Normandy isn't all about beaches and rural landscapes, it also has a fantastic selection of cities that are waiting to be explored in 2017...
It's celebration time in Le Havre during 2017! The city will be 500 years old this summer making it the perfect time for a city break as there's lots going on. Art lovers will enjoy the conceptual art on display throughout the city and Monet's 'Impression, Sunrise' will be coming home to Le Havre at the MuMa - the painting of Le Havre's docks that gave a whole art movement its name.
The Royal de Luxe will be back with their giant marionettes all across the city but don't miss the stunning art heritage that's always here including the striking Eglise St Joseph by 'the concrete poet' Auguste Perret and Le Volcan. Concerts in unusual venues including the ferry terminal, street parties and parades mean that Le Havre's nightlife is even more exciting than usual. If you bring your car, be sure to pop up the coast to see the cliffs at Etretat or over the Pont de Normandie to pretty Honfleur.
Normandy Tourist Board has lots of information about the 500th anniversary celebrations here.
History and heritage abound in Rouen, Normandy's capital. William the Conqueror frequently held court here, Richard the Lionheart is buried in the Gothic masterpiece of Rouen cathedral and Joan of Arc tragically met her end in the city when she was burnt at the stake in the Place du Vieux Marche. It is Joan of Arc that you'll discover at many attractions including the Historial Jeanne d'Arc and the modernist church the Eglise Jeanne d'Arc built in the square where she was executed.
Much of Rouen's old town is wonderfully preserved so wander the cobbled streets and admire the half-timber buildings as you go shopping in the quaint boutiques. Rouen also has some great shopping malls in the modern part of town too. You can hop on the train to Paris and be there in just over an hour so, if Rouen's shopping streets aren't enough to satisfy your shopaholic needs, those in France's capital surely will!
Caen is a fantastic place for a city break and also a great base for those wanting to visit the D-Day beaches. Much of the city was destroyed in the Battle of Normandy and it was one of the main objectives for the British when they landed at Sword Beach, just down the river at Ouistreham. The incredible Memorial de Caen, a museum about war, is unmissable and you'll find lots of other D-Day sites and museums in the area.
Great restaurants, excellent shopping and a vibrant nightlife are just a few of the other good reasons to visit Caen. The city has some magnificent architecture dating from William the Conqueror's reign - the chateau is one of the largest medieval fortressses still standing in Europe and the ornate Abbaye aux Hommes and Abbaye aux Dames are sublime. The chateau houses several museums and if you want to explore more about the era, head to Bayeux nearby to see the Bayeux Tapestry.
Bayeux is a wonderful destination in its own right as well as being close to Caen. This medieval riverside town is, of course, most famous as the home of the Bayeux Tapestry, depicting the events of the Norman Conquest in 1066. Not actually a tapestry (it's an embroidery), today it has it's own museum where you can see the whole thing up close. In previous centuries it was displayed in the stunning Gothic cathedral located nearby.
The town is also famous for some more modern history and was the first town liberated by the Allies after the D-Day landings. Don't miss a visit to the Museum of the Battle of Normandy if you're interested in WW2. In the evenings, you can relax in the historic centre (which escaped the Battle of Normandy miraculously intact) with a drink out on the terraces and some tasty local cuisine.
If you really love the sea then Cherbourg is the place to be (when you're on land, at least!). With a rich maritime heritage, especially as a naval port, Cherbourg has much to see. Whether you want to explore wartime history at the Fort du Roule and the gun battery or find out about everything on and under the sea at the Cité de la Mer, there's plenty of places to visit. Check out the Thomas Henry art museum and the Saint Trinity Basilica if you're more interested in arts and culture.
Head out on a boat trip of the coastline or discover it from the land with a walk along the beautiful coastal path that goes right around the Cotentin Peninsula. Get your hiking boots on and breathe in some of that fresh sea air! It's also a great area for cycling too and the Tour de France arrived in the city last year. Go to the Cap de la Hague for some truly spectacular views.