If you are in Paris and have at least two spare days, then you should definitely consider going to Normandy. It offers a complete change of scenery and architecture within a 2-hour drive. The landscape in Normandy showcases rocky coasts with pebble beaches and most charming towns. No wonder it has been an inspiration to impressionist artists such as Monet.
This trip is going to offer you amazing discoveries and a breath of fresh ocean air that is oh so healing for the mind and soul. I have been living near Paris for 8 years now and cannot count the number of times I have been to this part of Normandy. I feel like I regularly need to go there to walk along the coast and breathe in the fresh marine air. Nevertheless, I always try to add a new spot to discover and I can now say that Normandy never leaves me disappointed with a variety of experiences it offers.
Below is my itinerary suggestion for a weekend trip to Normandy. Bear in mind that I am an active traveler, thus you can leave yourself more time to discover the region at your own pace.
Itinerary suggestion for 2 days
- Make a half way stop in Giverny to visit the Gardens and the house of Claude Monet, the impressionist painter.
- Pass through the town of Vernon to see the picturesque Old Mill that I consider a hidden gem of Normandy.
- Head to Etretat and spend an afternoon there. Contemplate the white cliffs by the sunset and visit the mysterious Etretat Gardens.
- Continue the road through the Alabaster Coast (Côte d’Albâtre) that stretches from Etretat up to Dieppe. Make a stop in Yport and Veules-les-Roses.
- On the way back to Paris, make a lunch stop in Honfleur, the picturesque portuar town. Then head to Deauville for a digestive walk along the beach.
Claude Monet Fondation in Giverny
Giverny is one of the most popular tourist destinations. It is home of the creation of many impressionist paintings of Claude Monet. Except for admiring Japanese collection paintings and his own masterpieces, you will get mesmerized by the splendid garden with many colourful species of plants and flowers. There is also a lily pond on the other side of the garden.
The village itself deserves a short walk. The main street will lead you through some art galleries, restaurants and hotels up to the church. Behind the church there is a graveyard on which Monet’s family grave is located.
Tip: I recommend buying tickets online in advance to avoid the queue.
Official website: http://fondation-monet.com/en/giverny/
You can also opt for a half-day organised trip from Paris to Giverny that includes a return transport with an entrance ticket. It is the best way if you have limited time and/or are not driving. You can book it through this link:
Old Mill in Vernon, the hidden gem of Normandy
Just a short 20-minute drive from Giverny, Vernon deserves a stop to see its charming old mill. It looks like a postcard from Normandy with its typical architectural look. No wonder that it inspired Monet to recreate it on one of his paintings! If you have more time, you can have a pleasant walk along the Seine (yes it continues to flow this way!) river.
Etretat cliffs and beach
Etretat is known for the dramatic scenery of white chalk cliffs including three natural arches. It offers walking paths on the top of the cliffs with scenic views. There is also a pebble beach for those who want to sunbathe or swim – for the most courageous ones as the average water temperature is 17°C!
Etretat Gardens (Jardins d’Etretat) deserve a dedicated paragraph. Nestled on the East side, just behind the church on the cliffs, they offer a splendid view on the cliffs (top picture with the natural maze). The first tree was planted there in 1903, however the garden was recreated adding the artsy design by the Russian artist that completed the work in 2016. Therefore, it makes it an open air museum of contemporary art full of mystery.
The most impressive and my favourite part of the garden is the Emotions Garden. The faces, made from elastomeric resin, showcase different expressions. I felt like Alice in Wonderland among them. Such a creative work!
Official website: https://etretatgarden.fr/en/
Purchase your ticket here:
Considered one of the most beautiful villages of France, Veules-les-Roses combines a cute flowery village with beautiful rocky coast. The river Veules, that flows through the town, is the shortest river in France. The ocean is subject to tides, thus when the tide is low, it reveals the sandy part of the enormous beach. Most of the beaches get really crowded during summer. However, in Normandy you can be sure to find a private corner thanks to its long beaches!
Yport portuar town
Yport is a charming fishing village with pebbled beach and white cliffs that are a signature landscape of Normandy. One hour is enough to walk along the coastline and inside the village. It is a pleasant and calm visit since the village is not overcrowded with tourists that makes it an authentic place to visit.
Honfleur with its Old Harbour
You definitely come to Honfleur to see its picturesque Old Harbour (Le Vieux Bassin), the 15th century Church of Sainte Catherine as well as its typical architecture. The harbour is a perfect place to have lunch and most of the restaurants have terraces with the view on the port. Throughout the lunch you are accompanied by the sound of seagulls 🙂
Deauville resort town
Deauville is a resort town that hosts the annual American Film Festival. It attracts celebrities from all around the World with its casino and Promenade des Planches, the wooden walkway along the long sandy beach with celebrity names. The colourful beach parasols have become a symbol of Deauville. Since it is situated within less than 2-hours’ drive from Paris, it is a favourite weekend destination for Parisians.
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