The perfect holiday in Normandy -

The Perfect Holiday in Normandy

News Jun 3, 2024

This year marks two significant anniversaries in Normandy. Firstly, it has been 80 years since the Allies' historic D-Day landings, a pivotal event in World War II. Secondly, it is the 150th anniversary of the revolutionary impressionist movement, sparked by artists like Monet, Dégas, Renoir, and Pissarro with their groundbreaking 1874 exhibition in Paris. These painters shocked the traditional art community by working outdoors to capture the essence of the moment.

Normandy was the epicenter of this artistic revolution. The region's proximity to Paris, the allure of its seaside to affluent Parisians, and the unique coastal light made it an ideal setting for the impressionists.

Normandy offers an idyllic retreat, perfect for rejuvenation and indulgence, far from the chaos of modern life. The Normans, now serene and cultured, offer a warm welcome.

With its lush green landscapes and rich culinary traditions, Normandy is a haven of peace and gastronomy. The locals thrive on fishing and farming, producing exquisite butter, cream, and cider, and savoring their culinary creations.

Towns and villages blend grand medieval structures with charming homes, often densely packed with half-timbered buildings, creating an intricate visual tapestry. The Seine winds through the region, and further south, the countryside evokes an English charm. The Auge valley south of Deauville feels like a French version of a quaint English village.

Here's a 10-day road trip itinerary highlighting the best of Normandy in 2024.

DAY 1 - Dieppe

Arrive early on the overnight ferry from Newhaven. In 1942, another early-morning arrival took place, for which Dieppe is now best known – that of 6,000 Allied troops, mostly Canadian, in the Operation Jubilee raid on August 19, 1942. The operation went disastrously from the start. The Germans were prepared, and about 1,197 Allied soldiers died, 900 of them Canadian. The story is recounted in the Dieppe Raid Memorial in the town’s former theatre – open daily until September 15.

In the meantime, you might (if it’s Saturday) stroll the large town market, which will lead to culinary cravings and thus to breakfast in the Place du Puits-Salé. In Dieppe’s heyday as France’s first seaside resort, notable figures like Turner, Proust, Monet, and Oscar Wilde gathered here. Next task: climb the hill to the 14th-century castle on the cliffs. It’s now a superb museum, with an outstanding collection of ivory. The question of whether elephants needed to perish to provide materials for items like model boats and tobacco graters might trouble you for a while.

Source: DFDS

Now wander the quays, before enjoying a two-course fish lunch at Le Turbot (sole and scallops are the highlights) on Quai de la Cale for around £23, followed by more wandering along the beach, then visiting the military museum, having aperitifs on the quays, and dining at L’Haumea on Quai Henri IV. It has a pleasant terrace, good cocktails, steak, and fish, with main courses around £17. The bright, seaside Hotel de la Plage will provide a comfortable place to sleep

DAY 2 - Fécamp

First, head 90 minutes down the winding coast, via Saint-Valéry-en-Caux, to Fécamp. A must-visit is the Palais Bénédictine distillery, which rises impressively as if from the fevered imagination of Ludwig II. Enter and say you are from Burnley. They will never know you are not. They have loved people from the northern mill town since elements of the East Lancashire Regiment were stationed nearby during the First World War. The soldiers developed a taste for the herby spirit and took it home with them. Today, the Burnley Miners’ Social Club remains the world’s number one outlet for Benedictine, enjoyed as “benny and hot water.” A visit and tasting costs £17. Lunch at the on-site bar, La Verrière, might include salmon gravlax in Benedictine for £12.

Visit Fécamp, Yport and Étretat in France | France Travel Guides | DFDS
Source: DFDS

Afterwards, move an hour inland to the ruins of the seventh-century abbey of Jumièges. Victor Hugo considered it “the most beautiful ruin in France.” This summer, until September 29, Jumièges hosts installation artist Laurent Grasso as part of the Impressionist festival.
On to Rouen, check into the Mercure Cathedrale in the city center. Slip out to the St Maclou district, where there’s life and noise, and Rotomagus has the best meat in town

DAY 3 - Rouen

Rouen is a feel-good city. To start, visit the cathedral, painted some 30 times by Monet. “What I wanted to paint wasn’t the cathedral but the air between me and the cathedral,” he said. You will return tonight at 10.30 pm, when veteran US avant-gardist Robert Wilson’s son-et-lumière will be illuminating the cathedral facade with light and abstract images.

From there, along the rue du Gros Horloge to the Place du Vieux Marché where, in 1431, the English executed Joan of Arc. A statue marks the spot, and a 1970s church stands behind. Meanwhile, the story of history’s most extraordinary teenage girl is brilliantly told – with all the bells and whistles of contemporary museography – across town at the Historial. Lunch at the Couronne, overlooking the Vieux Marché. France’s oldest restaurant, open since 1345. If you had a window seat 593 years ago, you’d have had views of Joan’s execution.

Visit Rouen - Normandy Tourism, France
Source: Normandy Travel

The afternoon belongs to the Fine Arts Museum, where the outstanding collection of Impressionist works is joined by a David Hockney extravaganza, inspired by his new life in Normandy and reaction to Impressionism, as part of the 2024 Impressionist festival. “Normandisme” runs until September 22, as does a show dedicated to Whistler. Dine tonight down on the Seine-side quay at Gilles Tournadre’s Gill. It will be the best meal you’ve had in a while. Or since lunch, anyway. Opt for pigeon à la rouennaise, the signature dish (; main courses from £34).

DAY 4 -Giverny

It’s an hour from Rouen to the village where Monet, his wife, and eight children lived for the last 43 years of his life. The house remains as it was in the 1920s, while the most famous gardens in France are vibrant with color and life, water-lilies, and perhaps love. To say more would lessen the sensory impact of your encounter with the place.

Giverny Travel Guide 2024: The Best of Giverny | Expedia

While in the village, make time for the Musée des Impressionnismes, which, until June 30, marks the Impressionist 150th anniversary with an Impressionists And The Sea show. Lunch at the ultra-friendly Les Canisses on the banks of the Seine, five miles away, at Le Goulet.
When the time is right, head 30 minutes to Autheuil-Authouillet, where the Ferme des Isles along the River Eure envelops you in a rural domain of stone-built integrity and neo-rustic imagination, of fields, paddocks, and woods, of ducks, sheep, and horses. Hostess Sophie Morel will prepare dinner if six people want it. Otherwise, follow her dinner recommendations).

DAY 5 - Bagnoles de l’Orne

Begin the day with a scenic drive through the Perche region, often likened to the Cotswolds of France: a picturesque landscape of rolling hills, dense forests, orchards, and horse-filled pastures, attracting Parisians seeking a tranquil retreat. The highlight is Mortagne-au-Perche, a town rich in history and renowned for its stone architecture. It’s also famed as the French capital of black pudding. “Le boudin noir contains six times more iron than spinach,” explains Jean-Claude Gotteri, grandmaster of the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Black Pudding.

Discover Bagnoles de l'Orne Normandie - - Camping Municipal de la Vée ***
Source: Camping Municipal de la Vee

Savor a lunch of this delicacy at the Hotel du Tribunal (; two-course lunch £17), then drive an hour to Bagnoles. This spa town, centered around a serene lake, exudes an air of wellness – reminiscent of a quaint, refined Buxton. Enjoy the casino and the overall elegant atmosphere. For dinner, venture just outside of town to the Manoir-du-Lys for a Michelin-starred experience and an overnight stay in a grand setting (; doubles from £133, three-course dinner £77).

DAY 6 - Trouville-sur-Mer

After exploring Bagnoles, drive north for an hour to the upper Dives valley. This peaceful area holds a dramatic history. It’s the site of the Falaise pocket where, 75 days after D-Day, 100,000 German soldiers were surrounded and decimated by Allied forces, with 10,000 perishing. The Montormel Memorial provides an insightful overview (; £5).

Guide touristique Trouville-sur-Mer | Tourisme à Trouville-sur-Mer - KAYAK
Source: Kayak

Continue to the Auge valley, meandering through narrow lanes and charming half-timbered villages like Crèvecoeur and Beuvron, where life moves at a leisurely pace. Stop at Drouin in Coudray-Rabut to sample calvados brandy ( Then head to the seaside town of Trouville, known for its hardworking vibe in contrast to its glamorous neighbor, Deauville. Stay at the Les 2 Villas hotel (; doubles from £68) and dine at the June brasserie (; three-course menu from £22).

DAY 7 -Deauville

Stroll along Trouville’s beach and visit its fish market before heading to Honfleur. With its half-timbered streets, cobblestone pathways, picturesque port, and beaches, Honfleur is one of the region’s most charming spots. It's also a place steeped in the legacy of the Impressionists like Monet and Boudin, who were drawn to its coastal beauty and vibrant social scene.

Return to Trouville and cross the River Touques to Deauville, a town of opulent hotels, grand avenues, Anglo-Norman villas, and beaches frequented by racehorses. Enjoy lunch at the Etoile Des Mers fish shop and restaurant (; mains from around £18), then head to Ouistreham, which now has a lively seaside atmosphere.

In September, Deauville's American Film Festival is back! - MICE in Normandy
Source: Normandy Tourism

Travel inland along the Orne River to the Pégasus Memorial Museum in Ranville, which tells the story of Major John Howard and the Ox and Bucks’ daring D-Day raid (; £7.50). Finally, drive to Bayeux and check into the Reine Mathilde hotel (; £73). Dine there as well (three-course menu £28).

DAY 8 - D-Day beaches

These expansive beaches hold immense historical significance. Although one can’t fully grasp the terror or heroism of the soldiers, visiting these sites offers a profound sense of the scale and sacrifice involved.

From Sword to Utah beaches, there are about 22 museums, plus numerous cemeteries and memorials. It's impossible to visit them all in one trip. Start at Luc-sur-Mer and visit the Juno Beach Centre at Courseulles, which details the Canadian contribution to D-Day (; £7). Nearby, Ver-sur-Mer boasts the impressive British Normandy Memorial. This year, 1,475 metal silhouettes will be displayed, representing those killed under British command on June 6, 1944. The memorial honors the 22,442 lives lost under British command during the Normandy campaign (; free).

Visiting the D-Day beaches in Normandy
Source: Ariodante Tourism

Continue to Arromanches, where you can grab a sandwich for lunch and explore the recently updated Musée du Débarquement, which offers insights into the crucial Mulberry harbour. Remnants of the 6,000-tonne blocks used to create the harbour are still visible offshore (; £11). Return to Bayeux for dinner at Le Pommier (; three-course menu £24).

DAY 9 - Bayeux & Mont Saint Michel

Start the day early to explore Bayeux. Visit the Commonwealth cemetery, the largest from the Second World War, where the grave of Trooper AJ Cole reads: “The dearest daddy and husband in the world. We will love you forever, darling.” This poignant message captures the essence of the sacrifices made, rendering a visit to the nearby Battle of Normandy museum unnecessary.

Instead, see the 230ft Bayeux tapestry, which vividly depicts an earlier conflict (; £10). Head back to the beaches and visit the serene Colleville US cemetery above Omaha beach, the resting place of 9,387 Americans (; free). Further along, the Pointe du Hoc, where 225 US Rangers scaled a sheer 115ft cliff, only to find their target guns had been moved. Only 90 Rangers remained unscathed (; free).

Bayeux to Mont Saint Michel - Best Routes & Travel Advice | kimkim
Source: KimKim

Enjoy lunch at La Trinquette in Grandcamp-Maisy (; three-course menu £28) before driving 90 minutes to Mont Saint Michel. This awe-inspiring site rises majestically from the bay, as if from another realm. Park, take the shuttle bus, and explore the abbey and Romanesque church perched atop the rock. The grandeur of the site is unforgettable.

Stay nearby in Bacilly at the Château de Chantore, a stunning estate with elegant accommodations (; B&B doubles from £197). Dine in Genêts at La Pause des Genêts (; mains from £19).

DAY 10 - Barneville-Carteret and Cherbourg

Drive up the western coast of the Cotentin peninsula, stopping at Barneville-Carteret, a resort reminiscent of the Edwardian era. Have lunch on the terrace at Le Noroit (three-course menu £13), then continue north along roads that reveal expansive sandy beaches and rugged coastlines.

Barneville-Carteret | ©PAT Cotentin_ Marc Lerouge Cherbourg,… | Flickr
Source: KAYAK

Visit the Nez de Jobourg cliffs, towering 420ft above the sea. Then head to Cherbourg and stay at the Ambassadeur Hotel. End the trip with a memorable dinner at the Michelin-starred Le Pily, overlooking the harbor.

Depending on your ferry schedule, either stroll around Cherbourg or visit the Cité de la Mer, which features an aquarium, a nuclear submarine, and exhibits on emigrants and the Titanic.

How to do it

When to go
Normandy is a year-round destination with weather similar to southern England. This year, the D-Day Festival Normandy runs events throughout June, and the Normandy Impressionist Festival continues until September 22.

What to book
For a dedicated D-Day trip, consider Leger Holidays’ guided coach tours. A five-day tour starts from £609 per person.

For a more luxurious experience, including a stay in a château hotel, try Kirker’s Tailor-Made Normandy self-drive trip, which covers D-Day sites and Impressionist locations. This seven-night trip costs from £1,998 per person.

Holiday reading
For insights on the Second World War, read Anthony Beevor’s D-Day: The Battle For Normandy. For classic literature, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary is a Normandy staple, although it might be heavy for a holiday read. Thrillers like Aaron Elkins’s Old Bones, set on Mont Saint Michel, or Michel Bussi’s Black Water Lilies, which involves a murder in Monet’s garden, are more gripping.

Expert tips
First-time visitors to the D-Day beaches should consider a guided tour. Normandy Sightseeing Tours offers small group tours for £112 for a full day.

For events marking the 150th anniversary of Impressionism, visit or

For the 80th anniversary of D-Day events, go to and


Oliver Hughes

Oliver has over 15 years of experience in travel journalism. He focuses on European travel, providing expert reviews of vacation rentals and cultural experiences across Europe.