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Normandy Family Holidays & Breaks

Deauville beach, Norman RivieraDeauville beach, Norman Riviera© Conrad Williams
Honfleur harbour, Norman RivieraHonfleur harbour, Norman Riviera© Conrad Williams
Deauville beach, Norman RivieraDeauville beach, Norman Riviera© Conrad Williams
Greenway sign, Seine MaritimeGreenway sign, Seine Maritime© Rhonda Carrier
Flying Time 1.25hrs
Carbon Footprint 0.3 CO2
Timezone GMT +1
Currency Euro

Today

Overview

Beautiful in a low-key way and very easy to get to, Normandy is studded with enchanting seaside towns, ancient harbours, Romanesque and Gothic architectural treasures, medieval monasteries, Impressionist paintings and some unspoilt and charming countryside that makes it fantastic for family holidays. The dramatic Mont-St-Michel, France’s most-visited attraction outside Paris, and the Bayeux Tapestry are both world famous, while Normandy’s renowned produce will ensure you'll eat like kings and queens.

Things to do with kids in Normandy

Visit the 8th-century Benedictine abbey of Mont-St-Michel clinging to its rocky outcrop, which inspired the design of Minas Tirith in Lord of the Rings. Explore its higgledly-piggledy cobbled (and steep) alleyways, see the son-et-lumière show at the Archéoscope, and take at look at its eerie crypts and maritime and historical museums.

Then venture into the Mont’s spectacular bay of quicksands, which once swallowed hordes of pilgrims. Access is strictly by guided walk or by tractor-drawn cart – the tides are Europe’s fastest-moving.

Those on family holidays with little kids shouldn’t miss nearby Alligator Bay, which includes a ‘farm’ of 300 tortoises that you can pet.

Get a close-up look at the Bayeux Tapestry, a sort of early comic-strip recounting the Battle of Hastings and Norman Conquest. See if you can spot the depictions of dragons and of Haley’s comet.

Learn about the D-Day landings, and global war and peace in general, at the Mémorial de Caen, with loads of hands-on displays for older kids and a free crèche for under-11s.

Take younger kids to Festyland just outside Caen, where more than 30 prehistoric, Viking, William the Conqueror and pirate themed rides and attractions provide a fun introduction to the region’s history.

Hit the beaches of the Norman Riviera, in one of the string of resorts that became fashionable among Parisians in the 19th century. School holidays see kids’ entertainment galore, and there are great hotels, restaurants and shops. Those with toddlers will appreciate the vast beaches at Deauville and Cabourg best of all.

Zoom over the Pont de Normandie arching dramatically over the Seine estuary between Le Havre and Honfleur – it briefly held the record for the world’s longest cable-stay bridge when it was built in 1995.

Admire the luminous-white cliffs of the Alabaster Coast with its natural archways that inspired Monet – spot his favourite one at Etretat, said to resemble an elephant dipping its trunk in the water.

Visit medieval Rouen, where Joan of Arc burnt at the stake and Monet came to obsessively paint the cathedral. As well as wandering around its streets full of quaint half-timbered houses and its excellent museums, you can pick up a free children’s trail at the tourist office, led by a friendly gargoyle.

Wonder at Château-Gaillard at Les Andelys, a architectural masterpiece of a fortress built by Richard the Lionheart on a clifftop by the Seine. Now in ruins, it’s a romantic spot for some play-acting and history-telling, and there are great guided tours too.

Stimulate kids’ interest in art by taking them to Monet’s garden at Giverny, which inspired his water-lilies and other famous works.  

Eat

Normandy is famous for its rich dishes, many cooked in the superb regional cream or featuring the fabulous local cheeses (including Camembert). But there are also apples, which sneak into both savoury recipes and desserts – every town and village has its own apple tart recipe, or try flan normand, an apple pie with flaky pastry (served, naturally, with cream). Mum and Dad might also appreciate the apples in the form of the local Calvados and cider. Pears are good here too, and there’s a yummy local rice pudding, tergoule, flavoured with cinnamon, that's a must-try on family holidays in the region.

Then there’s the seafood – faultlessly fresh, and perhaps most child-friendly when served as a creamy marmite Dieppoise (Dieppe fish stew) – and the melt-in-the-mouth pré-salé lamb, which grazes on the salt marshes around the Mont-St-Michel.

When to go to Normandy

Normandy gets ferociously busy, and correspondingly expensive, in July and especially August, particularly on the Norman Riviera, yet this is when there’s most on for families, including kids’ beach clubs (‘Clubs Mickey’). In spring, early or late summer, or autumn, you’ll have many attractions virtually to yourselves (except on a holiday weekend), but you’ll need to plan ahead for rainy days – the weather is as changeable as in Britain.

Winter is generally a no-no for family holidays, although you might consider a Christmas shopping trip to chi-chi Deauville, which puts on the glitz with its Noël au Balcon street arts festival complete with Santa’s cottage on the Place du Marché (serving hot chocolate and mulled wine), a parade, puppet theatre, fire-eating and more.

Cost

Outside the Norman Riviera, Normandy offers good value for family holidays, despite the current strength of the Euro, especially if you self cater.

Expect to pay from around £40 per night at a budget hotel to £350 at a luxury hotel (2 adults and 2 children). Think in the region of £4,800 a week for a huge villa sleeping 12 at the height of summer.

Camping holidays, ferry crossing included, can cost from as little as £99 per family for a week. 

By Rhonda Carrier

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