Things to do in Normandy

One of the most popular things to do in Normandy, of course, is to stand on Omaha Beach and imagine what it was like here on June 6, 1944. But if reliving some World War II history is on you list of what to do in Normandy, don’t stop at the beach—be sure to visit the Battle Normandy Memorial Museum and the Normandy American Cemetery. Otherwise, what to do in Normandy often revolves around classic French architecture—and cuisine.

You can admire the grand, old buildings. During World War II, plenty of buildings in Normandy got leveled, but several fascinating stone structures still stand, such as the castle Chateau de Pirou, and the ancient Abbaye aux Hommes, the 11th Century Romanesque abbey where William the Conqueror is buried. Pick up a selection of local fruits, vegetables, and sausage, and travel to Deauville beach for a picnic. The rugged cliffs along the shore (such as Falaise d’Etretat and Pointe du Hoc) are dotted with the underwater caves and tunnels. Point du Hoc is also a spot on any D-Day tour of Normandy. Normandy also has plenty of golf, as well as fishing, biking and horseback riding tours. Ask the concierge at your hotel to help hook you up with local tour operators and guides.

During the festival, the population of Deauville swells from some 4,000 to 40,000—more than a few of them royals and retainers, though now more often from the Middle East than the French nobility

Eugène Boudin, a landscape painter from the area, met a young artist named Claude Monet and taught him to use oil paints and to work outdoors. It’s best to skip the galleries in town; any hunger for art can be satisfied at the Eugène Boudin Museum, which honors Honfleur’s famous native son.

The birthplace of the avant-garde composer Erik Satie houses a series of odd but amusing tableaux vivants that tell of his life and times.

Honfleur’s greatest surviving building, and its separate bell tower date back to the 15th century. The largest, most unusual wooden church in France, it was built by marine carpenters and its vaults resemble the interior of a ship’s hull.

The local specialty is a layered praline paillardise.

No matter how jaded you are, you just have to cry, seeing those crosses stretch into the horizon.

The shop specializes in butter biscuits.

Bayeux’s famous 230-foot-long tapestry—displayed in this well-run little museum—tells the story of the Norman conquest of England.

Score some of the best Breton striped shirts in the region.