Advice re Normandy and Brittany

My wife and I will visit Normandy and Brittany for the first time later this year. I’d appreciate any tips on villages and towns, sights to see, wineries, accommodations and, of course, places to eat!

Thanks! [cheers.gif]

Bayeaux is a nice town on the way to the Normandy beaches and war cemeteries.
Check out .

Andrew, I just spent two weeks in Normandy and Brittany. In fact, I’m sitting on a plane waiting to leave CDG right now. I’ll try to update this thread within the next few days but if I forget, PM me.

If you are near the village of Neubourg north of Louviers, there is a great farmers market on Wednesdays (I believe) that is not touristy but is excellent, including a lot of great vegetables, fruit, fish, great charcuterie and some very, very local and unprocessed (and I mean that - it’s chunks in an intestinal casing) andouillette hot out of the steamer. Get some local Calvados if you like that sort of thing, it is very prominent of course.

My favorite restaurant in Normandy is L’Endroit in Honfleur.
If you pass through Dinan in Brittany, it’s worth trekking up a hill to Creperie des Artisans. Simple but tasty.


If you are renting a car, the Pink Granite Coast of Brittany makes for a wonderful drive. Ploumanach was our favorite beach town - we feasted on galettes and then took a short hike to some isolated coves with great tidal pools to poke around in and a crazy castle built on an island just offshore to admire.

bring back some sardines

Thanks everyone for the responses to date. Please keep the info coming!

Randy, you have been reminded! Looking forward to reading your notes.


Chateau Richeux near Cancale is a Relais et Chateau not to be missed. Great seafood menu and wine list in a beautiful setting overlooking the bay with Cancale on the left and Mont St Michel on the right. Cancale is known for its high quality oysters.

The boat ride up the river in Dinan is relaxing and the town is a walled city.

The American cemetery in Brittany -

Fougeres and Vitre have some amazing castles. Rochefort-en-Terre is a plus beaux village.

The museum and cafe at Utah Beach are good sights, as is the new visitor’s museum at Omaha.

Andrew - If you are going any time but the August holidays (when it is impossible jammed with people), try Belle Ile En Mer, which is an island right off Quiberon in Brittany. A stunningly beautiful island!

War cemeteries and WW2 landing sites are a must, of course. Deauville is a movie classic, Honfleur has a lot of charm, and the cliffs at Étretat are amazing.

On your way down to Brittany, do not miss Mont Saint Michel (I’m surprised nobody mentioned it so far).

In Brittany, get some local recos for good galettes/crêpes, as the difference between good and bad ones is really enormous.

Brittany is a really large area, interesting parts include:

  • Saint Malo (north-east), the corsair town (not sure if they still have the fish market, it used to be impressive)
  • Dolmens at Carnac (south-east)
  • the Pink Granite Coast (north) and Ile de Bréhat (day trip)
  • Carhaix / Monts d’Arrée (west)
  • Aber Wrac’h and surrounding area (far West)

And of course if you visit between the 13th and 19th of July, YOU HAVE to go to Brest for the old ships festival (, really do not miss this (I attended the 96 edition, it happens only once every 4 years!)

Also try to taste the ciders from Cyril Zangs (“natural cider”).

Please excuse the typos, grammar booboos, and stream-of-conscious writing. I wanted to get you some notes quickly. Sorry for the delay in posting. If you have any specific questions, you can post them, PM them, or I can even talk to you on the phone. The trip is pretty fresh in my memory right now. We did a lot of our initial investigating on Trip Advisor and I must say, Google Translate for the iPhone is pretty damn amazing.

We rented a car in Paris and drove up through Normandy and over to Brittany, returning the car in Ploermel where we began a barge trip on the Brest - Nantes canal. We returned to Paris on the TGV from Rennes. Driving in Normandy and Brittany is easy. As someone mentioned, Brittany is a big area and adding on Normandy… well, we couldn’t even scratch the service in two weeks and that was without even trying to head deeper into the peninsula and get to the west coast.

Rouen – we only had a couple of hours here, but it’s a really cool town that is worth more time so you can stroll and not just take a quick look at the cathedral.

Bayeux – our base for two nights. We stayed at the Hotel Villa Lara Fantastic hotel, extremely comfortable, central location, workout room. It’s brand new but not modern… built to blend in and match the style of a classic hotel. I would stay there again in a heart-beat and in fact, we wished we had booked one more night. The Villa Lara is the sister hotel to the Churchill. We originally tried to book the Churchill but it was (fortunately) full. The Churchill is also reputed to be nice, but smaller rooms.

Embarrassingly, we actually did not see the tapestry in Bayeux which is sort of like going to Paris and not noticing the Eiffel Tower.

Restaurants in Bayeux
La Rapiere is rated very highly and has the reputation of being the best though we didn’t get a reservation in time. As an alternate, our hotel recommended L’Angle Saint Laurent, a newer restaurant that hasn’t built its reputation yet. It will though. The meal was absolutely fantastic. We also had a nice casual dinner at Restaurant Le Drakkar.

We spent one day touring the battlefields with a group from Overlord Tours . I wanted a private tour but every guide in the area seemed to be booked within a month of our arrival. You might have better luck. We took their #3 Tour Omaha / Band of Brothers full day tour. No pun intended, but it was the “Longest Day”. We started at 8:30 and didn’t get back to our hotel until 7:30. The guide was interesting, but he should have cut the tour a bit shorter. I’d definitely want a tour, but if you do it yourself: Omaha, Pointe du’Hoc, Sainte Mere Eglise (and the airborne museum) and the American cemetary at Omaha. I’d recommend watching “The Longest Day” or Episodes 2 and 3 of Band of Brothers before you go. Warning, more violence and intensity in Band of Brothers where in the Longest Day, you can get caught up looking for cameos of famous actors.

Mont Saint-Michel
Stunning, HOWEVER, we were there on a French holiday weekend and it was wall to wall tourists. When planning our trip, we debated whether to book a hotel on Mont Saint-Michel or outside. We had the same debate over whether to be inside the walls of Saint-Malo. For both we booked outside because of concerns over parking. We definitely made the right choice being outside Mont Saint-Michel. I can’t imagine how inconvenient it would be to have your car in the mainland parking and trying to get your luggage over to and up the Mont. But then, we don’t travel light.

We stayed at the Hotel L’Ermitage. It was nice with big rooms. If I had it to do over, I would have booked a hotel in La Caserne (close enough to walk to the MSM shuttles or in Pontorson (10 min by bus from MSM) but with many good restaurants. As it was, our hotel was sort of in the middle.

We made reservations for lunch at the famous La Mere Poulard in Mont Saint-Michel. Their omelets and everything else were very good but EXPENSIVE. They also don’t have anything a la carte so you’re stuck with eating (and paying for) a 3-5 course meal.

We stayed at Hotel La Villefromoy. We liked the hotel, but it was a good long 35+ minute walk from the walled Saint-Malo. I wish we had found a place closer. Saint-Malo intra-malo (in the walls) is worth seeing but you can do it in less than a day. It is a good base for day trips though. Drive over to Point du Grouin and eat in Cancale.

Saint-Malo Restaurant recs: La Brasserie du Sillon (ocean view, fantastic French food, impressive wine list, pricey) and Pizzeria Chez Michel (the opposite of du Sillon in everything except quality… very tasty pizza, pastas)

We unfortunately had very little time to see Dinan or Dinard. Dinan definitely deserves many hours or even an overnight.

We spent a week cruising on the Barge Libje This was a fantastic experience which got us off the beaten path a bit. I’d be glad to talk to you more about the barge if you’re interested.

From the barge we took some day trips worth considering:

Josselin – nice tour of the chateau ground floor and gardens. Great meal at La Table d’O

Do yourself a favor… go to the village of La Gacilly. This town is totally dedicated to art. From the top of the hill down to the river, there are several streets where one must be a craftsman to live and work and it is shop after shop of these artisans displaying their work. From now until the end of September, the whole town has also become a photography exhibit. Everywhere you look, there are outdoor displays of enlarged photographs. We liked La Gacilly so much, we did two day trips there.

The village of Rochefort-en-Terre has been voted one of the 19 most beautiful villages in France. I’m not sure how they came up with such a contest, but I believe the results…. Lovely and nice shopping.

Believe it or not, if you are in to history, the Museum of Breton Resistance in Saint-Marcel is fascinating and could take hours to go through the well designed and informative exhibits. Who knew?

Brittany mussels weren’t “in season” in late May, early June but were fantastic everywhere. I can’t imagine how good they would be when in season.

We were exhausted by the time we got to Rennes and the weather was awful. I don’t recommend the Hotel de Lices (small rooms, cold staff, though the location would be good if you were there for the Saturday market). Rennes seemed like a good place to be 22, single, and have plenty of beer money. The population is about 200,000 and 60,000 are college students.

If you’re interested, the Calvados region, Domfrontais, where they grow many varieties of cidre pears, is a very different experience. Much less traveled, not at all touristy…and really interesting tasting experiences in Normandy. I prefer their product to the pays d’auge varieties, because I think the pears add a whole level of interest. And, most of that region is artisanal, too. (I have a particular favorite producer, who is also nice to visit— if you can find it .

The landing beaches and that whole “scene” are not to be missed by anyone with a sense of American history. The whole world changed when that invasion started. Almost everyone I know who’ve visited have found it emotionally overwhelming.

Just some thoughts. If you can find an artisanal camembert producer, that is always fun, too. And, if you like tripe? Caen has made it famous.

I particularly like St. Malo in Bretagne…and the “oyster” town of Cancale nearby. If you’re into museums, Rouen is full of them, though we were there in the cold of winter, and there is probably much more to see and do in the warmer weather.

I agree with some of the comments that you are covering an extremely large territory with much to see.

Mont Ste. Michel: by all means stay in a hotel on the island – as high up and near to the monastery as you can get a room. It is magical at night to walk amongst the lower monastery walkways at night. (Access to the monastery is gated at night, but you can walk up to right below those gates.) There are large lights that light up the various towers that provide an other-worldly scene. The thoughts that you can’t help but think: “This doesn’t really exist, does it? Am I really here and did someone really lug these huge rocks up here to build this incredible place?” The howling wind and views of distant lights up and down the Normandy coast are of indescribable beauty. It is somewhat terrifying to sit up there at dusk/nightfall and to think of the blood, sweat, and tears that built this island, and the monks that served there in an era before electricity and heavy equipment.

Because you will already be on the island, the next morning, you can be at the monastery gates early for the tours and beat the hordes who have to wait for the tides to allow access to the island. For ease in luggage-toting, just take a carry-on bag with you to the island for just what you need for the night and next day in your hotel. There are a lot of steps to go up. And up. It will be one night and one day that you will not forget.

Mont Ste. Michel is a World Heritage Site and if you have the ability to stay on the island, do it. You won’t regret it.

If I had a choice between either Mont Ste. Michel and St. Malo, I would choose the former.

West of Brest: good recommendation on going to Brest but only for the ships. Brest was decimated in World War II and was quickly rebuilt in a very dreary style. However, the landscape all around Brest is breathtaking. Take the drive to the end of the earth (or at least France) on Rue Ste. Mathieu and see why the French call Bretagne “savage”. It is coastline drive of incredible beauty, wildness, loneliness, and rocks – the savage coast – that takes one’s breath away. It is very, very different from the Normandy coastline.

At the end of the earth, you come across an abandoned abbey at Ste. Matthieu and a string of lonely lighthouses. Park your car and walk among the ruins.

This is an incredible coastline to explore and definitely not as central on the minds of tourists when they come to the north of France.

Whilst wandering about, one may be lucky enough to drive down an ancient lane nearby and stumble upon a sign (in French, of course) demarcating the very spot out at sea where the Atlantic Ocean meets the English Channel. According to the sign, Latitude 48° 25’ N and Longitude 04° 47,5’ W. I like these kind of ends of the world places.

This thread has been great. We have been thinking of taking a summer trip to Paris/Northern France next summer with our boys who are big history buffs.



At the risk of sounding simplistic, go to Normandy for the history, and to Brittany for the rugged romance. As stated earlier, the American Cemetery is a must and a very sobering experience. Do make a point to enter the visitor center and read the visitor book – the French still profoundly thank the Americans. Whenever someone tells me how they can’t stand the French, I remember the eloquent and heartfelt words of appreciation written in that visitor book. Also take time to walk among the German bunkers at nearby Omaha Beach.

Some more on Brittany: Another wonderful peninsula to explore is located across the water from Brest and ends in the delightful town of Camaret-sur-Mer. There are more abandoned medieval fortifications to explore and lots of mini-Stonehenges as well. The coastline views are superb.

A bit south, but still in Brittany is Quimper. Many people collect the dishes. The town is charming to the nth degree.

And finally, make sure that you put Bretagne butter on everything that you eat. It is the best butter in the world.

Wow, fantastic information! Thanks everyone! It is beginning to sound like we might want to consider Normandy OR Brittany rather than both since we plan, on this trip, to spend only a week or so in this general area…


Andrew, in a week or so you indeed won’t have time to cover the whole area, but you have time for Normandy + Mont St Michel.

Carrie, so many memories from reading your post. I studied for 2 years in Brest and indeed the town is not so nice (although it has improved recently from what I hear, I was there almost 20 years ago), but the boat festival is just amazing. Funny that you mention the Pointe St Matthieu as it was a ritual place to go to for us as students (we were studying on the west side of Brest). I think it all started when one day after we had cleaned up the traditional Friday night party and closed the bar, we were left with our coffee and croissants, and one guy said “let’s go and see the sunrise at Point of Matthieu”. That sounded like a great plan, except of course the Pointe is facing West :wink:

Brittany is pretty much a love affair for many people. Quite a few of my fellow students stayed in the area (they were coming from all parts of France). It’s definitely a special place.

Did you learn to speak Breton?