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Lower Normandy Travel Guide
Mont Saint Michel, Lower Normandy (© Billy Chan | iStockphoto.com)
Mont Saint Michel, Lower Normandy.

Introduction

Lower Normandy (Basse-Normandie in French) is one of France's 27 administrative regions and is the western half of historical Normandy. It was created in 1984 from the division of Normandy in two regions. With 1.4 million inhabitants, it is the least populated region in western France after Limousin. Covering 17,589 km² (6,791 sq mi), it is slightly larger than the US state of Connecticut.

Lower Normandy is renowned for its green pastures, dairy farming, Camembert cheese, apple cider and Calvados brandy. The local cuisine makes use of fresh fish and seafood (mussels, scallops, oysters), voluptuous cream sauces and soft cheeses. Apple desserts (tarts, cakes) also feature prominently.

Travel highlights include the iconic Mont Saint-Michel, the most visited attraction in France outside the Parisian region, and the Bayeux Tapestry, an extraordinary piece of medieval embroidery depicting the Norman conquest of England. Although Rouen, in Upper Normandy, was the historical capital of the Duchy of Normandy, William the Conqueror was born at Falaise Castle, and is interred at the imposing Caen Cathedral, both in Lower Normandy.

In the mid-19th century, Emperor Napoleon III turned Deauville and Trouville into seaside resorts for the international upper class. They have since become a sort of Norman Riviera, complete with marinas, a racecourse, a Grand Casino, plenty of luxury hotels, and an international film festival.

On 6 June 1944, the beaches of Lower Normandy became the theatre of the largest amphibious military operations ever carried out. An army of over 150,000 American, British and Canadian troops landed on an 80 km (50-mile) stretch of coast between Cherbourg and Caen to regain control of Nazi-occupied Europe. Nearly 70 years later, the D-Day beaches of Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword still attract large number of visitors, especially from the former Allied countries.

Famous people from Upper Normandy include (chronologically): the poet François de Malherbe, the gourmet food producer Auguste Fauchon, the writer André Breton, the fashion designer Christian Dior, the actor Jean Marais, and the TV presenter Michel Drucker.

Attractions

Département du Calvados

Caen
Caen, Lower Normandy
outstanding Caen is the capital of and largest city in Basse-Normandie. Its history is intertwined with William the Conqueror.
Bayeux
Bayeux, Lower Normandy
outstanding Founded by the Romans, destryoyed by the Vikings, Bayeux is famous for its tapestry depicting the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England.
Château de Fontaine-Henry
Fontaine-Henry Castle, Lower Normandy
outstanding Fontaine-Henry has belonged to the same family for nearly a thousand years. The present castle was built in the 16th century and is one of the most splendid example of Renaissance architecture in northern France.
Honfleur
Honfleur, Lower Normandy
very good Honfleur is a colourful, picturesque little port popular with Impressionist painters like Monet, Courbet and Boudin.

D-Day Sites

very good Arromanches-les-Bains
good Juno Beach
good Longues-sur-Mer
very good Omaha Beach

Other attractions

very good Balleroy Castle
good Bricquebec Castle (ruins)
good Cabourg
very good Colombières Castle
very good Creully Castle
very good Deauville-Trouville
good Dives-sur-Mer
very good Falaise Castle
good Houlgate
very good Château des Ravalet
good Regnéville Castle (ruins)
outstanding Château de Vendeuvre

Département de la Manche

Mont Saint-Michel
Mont-Saint-Michel, Lower Normandy
must-see One of France's most iconic sights, Mont-Saint-Michel is the most visited attraction outside Paris.

Avranches
Avranches, Lower Normandy
very good Avranches is the nearest town from Mont Saint Michel. Its museum houses one of the largest collections of medieval illuminated manuscripts in France.
Granville
Granville, Lower Normandy
very good A picturesque fishing town close to Mont-Saint-Michel and with ferry link to Jersey.

Other attractions

good Barneville-Carteret
very good Coutances
very good Gratot Castle
good Hambye Abbey (ruins)
very good Pirou Castle
good Utah Beach

Département de l'Orne

Alençon
Alençon Castle, Lower Normandy
outstanding A fortified town, home to the lofty castle of the Dukes of Alençon, a title awarded to a younger brother of the kings of France.

Other attractions


good Argentan
very good Bagnoles-de-l'Orne
outstanding Carrouges Castle
very good Manoir de la Chaslerie, in La Haute-Chapelle
good Domfront
very good Flers Castle outstanding La Perrière
very good Château de Médavy
very good Château d'Ô
very good Manoir de la Saucerie, in La Haute-Chapelle
outstanding Château de Sassy & Gardens

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Cities, towns, villages & historic buildings

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