Discover the best itinerary and the top things to do in Normandy and Brittany in France and other must-see places in the area on a road trip.
Normandy and Brittany have always been at the top of my bucket list. For those who like landscape photography, or those who simply want to spend a few days chilling out, Normandy and Brittany are simply perfect. They offer breathtaking views, beautiful villages, great history, and incredible people. Not to mention the great food…
So the first time I had the chance I decided to drive from my hometown in northern Italy to Normandy and Brittany exploring France’s countryside for about 10 days.
If you are planning to visit Normandy and Brittany I suggest you do so by car. If you want to rent a car I recommend Auto Europe. It’s a search engine for car rentals present in over 180 countries that allows you to compare companies for the best rates. Some of the advantages of Auto Europe over its competitors are the free cancellation policy, until 48hrs before pickup, and the no credit card or booking fees. Definitely a good choice for your holiday.
Renting a car will allow you to have a lot of freedom and stop wherever you want to. And I bet you will! You will see some amazing landscapes that cannot be discovered if you travel by bus or train.
Useful info about Normandy and Brittany
Most probably the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word Normandy is D-Day and the beaches where thousands of soldiers lost their lives during the Second World War. But Normandy is much more. Together with Brittany, they form one of the most fascinating areas in Europe.
Majestic hills, mountain ranges, vast beaches, and high cliffs are just some of the wonders of this corner of France. Whether you are passionate about history, a foodie, or are simply looking for a place to relax, one thing is certain: when you’ll get home you’ll miss Normandy and Brittany for a long time.
When is the best time to visit Normandy and Brittany
The only real downside of these regions is the weather. The whole area is famous for the frequent downpours and strong winds that lash the coast throughout the year. Of course, this adds to the atmosphere but it is not fun to spend your holiday under heavy rain…
So, if possible, check the weather forecast before you decide when to leave. Keep in mind though that even a gloomy sky can suddenly turn into a clear blue day. The weather changes with impressive speed, so do not despair if you wake up with the rain.
The best time of the year, weatherwise, to visit Normandy and Brittany are the months between June and August. Keep in mind that in these months you’ll find more tourists.
In this area of France, food is a real lifestyle. Coming from Italy I love good food. But I simply fell in love with Normandy and Brittany cuisine. Seafood reigns supreme. And in some places, you can eat oysters and mussels for less money than you would spend in Italy for a pizza in a cheap restaurant.
Coming home hungry is really impossible.
If you want to find cheap accommodation you can stay in one of the many Chambre d’hotes or book a hotel with Booking.com.
Medieval towns, great food, warm and friendly people, fantastic landscapes: what else do you need? These are Normandy and Brittany, two of the best places I have been to so far.
Top things to do in Normandy and Brittany on a road trip
If you wonder what to do and what to see in Brittany and Normandy the good news is that you have plenty of places to visit.
One of the most fascinating and well-known places in Normandy is the small village of Etretat. Etretat remained virtually unknown until several painters and writers immortalized the beauty of this fishermen’s village.
Looking at the white cliffs that shine bright at sunrise and sunset it’s easy to see why Monet visited this place quite often. You can find some cheap hotels in Etretat through Booking.com.
Another place worth visiting is the northwest of Normandy. The landscapes there have often been compared to those of Ireland, and it is not difficult to understand why…
Small villages, green meadows, and strong winds characterize the Cap de la Hague. The cliff of Nez de Jobourg, 128 meters high, is the highest in continental Europe and is also a reserve for seabirds. The road ends in Goury, a small village where you feel to be the end of the world. The British Island of Alderney (Aurigny) is only 15 km away and can be clearly seen most of the time.
I just want to make a little digression: this place is so beautiful and isolated that the French Government decided to devote a large area to a nuclear powerplant. And the scenario is really disappointing. Unspoiled landscapes on one side and miles of fences and electrified barbed wire on the other.
One of the characteristics of this region is the very powerful high tide. The landscape changes often as the sea recedes and leaves uncovered boulders and rocks that few minutes before were underwater. This is a factor to keep in mind if you want to go for a walk along the cliffs. It happens quite often, in fact, that naive tourists remain trapped on the rocks due to the rapidly rising tide.
This sandy beach of Nez de Jobourg didn’t even exist a few minutes earlier.
Driving towards Brittany you will find the famous Mont Saint-Michel. Honestly, I didn’t like it. Too many tourists (three million per year) and too many souvenir shops. Very disappointing.
If you are looking for some original pictures get out from the crowd of tourists and wander in the green meadow nearby Mont Saint Michel.
Among the other places that are worth a visit, I would definitely mention Cancale. The town is very nice, like almost every village on the coast, but the main reason to go there is to try a local delicacy: the oysters. Cancale is in fact regarded as the French capital of these mollusks.
A stop here (maybe for lunch), is a must. Immediately afterward you can head to Saint-Malo: a fortified town that remembers the time when the British and French were constantly fighting like kids for a toy. Saint-Malo was in fact a basis for both merchant’s vessels and for the pirates, who were somehow supported by the local government.
The main attraction of this city is the narrow streets of the old town and the massive walls.
Where to sleep in Normandy and Brittany
There are plenty of options in these two regions. The most common is called Chambre d’Hote, or what in English is called Bed & Breakfast.
Honestly, it’s impossible to return home without good shots. The landscapes are so beautiful that sometimes you wouldn’t know what to photograph. For the landscape, it’s better if you have a wide-angle lens, but sometimes a longer focal length can be useful to isolate the details of the landscape.
A sturdy tripod will help you have sharp pictures even on the windiest days (almost always). When taking pictures of sunsets and sunrises with the filters, a Reverse GND will be very helpful. In fact, it’s what I used most often, along with a 10 stops ND filter for long exposures. Here you can find some tips on how to take better travel photos. If you are into double exposure check out my review of one of the best plugins for photoshop: Raya Pro.
Whether you are a pro landscape photographer or simply a point-and-shot lover, turn off the camera sometimes and enjoy the beauty of the nature.
Brittany and Normandy: final thoughts
Brittany e Normandy are two diverse provinces in France but they are equally beautiful. Whether you’re interested in history, good food, or the beauty of nature, Normandy and Brittany will not disappoint you. If you add the fact that the region is still strangely cheap, there are no valid reasons for not going there at least once.
I personally hope to visit Normandy and Brittany as soon as possible.
Honfleur: a beautiful village in Normandy
Here you can find more pictures from this trip in Normandy and Brittany. Here you can read about another beautiful province in France: Provence. Here are some ideas if you want to visit Bruges, which is not too far from Normandy.