Normandy Travel Guide
Normandy had been high on our bucket list for a while. It’s, of course, the place where the liberation of Europe began during World War II. The spot where thousands of soldiers surprised the Germans via air and water on D-Day. A piece of history and a region you definitely should visit.
Initially, we were planning to head to Portugal this year, but due to the change in Spain’s travel advisory, we decided to tweak the route a bit. However, we didn’t want to skip France – we’ve never really been here – so the new route became France and Italy. Not entirely logical, but that’s how we roll. Fortunately, we found Normandy very impressive and a beautiful start to our journey. In this article, I’ll share the best tips for a mini road trip through Normandy.
In this article
- To do
- Travel time
- Practical information
- The nicest accommodations
- How do I get there?
- Our judgment
What to do in Normandy
Utah Beach was one of the most crucial landing beaches during D-Day. Now, you’ll find a museum, various monuments, and an old German bunker. We found this place to be incredibly impressive.
We spent a night at Utah Beach with the camper and took our bikes to explore the surroundings. This is definitely a great tip because the area is truly stunning. During a bike ride, you’ll discover beautiful nature and sleepy French villages.
The beach is easily accessible by car. There’s ample parking within walking distance, suitable even for campers.
Utah Beach Landing Museum
If you want to learn more about this place and D-Day, make sure to visit the museum at Utah Beach. The Utah Beach Landing Museum stands exactly where the American troops landed on June 6. The museum details all the events in depth, showcasing numerous objects, materials, and vehicles from that period, including an original B-26 bomber, of which only 6 remain.
Normandy American Cemetery & Memorial
The Normandy American Cemetery & Memorial is located in Colleville-sur-Mer. In 1944, the US First Army temporarily placed a cemetery here. There are 9,385 soldiers buried in this place, fallen during D-Day. It’s an impressive place to visit. Please note, pets are not allowed in this area.
Omaha Beach was also a crucial landing beach during D-Day. Soldiers landed here during that day. You’ll find monuments just before and on the beach. There are also several information points that tell more about the beach and what happened during D-Day.
Pointe du Hoc
Pointe du Hoc is a high cliff between Omaha Beach and Utah Beach. During World War II, this point was heavily guarded by the Germans and was a significant target for the Allies.
We wanted to visit this place. We were definitely intending to. The camper was already parked, and then we found out that dogs were not welcome. Unfortunately, we had to skip this place. However, it’s known to be a very special and beautiful spot, recommended by many. Although we didn’t visit ourselves, we still suggest adding it to your must-visit list.
Saint Mont Michel
We received multiple recommendations for Saint Mont Michel. It’s a peninsula in southwestern Normandy and even one of France’s most visited attractions. We – being quite awful travel bloggers – hadn’t heard of this place before. We’ve seen some cool photos passing by, but hadn’t read much about it. Coincidentally, this place was on our route. As usual, without any research, we decided to make a “quick” stop along the way. Just a brief look around and then back towards the coast.
Perhaps we had a few weeks to explore France and Italy due to the tightened travel advice before our departure, and we were really keen on surfing, so we decided not to linger in places for too long. Otherwise, we would have undoubtedly stayed longer in Normandy.
After an hour’s drive, we arrived at Saint Mont Michel. We quickly realized, from the numerous enthusiastic cyclists, hikers, and drivers, that this was a popular spot to visit. Upon reaching the parking lot, we discovered that it was more than a 5 km walk to reach the island. We were already at the parking lot with the not-so-winning 15 euro ticket we had just taken out of the machine. Even though we only had a maximum of an hour, we decided to give it a try to get as far as possible. With our pug in the backpack, Team We Wander WHy bravely headed towards Saint Mont Michel.
What a sight! You can see the little island from afar. We walked quite a distance, but soon realized that it was really too far to walk all the way there. So, we decided to find a quiet spot on a hill and enjoy the view.
Of course, it’s a shame, and without Corona, we probably would have decided to stay overnight. But unfortunately, that’s not the case now. So, we’ll keep this place for another time. Then we’ll be well-prepared, maybe with bicycles ;p.
If you’re in Normandy, you definitely shouldn’t miss this place. Allocate a whole day or at least an afternoon. Mont Saint Michel is way too beautiful to have seen it fleetingly. Although we’re still extremely happy that we caught a glimpse of its beauty.
You can visit the peninsula by footpath or through the bay, but there are also free shuttle buses available (dogs not allowed). You can enjoy beautiful walks and breathtaking views on the island. There are also charming houses, restaurants, and shops.
- Admire the chalk cliffs of Étretat
- Visit the Overlord Museum
- Stroll through the port town of Honfleur
- Explore the village of Caen
- Rouen village is also highly recommended
- Pont-Audemer is often called the Venice of France
- Drive over the famous Pont de Normandie bridge
Hotspots & food in Normandy
We unfortunately didn’t have a lot of time in Normandy, so finding cool hotspots was a bit challenging. One place that definitely deserves a mention is the burger joint Embusqué. If you have any other great tips yourself, please let me know in a comment
Best time to travel to Normandy
The best time to visit Normandy is undoubtedly during the summer. That’s when you have the highest chance of sunshine. We visited Normandy in early September after the peak season, and it was wonderfully quiet. During the peak season, it can, of course, be a bit busier.
But winter and autumn are also beautiful times to visit this region. The rugged coastline and the greyish weather somehow complement this area.
Which budget do i need in Normandy ?
We spent a total of 4 days in Normandy. During these 4 days, we spent 345 euros, resulting in an average daily budget of 86 euros.
- Gasoline: 135 euros
- Camping: 63 euros (21 euros per night)
- Groceries: 55 euros
- Attractions: 18 euros (Saint Mont Michel)
- Dining out: 44 euros
Practical information about Normandy
- Try to avoid toll roads as much as possible. Toll fees in France can be quite high. By doing so, you’ll pass through charming French villages you might not see otherwise.
- Use the Campercontact or Park4Night app to find the best camper spots and campgrounds.
- Don’t forget to order an ACSI card if you’re traveling in the low season.
- We’ve had car trouble twice during our travels and found the ANWB (Dutch Royal Touring Club) extremely helpful. This year, we even opted for the full package, especially after being stuck in Germany for 8 days last year, spending 80 euros per day just on accommodations.
- In France, masks are currently mandatory due to COVID-19 (as of September 2020), even outdoors and at campsites. Keep this in mind. We stocked up on masks and placed them in various places. The same goes for hand sanitizer.
- Download the Foreign Affairs app to stay updated on the latest travel advisories.
- Be cautious with Orange Travel Advisories. Even if you travel through an area marked as orange, your insurance might refuse to cover costs. If there’s an orange travel advisory due to COVID-19, the insurance only covers costs unrelated to COVID-19.
- It’s cheaper to refuel in villages rather than on highways. Never fill up your tank on the highway.
- When withdrawing money in Europe, you often have to pay a small fee to your bank. We recently switched to Knab, which doesn’t charge extra fees. Every bit helps.
What are nice places to stay in Normandy ?
We found a charming Huttopia campsite just within the Normandy region, Camping Huttopia Calvados-Normandie. Unfortunately, most of the campsite’s facilities were closed due to the low season, but there’s still a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere. The sanitary facilities are super modern and luxurious; the showers even have a small heater in case you feel cold. There are also two pools and a nice terrace where you can sit. During the high season, you can also grab a bite to eat or drink. Read the article “Camping Huttopia Calvados-Normandie” for more information.
Camping Tips in Normandy!
Although we didn’t stay here ourselves, these were among our recommended tips:
How to get to Normandy ?
You’ll drive for about 7 hours to Normandy, but with an old camper, you might want to add another hour. So, it’s quite manageable with your own transportation. Having your own vehicle in Normandy is particularly convenient because most attractions are quite far apart, and road tripping through the area is the way to go.
Taking the train to Normandy is also an option. You’ll first need a train to Paris and then transfer to a train heading to Normandy. However, we recommend renting a car locally even if you choose this route. Taking the train to Normandy often costs more and takes longer.
Flying to Normandy is possible, but not directly. This option tends to be expensive and complicated. If you have the chance, we highly recommend traveling to Normandy with your own vehicle.