We are going to France at the end of August for 9 days and 8 nights. We have been to Paris several times before and are really most interested in exploring the Normandy area ( the D day beaches, Mont St. Michel and the Bayeux Museum). Is Bayeux the best place to stay as a central spot for day trips? We will likely spend two nights in Paris at the start. Does that leave us enough time for that area I have described. Also, we are planning to take the train to the area? Any suggestions or advice would be welcome. Thanks.
I think 6 nights in Normandy and part of Brittany (the Mt St Michel is in Brittany) is fine.
I would go straight there after landing in Paris. From the airport you need to go to Train station Gare St. Lazare to get to a direct train to Bayeux
I liked Bayeux fine; I know you can get a tour from there to Mount Michel and the D-Day Beaches fyi; https://www.overlordtour.com/ separately.
Or you can do it yourself by car and even the public but limited bus service
Bayeux is a good base for Normandy, but your timeframe would let you spend one night on or near Mont-St-Michel, so you can appreciate it when most visitors are gone. I agree that train is the best way to get to the area from Paris, but Caen has more car rental choice and convenience than Bayeux. A car would definitely be a good idea for a multi-day stay in Normandy. However, you might consider one of the D-Day tours from Bayeux to maximize your experience and focus on the sights while someone else drives. Overlord Tours and Dale Booth both get good reviews on this forum (but I haven't done such a tour). Besides the WWII museum, Bayeux has a very good cathedral and the famous Bayeux Tapestry. There's another good WWII museum in Caen.
Bayeux is a wonderful base, and I concur with an overnight trip to Mont-Saint-Michel. With 6 days, I highly recommend going to the Western sector and visit the best museum in the area (IMHO) at Utah Beach. Also, the town of Sainte-Mère-Église (first town liberated on D-day) celebrates the American paratrooper, and was the site of some huge battles for the liberation of Normandy. there is a great Airborne Museum right in town, and West of town was the site of the battle for the La Fiére causeway, which protected the Western flank of the landing areas. At the Eastern end, I can't recommend the Caen "museum." I don't know why Rick Steves hypes it so much. But I do recommend going to "Pegasus Bridge." This was one of the first successful battles on D-day around midnight when three huge gliders crash landed next to the bridge, and British paratroopers rushed out, stormed the bridge, and captured it before the Germans could blow it up. Other sights I highly recommend are:
Arromanches: i.e., Gold Beach, where, after the Brits took this area, they built an artificial harbor, the remains of which can still be seen on the beach, and on the horizon. Great museum right at the shore.
Longues-sur-mer: Sight of a large German gun emplacement that threatened beaches East and Wets, and which is remarkably intact.
Point-du-hoc: Where American Rangers scaled a cliff from the shore, and took this highly strategic position overlooking Amercian and British beaches.
Angoville-au-Plain: The little chapel there was turned into a field hospital for combatants on both sides, and civilians too (just inland from Utah Beach).
Enjoy, and PM me if you want more info.
Andrew is a bit harsh maybe, but I tend to concur that unless you have a specific historical interest 3 days is plenty. 1 Mont St Michel, 1 Honfleur + Bayeux Tapestry, 1 D-Day beaches.
I would opt for a second base in eastern Brittany, such as St Malo, Dinard or Dinan. Mont St Michel is easier to visit from there too.
A car is super helpful once in Normandy, but you can rent it at the station in Caen (exc. Sundays). Likewise, you can drop it at St Malo or Rennes stations and take the fast train back (the drive back to Paris is super boring).
The plan would be
Nights 1-2-3 Bayeux
Nights 4-5-6-7 St Malo and vicinity
Night 8 Paris
Yes, Bayeux is the best place to stay. Taking the train is also a good idea. It is an easy 2+ hour ride from Gare St. Lazare to Bayeux (a few minutes shorter to Caen). You can rent a car if you wish (most people recommend doing this at Caen, where the car rental agencies are next to the train station).
We spent 5 nights in Bayeux last Fall and used Bayeux Shuttle for tours. I wish we had spent 6, then again, my main interest is in military history. On our 4 full days in Bayeux, we did the following:
- full day tour of American sector
- full day tour of the British/Canadian sector
- day trip to Mont St. Michel
- full day walking around Bayeux on our own (WWII museum/cemetery, Cathedral, Tapestry)
We did not have a car, but if we did and had an extra day, I would have driven back to the American sector and spent some quality time at the sites where we were rushed on the day tour.
Bayeux is nice but I'd consider Caen. It's bigger with more to do and see. I expect you can find better lodging and restaurant options in Caen and it's plenty central for exploring.
Other than the Peace Museum (basically a full-day experience, which a lot of people seem to find overwhelming as well as expensive), I don't think there's more to do in Caen. Yes, it's larger, but it was nearly obliterated during the war, so it's mostly modern. I'm confident that a large majority of Americans would prefer the atmosphere in Bayeux to that in Caen.
However, for those without a car who want to see places along the coast to the east (Cabourg, Deauville/Trouville, Honfleur, etc.) Caen is logistically much more convenient than Bayeux, having both trains and buses heading in that direction. Caen also provides good access to the interesting new museum in Falaise about civilian life during the war (including the Resistance).
If ones focus is on D-Day sites and Mont-St.-Michel, I think Bayeux is a much better choice.
If one has time to see both the D-Day sites and places to the east, it makes a lot of sense to split ones time. That's what I did. I don't think I'd split my time if my only interest in Caen and points east was the Peace Museum; it's a hassle to change hotels, and it doesn't take long to take the train from Bayeux to Caen. A taxi or a long city bus ride will be required to reach the Peace Museum in any case.
Note: I liked the Peace Museum a lot, but I appear to be in the minority on that point.
We LOVED Normandy but are also incredibly interested in WW2 as we are children of veterans. We were in Bayeux as a base from Friday until Monday. We had a car but took a one day American beaches tour with Overlord.....they did a great job. We wanted to take our car the next day back to Omaha Beach and the American cemetery to have more time there on our own and so glad we did. We were also charmed with Bayeux.....were not expecting that but the tapestry and cathedral there were wonderful. We stayed at Hotel Churchill and found it to be a great location. Their breakfast each morning was great and they were near a laundromat where we were able to wash clothes. We drove from Bayeux to Mont St Michel where we spent a night on the island.....bucket list desire and so worth it. Hope you will enjoy it as much as we did!
What acraven and Jane said.