Normandy, France

Normandy is a region in northwestern France. It has a long coastline to the north on the English Channel and is bordered by the regions of Hauts-de-France and Île-de-France to the east, Centre-Val de Loire and Pays de la Loire to the south and Brittany to the south-west.

From 911 to 1469, Normandy was a county or duchy that was feudally dependent on the kingdom of France. His aristocracy came from Scandinavia and was known as the Normans (i.e. "Nord-Manns"). Before that, there had been numerous Viking raids on northern France since the middle of the 9th century. To put an end to this, the West Frankish King Charles III. (the simpleton) in the treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte gave the area later called Normandy to the Viking leader Rollo, who settled down permanently with his men, accepted Christianity and became a count (Jarl) and thus a liege man of the French king . However, the majority of the population was most likely not of Scandinavian origin, but the name of the ruling class that had immigrated from the north was transferred to the country and its people. In 996, the county of Normandy became a duchy.

In 1066, the Normans under William I (the Conqueror) conquered England. In the period that followed, a Norman upper class took over control of England, whose culture, language, law and administration were then strongly influenced by the Normans. England and Normandy were then ruled in personal union, which resulted in a complicated situation: as king of England, the respective monarch was the equal of the French king, but as duke of Normandy he was his liege. Because of this conflict, a war broke out in 1194-1204 between the French King Philip II Augustus and the English King Richard the Lionheart or his brother and successor John of Plantagenet (later known as John the Landless). Philip accused John of breaking his fealty, stripped Normandy from him and added it to the crown domain after his victory. The Duchy of Normandy continued to exist pro forma, but in fact the area became an integral part of the Kingdom of France, which was administered more and more centrally. In 1469, Louis XI. smashed the ducal ring on an anvil, finally ending the duchy. From then on, Normandy was only a French province. However, the Queen of England still claims the title of Duchess of Normandy to this day.

During the Second World War, Normandy was occupied by the German Wehrmacht, and cities such as Cherbourg and Le Havre were subsequently built as fortresses as part of the "Atlantic Wall". On June 6, 1944, the so-called D-Day, the Allies landed on the coast between Ste-Maire-Eglise and Ouistreham. The war ended for Normandy on August 22, 1944. On August 25, 1944 Paris was liberated. As a result of the fighting almost all cities in Normandy were bombed, the street fighting did the rest. Cities like Caen, Le Havre, Cherbourg, Saint-Lô and Évreux were almost completely destroyed. The military cemeteries in the region still commemorate the many fallen soldiers. Many civilians also fell victim to the bombardments and street fighting.

From 1956 to 2015, Normandy was divided into the two administrative regions of Lower Normandy (Calvados, Manche and Orne departments; capital Caen) and Upper Normandy (Eure and Seine-Maritime; capital Rouen). On January 1, 2016, the two were united.



Le Havre


Other destinations

Château d'Arques-la-Bataille

Château de Conches-en-Ouche

Château de Gisors

Château de Tancarville

Château d'Harcourt

Château d'Hardelot

Château d'Ivry-la-Bataille

Château Gaillard

Mont- St.- Michel



French; English e.g. in the larger and heavily touristed cities, especially in the area of the D-Day coast.


Getting here

By plane
There is no major airport in the region itself, but arrival can be via Paris Charles de Gaulle or Orly airports, from where it is not far to south-east Normandy (e.g. 110 km from Orly to Évreux; 140 km from CDG to Rouen). Even closer to Normandy is Beauvais-Tillé Airport, which is served by low-cost airlines (especially Ryanair); however, at the moment (as of March 2016) not from the German-speaking area. Rouen is 85 km from Beauvais.

In Normandy itself there are only smaller regional airports, the most notable of which are Caen and Deauville. Those wishing to go to south-west Normandy may consider using Rennes Airport or Dinard/Saint-Malo Airport in eastern Brittany (e.g. 60km from Dinard to Mont-Saint-Michel).

By train
From Paris-St-Lazare there are direct trains (known as Krono+ in Normandy) every 1-2 hours to Le Havre via Rouen, Yvetot and Breuté/Beuzeville. Also every 1-2 hours there are direct trains from Paris-St-Lazare to Caen, most of which continue to Cherbourg via Bayeux, Carentan and Valognes. There are also quite frequent connections from Paris-St-Lazare to Lisieux and Trouville-Deauville with stops in Évreux and Bernay. About five daily direct trains run through the south of the region from Paris-Montparnasse to Granville, with stops e.g. in L'Aigle, Argentan, Flers and Vire. The fastest trains from Paris to Rouen take 1:20 hours, to Caen 2:00 hours, to Le Havre 2:10 hours, to Cherbourg 3:15 hours.

Connections from German-speaking countries usually go via Paris, whereby the station has to be changed. The fastest connection from Cologne to Rouen, for example, takes 5:15 hours and from Frankfurt am Main six hours.

By bus
On the one hand there are long-distance bus connections from the provider BlaBlaCar, which sometimes offers several connections daily from bus stations in Paris (including Bercy, La Defense) to Rouen, Caen, La Havre or Honfleur. On the other hand, there are other long-distance bus connections from the provider Flixbus, which also offers connections to Caen or Le Havre from several bus stations in Paris (including Bercy, Pont de Levallois / Metro 3). The travel times of both providers are mostly between 3 and 4 hours.

On the street
The A 13 motorway leads from the greater Paris area to Normandy (past Rouen to Caen). The A 28 and A 29 provide cross connections from Picardy (Amiens) and the extreme north (Calais) and the Pays de la Loire (Le Mans) to Normandy. The A 84 connects Normandy with Brittany (Rennes–Caen).

If you drive to Normandy from Germany, it can be a good idea to drive around the greater Paris area and approach the region from the east on the A 29; this is especially true if the destination is in the east of Normandy anyway.

By boat
It is possible to arrive by car ferry from England and Ireland. Ferry ports in the region are (from east to west):
Dieppe – Ferry from Newhaven (East Sussex)
Le Havre - Ferry from Portsmouth
Cabourg (Calvados)
Ouistreham (17 km north of Caen) - Ferry from Portsmouth
Cherbourg-Octeville - Ferry from Portsmouth, Poole, Rosslare and Dublin
In Brittany, but not far from the western edge of Normandy, is the ferry port of Saint-Malo

By bicycle
The European long-distance cycle route EuroVelo 4 leads through the region. B. from Calais, Bruges, Düsseldorf, the Middle Rhine or Frankfurt am Main. From the Paris area, you can take the avenue verte (or cycle path V33) parallel to the Seine to upper Normandy (Dieppe or Rouen/Le Havre) or take the V40 to south-western Normandy (Alençon, Mont-Saint-Michel).

On foot
On the European long-distance path E9 you can hike from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany along the North Sea and English Channel coasts or in the other direction from western France and from the Iberian Peninsula on the Atlantic coast to Normandy.


Get around

By car
In Normandy, the car is recommended as a means of travel. The distances to the various places and sights are not very far (from Le Havre to Cherbourg almost 200 km) and the larger cities can also be reached quickly via the motorway or via feeder roads. You can also enjoy the extremely beautiful and green landscape of this region, stop as you wish and visit the wonderful smaller towns of Normandy.

By train
Normandy has its own railway network, the hubs of which are Caen and Rouen. Most routes operate almost every hour in the morning and late afternoon/early evening, but there are larger gaps between departures during the day. Only a few trains a day run on the branch lines. The timetables for the TER trains can be found under "Se deplacér -> Fiches Horaires".

By bus
The bus network in Normandy, marketed under the "Nomad" name, offers a basic range of connections between the larger towns and cities away from the railway lines. However, there are often only individual connections in the morning, at noon and in the late afternoon or early evening, with which a half-day or day trip to the next town can be planned. Around Caen, where there are three tram lines in addition to many city bus lines in the "twisto" urban line network, the line network is more densely developed. There are regular daily connections to Ouistreham, Courseulles-sur-Mer, Dives, Deauville or Honfleur, among others. Many towns, including smaller ones, have their own network of routes, with bus lines running mostly on Mondays and Saturdays with single trips or at frequent intervals. The fares are very cheap overall, a trip with the regional bus sometimes costs less than 3 €, the ride on some city bus lines is free or a ticket costs e.g. B. €1.50 (as of 2022).

Links to all regional and city bus companies can be found on this Normandy information website.

By bicycle
Important cycling routes from city to city are the already mentioned EuroVelo 4 along the coast (Mont-Saint-Michel - Avranches - Saint-Lô - Cherbourg - D-Day landing coast at Bayeux - Ouistreham near Caen - Le Havre - Fécamp - Dieppe) , the avenue verte (Paris - Gisors - Pays de Bray - Dieppe, possibly future EuroVelo 16 to London), the Seine cycle route (V33: Giverny - Vernon - Elbeuf - Rouen - Le Havre), the V40 through the sparsely populated south of the Region (Nogent-le-Rotrou - Perche - Alençon - Domfront - Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët - Mont-Saint-Michel), the V43 cross-connects the sea to the interior (Ouistreham - Caen - Flers - Domfront - Mayenne) .



The 'landmarks' of Norman cuisine are the three famous 'C's - cider, camembert and calvados.

Cider, sparkling wine made from apples.
Calvaldos, cider brandy from the Calvados region
Cow's milk cheeses, such as Camembert, Pont-l'Évêque and Livarot
Norman sauce Light sauce for fish
Tripes à la mode de Caen Traditional tripe dish
lots of seafood like mussels, oysters or lobster (due to the location on the English Channel)




Normandy lies mainly in the Paris Basin. However, western Normandy is part of the Armorican massif.

The geology of Normandy ranges from the Paleoproterozoic to the Quaternary. The oldest rocks in France are exposed in Jobourg. These gneisses, which are more than two billion years old, can also be found in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. The Roche d'Oëtre is one of the most picturesque landscapes of the Armorican massif. The landscapes in the Armorican massif or in the Paris basin are different. At the boundary between both geological units, at Laize-la-Ville near Caen, two unconformities can be observed: the Cadomian and the Variscan unconformity. Numerous fossils can be found in the Paris Basin. Bayeux takes its name from Bajocium. The cliffs of les Vaches Noires are known for their fossils.


Transport connection

Normandy is crossed by the Paris-Saint-Lazare-Rouen-Le Havre, Paris-Saint-Lazare-Caen-Cherbourg railway lines and also by the Paris-Montparnasse-Argentan-Granville railway line. The Lison-Lamballe railway line connects Caen to Rennes, and thus Normandy to Brittany. The A13 motorway connects Paris to Caen via Rouen.



Between 58 and 51 BC Gaius Iulius Caesar conquered the region and named the area Lugdunensis secunda. The first cities to emerge were Constantia, Augusta and Rotomagus. From the late 4th century, the fortified towns and forts on the coast belonged to the Limes of the so-called Saxony Coast, whose garrisons were under the command of a Dux tractus Armoricani et Nervicani. Gregory of Tours mentions the settlement of Saxony around Augustodurum in today's Normandy for the second half of the 5th century. In 486/87 the Franks, under the Merovingian Clovis, defeated the last Gallo-Roman general, Syagrius, and occupied the Gallic areas north of the Loire. Clovis founded a bishopric in Rouen. In the 7th and 8th centuries, monasteries were founded in Jumièges, St. Quen and St. Wandrille. In 709 the Bishop of Avranches founded the monastery on Mont-Saint-Michel.

In 841 Rouen was sacked by the Normans. In 911, the West Frankish king Charles the Simple entrusted the Norman Rollo with the county of Rouen, which became the nucleus of a largely independent duchy.

Normandy got its current name in the Middle Ages as the home of the Normans, who had formed as a tribe of local "French" residents and Vikings who had joined them. According to language and place name research, the majority of the Vikings who settled came from Denmark, a smaller number from Norway. It can be assumed that their wives almost all came from the local indigenous population. The history of the Duchy of Normandy began when the Viking Jarl Rollo (Gånge Rolf), who probably came from Norway and who had devastated the area of the Seine around Paris, was granted Normandy as a fief by Charles the Simple in the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte (911). He was thus incorporated into the West Frankish 'state' and tasked with defending Normandy (shifting his attention from inland to coast) against further incursions from foreign Vikings.

Rollo's descendant William, Duke of Normandy, conquered England in 1066, earning him the nickname "the Conqueror". He then had himself crowned King of England. The dukes of Normandy stayed until 1087 and were also kings of England from 1106 to 1144 and from 1154 before Normandy was conquered by the French king Philip II in 1204 during a war. During the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) it was occupied by English troops from 1346 to 1360 and again from 1415 to 1450.

During World War II, Normandy was occupied by the German Wehrmacht. The coast of Lower Normandy served as a landing zone for the Western Allies for the long-planned opening of the second front against Nazi Germany. The invasion that followed, Operation Overlord, began on the night of June 6, 1944 with a sizeable army of all three naval, army and air forces. Caen in particular suffered greatly from the fighting. After the United States Army, the British, Canadians, Poles and French troops had laboriously pushed the German units away from the coast and inland for a month and a half in order to be able to destroy them in the Falaise pocket, the remnants of the defeated German armies broke on April 25. July 1944 out of the boiler east towards Paris. In the course of advancing Allied troops, the liberation of Paris (August 25, 1944) finally became possible 30 days later and, after nine months, finally all of Western Europe.


Coat of arms and flag of the historical province

William the Conqueror is said to have received a flag from Pope Alexander II. It is found on the Bayeux Tapestry. It was intended to be a sign of papal protection and was not attached to either the duke or the duchy. However, it is believed that William the Conqueror actually used a flag. It is said to have been white with a gold cross bordered in blue.

A coat of arms for Normandy was not introduced until the time of the Crusades and the rule of the Plantagenêt. This crest was originally a blue shield with six golden leopards. It was changed to a red shield with three golden leopards, the coat of arms of Richard the Lionheart. After 1204 the leopards were reduced to two, and this remained the coat of arms of Normandy for six centuries, until the coming 1000th anniversary of Normandy, when what became known as the "Leopard Controversy" ignited.

The leopard fight
Many local poets and some historians, but especially local patriots, saw the shield with three leopards as the true coat of arms of Normandy. It was the coat of arms also in use in Guernsey and Jersey. This should also tie in with the Anglo-Norman dukes and kings as the creators of modern England. They saw the coat of arms with only two leopards as a consequence of the conquest of Normandy by the central power in Paris. The three leopards were undeniably an expression of pride and a desire for autonomy. Currently, this version is preferred in the area of the Cotentin Peninsula. The dispute over the number of leopards petered out in the course of the 20th century.

The 1920 flag proposal
To avoid the dispute over the number of leopards, local patriots launched a campaign for a separate Norman flag. It began in the 1920s with an article in the Bulletin des Normands de Paris. Professor Jean Adigard Des Gautries, an expert in onomastics for Scandinavia and Normandy, advocated a special flag, since the coat of arms and the flag had different functions. The three leopards should only be used as a banner. The proposal did not gain widespread support as the Patriots were too attached to the Leopards. The discussion came up again in 1954. This time it was young people around the magazine Viking, which was published from 1949 to 1958. There the different flags of the Normandy regiments in the Ancien Régime with different color combinations around a white cross were pointed out, but these could not be continued because of the monarchical tendency and the lack of acceptance among the people.

The first proposal was a red flag with a yellow Scandinavian cross and two or three leopards on the reverse. It was shown in Cherbourg during the Viking week of 1955, and even flown on top of the town hall. But it did not prevail, despite the Viking newspaper's strenuous efforts. One reason was that it resembled the "R" signal flag of the international flag alphabet. Another reason was that this flag had been used by the Quisling government's Norwegian 'National Collection' during the Third Reich. The third reason was that the separatist movement that wanted to separate Skåne from Sweden used this flag. The use of this flag could have strained the desired good relations with the Scandinavian countries. The fourth reason given is that this flag was also carried by the Finnish independence movement in 1917 and was thus linked to Finnish history.

St. Olav's flag
With this in mind, a new flag proposal was drafted in 1974. It was designed to commemorate Saint Olav, who was baptized in Rouen. It was the red, yellow bordered Scandinavian cross on red cloth. It has been endorsed by the Association française d'études Internationale de vexillologie and has been included in Whitney Smith's Flags Through the Ages and Across the World (1975) and Alfred Znamierowski's World Encyclopedia of Flags (1999), among other numerous vexillological treatises . However, some patriots did not want to let go of the leopards and put them in the upper leech. It is also common in this form, especially on stickers. The city of Falaise uses it as a flag. However, this flag never became official.