The breathtaking landscapes, and its incredible architectural, cultural, historical, and environmental heritage make Normandy one of the most visited French regions. The region is also rich in fascinating history, from the Vikings to the Landings of June 1944. 16.4 million tourists visit Normandy every year. The Normandy destination is fortunate to have unique offers that underpin its global reputation, memory tourism, Impressionism, or medieval heritage. The Normandy countryside looks outwards to the sea, opening up fresh horizons and possibilities: a rich maritime history, a heady, addictive dose of iodine, and sea air blowing over the coast and forever associated with freedom. It promises a rewarding stay and an opportunity to get away from the daily grind of city life. PNT has selected the 16 most beautiful villages, towns, and cities to visit in Normandie France (Northern France).
Ideally located, 2 hours from Paris and 10 minutes from the beaches, Caen, the city of William the Conqueror, is a lively and lively metropolis. The soul of the city, rich in its 1000 years of history, is nestled in the old districts of the city center. Born from an island fortified by the Normans at the confluence of the Orne and the Odon, Caen was the favorite city of William the Conqueror who had a castle and two abbeys built there: the Abbaye aux Hommes and the Abbaye aux Ladies. After the conquest of Normandy in 1204 by Philippe Auguste, the English besieged Caen in 1346 and 1417 and remained there until 1450. But we must not forget the more recent history… The town of Calvados paid a heavy price during the Second World War. She was liberated on July 9, 1944. The Battle of Caen lasted 2 months. Caen will be rebuilt around the saved monuments which will be restored. The town is labeled Heritage of Reconstruction in Normandy.
A true museum city, Rouen leaves no stone unturned with its beautiful half-timbered houses, its cobbled streets, and its Gothic churches. Rouen was the scene of the martyrdom of Joan of Arc, condemned and then burned in 1431, Place du Vieux Marché. Rouen is also nicknamed the “City of 100 bell towers”. Throughout the centuries, jewels of sacred architecture have flourished here and there. Notre Dame Cathedral inspired Monet to create his Cathedral series. Located in a very beautiful environment, the Saint-Maclou Church is also worth the detour.
The banks of the Seine, developed, also constitute a privileged place for walks. This long walk will have whetted your appetite. A tempting idea, especially since Rouen is also renowned for its good restaurants. For their part, shopping enthusiasts will not be left out and will find Rouen a favorite territory. You will find what you are looking for in the numerous stores and stalls that line the pedestrian streets. Rouen is a student city with a developed nightlife.
You will be charmed by the city of painters with its picturesque streets and its Vieux-Bassin lined with restaurants. Honfleur invites you to discover its picturesque streets and narrow, slate-covered houses. Spared by the tests of time, Honfleur has managed to preserve the witnesses of this rich historical past which today make it one of the most visited cities in France.
An international reputation that it owes, in part, to the authenticity and charm of its cobbled streets, its half-timbered facades, its small shops, its charming hotels, and its typical restaurants, but also to the diversity of its monuments and to the richness of its cultural and artistic heritage. The Vieux Bassin and the Lieutenancy are the symbols of Honfleur.
Let yourself be seduced by one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France, and follow the smallest river in France, the Veules, lined with beautiful half-timbered houses and mills. On the seafront, you won’t be able to resist tasting a dozen Veulaises, an oyster raised in the open sea. The seafront of Veules les Roses, its changing blue waters, and its large beach of fine sand at low tide, would almost make us forget, for a moment, that Veules is also characterized by its river, the smallest in France! Listen to the water flowing through the mill wheels, walk along the paths along the Veules, and discover the watercress in the springs. Along the river, the outskirts of the town are in fact dedicated to the cultivation of watercress.
Recognized today as “one of the most beautiful villages in France”, Bec has long been a very influential religious center. Founded around 1034 by a knight of the Count of Brionne, a man named Hellouin (or Herluin), Bec Abbey quickly became an important center of Christianity under the leadership of two men.
The builder Lanfranc of Pavia and the philosopher Anselme of Aosta made this little corner of Normandy famous by propagating the spiritual culture of Bec, particularly across the Channel. Abbots on the banks of the Risle were also archbishops of Canterbury. Very early on, the monks encouraged the birth of the village to have a workforce nearby.
One of the most beautiful villages in Normandie. This little village, with some 800 inhabitants, became a favorite place for cultured individuals to come and find peace and for artists to find inspiration. The composer Maurice Ravel even penned some of his most beautiful pieces of music in Lyons-la-Forêt. Be transported to a fairy tale village set in one of Europe’s most beautiful beech forests. Located 40km east of Rouen, it comes as no surprise that Lyons-la-Forêt has been officially recognized as one of the ‘most beautiful villages in France’.
Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue (French Favorite Village)
Saint-Vaast-La-Hougue is a pretty town on the coast that juts out into the sea like the prow of a ship, on the east coast of the Cotentin peninsula. Steeped in a turbulent historical past, this fishing and pleasure port is also a renowned seaside resort. Cradle of the Norman oyster, Saint-Vaast-La-Hougue is adorned with its two Vauban towers, jewels of UNESCO World Heritage. On June 27, 2019, Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue was announced as the French Favorite Village by Stéphane Bern. The media impact was real for this authentic fishing village, whose life is punctuated by the comings and goings of the sea, outside of time, in eternal movement and yet so well preserved from the hustle and bustle of the world.
Gateway to Vexin Normand, Les Andelys is the town of Richard the Lionheart. On the banks of the Seine and at the foot of the famous ruins of Château-Gaillard which offer a magnificent panorama, the town of Andelys is made up of Petit and Grand Andely. Along the banks of the Seine, the dome of the Saint-Jacques hospital and the spire of the Saint-Sauveur church can be seen. Beautiful seaside villas and a few half-timbered houses give a picturesque character to the whole. The Promenade des Prés follows the Grand Rang canal, a connection between the Petit and Grand Andely. This walk leads to the Notre-Dame collegiate church adorned with 16th-century stained glass windows. Don’t miss the visit to the Nicolas Poussin museum near the Fontaine Sainte Clotilde… miraculous!
One of the most beautiful villages in Normandie. Deauville is an international reference, a meeting place for big-screen stars and die-hard golfers. Its boards, its multicolored parasols, its luxury hotels, and its casino contribute to the legend of this Calvados town. The city of elegant leisure and good taste knows how to entertain, and there is something for everyone.
An essential stopover for boaters on the Côte Fleurie, the internationally renowned seaside resort knows how to charm its visitors with class, between its hotels (including the legendary Normandy and its 5 stars), its casino, and the sea bathing establishment. Its famous Boardwalks offer an astonishing spectacle: in front of an impressionist backdrop where the sun’s rays play with the clouds and the reflections of the water, there is a field of multicolored parasols. Deckchairs and beach cabins are the essential accessories to admire this picture which takes on a new dimension when it comes time for the American Film Festival. With the rich programming of the International Center and the opening of the Franciscans, the small city can boast of being a leading cultural hub.
Imagine a magnificent blond sand beach stretching as far as the eye can see, sumptuous villas – symbols of another time – hotels, a casino, a thalassotherapy center, a promenade, and gardens. Imagine a seaside resort that, like a flower, has blossomed over the centuries. Are you there? Well here is Cabourg, the Queen of the Côte Fleurie. And believe us, you won’t stop being surprised! Ideally located in the heart of Normandy, Cabourg was founded more than 1400 years ago in medieval times. Known for its sea bathing since 1855, the town has developed significantly over the centuries as evidenced by the numerous Belle Époque villas which are, today, an integral part of the panorama of the seaside resort.
Bellême, one of the capitals of the ancient county of Perche, has according to some ancient historians a Gallic origin and comes either from BELLIMA, goddess of water, or from BELISAMA, goddess of intelligence. The history of Bellême begins in the middle of the 10th century when a certain Yves, later called Yves de Creil, received from the Carolingian sovereign Louis IV of Outremer the order to defend a crossroads of two roads, one coming from Chartres, the other coming from Evreux and both going to Le Mans. For two centuries, Yves’ descendants controlled the destiny of the place and its surroundings.
The first castle was built on an artificial mound below the current town, at the end of a barred spur. In this enclosure, Yves and his wife Godehilde founded a church in honor of Notre Dame to house their remains upon their death. This religious building, since dedicated to Saint Santin, a contemporary and friend of Saint Eloi, is today one of the oldest churches in Perche.
The sea in the countryside or the countryside by the sea. This is what best defines this pretty corner of the Côte Fleurie that some nickname the “Queen of Beaches”. Stroll on the beaches or on the port, on the swimmers’ side or on the fishermen’s side… Let yourself be carried away by the call of the sea or stroll through the narrow streets, between casinos, villas, palaces and hotels… All the charm of a relaxing seaside resort and alive.
Trouville is the authenticity of the early hours of the Belle Epoque, the first seaside resort celebrated by artists, from Flaubert to Boudin. Others, like Dumas, Corot and Monet followed the same path to draw inspiration from this atmosphere.
Trouville is also fishing for shrimp, mackerel, scallops and sole. Won by the euphoria of sea bathing like its neighbor Deauville, the city of the Viking Thorulfr (who gave its name to the city), has not renounced its traditions: as evidenced by the classification as a Historic Monument since 1992 of the market with fish, symbol of a history resolutely turned towards the sea.
Granville is the natural home port for companies serving the Chausey Islands and the Channel Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, and Sark. Its beautiful sandy beaches, its seawater swimming pool, and its numerous activities make it a very pleasant destination. The Pointe du Roc, the Plat Gousset, the Upper Town, and the marina will soon have no more mysteries for you. Every year, in winter, the Granville Carnival, a true UNESCO-listed institution, spreads its flow of good humor throughout the town. In summer, the Sorties de Bain festival takes over.
The town of Pont Audemer is a very pleasant town for strolling through the alleys and small canals which are also nicknamed “Norman Venice” because of the canals which cross it. It is located in Normandy, in the Val de Risle, the Eure department, and within the Boucles de la Seine Normande Regional Natural Park, a fairly rural area, just 10 minutes from our hotel, enjoy a beautiful sunny stroll to discover one of the most beautiful detours in France, as it was referenced in the guide.
If you go in search of many treasures of Normandy, you will come across the Saint-Ouen church in Pont-Audemer, an unfinished Gothic building from the 16th century that has very beautiful stained glass windows and a gallery decorated with sculpted panels. A small creperie is next to the church. For the record, it is in fact an old house, and from the inside you can see part of the buttresses of the church which must have been a cathedral. Incredible, no? You will not regret coming to such a beautiful and peaceful place.
Perched on a hill above Varenne Valley is the fortified medieval town of Domfront, founded in the 11th century. It has preserved many reminders of its rich past, making it a delightful place for a stroll: charming squares and narrow streets, a 12th-century Romanesque keep, remains of the old feudal castle, rampart towers, and picturesque half-timbered houses, mansions and interior courtyards. There is also a stunning view across the surrounding hedged farmland from Place du Panorama and the castle garden.
At the foot of the town, on the banks of the Varenne, stands the 11th- and 12th-century Notre-Dame-sur-l’Eau church, a superb example of Norman Romanesque art.
Most beautiful Villages, Towns and Cities in Normandie (Northern France)
- Le Bec-Hellouin
- Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue (French Favorite Village)
- Les Andelys