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The invasion of Normandy, France took place on June 6, 1944. For those history buffs or World War II veterans, this is a place that will hold particular significance.
You can visit Normandy on a day trip from Paris, by My Vacation Lady recommends spending a few days in the Normandy region. If you do decide to stay a while, what is there to see and do in the area?
Our friends at Europe Express came up with their idea of the top 12 sites or places to see in the Normandy area.
photo credit: Europe Express
The Top 12 Places To Visit in Normandy
With the 70th Anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy in 2014, it seemed like the perfect time to brush up on the region so here are our top 12 places to visit in Normandy.
1. Caen – This beautiful city was mostly destroyed during WWII but thankfully retained the abbeys founded by William the Conqueror and his wife. Its lively atmosphere makes it the ideal place to experience genuine Norman nightlife and shopping, plus it has many charming squares, gardens, cafes and restaurants. It is also home to the Memorial de Caen, which attracts almost 400,000 visitors every year and is considered one of the most important museums in France outside of Paris. This first class museum has exhibitions that cover not only the history of WWII but also human rights debates, the Cold War, terrorism and much more.
2. Bayeux – The architecture and wandering streets of Bayeux are dotted with wine shops, restaurants, historic haunts and a towering cathedral. It is also the home of the famous Bayeux Tapestry, which is a hand embroidered linen story panel depicting the Norman invasion of England in the 11th century. The city is also an ideal location to explore both Utah and Omaha beaches. The turmoil of D-Day has been washed away but the memories remain through stunning museums and monuments.
3. Giverny – This lovely little town is home to the house and gardens where Claude Monet lived and worked on some of his most famous series. Here you can stroll through the beautiful gardens depicted in many of his works or saunter around the famous pond that inspired Monet’s water lily paintings. Impressionism is one of the most appreciated artistic movements in history so it is sure to appeal to the masses.
4. Deauville – A flashy and chic city by the sea, it truly is the playground for the rich and famous. Sometimes referred to as the Monaco of Normandy or the Hamptons of Paris, it is packed with designer boutiques and grand hotels. With its safe beach, majestic casino, horse races, and famous festivals, it is sure to draw many Americans looking to escape the bustle of Paris in style.
5. Arromanches – This little village has now returned to its quiet simplicity but directly following D-Day it became the site of one of the most vital ports to the Allied forces. In three days the British created an artificial harbor at Arromanches that, within the span of ten months, was used to land over 2.5 million soldiers, 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tons of supplies. The city is also home to a brand new and very powerful 360 degree video exhibition, titled Arromanches 360.
6. Rouen – The beautiful spires of Rouen’s Gothic cathedral have stood watch over the city for centuries, inspiring many religious pilgrims and artists, including Monet. Although the city was at the height of its power between the 11th and 15th century, it is still an important and vibrant city today. Its wonderfully restored medieval quarter is lively and full of shops and restaurants. Rouen is also where Joan of Arc was tried for heresy and burned at the stake.
7. The Cider Route – Normandy is well known for its cider, but its most famous liquors are an apple brandy called Calvados and a traditional aperitif named Pommeau. These two unique cider products are available throughout the region and it is even possible to visit a distillery to discover how the spirits are made, and there’s opportunities for tasting.
8. Sainte-Mere-Eglise – For anyone familiar with the movie The Longest Day, you know the importance of this quaint commune already. For those who have never seen the movie, the town was the site of heavy casualties during the D-Day battles due to its close proximity to the sea. Between its small museum, stunning church, excellent gift shops and powerful personal story, this is a must see for any WWII buff.
9. Honfleur – This picturesque port city is well known for its slate-covered seafronts and charming atmosphere. It has also often been the subject of artistic fascination – this was particularly true during the Impressionist movement but continues to draw artists even today. The city also happens to be home to the largest wooden church in France.
10. A Cheese Farm – Many people know Camembert cheese, which is known for its creamy brie-like character, but many don’t know that Normandy produces over 300 types of cheese. Any fromage connoisseur or gastronomically adventurous individual is sure to be in heaven.
11. A Chateau or a Manor House – The region is sprinkled with many grand chateaus and charming manor houses. A stay in one of these properties is absolutely necessary when visiting Normandy! They offer authentic, charismatic and rich environments that are sure to make lasting memories.
12. The American Cemetery – History buff or not, this site is worth a visit. The memorial honors American soldiers who died in Europe during WWII, and overlooks Omaha Beach. Just a few minutes away is an exciting new site, The Overlord Museum, which contains over 35 vehicles, tanks and guns that were collected and restored from all six armies in Normandy during WWII.
Whether your trip to Paris is for a vacation or honeymoon, a side trip to the Normandy region is certainly worth the trip.
My Vacation Lady can help plan your seamless vacation or honeymoon package to France.