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The trip from Paris to some of Normandy’s top sights and attractions can take a few hours by car but is well worth your time. If you’re staying a bit longer and looking for a little side trip from Paris, the Normandy region is a great and very diverse destination.
From beautiful attractions, beaches, and historical sites, to fun activities… we’re pointing out some of the best things to do on a getaway to Normandy.
Monet’s Gardens, Giverny
If you’re planning on driving on your trip, it’s best to start early and head to Giverny first. Giverny is a little town west from Paris and the location of the beautiful gardens of Monet. Try to make it to Giverny by 9:30, it’s the time when the Garden opens for the public and your best chance to avoid the crowds! The Monet Gardens are a very popular day trip destination from Paris and the waiting times can be huge! Best to purchase your ticket in advance!
Monet – the father of French Impressionism and one of the greatest European painters – lived in Giverny for around 40 years. He built a home around a beautiful garden that served as the scene and inspiration for much of his greatest work. I am sure the pond of water lilies will look familiar to you!
Naturally it’s not exactly the same now as it was when Monet passed in 1926, but it’s still a gorgeous place to visit, especially in spring and summer! Allow for 90 minutes to two hours exploring the area.
If you’re leaving Giverny around 11, you can reach Omaha Beach by 1.30 pm. But before touring the D-Day beaches, have lunch!
The specialties from Normandy are milk and apples! Well, not just pure but in the form of cheese (Camembert!), or Norman Escalope (chicken breast with cream and mushrooms), apple tart, apple cider, and the famous Calvados, a regional apple brandy. If you are the driver, make sure to try at least some cider – Cidre doux has only around 2% of alcohol and is pretty sweet!
Are you enjoying food as much as I do? Click here to see more must-try foods in Paris!
The D-Day Beaches
After feasting on delicious regional cuisine, take some time to tour the D-Day beaches. It’s on these beaches that the Allied Forces effectively took control of World War II, leading to the defeat of Nazi Germany. And while we’re talking about roughly 80km (50 miles) of coastline and 5 individual beaches (Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno, and Sword), a lot can be seen in a fairly short time. Merely being there is a humbling experience. However, there are also museums, memorials, and military cemeteries throughout the area. If you want to know more in-depth about the history of the area, I advise to hire a tour guide when visiting the landing beaches.
However, if you want to visit all the landing beaches and dive into the museums and monuments, it’s best to make a single destination day trip from Paris. There are loads of tours starting from Paris – check them out here!
Are you a history fan and interested in World War II? Don’t miss the Museum of Liberation in Paris! It’s free of admission and deals with the French Resistance during WWII!
See the Mont Saint-Michel
Visiting Mont Saint-Michel lengthens the trip a bit. The drive from the Omaha Beach area is another hour and 40 minutes west.
At the same time though, this is one of the most incredible sights in Normandy (even all of Europe), and if you’re looking to explore the area, it’s a must. Described by Atlas Obscura as a singularly beautiful structure, Mont Saint-Michel is a 1,300-year-old monastery that was essentially built on a rock in the middle of a bay. At the time of its construction it couldn’t be accessed if the tide didn’t cooperate – though now, it is accessible 24 hours a day. You won’t see many places in the world that look more like something out of a fantasy tale.
However, if you plan to include Mont Saint Michel I suggest spending the night in the area. The Mont Saint Michel is a stunningly beautiful place but it can be really crowded at times. It’s best visited early in the morning before the tourists (from Paris) arrive. Stay close to the Mont Saint Michel and go there first thing in the morning, I’ll promise you won’t regret it! Click here to find a hotel in the area!
Hotel & Casino Lucien Barriere in Deauville
After a wonderful morning at the Mont Saint Michel, head further back direction Paris. After a two-hours drive back northeast you can experience another activity the Normandy region is famous for gambling! There are countless Casinos all along the coastline but the most exclusive destination for gambling is certainly Deauville. The Hotel & Casino Lucien Barriere is one of the most popular casinos in the region and well worth a visit. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a bit of indoor recreation and relaxation (and stay the night if you’d like to wrap your trip up).
Many people in France may have gotten used to the online casinos out of the UK and the Ireland-based free slot sites that have gotten so popular around Europe. But there are still luxury in-person casinos sprinkled around France and Normandy in particular, and Casinos of Lucien Barriere are the best of them. Stopping in for a few games – you don’t have to spend much if you’d rather not – makes for some good entertainment after hours of sightseeing. And if you’re a bit fatigued from your long day, you could also consider a treatment at the hotel’s gorgeous spa.
Gill – a famous Michelin-stared restaurant
If you don’t decide to stop and stay at the hotel, and you’re up for a late evening, you can start on your way back toward Paris by driving east to Rouen, and the restaurant Gourmet Restaurant Gill. Considered to be among the best restaurants in Normandy, the Michelin-starred Gill is situated right on the Seine and serves elevated French cuisine that will delight travelers (and certainly satisfy Parisians as well). It’s not cheap but it’s not exorbitant, and it’s the perfect way to end a weekend in Normandy. And once you’re finished with whatever local, seasonal delight is on the menu when you visit, Paris is less than two hours away.
What we’ve just outlined is a full weekend trip, starting early, ending late, and involving a lot of driving around. It’s doable if you stick to a schedule, and makes it possible to enjoy the best of Normandy. But even if you have only one day to spare, Normandy makes a great day trip – scrap Mont Saint Michel and gambling and you are in for a long, but a great day trip from Paris.
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