We thought we’d bundle up everything you need to know about our département – whether it’s your first, second, third or umpteenth time exploring Normandy Tourism. Here’s the who, why, where, what and how of your best-ever short break or holiday in France:
Mainland France is made up of 12 regions, and Normandy is one of them – just over the Channel from the south coast of England in fact.
So, if you look at France as a hexagon (did you know that ‘L’Hexagone’ is its nickname?), Normandy is wedged halfway between the uppermost peak (Calais) and the hexagon’s next anticlockwise point (Brest).
Normandy is lucky enough to have some of France’s best beaches and countryside and the main cities in Normandy are Rouen and Caen (a perfect French city break, for the record!).
Easy. There are five ‘départements’ in the region of Normandy – it might help to think of ‘départements’ as counties or states. They’re called Manche, Orne, Eure, Seine Maritime… and the best one (though we might be biased) … CALVADOS.
A 75-mile stretch of stunning coastline sweeps across Calvados from Isigny-sur-Mer in the west to Honfleur in the east, and the south of the département is framed – roughly speaking – by the beautiful inland towns of Vire, Falaise and Livarot. The city of Caen is more or less in the centre of Calvados.
That’s easy too: the answer is anyone who likes multi-faceted holidays (relax and unwind, but also return home having discovered something new too), and anyone who wants to do their bit for the planet by avoiding flights and endless drives – Normandy is right on the UK’s doorstep, mes amis!!
… because the holiday starts on the ferry for kids, right? Also, because there’s nothing more eye-opening for kids than all the giddy sights, sounds and smells of another country over the sea. The chance to practise a little ‘je voudrais’ and the scope for show-and-tell back home is endless!
For people travelling in big groups, be that clubs, associations or herds of friends or family, the savvy know to sit back and let a driver do the hard work! Charter a coach from your hometown to explore Normandy Tourism’s most famous sites – the camaraderie makes for an unforgettable holiday!
Holidays for grandparents + the grandchildren + the everyone in between are on trend, and with generation-spanning history, crowd-pleasing food, tons of inclusive and accessible activities and everything within spitting distance on the other side of the Channel, Calvados fits the bill for multigen holiday to perfection.
The Calvados département boasts spas, cosy restaurants, walking routes, art, culture, cookery courses and all manner of new experiences tailored for two.
Not surprisingly (given its proximity), the climate in Normandy is similar to the climate in the south of the UK. May to September are generally the warmest months with temperatures climbing to around 24 degrees in July and August. They may not reach the heights of the balmy Côte d’Azur, but nature’s own air-con offers the perfect balance for a holiday alternating beach days with sightseeing days.
Travel from Portsmouth to Caen with Brittany Ferries (This is the most direct route to Calvados! Caen city centre is an onward journey of 9 miles)
Travel from Poole to Cherbourg with Brittany Ferries (Caen is an onward journey of 76 miles)
Travel from Portsmouth to St Malo with Brittany Ferries (Caen is an onward journey of 107 miles)
Travel from Dover to Calais with DFDS Ferries or P&O Ferries (Caen is an onward journey of 210 miles)
Travel from Folkestone to Calais with Eurotunnel (Caen is an onward journey of 210 miles)
For those travelling into Paris, you can reach Caen in around 2 to 3 hours by train or car.
Train services: There are around 20 train departures per day between Paris and Caen. There are also train stations in the Calvados towns of Bayeux, Vire, Lisieux, Mézidon-Canon, Trouville-Deauville, Pont l’Evêque and Dives-Cabourg.
Cycling: Safe and quiet cycling routes in Normandy – both on and off-road, criss-cross the region. There’s a wide choice of <routes> and facilities including the new ‘Vélomaritime’ route that skirts the coast all the way from Dunkirk in the north of France to Roscoff in the west of France.
By Car: As Calvados is just the other side of the Channel, there’s refreshingly very little driving to do! And low miles means low carbon! You’ll find a complete guide to driving in France here.
Some of Normandy’s most famous things to see are right here in Calvados:
Chip away at the bucket list by heading off to the world famous and Unesco-listed Bayeux Tapestry Seeing a 70-metre-long, 1,000 year old embroidery is the most captivating way to explore history and brush up on your William the Conqueror facts and Battle of Hastings facts! Bayeux is only a 30-minute-drive from the ferry port at Ouistreham.
The Calvados coast is also home to the famous D-Day Beaches. Codenamed Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Gold Beach, Juno Beach and Sword Beach, the D-Day Beaches are where Allied soldiers landed in a surprise attack on German forces in WW2. The Memorial Museum in Caen is the flagship beach to find out the whole story.
But the D-Day beaches are not the only famous beaches in Normandy. Deauville and Trouville – twin towns on the eastern end of our coastline – is where the glamour is. Think International Film Festival, signature beach brollies, Belle Epoque villas, casinos, spas, fancy schmancy hotels, seafood restaurants and famous boardwalk and you’re on the right lines. This is the weekending Parisians’ scene! Not far away, the impossibly pretty harbour of Honfleur captivates everyone who sees it, just as it did the Impressionists.
Of course, there are many more things to highlight as you explore Normandy Tourism, from chomping your way through our foodie specialities like cheese, calvados and cider, heading off the beaten track deep in rural Calvados, going to a traditional French market, to getting active in the great outdoors. The beauty of Calvados is that everyone’s itinerary will be entirely different.
Calvados is chock-full of inviting self-catering options, from cosy rural gites to beach apartments or sumptuous chateaux. Holiday rentals are also known as a ‘locations de vacances’ in France.
This is the French equivalent of a B&B (top searching tip: boutique ones are sometimes known as Maisons d’Hôtes and if you’re after somewhere that throws an evening meal in too, search up Table d’Hôte).
You’re spoilt for choice with hotels in Calvados from the small, independent, quirky and family-run to the big, well-known chain brands in the hotel industry.
We’ve the whole gamut – from places to simply pitch a tent to big family campsites with mobile homes and pools – is here in Normandy. If you’re after something quirky or extra-memorable, there are also many glamping options (in France we call this category ‘Insolite’ which means ‘out-of-the-ordinary’) which could include treehouses, gypsy caravans, boats, huts or even ‘Aquagîtes’.