A Quick Guide To Normandy, France

Spanning 674, 843 km², France is one of the largest countries in Europe, divided into 26 different regions. Each one of these regions are unique and offer something unique and distinctive to that area. This diversity is what makes France such a great destination to travel to. One of the most popular areas is Normandy, a region located in Nortwestern France, famed for the D-Day Allied invasion on June 6, 1944, but also known for so much more. From the rocky cliffs in the Cotentin peninsula and the famous white cliffs of Etretat, to wonderful small towns and villages with half-timbered houses in the inland area, there are many things to see in Normandy. Here’s a quick guide to the top sights and attractions in Normandy …

White Cliffs of Etretat

Famous for its beaches and chalky white cliffs, these 70meter high cliffs are a beauty to behold and one of the most beautiful features of Normandy – its three rock formations are known as Potre d’Amont or the Upstream Cliff, Porte d’Aval or the downstream cliff and Manneporte.

Carved by nature and adorned by mysterious names there are images of a hollow eye needle and an elephant dipping its trunk in the ocean.

A walk along the Pebble beach, climbing up the steep stairs to the top of the cliffs for a view, and discovering a 17th Century oyster bed are just some of the things you can do in Etreat.

An easy way to get to Normandy is to take the ferry from UK to Calais and continue down the coast from there – click here for information about ferries to Calais.

Mont St. Michel

This tiny tidal rocky island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most visited places in all of France.

This remarkable medieval walled city, crowned by its great gothic abbey, is built on a small granite outcrop standing all by itself in Mont Saint Michel bay.

At the peak is the spectacular and well-preserved Norman Benedictine Abbey of St Michel.

During the French Revolution, the abbey was used a prison, and today a few prison-era showpieces, like the human hamster wheel used to lift supplies in and out of the complex, have been kept.

Still to this day, people actually live in this village, and there are even a few places where you can eat on the island, such as La Mere Poulard, which is world-famous for its omelets (a specialty on the island).

The D-Day Landing Beaches

On June 6, 1944 – today known as D-Day, Operation Overlord, a long-awaited invasion of Northwest Europe, began with Allied landings along the coast of Normandy where the Germans had turned the coastline into an interlinked series of strongpoints.

The Allies launched a simultaneous landing of British, Canadian, U.S., and French forces on five separate beaches with the code names Sword Beach (British), Juno Beach (Canadian), Gold Beach (British), Omaha Beach (American) Utah Beach (American).

When they landed they stormed the mined beaches and stormed the gun positions, and continued fighting their way into the towns and hills advancing inland.

The victory was a turning point in World War II and led to the liberation of Europe and the defeat of Nazi Germany.

While today the coast is dotted with lovely peaceful seaside towns, there are still many remains from German gun emplacements and bunkers, and war memorials and monuments marks where the allied forces landed on the beaches.

Since there is barely a square yard that wasn’t fought over, there are also monuments in almost every village and at every bend in the road.

These beaches can be reached from UK by taking a ferry from Dover to Calais and then continue by car for about 1.5 hours – you can simply drive your car on the ferry at Dover Port and drive down along Normandy when you land in Calais.

Have you been to Normandy? Share your experiences below!

(photo credit:  1 – 2 – 3)

8 Responses to A Quick Guide To Normandy, France

  1. Kaylin May 1, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    I’ve lived in Normandy the past 7 months (leaving tomorrow!!! *sniff*) and I’ve been to both Mont St Michel and the D-Day beaches since January. They’re great!! If you are American particularly the D-Day beaches have a strong emotional pull, especially if you visit the American cemetery nearby as well. If you visit the Mémorial de Caen in Caen, France, it is a War Museum that has some great tie-ins to the D-Day battle and other Allied battles in France. It’s really interesting.

    • Sofia May 2, 2013 at 9:15 am #

      Thanks for the great tips Kaylin, I can imagine that the D-Day beaches would be an emotional experience for anyone from the allied countries that together landed on the beaches.

    • Rene July 3, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

      Make sure to take a ride along the coast, I discovered some nice and interesting places views to visit. Some of them are low profile, but this makes them even more interessting

  2. Christian May 5, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    This is my place, I can see every day the remarkable Mont St Michel, not very far, just an hour, you have also a beautiful city in front the sea, Saint Malo!



  3. Stef May 5, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    Beautiful spots! My wanderlust is growing reading your article 😉 That’s why your article is part of my travel inspiration of the week, check it out:
    Have a nice weekend!

  4. Becky Padmore May 8, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

    I love Mont st Michel, beautiful part of France!

  5. Harry May 27, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    I’ve been to 36 countries and the Omaha Beach Memorial is probably the most deeply moving travel experience I’ve ever had.
    Kaylin, THANKS for tip about War Museum in Caen, I definitely want to see that if I can go back.

  6. Charu May 27, 2013 at 7:32 am #

    What an absolutely beautiful post…Normandie’s gravitas is so powerful that my heart shakes when I think of it. Beautiful photo of Mont Saint Michel too.