Town and city breaks

Famed for its picturesque villages, famous medieval sites, beautiful beaches and lush countryside, Normandy is also home to some of France's largest and most exciting cities! Visitors can experience a real city break in Rouen, Caen or Le Havre and can indulge in an urban escape in several other vibrant towns.


Urban area population: 650,000

One of Europe’s great cities! Rouen, stretching beside the River Seine, is our cultured, historic, gastronomic, vibrant capital. Monet’s canvases of the cathedral have made it the best-loved building in town, but many other glories stand out. Parks and gardens have recently been created along the south bank, whilst on the other side of the river, bars, restaurants and nightclubs line the quayside. From 6th to 16th June 2019, don’t miss the world-famous Armada Festival.


Urban area population: 400,000

Soaring church towers have embellished Caen’s skyline since William the Conqueror’s time. The castle, now home to major museums, was a key medieval Norman fort. In World War II, D-Day operations kicked off just down the Orne River. Caen’s vast Memorial museum is now dedicated to peace, while the Orne is used by yachts heading for the central marina and lively city centre. Many bars and restaurants complete Caen’s offerings.


Urban area population: 300,000

Le Havre is undoubtedly one of France’s most unique cities, and was recently crowned a hipster heaven by The Independent. Heavily destroyed during the Second World War, the city centre was rebuilt by visionary architect Auguste Perret, and is now UNESCO-listed. Don’t miss the great waterside modern art museum, the seaside pleasures of its marina and beach or Vincent Ganivet’s colourful Catène de Containers, which has been dubbed ‘Le Havre’s Eiffel Tower’.

  • Did you know? Le Havre is the birthplace of Impressionism. It was here that Claude Monet painted Impression, Sunrise, which was first shown at what would become know as the 'Exhibition of the Impressionists' in Paris in April 1874.
  • Discover Le Havre's must-see sites


Urban area population: 180,000

Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, one of France’s great Channel ports, is closely linked to French naval history and to the transatlantic adventures. The Titanic even made its final stop here on its fateful journey, as recalled at the Cité de la Mer, one of the port’s main tourist attractions. Recently, the town’s busy quays have been refurbished and Cherbourg has become a popular port of call for cruise ships. Don’t miss the famous ‘Parapluies de Cherbourg’ umbrella factory.

  • Did you know? The umbrella factory is actually named after Jacques Demy's world-famous musical Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, which was filmed in the town.
  • Discover Cherbourg's must-see sites


Urban area population: 110,000

Located halfway between Paris and the Norman coast, Evreux is the capital of the Eure. The historic town centre is a lovely place to have a walk. Notre-Dame Cathedral is stunning, and the former Bishop's Palace, which now houses the museum, is well worth a visit too. The main square that opens onto the town hall, the Italian-style theatre, the "Maison des Arts" and the promenade along the banks of the River Iton have all been recently renovated.

  • Did you know? Rock legend Jimi Hendrix gave his very first show in Evreux at the Novelty cinema and concert hall on 13 October 1966.


Urban area population: 82,000

Dieppe is a real gem of a town. With its heart nestled in between two cliffs, its historic castle overlooking the rooftops, its wide seafront lawns and its ever-changing skies and seascapes, it has long been a favourite for cross-Channel visitors. In Dieppe, there is always something going on, from the world-famous kite festival to Europe’s only Canadian film festival, not forgetting the yummy herring fair held in November. The town's Saturday morning market was recently voted 2nd best in the whole country!


Urban area population: 68,000

Alençon has long been celebrated for its lace- making traditions, dating back to the 17th century. The great skills needed to make Alençon needlepoint lace has led to it receiving the rare honour of being listed by UNESCO as part of the World’s Cultural Heritage. With its numerous historical buildings, its laid-back atmosphere and its beautiful setting and surroundings, Alençon is well worth a visit!


Urban area population: 52,000

Home to one of Normandy’s most beautiful markets, to an active music scene and to two unconventional churches, Saint-Lô is a town which never fails to surprise. Dominated by the historic ramparts, the town centre is one of the most striking testimonies of the reconstruction period. With its good shops, quirky green beach and its Museum of Fine Arts, Saint-Lô is a great town to visit, off the beaten track.

  • Did you know? Saint-Lô's concert hall, Le Normandy, is famous nationwide. Many big British rock bands gave their first French concert there.


© Stéphane Marpaud

Normandy Secrets

Discover the secrets of these town and cities on our new Normandy Secrets website and app