The Best 5 Day Normandy Road Trip

Most people hear Normandy and think D Day beaches. Heck, even I did before I did my research! But Normandy is a region, not just a beach and it holds some of the most breathtaking scenery in all of France. Normandy is one of the most famous destinations in France and it's just a few hours outside of Paris. It's an easy addition to any trip, and it can be experienced with a road trip. There are miles and miles of rolling countryside and dramatic coastal cliffs and everything in between.  You really aren't going to want to miss it! Here's the ultimate 5 day Normandy road trip.


The Best 5-Day Normandy Road Trip


The Normandy region is rich in history with people like William the Conqueror and Joan of Arc changing the course of history. The beautiful landscapes inspired the impressionist movement when young artists started painting the dreamy scenery of the region. Driving through the area, you'll definitely feel like you are driving through a painting!

It is possible to book a tour for a day trip from Paris, but Normandy is definitely worth taking the time to explore. I'm sharing our 5-day Normandy road trip, but you can feel free to add in or take away days depending on how much time you have. I know that our 5-day trip whet my appetite and I'm excited to go back to a few of my favorites again one day!

How to Get to Normandy

There are three international airports that surround Normandy. From Paris, you can access the area easily by train. From the UK or Ireland, you can arrive by ferry. 

We started our travels in Paris, but I didn't want to rent a car in the city. We wanted to make the most of our time in Normandy and knew that a road trip would be the best option. I didn't want to be at the mercy of a bus or train, though public transportation in the area is generally very reliable and a great way to get around. 

Start Here: Tips for Renting a Car in France

We took the train from Paris Gare St. Lazare about 45 minutes to Mantes le Jolie {I purchased the tickets at the metro station} where we rented a car from Enterprise. The rental car office was across the street from the train station and it was an easy walk to check in.

normandy france road trip

5-Day Normandy Road Trip at a Glance

Day 1: Drive to Rouen, stop in Giverny
Day 2: Leave Rouen, Hike Cliffs of Etretat, Lunch/afternoon in Honfleur, Drive to Bayeux
Day 3: Explore Bayeux, including D Day Tour
Day 4: Drive to Mont St Michel
Day 5: Return to Paris



Where to Stay

We had one hotel, one Airbnb, and one bed and breakfast for this road trip. We stayed 1 night in Rouen, 2 nights in Bayeux, and 1 night in Mont St Michel before returning our car again to the Enterprise at Mantes le Jolie station. There are plenty of lodging options, do what works best for you! I will list where we stayed in each location. I would recommend all of them. They worked perfectly for my 20-year-old daughter and me traveling together.

We returned after our road trip for one evening to a hotel in Paris before departing from CDG the next afternoon. I wasn't sure if I should just go directly to the airport after returning our car. I fretted about that for some time. I'm actually glad we did this so that we had the chance to explore Paris one last time before heading home. 

Bayeux seems to be the most centrally located, so if you prefer not to pack up multiple times, you could use that town as your home base.

Day 1: Paris to Mantes le Jolie, stop at Giverny, Drive to Roeun

Renting a car in Mantes le Jolie seems to be the best option for the nearest town, that's easy to get to from Paris by train, and doesn't require any crazy city driving! We took the 10:15 metro from our Eiffel Tower apartment and headed to Gare St Lazare. Not going to lie, transferring from the metro to the train station was confusing and you'll be grateful that you packed light as you navigate the underground with your bags.

From Paris' Gare St Lazare station, we took the RER train to Mantes le Jolie {about a 40-minute ride} and were able to pick up our rental car a little before noon. 

*Remember, my car rental tips? Many rental agencies are closed from 12-2 every day for lunch and have limited weekend hours, so plan accordingly!

We headed to Giverny {pre-book your tickets!} in our rental car. It is about a 30-minute drive to the free parking near Monet's home and gardens.

After exploring Giverny you can head directly to Roeun, or make a few of the additional stops I've suggested.

Optional additional stops:

Chateau Gaillard {midevil castle ruins overlooking the Seine} 40km from Rouen
Lyons la Foret {noted as one of the most beautiful villages of France} 30 km from Rouen


Where to Stay Rouen

The first night we stayed in Rouen at the Hotel De La Cathedrale and it was perfect! There is no parking at the location, but there is parking about a block away at a secure underground location. It will cost around $20 to park overnight. The hotel is 150 feet away from the Rouen Cathedral in the heart of the city and the location is perfect for wandering through the cobblestone streets throughout all of the historic city. The building itself was built in the 1400s, but it was spacious and had all the amenities we needed including a beautiful view of the church and a private bathroom.

rouen historic hotel

What to do in Rouen

Let me start by saying that Rouen was by far my favorite city in France. I actually liked it more than I liked Paris! The food was the best we had on our entire trip, the people were friendly and the architecture was amazing. Being just a few hours outside of Paris, everything was much less expensive too! Which to my budget-loving heart definitely endeared me. But overall, the whole town just had a more relaxed vibe than Paris which I find hard to describe. The town of Rouen to me felt quaint and cozy. This is a town I'd definitely want to come and explore again one day.

cathedrale notre dame rouen

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Rouen

There are several beautiful gothic-style cathedrals in Rouen. This one was built and rebuilt over a period of 800 years and was the subject of a series of Monet paintings. 

rouen france half timber houses

Wander the Streets

The city is known for its half-timbered houses and several of the areas are closed to cars, making it a very pedestrian-friendly area to wander around. The hotel is on a pedestrian street, so it's easy to just start walking in either direction. We liked just popping into shops or cafes and wandering down street after more adorable street!

Gros Horloge

As you wander the streets don't miss wandering under and through this magnificent clock situated in the center of town. I have read that you can go inside of it to see the inner workings and you'd probably get a fun little view of the city from up there!

Eglise Sainte Jeanne d'Arc

A church stands now at the site where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. Read the reviews and they are mixed. Many people don't like the architecture of the church that was built in her honor. There is a garden nearby that is lovely as well as some ruins from that time period. The whole area is surrounded by cafes, bars, and restaurants. 

Day 2: Cliffs of Etretat, Honfleur and drive to Bayeaux

We started the morning of day 2 in Rouen at a lovely cafe where we had a French breakfast. We picked up a few snacks at the local boulangerie and then checked out of our hotel.

french breakfast

Cliffs of Etretat

We drove a little more than an hour to the town of Etretat. We wanted to hike around the Cliffs of Etretat along the coast. The clifftop hike is breathtaking, and I wish it were easier to describe how to get there, but we literally found a parking lot, and then followed someone through several farm fields {about 1 mile} past the edge of the golf course and then finally found a sign! The out and back hike is about 3 miles and it's just lovely. 

hike cliffs of etretat

Things to know before you Hike Cliffs of Etretat

Bring bug spray! There were a lot of bugs! Sturdy shoes are suggested, though my daughter did it in her Birkenstocks! There are a few steep hillside scrambles up and down, but overall, it's a relatively easy hike. There is no water on the trail, and no shelter from the sun, so come prepared!

cliffs of etretat normandy

If you want to explore the beach, please pay attention to the tides! At low tide you can explore caves and caverns, however, the tide can come in quickly and leave you stranded!

Optional stop:

Les Jardins D'Etretat: beautiful gardens with a view inspired by Monet



We left Etretat and headed to Honfleur, about a 47-minute drive {with tolls}. Honfleur is the estuary where the Seine meets the English Channel. The Vieux Bassin {old harbor} is lined with 16th-18th century townhouses. The town was bustling when we visited because a cruise ship had docked for the day. If at all possible, find out what days the cruise ships dock, and visit this town, otherwise, it feels very crowded!


Visit the Vieux Bassin

This postcard-perfect area is a beautiful area to explore. The heart of the harbor is bustling with shops and restaurants and it's the perfect place to wander the streets surrounding the area and take in the history of the town.

St. Catherine's Church

This vaulted timber structure was built by shipbuilders and it's a magnificent church to wander through in the heart of the city.


Optional Stop:

Caen is about 25 minutes away from Bayeux {the final stop for the day} making it a great city to stop and explore. 

You can take a sightseeing tour by Segway around Caen or make a stop at Chateau de Caen. Chateau de Caen was built around 1060 by William the Conquerer. It was seriously damaged in WWII, but it's still one of the largest castles in Europe. The Chateau is now home to several museums that you can explore.



Bayeux from Honfleur is about an hour's drive. 

Bayeux has deep historic roots and has the most stunning historic city center reaching back to Roman times. Bayeux avoided much of the destruction from WWII and was the first city to be liberated on D Day. This is the best location for a visit to the beaches from D Day as well as the local war museums and British cemeteries. 


Where to Stay in Bayeux

We booked an Airbnb that was more like a bed and breakfast, without the breakfast. We had a large room with a private bathroom on the third floor of a personal home. The home was beautiful and it was directly across from the church, with the most incredible view from our windows. If you'd like the link, please e-mail me. There are other options in the area as well. This was just our experience and it was perfect!

Day 3: D-Day Tour and Explore Bayeux

D-Day Tour

No visit to Normandy is complete without a D-Day tour. We booked a half-day tour with Overlord. They came highly recommended but for two individuals not really that interested in war strategy, this very technical tour, was probably not best suited for us. The tour guide was very knowledgeable. We just needed a more Drunk History version of the day's events and places, rather than a high-level overview of military strategy. Take that recommendation for what it's worth. There are plenty of tours out there.


Booking a D-Day Tour

Make sure that when you book the D Day Tour, you are visiting the sites you want to see. I considered driving the area on my own, however, if you only book one tour, let it be an informative D Day Tour. 

There are several sectors you can visit depending on your interest. There is an American sector, a British sector, and a Canadian sector, depending on what information you want to learn and from what perspective. All of the guides we encountered were very knowledgeable. 


These are the top sites you want to look to have included in your tour if you want to see the American sector: Longues Sur Mer, Omaha beach, the American cemetery, and Pointe du Hoc.

Honestly, a half-day tour was long enough for us. It's a very heavy day and regardless of the tour you take, you will come away with a greater appreciation of the sacrifices that are made for our freedom.


Is it Appropriate to Sun Bathe on the Beaches of Normandy?

The D Day landing beaches extend over 70km. There was a lot of bloodshed on those beaches and sacrifices made for freedom. It can be difficult to hear children laughing and locals enjoying watersports on those same beaches. It's a good reminder that those sacrifices were made for this freedom. If you are visiting the beaches and are in the mindset of what occurred on that June day in 1944, then it can be difficult to wrap your head around enjoying a visit to the beach, but know that the locals enjoy the area beaches and they also have a healthy reverence for what occurred on those beaches as well. So learn what you can, but also take the time to enjoy the beauty of the area despite the tragedy that occurred.

bayeaux cathedral

Tour Notre Dame Cathedral

Our Airbnb was literally across the street from this magnificent medieval cathedral built in 1077. You can take a guided tour, or walk around on your own. Our favorite coffee shop was located nearby, so don't miss an afternoon refreshment after your tour!


Explore the City of Bayeux

The city of Bayeux was largely spared from the bombings in 1944, so wandering through this medieval city is just delightful. You can stroll along the banks of the River Aure and follow the river for about a mile through areas with beautiful stone houses while you take in the waterwheels and beautiful views. 

You'll find streets lined with shopping and food, and it's a fun way to spend an afternoon!

Optional Stop:

Arromanches Les Bains 


Arromanches was probably my favorite harbor town. This charming seaside resort town has a beautiful stretch of beach {often called Gold beach} and at low tide, it exposes old temporary piers that were used as part of Mulberry harbor. The locals have requested that the old war artifacts be left there as a remembrance of the day. We walked the beach at low tide and looked for shells and rocks enjoying a beautiful sunset while children played, horses galloped, and women dug for clams and muscles. It's just lovely.

Bayeaux Tapestry Museum

This museum was recommended over and over again, often touted as "the highlight for most tourists in town", and knowing it was a museum that held an incredibly large piece of embroidered linen just didn't move the needle for us enough to visit. Maybe we missed out. Maybe we didn't. That's for you to decide.

Because we spent two days in Bayeaux, we were able to slow down a bit in this area. It was nice to find a local coffee shop and make it our own and to walk the streets and pop into the various shops. It feels a bit like walking back in time. 


Day 4: Mont St Michel

We had a late morning in Bayeux at our Airbnb. We wanted to get coffee from our favorite local shop across the street. After checking out, it was an hour and 23-minute drive to our bed and breakfast just outside of Mont St. Michel.


Where to Stay

To Stay on Mont St Michel or to Stay Nearby?

I thought long and hard about this one. You can stay on Mont St Michel. There are a few hotels and a few Airbnbs on the island. A few hotels that come highly recommended are Auberge Saint Pierre and La Mere Poulard.  You can find a few Airbnbs on the app or website. 

I read reviews and sadly, in the past few years, after the main tourists leave, it seems like those who stay on the island are treated to expensive service that is very poor. The options you have are limited, so you get what you get. Again, this is from reviews I've read, not from personal experience.

It's also not super easy to navigate Mont St Michel. If I were trying to wheel my luggage up through massive amounts of tourists through complicated cobblestone streets and up hundreds of stairs, I'm not sure my mood would have been super great. 

Those factors helped seal my decision to stay off the island, but honestly, the main thing that helped me make our decision is the fact that you can't see the beauty of the island if you are ON the island!

We stayed at a local bed and breakfast called Etoile des Greves and it was lovely. The rooms were spacious and updated and the included French breakfast was homemade and delicious. The jam that was available was homemade with local fruit. It was also an easy walk to get to the free shuttle to Mont St. Michel. Otherwise, we would have had to pay for parking. 

In the evening, we got to watch the local sheep farmers take hundreds of sheep from the fields back to the barn across the street and that was a highlight! So there are definite perks to staying off the island.

Visiting Mont St Michel

I nearly booked two days here, and I'm so glad I didn't. You really only need a few hours on the island. Definitely book the Abbey tickets, and get the audio guide, otherwise, you will have no idea what you are seeing! 


Pro Tip: Check the tide charts! Make sure you know high tide and low tide before your trip so that you can plan accordingly. 

You can walk around the island easily at low tide, but come prepared. There's not a great way to wipe your feet off and the surrounding sand is squishy since it's often underwater. It won't just brush off.

Because of the newly constructed bridge that replaced an old causeway, you can get on and off the island at high tide MOST days. However, there are some times when the tide is too high and you'll have to wait it out. 

You can walk over the bridge to Mont St. Michel, however, there's also a free shuttle you can take as well. The shuttle operates every day from 7:30 am-8 pm. If you'd like to walk, it's about a mile to get to the entrance.

What to do in Mont St Michel


Mont Saint Michel Abbey

There has been some type of monastery establishment on Mont Saint Michel since 966 and there are still monks and nuns who live at the Abbey. There are three layered levels that you can tour {with admission}, and it's definitely worth buying tickets for. You will see prayer books with room for requests that the order prays over. There are services that are open to the public. You simply show up at the Abbey gate at the times listed and the services are free and there is no admission payment required to get in.

La Grande Rue

The streets of Mont St Michel look more like a fairytale and less like a French village, and you'll immediately step onto La Grande Rue. It is often very crowded, but it's a beautiful way to take in the area.


Visit Pontorson

If you stay at the bed and breakfast I recommend, you'll be staying in Pontorson, a sweet little village with more sheep than residents. There is a hiking path in the area that pilgrims used to take to the island. If you'd like to take a different way in, this is a great alternative. I don't have much information on it, so do your research and let me know if you do it! 

The sheep farm nearby has lambs that graze during the day on the salt marsh fields in front of Mont St Michel and in the evening a trusty farmer and his sheepdogs, herd the hundreds of sheep back across the street and back to the barn in the center of the village. It's a sight to see!

Optional Stop:

Beauvoir: This quaint little town has several beautiful viewpoints of Mont St. Michel
Le Moulin de Moidrey: About 5 km from Mont St. Michel, this windmill is a working flour mill where the miller gives tours and sells his own flour. I hear it's a charming little stop that is definitely on my list for the next trip.


Day 5: Return to Mantes le Jolie and Paris

This will be your longest day of travel. We started with the best French breakfast {included!} and then hopped on the highway to return our rental car. You could also decide to return your car to a nearby location. Caen is your next big city and then you could hop the train back to the city. Usually dropping off your rental car at a different location than you rented it at can be pricey, but it's worth checking.

We drove the four hours back to the rental car location at Mantes le Jolie so we had the afternoon in Paris to enjoy. However, you could use this time to make other stops along the way to break up your trip. 

Don't miss my tips for renting a car in France



This 5-day itinerary captured the beauty of a region steeped in history. It was the highlight of our time in France and one I'm so glad we took the time to do. I don't think you will be disappointed if you get out of the city of Paris and plan a 5-day road trip through this beautiful area!

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