Normandy

Seine Maritime

The Seine Maritime harbours white alabaster cliffs and picturesque fishing villages, which inspired the great impressionist painters such as Monet.
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Perhaps the most representative image of this area are the high, white cliffs of the Côte d’Albâtre, which, at 120 km long, create one of the most fascinating and romantic panoramas in Normandy.

With their imposing bulk, they frame beautiful, picturesque fishing villages made up of enchanting, fairy-tale half-timbered houses, while behind them lie verdant pastures.

This is also the land where the great impressionist painters found the best landscapes to immortalise on their innovative canvases and a nature capable of enrapturing their souls.

In short, a land of imposing Gothic cathedrals, untamed nature and a table full of gastronomic delicacies.

Rouen

Rouen is a true architectural jewel in which art and culture blend wonderfully with a lively social life and an excellent gastronomic scene. It is one of the unmissable stops on any trip to Normandy and often the first base for exploring the region.

Rouen has remained magically unharmed by the bombings of the war and preserves one of the most outstanding Gothic cathedrals in Europe and a quaint and wonderful medieval old town with more than 200 authentic half-timbered houses.

It was also here that Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake, an event that gave Rouen a Gothic charm imbued with the dark atmosphere of the Inquisition.

Étretat

Étretat is a wonderful fishing village nestled between two of the coast’s most striking cliffs, the Falaise d’Amont and the Falaise d’Aval, and will leave you breathless.

Home to celebrities such as Guy de Maupassant, Corot, Coubert and Monet, this town seems to resurface straight out of a 19th century impressionist painting with its retro charm and antique colours.

Don’t miss the walk on the Falaise d’Aval reached by a long flight of steps from the seaside promenade. Here, the path will give you breathtaking views of the rocks below including the famous arch described by Maupassant as an elephant drinking in the sea, the town and the extraordinary La Manneporte Arch. We advise you to walk the entire path, even if it is very long, all the way, leaving the lazy tourists behind until you find yourself immersed in the most unspoilt nature.

Giverny

Giverny is a charming village that owes its fame to the famous house of Impressionist painter Claude Monet, who moved there in 1883 until his death in 1926.

A visit to the house, pink with green shutters, is exceptional: you can admire all the original interiors, such as the yellow dining room, the azulejos-clad kitchen and the collection of Japanese prints.

But even more than the house, what will amaze you is the garden from which Monet took inspiration for many of his paintings. In spring and summer, the garden is a riot of flowers and colours: the painter diverted the course of the river to feed his Japanese-style gardens, where he spent many hours travelling in his boat and where he painted the series of paintings that made him famous, the Water Lilies.

Fécamp

Fécamp, a small town at the foot of the great cliffs of Étretat, has always had a strong maritime vocation: in fact, fishing boats used to leave from here to catch Newfoundland cod. With its beautiful beach, brick houses and blue sea, it soon became a seaside resort.

Arriving in the centre of the town, you cannot fail to see the Palais Bénédictine, a wonderful monastery. It was here that a Benedictine monk invented a medicinal elixir by mixing different plants, the digestive Bénédictine , one of the world’s best sellers. In addition to a medieval art museum, you can visit the plant and spice room, the distillery and the cellars.

For an immersion in the medieval atmosphere, don’t miss a visit to the Abbatiale de la Sainte-Trinité, which has become one of France’s main pilgrimage sites for a drop of Christ’s blood. If you like unusual places, pop into the smokehouse district where this technique is still practised today and the tangle of chimneys in the brick houses exudes ancient smells.

Les Andelys

A picturesque village nestled on the banks of the Seine, Les Andelys is one of the most characteristic in the region, thanks to its beautiful natural setting with the river, wooded hills and high white cliffs.

As its name suggests, there are two twin towns, one modern, Grand Andely, the commercial heart, and the smaller, more original Petit Andely, with its beautiful riverside promenade, winding alleyways with half-timbered houses and flower gardens.

The Château-Gaillard, dominating the villages and the river, served a defensive purpose so fortified atop the cliff and has known fame and disgrace. Today it is almost entirely in ruins but its ghostly white walls hint at what it must have been like in the Middle Ages.
In any case, it is worth climbing up on a marked path (20-minute walk) to enjoy the view and the splendid panorama.

Dieppe

Dieppe is a small town with a somewhat rough charm, a former hideout of corsairs and explorers, it is a pleasant place that remains in the heart: at sunset, watching the harbour and the medieval castle burn is a real spectacle.

Le Château Musée is worth a visit if only for the priceless view over the city and the sea today is a collection of the city’s maritime and artistic history. If you want to learn all about the city’s maritime history, visit instead the Cité de la Mer, a small museum where everything about shipping and fishing is told.

Don’t miss a walk and dinner at the harbour, the real nerve centre of the town, tasting Dieppe’s typical dish, the marmite dieppoise, a creamy soup of fish, shellfish and crustaceans.

Finally, experience the large Saturday morning market, still with its strong peasant vocation.

Vernon

This town, heavily damaged by bombing, has preserved a small portion of its old town centre with its half-timbered houses and narrow alleyways that huddle around its imposing Gothic church, the Collégiale Notre-Dame with its marvellous rose window. Most tourists arrive here in anticipation of travelling to Giverny to see Monet’s house, whose Musée A.G. Poulain in Vernon preserves two paintings.

Arriving in town, stop along the river to admire the Vieux Moulin, the last of the five mills suspended over the water of the Seine. At the time it also served as a toll house for collecting tolls to cross the river.

Le Havre

The city of Le Havre was almost totally destroyed during the Second World War and at the end of the conflict it had to completely reinvent itself, reworking an urban and architectural plan based on concrete, the absence of ornaments, simplicity and essentiality.

The new urban planning style met with strong criticism despite the fact that some buildings were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. However, it remains a city that is difficult to love and in stark contrast to the medieval and picturesque character of Normandy, but it is also a nerve centre of regional and national maritime activities.

If you are in Le Havre, perhaps on business, one of the most interesting things to visit is the Musée Malraux, which houses an incredible collection of Impressionist paintings, including some by Renoir, Delacroix, Monet, Gauguin and Matisse.

Despite the bombings, it is also possible to visit the Notre-Dame cathedral, only partially damaged and one of the few remaining standing buildings in the city.

Eu

Eu is one of the prettiest towns in Normandy, with its beautiful sea, vestiges of the past and a spectacular forest behind it. If you have the patience to wander through its labyrinth of narrow alleys hiding old half-timbered houses, you will feel as if you are going back to the time of William the Conqueror.

Don’t miss the Château-museau Louis-Philippe and the church Notre-Dame et Saint-Laurent, an admirable example of flamboyant Gothic architecture, inside which is the tomb of Dublin bishop Lawrence O’Toole that still attracts many pilgrims from Ireland.

The ascent to the White Cliff by taking the funicular from Tréport (Eu’s twin town) or by climbing the 350 steps is well worth the time: the effort will be rewarded by a magnificent view.

Finally, we recommend a dinner of fresh fish in one of the many inexpensive restaurants.

Varengeville-sur-Mer

This tiny village can be an excellent base for visiting the area and will not fail to amaze you with its splendid views: it is no coincidence that it was loved by artists of the calibre of Monet, Dufy, Miro and Braque. From the Église Sainte-Marguerite, whose stained glass windows were made by Braque, you will enjoy a magnificent view of the cliffs.

Don’t miss a walk to the Parc du Bois des Moutiers, one of the most beautiful private gardens in France with 12 hectares of magnolias, azaleas, rhododendrons and Japanese maples sloping down to the sea.

The Manoir d’Ango is also worth a visit, built by the ship-owner and privateer Jehan Ango: its domed roof and Italian-style loggia frescoed by the school of Leonardo da Vinci is a hymn to the Italian Renaissance.

Veules-les-Roses

Tucked away in a small green valley in the hollow of the cliffs is this picturesque village that deserves a short stop: the smallest river in France, just 1100 metres long, rises and falls here.

This small village of fishermen and weavers is a tiny enchantment with period houses, flower gardens, a river on which ducks swim, small wooden bridges, half-timbered houses with thatched roofs and mill blades: follow the signposted footpath that will take you to the sea to admire the most picturesque views of the cliffs from a beautiful pebble beach.

Louviers

Along the winding, verdant Seine valley is this small town which, despite the bombings in 1940, has retained its charm with its half-timbered houses, ancient tradition of wool and cloth manufacture and lively Saturday morning market.

See the beautiful Gothic church of Notre-Dame and the Musée de Louviers where you can learn about the manufacturing history of the town. The Maison-en-Vaisselle Cassée is a strange residence where an eccentric collector has been collecting broken crockery and shells for 40 years, using them as decorations for the house, garden and garage. Although it is private, you can have a look at it through the gate.

Not far away you can enjoy one of the most spectacular views in the area. The Côte des Deux Amants is a 15-metre high spur with a magnificent view over the Seine valley, named after the tragic legend of two misunderstood lovers.

Lyons-la-Forêt

In the heart of the Lyons Forest and nestled on the banks of the River Lieure, Lyons-la-Forêt is a simply delightful village with its half-timbered houses intact since the 17th century, where peace reigns supreme and is often used for film settings.

Not far away is an interesting castle, the Château de Vascoeuil, which houses a museum on the French Revolution, beautiful gardens and a well-preserved colombier .

A few kilometres away, you can also visit the former Cistercian abbey Abbaye de Mortemer, unfortunately in a state of disrepair. Its stones were reused after the revolution to build Lisors, but today you can see the beautiful estate, which also includes an 18th-century château and a colombier with 934 niches. The abbey is said to be home to the ghost of Empress Mathilde and the last four monks whose heads were cut off. Don’t miss the medieval fair held on 15 August.

Pont-Audemer

Often referred to as the ‘Little Venice of Normandy’, Pont Audemer has retained a very special charm, a mixture of waterways, streets, buildings and half-timbered bourgeois houses, which can be discovered by following the historic centre: a plunge into the Middle Ages among stone bridges and the reflections of water on the façades of houses, a true quaint village that will enchant you.

Historically, Pont-Audemer is renowned for the quality of its hides, also used in the army of William the Conqueror, which were rinsed in the canals that run between the half-timbered houses.

The Canel Museum and the Church of St. Ouen are not to be missed, as are the nocturnal tours of the city.

If you come here between late June and early July, don’t miss the Festival de Mascarets, a riot of fireworks, street performers, concerts and events in the city.

The Abbeys of the Seine Maritime

Jumièges Abbey

Jumièges Abbey

1524 Rue Guillaume le Conquérant, 76480 Jumièges, Francia

Although all that remains of this immense abbey are ruins, its charm is incredible: just by imagining its original size, one can understand the magnificence it must have had at the time with its 46-metre-high bell towers.

The abbey was begun in 1020 at the instigation of William the Conqueror and soon became the beating heart of the area’s cultural and spiritual development, only to fall into decline during the Hundred Years’ War and be used as a stone quarry under the revolution.

These white ruins glistening in the sun are nestled in a beautiful park with centuries-old trees and cherry trees a stone’s throw from the Seine.

Saint Georges de Boscherville Abbey

16Pl. de l'Abbaye, 76840 Saint-Martin-de-Boscherville, Francia

The village of Saint-Martin-de-Boscherville hides this masterpiece of Norman Romanesque architecture with its sober and elegant lines, geometric motifs and majestic arches.

Although the visit is free of charge, it is worth taking the audio guide to learn all the artistic details and not to miss a single note: then continue with a walk in the surrounding gardens.

Saint-Wandrille de Fontenelle Abbey

172 Rue Saint-Jacques, 76490 Rives-en-Seine, Francia

This abbey, founded before the year 1000 and then destroyed by the Vikings, regained its former glory under William the Conqueror and then experienced an alternating history of destruction and reconstruction until it was taken over by the Benedictine monks who completely restored it.

It is also worth a visit just to stroll through the silent gardens of the monastic structure.

Map

In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article

Insights

Étretat

Étretat

Picturesque and enchanting, the village of Etretat is one of the jewels of the Alabaster Coast, famous for its white cliffs overlooking the crystal-clear turquoise sea.
Rouen

Rouen

Considered the capital of Normandy, charming Rouen is a jewel of architecture, with its fabulous old town and imposing Gothic cathedral, immortalised by Monet.
Giverny

Giverny

The village of Giverny looks like something out of a postcard: here lived the Impressionist painter Claude Monet, who painted his famous series of water lilies in this enchanting garden.
Fécamp

Fécamp

A lively seaside resort overlooking the English Channel, Fecamp is famous for its Benedictine distillate and impressive white cliffs overlooking the sea.
Le Havre

Le Havre

This port city was completely razed to the ground during the Great War: to be reborn, Le Havre focused on urban redevelopment and modern art.
Dieppe

Dieppe

A hideout of corsairs, explorers and Englishmen in love with its seafood cuisine, Dieppe is a charming town with a strong maritime vocation.