History buffs will love this Northern France itinerary, which spans an impressive timeline from the Norman invasion of England in 1066 to the D-Day landings of 1944. With the help of local guides, you'll experience the island monastery of Mont Saint Michel, visit transfixing WWII memorials, photograph spectacular cliffs, and enjoy free time in the evenings to dine in a range of charming port cities.

Highlights

  • Kick off the trip with a free day in Paris where you can summit the Eiffel Tower
  • Climb the narrow alleys and ancient abbey crowning medieval Mont Saint Michel
  • Get close to important WWII landing sites like Pointe du Hoc and Omaha Beach
  • Enjoy a day exploring stunning cliffs, beaches, and coastal towns
  • Finish the trip in Giverny with a tour of Claude Monet’s home and gardens

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Paris - Explore the City Paris
Day 2 Transfer to Normandy - Tour of Mont Saint Michel Mont Saint Michel
Day 3 Tour of Normandy's Landing Beaches Caen
Day 4 Tour of Caen Caen
Day 5 Tour of Normandy's Coastal Towns Rouen
Day 6 Tour of Rouen & Giverny Vernon
Day 7 Transfer to Paris - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Paris - Explore the City

Sunset skyline aerial view from the L'Arc de Triomphe
Sunset skyline aerial view from the L'Arc de Triomphe

Welcome to Paris, the City of Lights! Upon arrival, you'll be greeted by a private driver and transferred to your accommodation where you can drop off your luggage and hit the streets.

Synonymous with food, culture, fashion, and architecture, Paris needs no introduction. Despite being the dream destination for millions of people each year, the French capital still has plenty of hidden secrets to offer. Monument-lined boulevards, museums, classical bistros, and boutiques are now enhanced by a new wave of multimedia galleries, creative wine bars, design shops, and tech start-ups.

A good place to spend your first evening is by visiting the 1050-foot (320-m) tall Eiffel Tower, conceived by Gustave Eiffel as a temporary exhibit for the 1889 World's Fair. Luckily, the art nouveau tower's popularity assured its survival.

It's advised to prebook your tickets online, which gives you access to the lifts to the first two floors and the summit. It's a timed entry ticket, but be aware that you can spend some time in line because of security checkings and the number of tourists. Another option is to climb as far as the 2nd floor via the south pillar's 704 stairs (no prebooking needed). 

Enjoy the rest of the evening exploring Paris your own!

Day 2: Transfer to Normandy - Tour of Mont Saint Michel

Mont St. Michel at low tide
Mont St. Michel at low tide

After breakfast in Paris, you'll be picked up at your hotel and transferred to Mont Saint Michel, a small island in a bay off the northern coast of France where Normandy and Brittany meet. Topped with a jaw-dropping castle, this UNESCO-listed site is one of the most popular tourist attractions in France. 

Upon arrival in the afternoon, your guide will show you around Mont Saint Michel's highlights from the slender spires, stout ramparts, and rocky slopes, which (depending on the time of day) either rise dramatically from the sea or tower over sands laid bare by the receding tide*. Despite receiving huge numbers of tourists, the island's abbey and narrow alleys still manage to transport visitors back to the Middle Ages.

*The bay around Mont Saint Michel is famed for having Europe's highest tidal variations; the difference between low and high tides can reach an astonishing 49 feet (15 m), and the island is completely surrounded by the sea every month or two. Regardless of the time of year, the waters sweep in at an astonishing clip, said to be as fast as a galloping horse.

Following the tour, you'll check into your nearby hotel where you'll have the remainder of the day to explore on your own.

Day 3: Tour of Normandy's Landing Beaches

Pointe du Hoc along the English Channel
Pointe du Hoc along the English Channel

This morning, you'll be picked up by your guide for a tour of Normandy's landing sites during D-Day, the largest seaborne invasion in history.

Before you get to these though, you'll explore the cobbled, medieval town of Bayeux where you'll visit the Tapestry Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral, and sites related to William the Conqueror. 

The rest of the day belongs to the brave soldiers who fought for freedom in 1944. You’ll first head to Pointe du Hoc, a stunning place of natural beauty scarred by heavy aerial and naval bombardment. Walk the lunar landscapes that underscore the infamous feat carried out by U.S. Rangers who scaled the 100-foot cliffs to boot out the enemy, thus securing this imposing strongpoint.

Then head to Normandy's coastal battlefield grounds for a tour of Omaha Beach, one of two landing areas where Americans lost many lives. You'll also visit the American cemetery in Colleville, a site stretching 170 acres housing 9,387 tombs.

Following the tour, transfer to a hotel in Caen where you'll have the rest of the evening to explore on your own.

Day 4: Tour of Caen

Saint Etienne le Vieux in Caen
Saint Etienne le Vieux in Caen

After breakfast, you'll embark on a guided tour of Caen, founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century.

This important and delightful small city offers plenty of historical sites despite being heavily damaged in World War II.  In fact, 1,500 of the town's citizens camped out in a church. Others lived in the hospice of the Bon Saveur nearby, and the majority of citizens left town to live in the quarries and caves of Fleury, just a mile south of Caen. All this to say, Caen suffered greatly and much of what you see today is largely a reconstruction of the old town.

Sites on today's agenda include the Normandy Museum, Saint Nicholas Church, Château de Caen, Saint Étienne Abbey, Sainte Trinité Abbey, Port of Caen, and other sites related to William the Conqueror.

Day 5: Tour of Normandy's Coastal Towns

Beautiful cliffs and beaches at Etretat
Beautiful cliffs and beaches at Etretat

After breakfast in Caen, your guide will pick you up from your hotel for a tour of Normandy's coastline with stops in Honfleur, Etretat, and Dieppe

The excursion starts in Honfleur. Long a favorite with painters such as Monet, Normandy's most charming port town is a popular day-trip destination for Parisian families. It's hard not to love the rugged maritime charm of the Vieux Bassin (old harbor), which evokes maritime Normandy of centuries past. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Honfleur was one of France's most important ports for commerce and exploration. Some of the earliest French expeditions to Brazil and Canada began here.

Next is the small and delightful village of Étretat, where dramatic coastal scenery is framed by twin cliffs, hence becoming a favorite of painters such as Corot, Boudin, Courbet, and Monet. With the popularity of sea air at the end of the 19th century, fashionable Parisians came here to build extravagant villas. Étretat remains popular and still swells with visitors every weekend who relax on the beach, wander up and down the shoreline, or clamber up to the fantastic vantage points above the chalk cliffs.

The tour concludes with a visit to Dieppe. This fishing port offers the centuries-old Chateau de Dieppe on a clifftop overlooking a pebbly beach. Make sure to check out the castle’s museum, which includes maritime exhibits, ivory sculptures, and impressionist paintings. Nearby, the Memorial of 19 August 1942 is a museum honoring the lives lost in the Dieppe Raid of WWII. There's also the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery. 

At the end of your tour, transfer to a hotel in Rouen where you'll have the rest of the day to explore on your own.

Day 6: Tour of Rouen & Giverny

Start the day in Rouen

Today, you'll be picked up at your hotel by a guide for a morning tour of Rouen. With its soaring Gothic cathedral, beautifully restored medieval quarter, imposing ancient churches, excellent museums, and vibrant cultural life, Rouen is one of Normandy’s most engaging and historically rich destinations.

The city has endured a turbulent history: It was devastated by fire and plague several times during the Middle Ages and was occupied by the English during the Hundred Years War. If that's not enough, the young French heroine Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc) was tried for heresy and burned at the stake in the central square in 1431. More recently, during WWII, Allied bombing raids laid waste to large parts of the city, especially south of the cathedral.

Next, you'll spend the afternoon in Giverny, one of the most colorful sites in Normandy where you can experience Claude Monet’s home and gardens. In addition to his living quarters and workshop, you'll also tour the gardens that became dear to the impressionist master, including the pond, Japanese bridge, and floating water lilies, often depicted in his paintings. 

At the end of your tour, transfer to a hotel in Vernon, just a few miles from Giverny, where you'll have the rest of the day to explore on your own.

Day 7: Transfer to Paris - Departure

Goodbye, Paris!
Goodbye, Paris!

It's time to say goodbye to France! At the designated time you'll be picked up from your hotel by a private driver and transferred to the airport in Paris for your departure home or next destination. Au revoir! 

Map

Map of Normandy Discovery Tour - 7 Days
Map of Normandy Discovery Tour - 7 Days