An epic Northern France road trip Normandy, Brittany, Hauts de France itinerary

Northern France tends to be rather unknown by North American tourists, most will come to France to see Paris or the WWII memorials on the Normandy beaches or perhaps the lavender fields of Provence.

The British and Europeans know many of the secrets of north France but for many non-Europeans, it is not a traditional vacation but once you visit the towns of Northern France you will find it hard not to fall in love with the area. The northern region of France has much to offer from its incredibly rich natural forests and parks to its outstanding historical heritage.

flowers in underrated destinations in Europe

If you are a first-time visitor to France remember to plan your visit carefully you can get carried away trying to visit all the places you have read about. From ancient medieval villages like Dinan and great historic works of art like the Bayeux Tapestry, northern France has a lot to see and do.

Northern France encompasses the regions of Hauts de France, Normandy, and Brittany. Where I’m based these days housesitting is right on the border of Normandy and Brittany in the Mayenne so I get to scope out all the best things to see in this region. With a little help from my travel writer friends, we have picked out some of the best places to visit in Northern France.

Let the road trip of north France begin and here are our picks of the best places in Northern France and my personal northern France highlights.

Planning your road trip to Northern France map

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit
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Your ultimate road trip itinerary for Northern France

Hauts de France

The Hauts-de-France region is located in the most northern region of France to the north of Paris. This area is also the closest to England and much of it is along the border of Belgium.

There is much to see in the northern area of France from Amiens along the white sand beaches and chalk cliffs similar to Dover all along what is called the Opal Coast of France. The Bay of Somme is a birdwatcher’s paradise, this area (if you remember your history) was the side of some brutal WWI battles and is home to several major monuments and military cemeteries.

Amiens, France - May 30 2020: The Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Amiens (French: Basilique Cathédrale Notre-Dame d'Amiens), or simply Amiens Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic church.

This region was of paramount importance during the first world war. Most Canadians learned of Vimy Ridge in their history classes. Its capture was essential to the advances by the British Third Army to the south and of exceptional importance to checking the German attacks in the area in 1918.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit
The Canadian National Vimy Ridge Memorial in France

Hauts-de-France has six Gothic cathedrals and 23 belfries that are on the UNESCO World Heritage list throughout the region. Don’t forget to make a stop in Lille, Amiens, Beauvais and Dunkirk, Check out the castles at Chantilly, Compiegne and Pierrefonds and the incredible medieval towns and villages along your route.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

Getting to the Hauts de France

The Hauts de France region is about a 2-hour drive from Paris but you can get there by train easily from Paris from the Gare du Nord station. Driving is easy either from Paris or if you get to France by Ferry you may arrive in Calais via boat from Dover. There are also ferries from Dover to Dunkirk.

The best places to visit in the Hauts de France


The garden of Monet in Giverny is amongst the most beautiful places to visit in Northern France! Claude Monet, the famous French impressionist painter, lived with his family in a beautiful house in the little town of Giverny in Normandy from 1883. Over the years he created a garden around it that will become a real piece of art and an important source of inspiration for his work.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

Having seen the beauty of Monet’s paintings, Giverny has always been on my bucket list! I visited it during the summer of 2020 and it didn’t disappoint! I totally understand why it’s the second most popular tourist site in Normandy (after Mont-Saint-Michel). The garden is enchanting and full of flowers: it was even more beautiful than in my imagination!

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

Monet’s garden is divided into two parts. The first one, in front of the house, is the “Clos Normand”. The Clos Normand is a flower garden of around 1 hectare. The main alley leading to the house is especially picturesque with its metallic arches covered and lined with flowers. The second part is the “Japanese garden”, a water garden located on the other side of the road. Some water lilies are blooming on the pond in summer: a feast for the eyes! This is what inspired the iconic “Nymphéas”.

You can also visit the house of Claude Monet. I was pleasantly surprised by the colours of the place! The house is furnished and full of objects from the time Monet was living here. Once you have visited the house, you can walk around the charming village of Giverny and visit the pretty neighbouring town of Vernon. Le Bistrot des Fleurs is a great traditional French bistro in Vernon. Address: 73 Rue Sadi Carnot. Recommended by Ophelie of Limitlesssecrets.


One of the most beautiful cities in northern France is the picturesque Metz. This lovely city is located in the northeast of the country, close to the border with Germany and Luxembourg. It is well worth a visit, as you will have the opportunity to explore many magnificent sights and places. The charming old town of Metz, the wonderful gardens, the beautiful location on the Moselle and of course the excellent French restaurants and patisseries are just some of the top attractions you will experience on a city trip

The city is beautifully situated directly on the Moselle River, where a bridge connects to the island of Saulcy. Here you will discover beautiful 18th-century buildings and enjoy an authentic French ambience. Especially in the summer months, tourists and locals alike stroll along the riverbank, have a picnic or take a romantic boat trip on the beautiful river.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

One of the best things to do in Metz is a visit to the cathedral. It is the main attraction and one of the most beautiful and largest Gothic churches in France. Exploring the cathedral of Metz – Saint-Étienne is also worthwhile from the inside, where you can discover many art treasures. 

For a leisurely break, you should visit Place Saint-Jacques, which is known by locals and tourists for its many nice cafés and restaurants. Here you can enjoy delicious coffee with a grand view of the hustle and bustle. 

All in all, the city of Metz is really something special. It has a lot of historical charm, a long history and is definitely one of the most beautiful cities to visit in France! Recommended by PlacesofJuma

Cap Gris Nez and Cap Blanc Nez

Cap Gris Nez and Cap Blanc Nez are two magnificent places where you can really enjoy the vastness of the landscape in Northern France. These two viewpoints located close to Calais and Boulogne-sur-Mer are one of the only places where you can actually see Great Britain in the distance, only when there’s a clear sky of course.

What I believe makes these locations so unique is not only the view but also the enormous limestone cliffs! At Cap Blanc-Nez there’s even a beach where you can enjoy the sunny weather as well. Although the weather here might be less warm than in the South of France, the region is definitely as beautiful! I’m sure you’ll be blown away by the beauty of these landscapes!

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

At both Cap Gris Nez and Cap Blanc Nez you’ll have plenty of parking spots to park your car. The region is also perfect to discover by motorbike as the landscape and little roads are wonderful. Hiking is another beloved activity and the small villages you’ll encounter on your way will for sure charm you. Both viewpoints are carefully maintained and attract many tourists, in particular in summer. If you want to have these places all to yourself, I recommend going off-season, when there’s less of a crowd.

If you have plenty of time, it is also worthwhile to visit the nearby Boulogne-sur-Mer for its wonderful aquarium Nausicaa. After seeing the vastness of the sea from the two viewpoints, it’s a great experience to discover what lives under the sea as well! Contributed by Emma of Emma’s Road Map.

Château de Pierrefonds

The Château de Pierrefonds is a stunning castle in the Pierrefonds commune of France and carries the historical remnants of a Middle-Age defensive architectural structure. The village itself is nestled on the edge of the Forest of Compiegne, and home to a beautiful lake where you can hire a pedalo boat, a charming town square, and a heartfelt memorial at the Place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville to remember the nurses who died during WWI.

There is also the impressive Church of Saint-Sulpice, a beautiful 11th-century church that was reconstructed in the 13th century to showcase some gothic elements. Meanwhile, the upper belltower carries traces of Renaissance architecture. Exploring the different parts of the church, I could almost imagine myself exploring through these different time periods.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

Of course, the beating heart of Pierrefonds is none other than the Château de Pierrefonds. I truly feel that it’s among the most impressive castles in all of Picardy. With imposing spires and towers, its history is a fascinating one spanning from the 12th century to Napoléon III’s time in the late 1800s.

I really enjoyed exploring the huge salons, donjon, and chapel, as well as walking around the gorgeous parapet, where a view of the lake and village awaits. More interestingly, the castle has been used as a film set for many popular movies and series, including the recent Merlin show.

Pierrefonds is also very close to Paris and an excellent destination to add to your trip to the capital. Hop on the hourly train from Gare du Nord, then catch the bus from Compiègne to Pierrefonds. Or you can simply drive there in less than an hour! Recommended by Cazzy of Dream Big, Travel Far


I’m sure you have heard of Chantilly lace a song by the Big Bopper in the 1950s, well Chantilly lace is a real thing and has decorated many a wedding gown. You can tour the Musée de la Dentelle (Museum of Lace) where you can see demonstrations of this famous lace being created and a history of who wore it when.

Chantilly is also the birthplace of Chantilly Cream which the myth says was created by the chef Vatel for a party for the Duc de Condé, and his cousin Louis XIV at the Chateau de Chantilly.  However, the truth is that the recipe for whipped frothy cream goes back much further, but it became known as Chantilly for being served to the King.

Château de Chantilly is one of the most beautiful castles near Paris built in the 16th century for the House of Montmorency and later owned by the princes of Condé, cousins of the King of France. The château has a beautiful library and an important collection of French artwork. The surrounding gardens were designed by Le Notre, who also created the gardens at Versailles.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

The Prince of Condé was horse mad and in the 17th century, he had Les Grandes Ecuries (the Grand Stables) built. Since that time Chantilly has become renowned for being home to the largest horse racing and training facility in France. Les Grandes Écuries hosts the Horse Museum and also a prestigious centre of dressage.

The Castle of Pierrefonds is situated on the southeast edge of the Forest of Compiègne. It was built in the 14th century, by Louis d’Orléans, the brother of Charles VI, but in the 17th century is was destroyed and forgotten until Napoléon I bought it and it was Napoléon III who appointed the Architect Viollet-le-Duc for its restoration.

Battle of the Somme

Sadly, Hauts-de-France also hosts a large number of battlefields, war cemeteries and memorials of WWI and WWI. During the First World War, the Battle of the Somme lasted four and a half months during which more than one million men and women lost their lives.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

The Armistice which marked the end of the First World War was signed in the Forest of Compiègne, and you can visit the railway carriage where the armistice was signed. There is a Remembrance Trail, which is a walking route linking Albert and Péronne which takes you through the footsteps of the men of WWI through the battlefields and cemeteries and the memorials that mark their sacrifices on the Western Front.


When I lived in England (yes many years ago) shopping in Calais was the perfect day out and we would come home loaded with French wine, cheese, bread and other items we couldn’t find in London and the journey only took around 2 hours.

Calais has a fabulous beach that many French holidays at as an escape from Paris. Make sure you check out the gorgeous architecture of the Town Hall and its belfry it is a mix of Neo-Renaissance and Flemish styles and was constructed in 1911. The Halls bell tower is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This is where Charles De Gaulle was married in the building’s wedding hall back in 1921 in a civil ceremony. You will also spot a Rodin statue in front of the Town Hall

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

The statue commemorates Les Bourgeois de Calais (the Burghers of Calais, six brave men of the city who in 1347 offered themselves as hostages to the English, who were besieging the city, to spare the townspeople from a massacre. In the event, their lives were spared by the English king Edward III after the intervention of his wife Philippa of Hainault.  

Things to do in Northern France – Normandy

Normandy is a charming region just north of Paris. It’s both a rural and seaside area famous for producing excellent cheeses, apple and pear cider, and seafood, such as scallops, mussels, and oysters. The quality of the cuisine of Normandy makes it a must-visit area if you’re a foodie.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

Normandy is of course where many tourists come to see the WWII battlefields, the Beaches of Normandy and the memorials. You will also travel through several smaller Northern France towns with many a memorial to Liberation Day in 1945. The North of France bears many scars from WWII and many villages will have central village squares which commemorate the liberation. The small village I am near has named the central square the Place du Mai which commemorates the liberation of Lassay les Chateaux on that date in 1945.

Getting to Normandy

You can get to Normandy via ferry from several ports in the UK or Ireland and there are domestic flight airports. If you are coming from the USA, Canada or further away you are probably going to come to Paris. From Paris, you can take a train, bus or rent a car to see Normandy.

Places you should visit in Normandy


Bayeaux is a must-visit for those captivated by history. A chance to see the great Bayeaux Tapestry which hangs in the Bayeaux Museum is a bucket list stop for me. This incredible 70-metre long work of art tells the story of William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and the Battle of 1066 when he became King of England

While it is possible that the Tapestry was designed by men the work would all have been carried out by the superb women embroiders at the time. Only women did this kind of work and the Tapestry was made in England and paints a point of view from the French or rather the winning side in that eponymous battle

BAYEUX, FRANCE - FEB 12: Detail of the Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Norman invasion of England in the 11th Century on February 12, 2013. This tapestry is more than 900 years old, no property release is required.

Cathédrale Notre Dame is a spectacular Gothic cathedral dating from the 13th century although the crypt there dates back to the 11th century. It has some stunning stained-glass windows that commemorate the sacrifice of the allied forces during the World Wars. You can also visit many of the WWII landing sites, memorials and cemeteries that can be found around Bayeaux.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit


The Port of Honfleur couldn’t be any prettier. The brightly coloured half-timbered buildings along the quays are full of restaurants, cafes, art galleries and speciality shops Honefleur literally sparkles.

Honfleur is also the port from which Champlain sailed on his voyage to discover Canada and found Quebec. Champlain set up a very lucrative trade for the shipping barons of Honfleur which included cod fishing off the coast of Newfoundland.  

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

Honfleur is extremely proud of its Impressionist roots – Claude Monet’s mentor Eugène Boudin was born in the town, and Monet and his fellow painters would often set up their easels at the Ferme Saint-Siméon on the hill above Honfleur, to capture the beautiful light of the Seine estuary. 


A visit to Northern France is not complete without seeing Rouen, the largest city in the Normandy region and located on the banks of the Seine river. The city is historic and the site where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake also has cultural treasures to visit like the historic city centre. You can easily walk around the historic district and find lots of wonderful architectural sites in the city centre.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

This includes ornate buildings like the main cathedral, public square and treasures like the Musee de Beaux-Arts, Eglise Saint Maciou, Abbey Saint-Ouen, the Renaissance clock, Palais de Justice, the many pedestrian streets and even the gorgeous gardens around Rouen. If shopping and dining is your thing then it is easy to wander around the historic district with fabulous shopping and dining venues in the city to explore and enjoy the many promenades in town.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

You can actually do an easy day trip to Rouen by train from Paris or an overnight stay. If you want to explore more of the city and region and away from the crowds and noise of Paris, then a longer visit to explore the wonderful streets, architecture and other historic treasures and museums make this a worthwhile visit in the Normandy region of France. You can reach Rouen by car in about two hours and slightly longer by train so either a day trip or longer stay to visit other towns and landscapes in Normandy makes it an easy getaway from the Paris bustle and tourist crowds. Contributed by Noel of Oahu Travel Now.

Mont St. Michel

Mont St Michel is one of those iconic places that tourists to Northern France put on their bucket lists. Mont Saint-Michel is not a castle but it certainly arises out of the sea as if it was.

Mont Saint Michele at dusk France

Mont Saint Michel is located on a small island just off the coast of Normandy and is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site. Mont St Michel is not a castle it is a medieval Abbey and village constructed over 1300 years on a tiny island surrounded by the sea.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

Located on the coast of Lower Normandy Mont-Saint-Michel is in the Manche département, Normandy region. Approximately 41 miles (66 km) north of Rennes and 32 miles (52 km) east of Saint-Malo and around 4 hours from Paris. When you first catch sight of the Mont you will spot ramparts that circle the island and a 3 tiered assembly of buildings from the 13th century known as La Merveille (The Wonder) that rise up to the abbey’s pointed spire.

Only 350 or so steps to reach the Abbey and when you get there the entry ticket will cost €10 euros.

Normandy Beaches

Before the world closed down Normandy was one of the most visited places in France during the month of June. Naturally, most tourists divided their time between a visit to Paris and other locations such as Provence but many American tourists specifically come to France to pay their respects to family members who fought and those who died on the Normandy Beaches during WWII.

D-Day and the Battle of Normandy were predominantly fought in the areas of Calvados, Manche and Orne, and it is here that you will find the many memorials, cemeteries and museums that commemorate what happened.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

The D-Day Landing Beaches extend over 70km from Sainte-Marie-du-Mont to Ouistreham, via Colleville-sur-Mer and Arromanches-les-Bains. 


A wonderful location that’s a must-see in Normandy is Etretat. This picturesque location is a place I visited with my boyfriend during a Spring road trip and it was the highlight of the whole trip! 

Etretat is famously known for the pretty white cliffs that make up the 130km long Alabaster Coast from Dieppe to Le Harve. These white cliffs can be explored from above along the walking routes, else head down to the pebbled beach to see them from below. If exploring from below, climb through the cave if you dare, allowing you to reach the other side and explore with fewer people.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

We did this in time for sunset which we loved being below the cliffs during sunset, which made the location very romantic! Just keep in mind and check the tides of the sea, as it’s possible you can get stuck here during high tide!

The town of Etretat is also lovely, with some delicious restaurants selling local fish dishes as well as popular typical places selling pizzas, chicken and pasta dishes. There are many local boutiques to shop from when not eating, whether you want a souvenir or something cute for yourself. I didn’t buy anything myself, but sure did eat lots of delicious food here! 

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

Our recommendation for a place to stay is Hotel Dormy House. It’s perfect for those visiting by car and only a 10minute walk from the town centre of Etretat. They have panoramic views with the cliffs and the little Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde church at the top. Contributed by Zoe of Together in Transit.


While it is quite famous amongst the french, Deauville is still relatively off the beaten path for the average tourist in France (but it shouldn’t be). Located on the coast of Normandy, Deauville is a very popular beach town/resort for the rich and famous. If you are looking to spot French celebrities then this is the place to go. Not only is it the place to be seen during a weekend getaway from Paris, but Deauville is also one of the nicest beaches you will find in Northern France. I like to call it Paris’ Riviera.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

I somewhat accidentally discovered this beautiful place when I was invited by a friend of a friend to come along and I am so glad I did! Deauville is all about relaxing in style. The main things to do here are to get dressed up and head to a casino, be trackside at a horse race, go shopping at the designer boutiques lining the streets, eat some amazing food and of course, make sure to enjoy the beach itself. If you are feeling a little more active I recommend renting a bike and exploring the whole harbour on two wheels. It’s perfect for a warm summer afternoon!

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

While you are experiencing the glamorous life of the upper-class Parisians, you have to try some Mussels! A lot of restaurants sell them but you can’t get more authentic than trying some at the Hippodrome Deauville La Touques or simply along the beach. We also ate at Cocotte Cafe which had some delicious options to satisfy my appetite after a long day of relaxing. Recommended by Yulia from Miss Tourist.

Things to do in Northern France – Brittany

La Bretagne (which is Brittany in English) is one of the most visited Northern France regions complete with deep secretive forests, historical cities, rich culture, fabulous food and imbued with Celtic legends. Located in North-Western France Brittany is an immensely popular destination for both British visitors and where many ex-pats move to live in France.

Brittany’s landscape is dotted with picturesque medieval villages, and Disneyesque fairy tale chateaus all set in verdant green landscapes. The views range from stunning craggy coastlines to sweet white sandy beaches and pristine forests.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

A land of Celtic myths and legends the area has a fascinating history entwined with Celtic groups from Cornwall, Wales and of course the Breton culture of Canada.

The Brittany region offers endless sightseeing opportunities and authentic local experiences. Plan your trip with our list of the top attractions and best places to visit in Brittany.

Getting to Brittany

You can get to Brittany by plane and the two major airports are Brest and Rennes. Flights come into these airports from London, Manchester, Dublin, Southampton, Manchester, or Exeter.

From London, visitors from the UK can get to the Gare du Nord in 2 hours 20 minutes by Eurostar. Then, to continue their journey, Brittany has an excellent rail high-speed rail service from Parison the TGV Atlantique train.

Brittany is well connected with the UK and Ireland through the ports of Roscoff and St-Malo. The ferry companies serving these destinations are Brittany Ferries and Condor Ferries.


Rennes in Northern France was a must-visit for me as I wanted to wander the ancient streets with all those glorious coloured half-timbered houses. Known as a city of heritage and art its historic centre has preserved its classical and medieval heritage with over 90 protected buildings. 

Place Ste. Anne is the very heart of the old town of Rennes and a favourite spot for photographers and Instagram influencers the medieval centre around the Place Ste-Anne holds around 286 incredible coloured half-timbered buildings. In 1720 there was a fire that burnt down most of the city but this area of cobbled streets and crooked houses was re-built.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

Off the Place Sainte-Anne, you will see the rue Saint-Michel which is nicknamed the Road of Thirst because there are dozens of bars all along the street which are frequented by the many students who make their home in Rennes. On the Rue Saint-Michel, you will note there is a bar every 7 metres which is a French record. A small cobbled street that has existed since the Middle ages it is home to 13 bars and the place to hang out in the evening in Rennes. 

In Rennes, you will find everything from fabulous museums, opera and theatre along with gorgeous parks, amazing architecture and medieval history. Oh, and the food of Brittany is served to perfection here in Rennes.

 St. Malo

St. Malo dates back to the 1st century B.C. under Roman control, taking its name from a 6th-century abbey, and the inhabitants even considered themselves “Malouines” rather than Bretons. Long sandy beaches sweep east from the old town to the district of Rothéneuf. Here you’ll find the former house of one of St Malo’s most famous sons, Jacques Cartier, who discovered Canada and the 15th-century Manoir de Limoëlou house a fascinating museum dedicated to the explorer.

Aerial view of the beautiful city of Privateers - Saint Malo in Brittany, France

The city’s pirates wreaked havoc on shipping in the 18th and 19th centuries. The town was made an Asylum town in the 12th century, making it the perfect safe haven for pirates and privateers. They lived like gentlemen in the town but ranged the seas and oceans robbing and raiding.

In 1944 the Allies all but bombed the walled city into rubble. The result was that Saint-Malo has been rebuilt in bits and pieces, with some reconstructed timbered structures alongside faux-Neoclassic and modern architecture. You can walk around the walls of the city and definitely visit the 12th-century Cathedral of St. Vincent (whose 15th-century steeple was destroyed in 1944 by Allied bombing and took three decades to restore).


Fougères owes its origin to its imposing castle, installed over a thousand years ago on a rocky outcrop surrounded by the waters of the Nançon river which served as a natural moat.

The town falls into two distinct halves, with the Chateau de Fougeres and the Medieval Quarter being in the lower town and quite high above is the upper town which has been largely rebuilt following a fire in the 18th century.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

The medieval old town sprung up to the south of the castle around the River Nançon whose waters were used by the cloth-makers, dyers and tanners; tanning was a by-product of cattle breeding, which was a major industry in the surrounding area. The prettiest and most atmospheric part of the old town is Place du Marchix, which is lined with half-timbered houses.

These days the main part of Fougères is the upper town, which overlooks the castle. On the main shopping street, Rue Nationale, you’ll see a 14th-century belfry, which is the oldest one in Brittany. The Belfry of Fougères is the first to be built in Brittany, in 1397.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

At the far end of this street is St Léonard’s church whose bell tower is open to the public in summer and offers fabulous views over the castle and surrounding area; at other times of the year, the views from the adjacent gardens are almost as good. You can also see the stunning Theatre Victor Hugo whose Belle Epoque architecture looks like a wedding cake.


Vitré has it all 15th and 16th-century half-timbered buildings, cobblestone streets, medieval gates, stone cottages built into the slopes and a fairytale castle.  Dating from the 13th century the castle has pointed turrets and these days houses a museum where you can learn about the history of the area and admire a collection of 19th-century curiosities.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

Vitré’s most famous resident was Mme de Sévigné, known for her letter-writing, who spent a lot of time at the Château des Rochers-Sévigné on the outskirts of town when not in Paris. The manor now houses a museum, which displays objects from her life, and don’t forget to explore the superb garden designed by Le Nôtre, the man who created the gardens at Versailles.

Côte de Granit Rose  

One of the most beautiful places in Brittany in the North of France is the Côte de Granit Rose or the Pink Granite Coast. It is a remarkable area filled with pink sand and rock formations. 

The Côte de Granit Rose extends for more than 20 kilometers from Plestin-les-Grèves to Louannec. The best way to appreciate these unique pink rock formations is to hike by the coast. 

There are several trails along the coast, but the best place to hike the Côte de Granit Rose and where we opted to hike is in the Côtes-d’Armor in the Perros-Guirec Municipality. 

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

This is an easy 5km hike passing through beautiful landscapes sculpted by erosion. Along the trail, there are several charming beaches like Plage de la Bastille and La Plage Saint Guirec. Plus a cute lighthouse, Phare de Men Ruz, which was our favourite part of the trail. Along the way, there are several spots to grab a bite or have a picnic.

The area of the Côte de Granit Rose also has great beaches to sunbathe with unique pink sand. We recommend two famous beaches Plage Trestraou and Plage Trestrignel. By Cláudia & Jorge From Travel drafts


Mention Cancale to any foodie and they will immediately think oysters. Famed for its breathtaking views over the Baie du Mont-Saint-Michel Cancale produces over 15,000 tons of oysters a year. At La Ferme Marine which is a family-run business, you can visit an exhibition of shellfish and see the oyster farmers at work.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

Surrounding Cancale’s port La Houle you can try the king of shellfish literally pulled just from the sea and eat watching the waves. Book a cooking lesson at the Culinary School of Olivier Roellinger a retired 3 Michelin starred Chef.

You will also find some great walks along Brittany’s coast and some fabulous beaches.


Dinan is an incredibly well preserved medieval town set on the River Dance and it managed to escape much of the damage caused by WWII. Many of its buildings date back over 700 years.

A wonderful town for a stroll you can take a long walk around the ramparts and enjoy the narrow streets filled with the wonky half-timbered buildings on the Place des Merciers.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

Plenty of outdoor cafes with terraces can be enjoyed for food and drink. The Old Quarter Clock tower provides amazing views if you can take the 158 stairs up. There is a Rail Museum for those who love model trains. If you are in town on a Thursday go and enjoy the outdoor market which has been here for hundreds of years at Place Duguesclin.

Dinan, France - 10 July 2017: Typical narrow cobbled street with outdoor cafes in the historical Old town of Dinan. Dinan is a popular tourist destination in Brittany, France.


Dinard is a seaside resort on the Emerald Coast and is famous for its Belle Époque architecture and over 407 listed villas. A favourite beachside holiday for the British in the 19th century and today Dinard is famous for its mild climate and beautiful beaches.

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

There are beautiful walks along the bottom of the cliffs or you can stroll like the Victorians taking the sea air along the Promenade au Clair-de-lune to admire those incredible villas.

St. Pabu

Saint Pabu is a small town located in the north of France close to the city of Best. You can reach St Pabu in around 30 minutes from Brest so it’s a great day-trip destination. You can definitely spend a few weeks here if you have time because there’s a lot to see and do in the area.

St Pabu is small and only has around 2000 permanent inhabitants. However, because it’s so quiet you won’t have to worry about tourist crowds. St Pabu is authentic and the perfect place to get to know the real Brittany. Try some authentic dishes from the area such as the Gateau Breton or the delicious cider that is produced in the area. 

Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit

St Pabu sits right by the ocean and is known for having one of the best beaches in the area. If you haven’t visited northern France you’ll be surprised how incredible the beaches here look. They almost seem like they should be located in the Maldives so to say that this is an underrated tourist destination is an understatement. However, the water is quite cold so make sure to visit during the summer if you plan to go for a swim. You can also enjoy water sports such as kite or windsurfing and paddleboarding. 

St Pabu hosts a weekly market where you can shop for fresh produce and local products. During the summer, sometimes little town festivals with live music and lots of delicious food to try. Contributed by Victoria from Guide Your Travel.

These 23 beautiful places to visit in Northern France is a mere handful of sites you may want to see. The North of France is incredibly beautiful and you could spend years exploring the entire area of Normandy, Brittany and the Hauts de France areas.

What part of northern France have you been to and where would you love to visit again?

Want to read more about France?

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French Food Culture: The Ultimate Guide

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Beautiful villages in Normandy

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Northern France things to do and 23 Incredibly beautiful places to visit


  • Faith was born in Ireland raised in Canada and has lived in over 10 countries in Europe including England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Spain, Northern Ireland, Wales, along with Mexico, Antigua, the US and has slow travelled to over 40 countries around the world. Graduating with a degree in Anthropology and Women's Studies Faith is a student of history, culture, community and food and has written about these topics for over 40 years.

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