Things To Do In Normandy On A 3 Day Road Trip
France, country of fabulous food, fine wines, cheese and great artists but often forgotten its beautiful coastlines.
The coastline of Normandy is truly amazing and definitely worth a visit. Let us not forget the historic events that took place there. Normandy is where D-day happened and it was the turning point of WWII.
Since I was little I’ve always been intrigued by WWI and WWII. My grandfather and I loved visiting the museums in the Ardennes, Belgium. Sometimes we went twice to the same museum on the same vacation to see the army tanks (Don’t ask me why!). That’s how much we were intrigued by it. So when a friend and I were planning our road trip that was something we definitely had to see.
You can find a little bit of everything in Normandy. It has a rich history, beautiful nature, picturesque villages and beautiful architecture. Here are some awesome things to do in Normandy on a 3 day road trip.
Things to do in Normandy: An overview
- Admire the beautiful town and its picturesque harbour
Notre-Dame de Rouen
- Admire the Notre-Dame de Rouen
- Walk through the historic centre
- Hike up the cliffs and admire the view on the 3 natural arches.
- Arromanches 360°: A 360° film about the battle of Normandy.
- Have a walk on the golden beach of Arromanches.
- Visit the Longues Battery, west of Arromanches-les-bains.
- Visit the Normandy American Cemetery & Memorial.
- Walk on Omaha Beach and visit the monuments.
- Admire the breathtaking view from the bay.
- Wander in the souvenir shops.
- Have lunch or dinner in one of the restaurants.
- Climb up to the abbey and its gardens.
Now, let’s get more into detail.
Pont De Normandie
You probably won’t stop at this place but you should definitely drive over this bridge. It’s one of the most impressive bridges in Europe linking Le Havre to Honfleur over the Seine. While driving over this bridge, with its highest points covered in fog at the time, you get a spectacular view over the Seine. It is definitely an experience by itself.
Right after crossing the Pont de Normandie you will pass Honfleur. It is a beautiful town with a picturesque harbour that is definitely worth a stop.
In town you will find Sint Catherine’s Church which is a wooden church build after the hundred years war in the second half of the 15th Century.
Notre-Dame de Rouen
Once at 151 metres, the tallest building in the world but still a very unique cathedral. It is a Norman gothic construction and has been finished in the 16th century.
If in Rouen , one must wander the streets of the old town as well. The historic centre of Rouen is a beautiful picturesque town with many half-timbered houses.
If you want to drive over the Pont de Normandie as well you will have to make detour for this but it sure is worth it.
The cliffs of Étretat
The cliffs of Étretat were probably my favorite stop as a photographer. We drove straight to a chapel on top of one of the cliffs overlooking one of the 3 natural arches Étretat is known for. There is a free parking lot right next to the chapel with enough space.
When we arrived at this parking lot we could see the coast for the first time. Watching these cliffs tower high above the Atlantic Ocean was spectacular. At the time the sun was peeking through the clouds so I saw this as a great opportunity to take some photographs.
In the evening when the sun was setting we hiked up to the cliffs on the other side. This was a really easy hike and definitely worth it. There is a, unfortunately not free, parking lot nearby the stairs where the hike starts. Another option is starting your hike at the chapel and walking along the coast to the other side. Again, the sun was peeking through the clouds and we got a great sunset to photograph with some awesome results.
Walking a little further along the cliffs you get to see these amazing rock formations with a lighthouse in the distance.
The next morning, we woke up at 7 in the morning to capture sunrise on one of the cliffs. There was no sun to be seen unfortunately but nothing beats a good hike in the morning.
Right after, we left Étretat and hit the road for our second stop.
Arromanches is a beautiful golden beach where you can still see the remains of a temporary port that was built during the war. This port was meant to supply the Allies after the invasion. It was the only place you could really see the huge effort involved in the Allied invasion. It’s situated on Gold beach, one of the D-day beaches. Being there I could see where it got its name from.
Omaha beach & the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
This place definitely has to be on your list when visiting Normandy. Seeing all these rows of white crosses as far as your eye can see is truly special. Each cross remembering a brave soul who made the ultimate sacrifice. Right next to the cemetery you can visit the museum where you can watch some short movies about the war and see different items used in the war like weapons, food cans, radio and much more.
A short drive away you can find two monuments on Omaha beach to remember the lost lives from WWII.
As a photographer I loved this place. I’m sure you will too as this is the 3rd most popular tourist attraction in all of France. The Mont Saint-Michel looms dramatically on the horizon. It has to withstand the highest tides in all of Europe. On top it has an 11th-century Benedictine abbey. Once in a while it transforms back into an island when the base is underwater because of the high tides. Because of all the above reasons it’s also an UNESCO world heritage site.
When we arrived at the Mont Saint-Michel the sun had already set. We decided to make a few night shots of the Mont Saint-Michel and look for a restaurant on the Mont Saint-Michel. There are a few great restaurants there with each its own unique interior. Some are quite expensive others are cheaper and great for when you travel on a budget. We had a 3 course dinner for 21 euros (26 dollars) which consisted of a salad, chicken with fries and for desert an apple pie. Can’t complain, right?
After dinner we had to check in at our hotel 5 km (3.1 miles) away that we booked using booking.com. This costed us 35 euros (43 dollars) per person because we included breakfast, which was great by the way.
The next morning, we went back to the Mont Saint-Michel for some more photography. After photographing for a little bit we walked to the top to admire the amazing views.
Parking at the Mont Saint-Michel
There is no free parking unless you park your car really far away. The whole area of Mont Saint-Michel is only reachable by car for authorized people. Visitors can only park their car on one of the two large parking lots which are quite expensive. You pay 6.30 euros for less than 2 hours and 11.7 euros for 2 hours up to 24 hours. On the other hand, there are free shuttle busses/trains that take you from the parking to the entrance of the Mont Saint-Michel or you can even pay to be transported by carriage.
See more photos of my road trip through Normandy on flickr