Find out about how to travel to Normandy. Here are various ways to get to Normandy in north France.
From the UK
Getting to Normandy by ferry from the UK
Taking the ferry is the most popular way to travel to Normandy from the UK. There are several major ferry ports in Normandy and two major ferry companies serving them.
Brittany Ferries runs from Poole and Portsmouth to Cherbourg and from Portsmouth to Le Havre and Caen.
DFDS runs between Newhaven and Dieppe.
Brittany Ferries to Cherbourg
Portsmouth to Cherbourg only runs May to September during the day. Because of the tides, departure times can change by up to an hour. The ferry takes from 3 hours to 3 hours 30 minutes depending on which ferry you take.
The ferry from Poole to Cherbourg takes between 4 hours 15 minutes and 5 hours 30 minutes depending on which ferry you take.
Brittany Ferries. Tel: 0330 159 7000 (reservations and enquiries)
Why choose Cherbourg?
Choose Cherbourg if you want to stay in the pretty Cotentin Peninsula. It has long, sandy, empty beaches. It boasts large and small harbours full of fishing boats like Barfleur where William the Conqueror set out on his conquering mission to England. To the south west Mont Saint-Michel beckons; Utah Beach is the most easterly of the famous D-Day landing beaches with nearby World War II sites to explore.
Brittany Ferries to Caen
Portsmouth to Caen offers day and night sailings. They operate from late January to December. There are 2 daytime sailings, taking 6 hrs 45 mins on the daytime sailing and from 7 hours to 7 hours 15 mins. This is my preferred route; you get on board, have a nightcap then take an ensuite cabin for an overnight sleep. Just remember that France is one hour in front of us.
Why choose Caen?
Caen is the preferred stop for exploring the D-Day landing beaches. It’s a lively city, largely rebuilt after World War II but with a delightful old centre. It’s also near Bayeux with its glorious tapestry.
Brittany Ferries to Le Havre
Portsmouth to Le Havre offers a cheap equivalent with a no frills service (self service restaurant only; basic cabins, etc.) Brittany Ferries has crossings from £79 one way in the off season. Depending on the season, there are 2 daytime crossings and 2 night sailings. Off season there is only a night sailing from Portsmouth to Le Havre; crossings from Le Havre to Portsmouth are more frequent.
Le Havre, France’s second largest port, is a surprisingly interesting place where Impressionism and contemporary architecture hold equal billing. Don’t miss the concrete interior of St. Joseph’s church.
Why choose Le Havre?
Le Havre has some surprises. It has some excellent contemporary architecture, recognised internationally when the urban complex was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The new Ocean of the Future exhibition opened in April at the La Cité de la Mer museum. The André Malraux Museum of Modern Art – MuMa, has a stunning collection of Impressionist paintings.
DFDS Ferries to Dieppe
DFDS is the only operator to Dieppe. They offer 3 daily sailings in both directions from May to September; 2 daily sailings off season, taking 4 hours. Off season tickets for a car and 2 people start at £49 each way.
Why choose Dieppe?
Dieppe itself is delightful with a castle museum, old streets and plenty of good fish restaurants. It’s also near some pretty seaside resorts and rolling countryside.
Fly to Rouen
If you want to fly to Rouen from the UK, it’s either moderately expensive or takes time, changing at Paris or Lyon.
The major airline BA, AirFrance and KLM fly from London; EasyJet and other discount airlines fly from Luton or Gatwick.
Fly to Caen
Flybe operates seasonal flights from Southend to Caen, beginning at £34.99 Thursdays to Mondays.
Getting to Normandy by train
Let the train take the strain. From the UK take Eurostar to Paris.
From Paris, it’s an easy journey from Paris Gare Saint Lazare, 13 rue Amsterdam, Paris 8. Paris to Rouen takes 1 hr 11 mins.
From Dieppe, it takes from 46 minutes to Rouen.
Getting to Rouen by car
Paris to Rouen is 131 kms (81 miles) taking around 1 hr 32 mins. There are tolls on the autoroutes.
Dieppe to Rouen is 63 kms (39 miles) and takes around 1 hour.
By coach to Rouen
Why choose Rouen?
Rouen, capital of Normandy, is a stunning town with a cathedral, old buildings like the Bishop’s Palace, memories of Joan or Arc, and enough good bars and restaurants to satisfy the most demanding.
Getting around Normandy
The best form of transport in Normandy is your own car if you want to travel around the region.
There is a good regional rail network, which connects the major towns but at no stage runs along the coast. The line from Paris to Rouen passes close to Giverny and Monet’s house and garden (nearest stop Vernon), and trains continue to both Dieppe and Le Havre. Trains between Cherbourg and Paris call at Bayeux and Caen.
Bus routes radiate from both Rouen and Caen; Bus Verts serve the lower Normandy coast, with special services to tour the D-Day beaches.