Home to verdant countryside, wide Atlantic beaches and fabulous calvados-fuelled food culture, this unique region of France is the perfect long weekend destination.
Lush meadows and apple orchards dominate Normandy’s landscape, which is famous for its produce. This is a region built around butter, cheese, seafood, cider and calvados. The Normans are fiercely proud of their food and drink, and dishes are unapologetically rich and indulgent. There’s a lot to see in this unique part of northern France, including beautiful medieval port towns, the D-Day landing beaches and the Bayeux Tapestry.
THE PACKING EDIT
WHAT TO DO
Honfleur is a great starting point. It’s the best preserved of Normandy’s ports and a picturesque town to wander round. The ancient port is still in use today with fishing boats selling fresh fish from the pier. Wander through the medieval quarter to see exquisitely carved houses. Explore the craft markets, art galleries and artisan chocolate shops. The impressionist museum Musee Eugene Boudin is excellent too.
Heading west, Bayeux’s incredible cathedral and famous tapestry are well worth a visit (a word of warning: avoid high summer as the tourist crowds will be heaving). The town also makes for a good starting point to visit the D-Day beaches and American Cemetery. To the far west, the island of Mont St-Michel hosts the site of a striking Gothic abbey, an essential stop if you have time.
Schedule a visit to the excellent Calvados Dupont to learn about how the apple-based alcohol is made and try a sample or two. Afterwards, Deauville is a lovely spot either to chill out on the large sandy beach or to check out the excellent selection of fashionable shops and restaurants.
WHERE TO SLEEP
Château la Chenevière
This 18th century manor house, located between Bayeux and the landing beaches, charmed us with its family feel and elegantly luxurious style. The two farm-to-table restaurants – fine-dining restaurant ‘‘Le Botaniste’’ and bistrot restaurant ‘‘Le Petit Jardin’’- are superbly executed with seasonal menus. A real highlight were the 12-hectare grounds, filled with exotic trees, a permaculture vegetable garden, outdoor heated pool and tennis court. The chateau makes an ideal base to explore the area.
La Ferme Saint Simeon
This unique 17th century hotel has a wonderful location above the Seine estuary and just outside the pretty port town of Honfleur. Inspired by the ever-changing river views, artists including Monet and Boudin used to stay here to paint the scenery – you can even stay in Monet’s favourite room. Impressionist paintings grace the walls of the hotel and guests can take painting lessons (highly recommended). Food here is superb with 2 Michelin star chef Jacques Maximin at the helm – don’t miss the organic oysters, Norman lamb and Cotentin lobster smoked in fennel wood.
Les Manoirs des Portes de Deauville
This newly opened hotel is located on the outskirts of the fashionable seaside town, Deauville. Set in a stunning 2-hectare park, the half-timbered manor house is accompanied by nine cottages, an orchard and pond, a relaxation area with pool house, an outdoor heated pool, a sauna and jacuzzi. On colder evenings, take some time out with a glass of wine aside the large central fireplace.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
L’Angle Saint Laurent
L’Angle Saint Laurent is located in the city centre and has a chic, yet cosy décor. Its exposed stones, painted beams and soft lighting make it a perfect dinner spot. Head Chef Sébastien Remy has been awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand. His menu only uses local ingredients and changes seasonally.
Au Ptit Bistrot
Au Ptit Bistrot is located just behind the cathedral and is a local favourite. The value for money is hard to beat. They have a set menu which changes weekly.
Le Volet Qui Penche
Le Volet Qui Penche is a wine cellar with a few tables where diners can order a cheese or charcuterie platter while tasting the owner’s interesting wine selection. The place is very charming with old stones and wooden beams and is located in a little alley right next to the city’s canal.
Pays du Bessin
Pays du Bessin is a charming restaurant on an old fisherman’s boat that serves seafood platters. It’s literally located on the port of Port-en-Bessin, so the fish couldn’t be any fresher. The restaurant is filled with locals and on Friday evenings during the summer there’s the market right outside of the boat as well as fireworks. The atmosphere is great and the staff are really friendly.
Les Vapeurs is a classic brasserie across from the fish market that serves the best moules frites and tarte tatin in the area. It’s an institution which has been open since 1927. It’s quite important to book a table as it’s usually packed with Parisians, as well as locals. Get a table outside if the weather permits it as it’s great for people watching too.
Le Vieux Honfleur
Le Vieux Honfleur belongs to the hotel La Ferme Saint Siméon, but is located in the city centre, right by the old port of Honfleur. It’s the oldest restaurant in the city. Grab a table outside as the setting and view feels like being in a post card. The menu mixes land and sea dishes and is quite refined.