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.