La Manche is a pretty and wild area of Normandy stretching from Mont St Michel to the tip of the Cotentin Peninsula. Home to charming seaside towns, a rich maritime heritage and many remnants from D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, Manche has a lot of Normandy history to offer visitors. Here's a sneak peek into La Manche to explore some of the key places to visit that are perfect for a holiday break in Normandy.
Famous Normandy Places to Visit
LE MONT ST MICHEL
Mont St Michel and hay bales at harvest time
One of the most famous sights in all of France, Le Mont St Michel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Work began on the island way back in 708 when St Aubert built a sanctuary after the Archangel Michael himself appeared to him. The magnificent, Mont St Michel Gothic abbey is an incredible architectural achievement with many underground crypts and chapels that are necessary to support the weight of the abbey.
Wander through the winding main street, lined with shops and restaurants as you make your way to the abbey at the top. There's over 900 steps to go up but you don't have to scale them as some medieval pilgrims once did - on their knees!
Situated in a tidal bay, the mont has been restored to its island status and a walkway has been built so you can walk right out to the Mont St Michel. If you like outdoor sports, the bay is a great place to go sand yachting and horse riding too.
Avranches, once a royal city, has some lovely views of the Bay of Mont St Michel from its surrounding areas. The unmissable attraction in Avranches is definitely the Scriptorial d'Avranches containing medieval manuscripts from the monks at the abbey on Mont St Michel.
The quaint village of Saint-Mère-Eglise is famous as the unfortunate landing spot of a group of American paratroopers who, in the early hours of D-Day, missed their landing site. The event, and Paratrooper John Steele whose parachute snagged on the spire of the church leaving him stranded there, is commemorated with a dummy that hangs by its parachute from the church tower today.
Don’t miss the American Airborne Museum on Rue Eisenhower. You’ll see lots of street names celebrating the Allies in Normandy, especially in Manche and Calvados around the D-Day beaches.
Nearby is Carentan, where another significant battle was fought in and around the town. The D-Day Paratroopers Historic Centre in Saint-Come-du-Mont, which contains an amazing collection of objects that belonged to specific paratroopers and has a Band of Brothers section in the museum.
Best Historic towns and cities to Visit in Normandy
There are plenty of things to do in St Lo. It is the Horse capital of Normandy, St Lô is famous as the home of the largest National Stud in all of France and hosts the Normandy Horse Show every year. Normandy is famed throughout the world for its horses and there are many local breeds.
St Lô’s other, unfortunate claim to fame was its terrible fate during WW2 when 97% of the town was flattened by American bombing. Almost completely destroyed, St Lô was nicknamed the ‘Capital of Ruins’. Some wanted to keep the town as it was as a reminder of the terror of war but its inhabitants decided to return and the town was rebuilt. However, the main church was renovated with a different style and materials to showcase the scar left in it by the war.
The charming seaside town of Granville is known for its broad sandy beaches backed by white beach huts. The town was a popular destination for Parisians in the elegant Belle Epoque era and it is still a well-known resort town today.
Fashion designer Christian Dior was born in the town and his childhood home is now a museum of his life and fashions - a beautiful cliff-top villa with gardens designed by his mother. Off the coast of Granville lies the captivating archipelago of the Chausey Islands. You can take a ferry out to the islands and there are also ferries to the Channel Islands from Granville too.
From Granville's dramatic fortified headland, you can experience astounding views of the Bay of Mont St Michel. Untamed and blustery, some of the fortifications on the headland are centuries old but there are also concrete blockhouses that recall the German occupation here during WW2.
The wonderfully-preserved medieval town of Villedieu-les-Poêles has been renowned as a centre for smithing all sorts of copper objects for centuries. Most notably, it's famous for its bell-making foundry, which produced eight new bells for the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris for its 850th anniversary in 2013.
Cherbourg, Manche, Normandy
The port at Cherbourg is one of the largest man-made harbours in the world so it's no surprise that the town has such a strong maritime heritage. Cherbourg is also one of our Ferry ports which can be sailed to from Poole or Portsmouth! Cherbourg was the final port of call for the Titanic before it set out across the Atlantic on its fateful voyage, it has a vivid naval history and was a key port for Allied landings after D-Day. Cherbourg does have a softer side though and, if you know your French New Wave cinema, you'll recognise it as the setting of Jacques Demy's 1964 film, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
Cherbourg's big attraction is the incredible Cité de la Mer, which is all about man's relationship with the sea. Here you can board La Redoubtable, the largest submarine open to the public in the world, and also learn all about life on board the Titanic and the history of European emigration to America in a multimedia exhibition. With other exhibitions showcasing all kinds of submarines and diving equipment, and 17 aquariums (including the deepest aquarium in Europe) this is truly an exploration of all things aquatic!
There's also some impressive coastline around Cherbourg and the rocky, windswept Cap de la Hague is perfect for those who like to get out and enjoy the elements. Teeming with diverse plant life and wildlife, it's an important site for migrating birds and a great spot to go hiking along the coastal path.
With so much to see and do in Manche, why not take the ferry to France and see for yourself? You can book and travel with confidence with Brittany Ferries for this summer or next! Our 2021 selection of ferry-inclusive holidays come with free Covid-19 cover and free amendments too.