For a fun and relaxed family holiday look no further than Normandy. This area of western France has everything you could possibly need to keep both kids and parents happy. Regular and speedy Brittany Ferry services link the UK to the ports of Caen, Cherbourg and Le Havre. And, once you’ve landed on French soil, exploring everything there is to do could not be easier. Driving in Normandy is straightforward and your UK driving licence is valid – just remember to stick to the right-hand side of the road!
If you sail into Le Havre, you may want to spend a day or two here. This city is a fun place for families, particularly those with older children. The city is a masterpiece of innovative modern town planning and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t miss the chance to snap an Instagram picture or two at Catène de Containers, one of the city’s most iconic – and colourful – buildings. Do visit Les Bains des Docks, an architect-designed aquatic centre. The design aesthetics might be lost on kids but the six indoor and outdoor pools – including a dedicated children’s pool – will not be!
Once you leave the seaside ports, green fields stretch into the distance, cider-apple orchards are filled with fruit and timbered farmhouses pepper the countryside. Small villages burst into life on market days and seaside towns buzz with summer festivals and events. It was this landscape – as well as the coastline and the ever-changing local weather – that inspired painters such as Monet and Boudin. The Normandy Impressionist Festival, held between April and September, is the perfect chance to get up close and personal with some Impressionist art. The celebrations feature 20 Impressionist exhibitions and 30 contemporary art exhibitions alongside dance performances, digital art, street art and open-air events across the region.
If your family is more sporty than arty then you are spoiled for choice. Normandy offers plenty of opportunities to go sailing, paddleboarding, kite-surfing and much more. The region is also good for cycling with more than 310miles (500km) of voies vertes, cycle paths. These ‘green ways’ were once railway tracks but are today dedicated, secure cycle paths perfect for all abilities. Don’t miss the improved Vélomaritime (Eurovelo 4) that passes by some of Normandy’s most famous sites. If hiking is your thing, the GR21, which stretches all along the Alabaster Coast, was voted France’s favourite hiking trail in 2019.
Speaking of famous sites, Normandy has them in abundance. Some of the most well-known include the D-Day landing beaches as well as the majestic chalk cliffs of Etretat and L'Aiguille (the Needle), which rises 70 metres above the sea. No visit to Normandy would be complete without a pilgrimage to the Mont-Saint-Michel. Soaring more than 100 meters above the sea, the Abbey of Saint-Michel has a magical, fairytale quality to it. During low tide families can take a guided walk across the bay to reach the island.
The other thing that Normandy does very well is beaches. Home to approximately 650 kilometres of coastline there are some beautiful spots for a family beach holiday. The seaside resort of Deauville is considered to be one of the top beach destinations in France. Nearby is Trouville, which locals say is just as good – if not better! The small town of Ravenoville is divided into Ravenoville-Bourg and Ravenoville-Plage, the latter popular for the pretty pastel fishing houses that line the shore. Granville, and its northern neighbour Les Salines, are also popular bucket and spade spots.
When it’s time to bid à bientôt, packing up your car and boarding the ferry takes no time at all. Brittany Ferries runs regular services back to the UK and you’ll be home before you know it – ready to plan your next family holiday in Normandy.