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London to Normandy

Greetings
We are traveling from London to Bayeux. We are looking for the fastest way, and it looks like Eurostar to Paris is the way to go. True? We are spending 2 nights in Bayeux.
Does it go directly from Paris to Bayeux? Do we need a car? It looks like a full day of travel unless we take the 5:40 am train, which is fine. It's a little confusing to me. Any tips, input or suggestions for 2 rookie travelers for who have never been 'across the pond' would be appreciated. Thanks, Jeff

Posted by
4697 posts

Hi Jeff. It's a little more complicated than that. The Eurostar will take you only to Paris. You will need either to take another train on to Bayeux or rent a car in Paris and drive there. I'd recommend the second train if you are rookie travelers. Unfortunately, you will need to change not just trains but train stations in Paris. You will need to get from the Gare du Nord train station where the Eurostar arrives to the Gare Saint-Lazare station, which is not within walking distance. You will need to get a taxi or take a bus or metro train between stations. If you are rookie travelers, I would take the taxi. (And write down "Gare Saint-Lazare" on a piece of paper and show it to the taxi driver - who may not speak English.

Actually, if you had the time, I'd spend a few nights in Paris first. That would break up your travel day to Normandy and perhaps let you adjust to France before heading to Normandy. But I'm guessing you don't have the time or can't schedule it that way.

I'm not sure, but I'm guessing you are headed to Normandy to see World War II stuff. If you are planning to take a guided tour that picks you up and drops you back in Bayeux, you probably don't need a rental car. Otherwise, you might take the train instead to Caen and rent a car there. Driving in Normandy is easy - it's beautiful countryside and not intimidating.

Posted by
4429 posts

Haven’t personally taken Eurostar, but in Bayeux, we did have a rental car, to tour sights on our schedule. We didn’t sign up for any D-Day Landing tours, although several are available. We turned in our car in Caen (excellent War/Peace Museum there), then rode the regular train onward to Paris.

We’d been in Belgium, then picked up our rental car in Lille, France. We then drove along the northern France coast to Bayeux. While the Eurostar doesn’t make any stop in Bayeux en route to Paris, it does stop in Lille. You may want to consider taking the Eurostar to Lille, then driving to Bayeux, if you weren’t going to spend some days in Paris before heading to Bayeux. While a jet plane is really, really fast once in the air, having to check in early, go thru airport security, get to your gate, then collect your baggage when you land, if you don’t do carry-on only, adds a lot of time. But if you’ve just landed at a London airport and want to get right to Bayeux, flying to France might still make sense.

If you’re already in downtown London however, then making your way to the St. Pancras train station, then hopping on the super-fast Eurostar, will get you to Paris -or Lille- faster than someone making their way to the airport for a flight.

Posted by
1063 posts

"St. Pancreas train station"
Another poster caught out by auto correct, it's St. Pancras.

Posted by
1122 posts

Eurostar tickets go on sale 6 months ahead of your travel dates and get more expensive the closer to your dates. It's not the fastest, but you might look at a ferry from Portsmouth to Quistreham (the ferry port) and a bus the 6-8 miles to the Caen railroad station where there are rental car agencies. Fastest is Eurostar to Gare du Nord then a taxi to Gare Saint-Lazare and a train to Caen where you can fetch a rental car and drive the 29 km to Bayeux, about 25 minutes. You will see a lot more with a rental car even if you do a D Day tour. We've done it both ways and always get a rental car at the Caen railroad station because there are several agencies across the street, having a car gives you the freedom to go where and when you want, and returning the car at Caen is then easy to take a train back to Paris, assuming you want to spend some time in Paris. We always take a very early Eurostar to Paris just to maximize our time and have a choice of trains to Caen, usually after spending two nights in Paris. You should check out the Bayeux forum on tripadvisor.com and have a look at the Paris forum too. Lots of advice specific to the city or town you want to visit. Good luck. One more thing -- we had our own GPS with Europe maps and we saved to favorites the address of places like museums, WW II cemeteries, and hotels that we planned to visit.

Posted by
4249 posts

Jeff, what time of year are you going? If it's between the end of April and early September you could take the Normandie Express Catamaran from Portsmouth to Cherbourg which takes 3 hours. From Cherbourg you can take the train to Bayeux which is 1 hour 10 minutes. If you take the train from London Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour it'll take an hour whereas from London Victoria it's 1.5 hours.

This route is a couple of hours shorter than travelling by train from London through France.

Posted by
9213 posts

I'm traveling from London to Bayeux in April.

My current plan is to fly from London Southend to Caen and then take a train to Bayeux. This is, of course, if Flybe is still in business.

Posted by
31221 posts

With such a very short time in Bayeux, it would be a good idea to minimize travel times as much as possible. You basically have two choices....

  1. Eurostar from London St. Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord - Taxi or Metro from there to Gare St. Lazare - train from there to Bayeux (there may be one change in Caen, depending on which train you use from Gare St. Lazare). That's going to be a bit of a grueling trip that will take the better part of a full day, when all is considered.
  2. Assuming FlyBe is still in business and Frank II has no problems, you could also take a flight from London Southend to Caen - take a Taxi or whatever from the airport to railway station in Caen and it's only a short trip from there to Bayeux.

I haven't looked into the details for travel by Ferry, but suspect that's also going to take the better part of a full day.

How are you planning to see the beaches and other sights in Normandy? The historic sites cover a front of about 50 miles and extend some distance inland, so even with a car it's going to be difficult to see much in one day, especially as you don't know your way around. I would highly recommend taking one of the excellent local tours rather than trying to see it on your own. The guides are excellent and very knowledgeable, and will make the tour so much more interesting and rewarding. You might have a look at Overlord Tours for one possibility. Pre-booking tours is highly advisable.

As this is your first trip "across the pond", I would also highly recommend reading Europe Through The Back Door prior to your trip. After that use the country or region specific guidebooks (preferably Rick Steves guidebooks) to plan sightseeing, transportation, hotels, etc.

Posted by
18158 posts

I second Ken's suggestion to use one of the local D-Day tour companies to assure a meaningful experience. Most of the tours use small vans and originate in Bayeux. They are an informative and highly efficient way to get around the invasion sites. The tours absolutely need to be pre-booked.

There are quite a number of invasion-related museums in the area. The one on the outskirts of Bayeux is modern, excellent, and not overwhelming in size. The Caen Peace Museum overwhelms some people due to its size and coverage (from the lead-up to the war through the Cold War).

Posted by
189 posts

I did the Portsmouth to Cherbourg ferry in 2018, although I visited Chichester for a few days between London and Bayeux.

Overall it was merely 3 hours for the ferry passage from Portsmouth to Cherbourg, and then 55 minutes travel time for a direct train from Cherbourg to Bayeux. As far as waiting around, I'd arrived at the ferry terminal at 7:30am for the 9am departure, and I'd also scheduled 2 1/2 hours between ferry arrival and train departure.

Posted by
4429 posts

Still not certain about your plans for Bayeux, but there’s also the famous Tapestry, which won’t require a car to reach if you’re already in town. The church, where the Tapestry hung centuries ago, is also worth a visit.

Posted by
4771 posts

Hey VAP, how hard was it to get from London to Portsmouth, for the ferry? Thanks.

Posted by
1122 posts

We've used www.aquacars.co.uk based in Portsmouth that fetched us from Heathrow, or anywhere in London, drove us to our hotel on the waterfront at Portsmouth near the ferry terminal, and for less money and much faster than by trains. Check out their prices. We did take a taxi to the ferry terminal due to rainy weather.

Posted by
4249 posts

Hey VAP, how hard was it to get from London to Portsmouth, for the ferry? Thanks.

Not hard at all. Direct trains from London Waterloo and London Victoria to Portsmouth Harbour. From Waterloo the train takes about an hour and from Victoria an hour and a half. There are a variety of ferries, the fastest is the Normandie Express which is a catamaran and will get you to Cherbourg in three hours however it only runs from the end of April to the first week in September.

The slower ferries are best taken as overnight journeys which saves money on a hotel for the night.

Another poster mentioned Aquacars. They are Portsmouth's primary taxi company and will undertake airport runs, perfectly acceptable company to use however you can PM me if you'd like and I can provide details of a friend of mine who is a taxi driver, he regularly takes my wife to Heathrow on an almost weekly basis, he's cheaper than Aquacars and he's a calmer driver, the majority of Aquacars drivers are of Eastern European descent and they tend to drive more carelessly.

Pricewise it will likely be cheaper than the train. If you're collection is from Heathrow or Gatwick then you can be in Portsmouth within 1.5 hours. If you're travelling by train, from Gatwick there is a direct train to Portsmouth but from Heathrow you'd have to take the tube to London Victoria. If looking to take the Normadie Express you will want an early train and these are the busiest and most expensive tickets. Using a pre-booked taxi will be the more economical and faster option (it'll also take you directly to the cross channel ferry port which is a short taxi ride from Portsmouth Harbour).

Posted by
4771 posts

Jeff, your useful phrase, " have never been 'across the pond' " made me take a look at Rick's free hints about visiting France and visiting England. I think it's an omission - that he doesn't mention .... because it is a frequent traveler's hope or wish otherwise ... that the D-Day beaches pair poorly with a trip to London. It's a tedious trek, and an surprising number of people who want to do it have bought air round-trips from London, almost as if London and Normandy are adjacent places. Alas, they are not.

Probably the second most frequent question about Normandy involves trying to do a same-day runout from Paris, which is also difficult and tiring.

Posted by
1 posts

Hello we are planning a trip to London and Paris -Normandy. We also want to do Normandy. I read doing it in a day is long. I was wondering how and if it would be worth it to switch up our route. Visit London and then take a ferry direct to Normandy instead of the train to Normandy and back same day. Stay over and do a 1 day tour and then take the train to Paris and stay there for a few days before leaving out of CDG? Would this make it any easier/faster? Any suggestions? I saw I can take a 1-hr train to Portsmouth, 3 hr high speed ferry to Caen, but then I don't want to rent a car, so I'd need to find somewhere to stay and have a tour pick me up there the next day. Possible? Worth it? Are there ubers in this area that could take me down to Bayeux? Maybe start the tour there? Also I'll have my 11 and 12 yr old sons in t
ow. Anyone done this route?

Posted by
189 posts

==>"Hey VAP, how hard was it to get from London to Portsmouth, for the ferry? Thanks."
Well Tim, JC of Portsmouth covered it all.

Posted by
4771 posts

Thanks anyway, VAP, your specific experience was very welcome for a frequently requested trip. The ferry route strikes me as incredibly slow and tedious, what's called in mass transit, "multi-seat."

My wife was sick on the boat-train long ago, and will never take a Channel ferry again in her life!

Posted by
18158 posts

LL, there is train service from Caen to Bayeux; you can check the schedule on the SNCF website. Most of the D-Day tours depart from central Bayeux, though I believe the Peace Museum in Caen also runs tours. Overlord has a tour--not sure how frequently it is offered--designed for folks who can't manage to spend even one night in Normandy. That tour departs from the Bayeux train station and is timed to line up with the arrival of the train.

Unless you arrange for a private tour, I think you'll have to get to the starting point of your tour by yourself; the D-Day tours have a lot of ground to cover, and as far as I know, none of them wander around, picking people up at their hotels. I highly recommend staying in Bayeux the night before the tour so you're near the pick-up point. Bayeux has several points of tourist interest: historic center, cathedral, Bayeux Tapestry, good invasion museum.

Posted by
4249 posts

The ferry route strikes me as incredibly slow and tedious, what's called in mass transit, "multi-seat."
My wife was sick on the boat-train long ago, and will never take a Channel ferry again in her life!

Tim, I'm not sure why you repeatedly make this assertion as I've claririfed repeatedly that the Normandie Express takes a mere three hours to cross the Channel on a modern catamaran, it is far from incredibly slow and tedious. If I recall correctly the last time you and your wife travelled by a cross Channel ferry was in the 70's! Things have progressed since then!

The vast majority of people don't get seasick on a cross Channel ferry unless they're unfortunate to be caught in a storm or very rough seas. I can assure you that a summer crossing on the Normandie Express is a pleasant, comfortable ride and in my opinion is preferable to the much longer train journey which is also what you would descirbe as "multi-seat" (not sure what the relevance is).

Posted by
4771 posts

The relevance is in comparing the trip with a ferry to the trip by other means. You have a Tube seat to the rail station, a rail seat to the ferry city, a taxi seat to the ferry terminal, a ferry seat, and then a rail seat to Bayeux. That's a minimum of five seats , if you're lucky, lugging your bags between them. It seems like five to six hours when you add it all up. But then ou have to add service-interval "latency" each time you change mode.

My opinion is that it's a nightmare, calm water or rough day. That's my OPINION.

Edit: There's also time for post-Brexit Immigration, which is an hour early arrival for Eurostar. I don't know how much time the ferry asks you to arrive early.

Posted by
189 posts

Tim, I respect your opinion, and I think that too many folks do not necessarily appreciate the reality of traveling between London and Normandy. On the other hand personally I place as much importance on the journeys and find that my travels by ferries and trains are rather enjoyable -- I've never been in such a hurry that I find such experiences to be tedious.

Posted by
4249 posts

The relevance is in comparing the trip with a ferry to the trip by other means. You have a Tube seat to the rail station, a rail seat to the ferry city, a taxi seat to the ferry terminal, a ferry seat, and then a rail seat to Bayeux. That's a minimum of five seats , if you're lucky, lugging your bags between them. It seems like five to six hours when you add it all up. But then ou have to add service-interval "latency" each time you change mode.

That all depends on your location. You could be within walking distance or short taxi ride to London Waterloo or London Victoria. The ferry port is within walking distance from either Portsmouth Harbour or Portsmouth and Southsea stations or a very short taxi (picked up immediately upon leaving either station). A spacious ferry with more amenities and comfort than a train followed by a brief train journey in France.

Depending on your location in London it may require multiple tube changes to get to St Pancras, a rather dull train journey beneath the Channel followed by intimidating train connections in France. To top it off it takes even longer than the catamaran option.

There's also the attraction of replicating the journey the D-Day veterans took by leaving Portsmouth by ship and approaching the Normandy coast in such a manner, it adds a certain bit of connection.

Personally, for a journey that's faster, more interesting, varied and more conducive to an historic approach to the beaches I'd pick the catamaran from Portsmoth.