured canvas, which spanned about 70 meters, conveying 58 vivid scenes of 11th-century mayhem, daily life, and an action-packed finale: the Ballet of Hastings. To appreciate the context of its scene-by-scene action, be sure to watch the 16-minute film explaining essential facts and revealing the stories behind this iconic masterpiece.
Bayeux can easily turn any visitor into a history buff. Discover more about the 1944 D-Day invasion and Battle of Normandy as you browse rare, extensive, and authentic collections housed in the Museum of the Battle of Normandy. If you have a penchant for historical sites, Bayeux War Cemetery and Memorial des Reporters might also be of interest to you.
The beauty of Mont Saint Michel, an island abbey occupied by hermit monks since the sixth century, is simply unmissable. No trip to Normandy is complete without experiencing this magnificent town (with about 30 residents) in person. There is a foot bridge that connects this medieval monastery to the island. Take a self-guided walking tour here if you feel like joining thousands of pilgrims who usually flock here during the Easter season and in August.
Mont St. Michel has been dubbed by Travel and Leisure as one of the world’s most beautiful buildings. While it’s not like the usual ostentatious cathedrals you’ll find in many parts of France, it is, without a doubt, the most dramatically situated of all religious sites. It was first built in 709, followed by ongoing construction, maintenance and reconstructions. The abbey is highly commercialized, surrounded by souvenir shops, unique dining spots, and hotels. Fluffy and tasty omelets cooked by monks are a specialty here; be sure to watch their meticulous preparation. Although it is undeniably a touristy landmark, this national treasure proves that there is more to France than the charms of Paris.
Discover ethereal artworks of lesser-known yet influential 18th-century French landscape painter, Eugène Boudin. Dubbed as the “King of Skies,” Boudin influenced Monet to give up his childish drawings, use oil paints, and find inspiration outdoors. Boudin’s works are now available for viewing at Eugène Boudin Museum. If you are only going to visit one art gallery in Honfleur, this must be it.
Musically inclined visitors ought not to miss Erik Satie’s whimsical gallery at Maisons Satie. See how his original music is complemented by images, a radical form of Parisian Art Satie made popular in the 1920s. This odd musical mansion has a visitor-powered merry-go-round and stairways that zigzag. It’s a surreal, playful, and melodious place both young and young-at-heart tourists will enjoy. Before you drive to another city, be sure to get a glimpse of the glorious Saint Catherine’s Church.
Among the most beautiful houses you can visit is Claude Monet’s vine and moss covered home in Giverny, France. About a half an hour away from Paris, Giverny draws Impressionist art aficionados to the famous abode of Monet, the father of Impressionism. The artist spent the last 40 years of his life here, painting his spectacular surroundings. Take a stroll around Claude Monet Foundation to see the vibrant Normandy garden, the pretty lily pond with beautiful flowers, and the signature Japanese footbridge seen in most of Monet’s masterpieces. It is like stepping into one of Monet’s paintings.
An expert guide will prove indispensable in appreciating the artist’s collections, which are neatly organized inside his restored home and studio. Listen to the commentary as you browse the artwork. The best time to visit Monet’s sanctuary is from April to October. If you wish to see specific species of plants or flowers, check Giverny Monet’s Garden Calendar for the perfect timing.
Whether you’re looking for art, culture, history, or simply an enchanting getaway beyond Paris, these Normandy tours are bound to fascinate you.