Considering visiting Normandy from Paris? You definitely should! Depending on how much you want to do, you can visit Normandy as a day trip from Paris if you only visit Rouen or spend three to four days road tripping in Normandy to enjoy the tranquility of the countryside in Normandy. If you’re thinking that Normandy will be anything like Paris, get that thought out of your mind. Expect incredibly friendly people, reasonable accommodation options, mind-blowingly good food at the same price as an average meal in Paris, stunning cities filled with history and fantastic drinks.
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This Northern region of France has a rich history stemming from the invasion of the Viking tribes. For those who want to experience the serene beauty of France on an easy weekend trip from Paris will fall in love with the slow pace of Normandy, a sneak preview of how France outside of Paris is. If you have fewer than four days in Normandy, you might be able to combine two of these day trips into one day as I’ve purposely kept this Normandy itinerary slow to give you time to savour this region. Our Normandy road trip left me wanting for far more than our long weekend in Normandy, however there’s always next trip for Mont St. Michel!
Day 1: Drive along the coast in Normandy
Rent a car in Paris and drive to Normandy’s coast. Be aware that avoiding toll roads in France is tricky and you should expect to pay up to 20 euros to get up to Normandy. If you’re trying to do your Normandy trip on a budget (or hate toll roads), it is possible to avoid the tolls with the help of your GPS, but expect to double your time while driving through fields and one way roads. (I honestly enjoyed the scenic drive!) If you don’t have four days in Normandy, this part of the trip can easily be done as a weekend trip from Paris.
This beautiful town in Normandy is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France and Normandy. Its stunning timbered houses and scenic canals have long been an inspiration for writers and painters. If you’re looking for a fairytale during your time in Normandy, you must come to Veules-les-Roses, which is a two hour drive from Paris. Be sure to admire the smallest river in France, which runs through the city center.
We ended up driving through Petites-Dalles. I just loved the Victorian houses in the hills. It’s just a beautiful town along the coast. The roads make it a bit tricky to end up near the water, but you’ll find some parking if you want to admire the cliffs. (More epic views coming!)
Another beautiful town in Normandy that we passed through after seeing a sign for a chateau. Be sure to stop off to admire Château de Sissi, an affordable chateau hotel with beautiful gardens.
Fécamp is a historic coastal town in Normandy with some of the most epic cliffs that you’ll find. It’s famous for the Bénédictine liqueur distillery, which is still done at the nearby abbey. Save your appetite until you get here as you’ll find a large assortment of seafood at an affordable price. We ended up having lunch at La Cave du Salut, an affordable seafood place with delicious mussels with calvados (a local liquor). After, we headed to the beach to admire the cliffs.
The highlight of our day along the coast was Étretat. When I was younger, I had seen a photo of these epic cliffs in Normandy, but I never imagined that I’d have the opportunity to visit them. Most people head there from town prior to heading back the same way, however it’s better to park outside of town, close to the golf course (20 Route du Havre). It’s a longer walk along the outskirts of the golf course, but you’ll be able to walk the full length of the cliffs with fewer people compared to the cliff close to town. Continue walking towards town. I found Étretat quite touristy compared to the other towns, however it’s worth visiting.
Where to stay in Normandy
I recommend staying in the area at one hotel as your base in Normandy for multiple nights and I particularly loved staying in the Parc Naturel Régional des Boucles de la Seine. This park is a protected area meant to preserve both natural environments, historic buildings, and the cultural heritage of this region. Driving along the windy roads in the fog spotting chateaux as they popped up was dreamy. We did this road trip in October, so the leaves turning just added another dimension to it. I think this area is the perfect base for exploring Normandy by car and our chateau was less expensive than staying at a cozy B&B in Honfleur.
We stayed in this cozy chateau in Normandy that I found on Airbnb for $81. Our host, the owner of Chateau du Verbosc, and his assistant made us a cozy breakfast while the two adorable cats battled over pets (and food). It was only a forty minute drive from our chateau to the the coast. We ended up having an incredible locally made dinner at Auberge du Val au Cesne, a nearby half-timbered guesthouse from the 17th century surrounded by scenic countryside.
For a more luxurious experience, consider staying at Chateau Du Landin, an epic chateau overlooking the Seine river with a large estate where the staff will cook a candlelit meal for you at your request. It wasn’t available during our dates and it really disappointed me and I had my heart set on it.
Day 2: Honfleur
Honfleur is one of the most beautiful cities in France and it’s worth the trip to this stunning seaside town, even just for the food and the architecture. Located in the Calvados region of Normandy, Honfleur is one of the best places to try calvados, a spirit made with apples. Its stunning wooden port made me fall in love with the city, however the stunning half-timbered houses on the side streets were my preferred place to wander. Don’t miss the Saint Catherine’s Church, a UNESCO-recognized church that is France’s largest timber-built church. If you prefer to stay in Honfleur, you’ll find beautiful old B&Bs in historic half-timbered buildings.
Day 3: Rouen
Rouen is a beautiful city to visit if you’re interested in medieval history. This gorgeous French city with a clocktower dating back to the 14th century and half-timbered houses straight out of a fairy tale has a stunning historic cathedral (Rouen Cathedral) where Richard the Lionheart is buried. Rouen also is where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. You can view her memorial in the city center. I just loved getting lost in the cobblestoned alleyways here. Don’t miss Les Berthom for craft beer.
Day 4: D-Day Memorial & The Calvados/Cider Route in Normandy
For anyone visiting Normandy, Omaha Beach is a must-see. You might want to switch hotels as you have a 1.5 hour drive to the area around Honfleur, Rouen, and Parc Naturel Régional des Boucles de la Seine. I’d recommend staying at one of the many chateaux closer to the Cider Trail to minimize driving back. This historic manor is right along the cider trail and a nice halfway point between Upper and Lower Normandy. Alternatively, this refurbished chateaux is right near the D-Day landings.
Pay your respects at at the five beaches where the troops landed in World War II and the various cemeteries for the fallen soldiers. Click for more information about visiting Omaha Beach. I recommend taking a tour if possible to learn more about the history.
Following this somber visit, head towards Normandy’s Cider Route for some cider tastings. Although many foreigners aren’t aware of this, some of the best apple cider in the world comes from Normandy. For a couple of euros, you can try calvados and cider directly at the source along the 40km cider route. I recommend stopping off in Bonnebosq in particular as it’s particularly well known for cider and on your way back to Paris. Note: Please ensure that the driver doesn’t drink and drive. You can buy a bottle to enjoy at home! Click for a map of the cider trail.
Even if you don’t have time during your four days in Normandy to get out to the cider towns, you’re likely to pass a farm with a sign that says VENDRE with an apple on it if you’re driving on non-highway roads close to Calvados. It usually means that you’ll be able to buy fresh Normandy cider!
Map of your Normandy road trip
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