A Long Weekend in Normandy: Day Trips from Honfleur

Normandy is often ignored by northern Europeans in their haste to reach the delights of Provence, the Languedoc or Nice and the Cote D’Azur. This is a shame because this region of France has much to offer visitors, from its spectacular coastline to its charming towns and villages.

Are you curious to know more and want to put together a great Normandy weekend itinerary? From the emotion of the D-Day beaches to the sophistication of Deauville, here’s how to see the best of Normandy in a weekend on day trips from Honfleur.

brightly coloured houses of honfleur normandy reflected in the water of the harbour

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How I Spent a Long Weekend in Normandy

Thanks to winning a raffle on a mini-break to Britanny – you couldn’t make this up! – we had a free return ticket for Britanny Ferries on the Portsmouth to Le Havre route. Overnight crossings gave us three days in Normandy.

We stayed in lovely Honfleur in Mansion Victorine. Honfleur is small enough to get to know in one or two days and is also an excellent base from which to visit other places in Normandy.

This was our itinerary:

  • DAY 1: Etretat and Honfleur
  • DAY 2: Deauville, Villerville and a Boat Trip to Normandy Bridge
  • DAY 3: Omaha Beach
map of places that you visit as day trips from honfleur on a weekend in normandy
Map of day trips in Normandy from Honfleur (click on image to access interactive map) Map Data @ 2020 Google

When is the best time to visit Normandy?

For the best weather conditions, aim to visit Honfleur between May and October.
However, to avoid the busier time of year during the school holidays, visit Normandy in the shoulder season in May – June or September – October.

Day One: Le Havre to Honfleur via Etretat

After an overnight crossing from Portsmouth to Le Havre, we drove for 30 minutes to Etretat.

Falaise D’Aval

The steep, chalk cliffs carved into arches by erosion are belles of Etretat’s ball. Painted by Impressionists such as Monet, Boudin and Matisse, they are an extraordinary sight.

cliffs hewn into a stone arch over ocean in etretat normandy
Falaise D’Aval and arches at Etretat

If you are feeling energetic you can scale Falaise D’Aval – to your left when facing the sea – to visit the arches. Just take the path from the end of the boardwalk running the length of Etretat’s pebble beach. The advantage of climbing to the top of the arches is that you can see the third arch, hidden from view from Etretat’s beach.

It is also possible to walk through the arches at low tide but check the tidal timetable first. You don’t want to get stranded.

Falaise D’Amont

At the other end of the beach, steep steps lead up to the top of Falaise D’Amont. Alternatively, if you don’t fancy the climb, take the road train.

There are panoramic views of the beach and the arches from the summit’s plateau. The grey stone Chapelle Notre Dame de la Garde keeps watch over the rocks below. In the centre of the large car park, there is the arrow-like monument dedicated to Nungesser and Coli, two French pilots who attempted the first non-stop flight from Paris to New York in 1927.

Etretat Gardens (Les Jardins D’Etretat)

The Etretat Gardens on Falaise D’Amont are astounding. Inspired by the gardens of Claude Monet, they comprise seven separate gardens which combine landscape design, contemporary art and sound to offer an immersive experience.

Try to resist hugging a tree.

sculpture of child's head ion bushes of garden in etretat france
Sculpture at Jardins d’Etretat


An hour west of Etretat is Honfleur, our base for the next few nights.

With one of the prettiest harbours in all of France, I had high expectations of Honfleur and it did not disappoint.

statue of huge painted cat overlooking harbour with boats and houses in honfleur normandy

You can easily explore the town’s highlights during one day in Honfleur.

Whilst the fishing boats have now been largely replaced with yachts, the 17th Century Vieux Bassin (old dock) is like a painting. Narrow, tall, timber-framed buildings with slate roofs encircle the harbour. Leading away from Vieux Bassin, a warren of narrow, cobbled streets lined with half-timbered buildings wind their way into the commercial centre of Honfleur.

Honfleur’s most famous landmark is the wooden Église Sainte Catherine, which is France’s largest wooden church. Built by a local shipbuilder and intended to be a temporary structure to replace the previous church destroyed in the Hundred Years’ War, it has a ceiling resembling two upside-down ships’ hulls.

Don’t miss the weekly Honfleur market is held on Saturdays from 9 am to 12.30 pm. As it is not a well-kept secret, I recommend getting there soon after it opens.

Day Two: Deauville, Villerville and a Boat Trip to Normandy Bridge

From Honfleur, it is a 30-minute drive to Deauville.


A fashionable seaside resort since the 19th Century, Deauville is known for its horse races, its Grand Casino and the annual American Film Festival which takes place in September.

But if you ask someone what comes to mind when they think of Deauville, it is likely to be its two kilometres of fine, wide sandy beach, its multi-coloured parasols and its famous boardwalk. This wooden plank promenade – Les Planches – stretches for almost half a mile and is lined with beach huts bearing the names of luminaries in the film industry.

row of beach houses on wooden walkway each with name of someone in film industry in deauville normandy
Les Planches, Deauville

A 15-minute drive back towards Honfleur takes you to Villerville.


Built on the cliff that winds its way to Deauville, Villerville was a real travel find.

An all too rare seaside resort that retains its rural character, Villerville’s narrow streets are lined with characterful shops and a few restaurants. Black and white signs scattered through the village depict scenes from the film A Monkey in Winter, much of which was shot in the village in 1962 with Jean Gabin and Jean-Paul Belmondo.

pretty cobblestoned street leading to people dining outside cafe
Street in Villerville (and our great lunch spot!)

From Villerville it is approx 6 miles to Honfleur.

A boat trip from Honfleur on the Seine Estuary to Normandy Bridge

Boats leave at regular intervals from Honfleur’s quayside for the 90-minute round trip to the mouth of the estuary at Le Havre. The highlight of the trip is the passage under the Normandy Bridge (Pont de Normandie).

Completed in 1995, it is a masterpiece of engineering and art. Spanning a distance of over 2km across the Seine, it is the second-largest cable-stay bridge in the world and links all of the French harbours from the North Sea to Spain.

massive suspension bridge against blue sky in normandy france
Pont de Normandie

Day Three: Omaha Beach 

Approximately 90 minutes west of Honfleur are the D-Day beaches.

On a sun-drenched August afternoon, it is difficult to reconcile these golden beaches with the horror of the events of June 6th, 1944. The D-Day landings were pivotal in the liberation of Nazi-occupied north-western Europe in WW2.

The 60-mile stretch of the Normandy coast was split into five assault beaches: Utah & Omaha (USA), Gold, Juno and Sword (UK & Canada). Preceded by an airborne invasion of more than 18,000 paratroopers into northern France, over 132,000 ground troops landed on these beaches.

Although the Allies did not immediately achieve their aim of capturing major Normandy cities such as Caen and Bayeux, this assault paved the way for liberating north-western Europe.

We had lunch in Arromanches (Gold Beach) before spending the remainder of the day at the Normandy American Cemetery at Omaha Beach.

Covering 172 acres, it contains the remains of over 9,000 American military dead and is the largest war cemetery in Normandy.  Set in a landscaped park, fringed by Corsican pine trees, the graves are marked by gleaming white marble Latin crosses with a sprinkling of Stars of David.

Here and there, people have placed a flower to remember the fallen or, in the case of the Jewish dead, a simple stone. A visit here is a deeply moving experience.

red rose against a white cross in cemetery at omaha beach
Normandy American Cemetery, Omaha Beach

Leaving the Normandy American Cemetery at 6 pm we took a leisurely drive to the port. There was time for one last fine French dinner before boarding the overnight ferry back to Portsmouth.

How to Get to Honfleur from the UK

Brittany Ferries sail from Portsmouth to Le Havre / Caen. Prices vary according to season and cabin type.

To make the most of your weekend in Normandy it is best to travel around by car. This is one part of France that is not well served by public transport.  

However, if you don’t have your own set of wheels, there are infrequent bus services connecting the port of Le Havre with Honfleur (bus numbers 111 and 123). The journey time is around 40 minutes.  

Where to Stay in Honfleur

Honfleur isn’t a big town and most of its accommodation is apartments. 

Note that most apartments and hotels in Honfleur do not have their own car park. However, there are free car parks within a ten-minute walk of the centre of town, at the Naturospace Butterfly House on Boulevard Charles V. 

Mansion Victorine 

We stayed in this two-bedroom apartment which is right in the thick of things, overlooking  Église Sainte Catherine. Highly recommended. 


Here are a few other options that I have found: 

La Maison Du Parc 

This place looks fabulous and has great reviews. It has a beautiful garden and is within easy walking distance of Honfleur’s main sights. 


ibis budget Honfleur Centre 

The ever-reliable ibis budget chain has this centrally-located property at wallet-friendly prices. Don’t expect any frills but reviews suggest that it is clean and comfortable.  


bridget coleman the flashpacker 2

About Bridget

Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.

Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.

To get in touch, email her at hello@theflashpacker.net or follow her on social media.