Do you love the Impressionists? Are you visiting France? – Normandy is where it all happened!!

One cannot separate the history of Impressionism and Normandie in France. It was here in Normandy, where it all began.

The beautiful north-western part of France, Normandy, has always been a magnet to many French artists. Firstly, Normandy is easily accessible and close to the art hub of Paris. Secondly, the beautiful landscapes of Normandy attracted the impressionists, and some even stayed.

The impressionists created an artistic heritage in Normandy which is virtually unparalleled elsewhere.

Honfleur Port in Normandie France
Medieval Honfleur – France, Normandie

In Normandy, the Impressionist painters preferred to paint outdoors (known as plein-air painting). They captured the natural light, and concentrated on landscapes, towns and scenes of daily life.

Claude Monet Painting of the Alabaster Coast, Normandie France
Claude Monet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Honfleur artist Eugene Boudin was in fact the predecessor of Impressionism. Boudin had a huge influence on the young Claude Monet

If I am a painter, I owe it to Eugène Boudin”  –

Claude Monet Quotes

Honfleur – The birthplace of Impressionism

Honfleur is of particular relevance to Impressionism art movement as it is the home of Eugene Boudin. Press here to understand the incredible significance of this medieval port town on impressionism…. it is fascinating!

Later on, the founder of pointillism and celebrated neo-impressionist, Georges Seurat, would also spend a summer in Honfleur and paint some beautiful seascapes. After visiting, you will understand why Honfleur attracted so many painters.

Majestic Etretat Cliffs

One of the places recommended to visit are the Etretat cliffs and beach. This particular location inspired many of Monet’s famous landscapes. This beach is gorgeous. 

Etretat Cliffs on the coast of Normandy and the subject of many of Monet's paintings
Etretat Cliffs on the coast of Normandie, France
Etretat - Monet painting
Etretat – Claude Monet [Public domain], France, Normandie

Le Havre

Le Havre city is proud of their famous “son” Raoul Dufy who was born here in 1877. In celebration of their world famous “son”, the Museum of Modern Art André-Malraux in Le Havre, (also known as MUMA), showcases a wonderful Raoul Dufy collection. The Dufy paintings are of his famous landscapes covering all periods of his artistic career.

Even though Dufy spent many years in the South of France, he often continued to paint the scenes of his beloved home town and the Normandie region.

In addition, this impressive museum has one of the largest collections of the French impressionist artworks. It’s an impressionist-lover’s dream come true!!

Press here for a suggested organized tour to the Modern Art Museum in Le Havre from Paris.

Giverny – Monet’s House & Gardens

A holiday to France’s Normandie would be incomplete without a visit to Claude Monet’s beautiful house and gardens in Giverny.

The Monet gardens are breathtakingly gorgeous. You feel like you are walking inside a Monet painting.

Giverny is also a great day trip if you are in Paris. You can get there easily by train or go on an organized tour.

If you are interested in an organized tour to Giverny, press here for some great options.

Monet's garden and famous pont in Giverny - the Japanese bridge
Monet’s garden and famous pond in Giverny – the Japanese bridge
The Japanese Bridge, Giverny – Claude Monet Painting [Public domain]

Other beautiful gems worth visiting during your trip to Normandy are Trouville – Deauville, Bayeux and Mont Saint Michel. In particlar, Trouville – Deauville, has a rich impressionism past.

Deauville Normandie - France
Deauville town

The Majestic Dieppe Coast & Port Town

Dieppe in Normandy is known as the birthplace of seaside swimming in France. As soon as the train route from Paris to Dieppe was completed in 1848, Dieppe beach and the surrounding area became the fashionable place to visit by the French aristocracy.

The impressionism painters quickly followed. These painters fell in love with the white chalk cliffs and the small fishing towns on the Alabaster Coast.

Dieppe beach, it’s port & the old town are subjects of many impressionism paintings. Artists, including Gauguin, Pissarro, Boudin, Gonzales, Renoir, Monet, Albert Lebourg and others immortalized this beautiful town on their canvases. Press here to read about Dieppe & what there is to see & do.

Dieppe Port painted by Paul Gauguin [Public Domain]
Dieppe Port painted by Paul Gauguin [Public Domain]

Photo of Dieppe Port
Dieppe Port photo by Pierre-Julien Grizel
(CC BY-NC 2.0)

Rouen In the Footsteps of the Impressionists

If you are a lover of impressionism, then Rouen is a MUST when visiting France and travelling in Normandy. This town inspired many of the impressionism painters including Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley.

There is plenty to see and do in Rouen. The city offers a magnificent Gothic cathedral, a beautiful restored medieval town, old historical churches, excellent museums, plenty of shops, restaurants, cafes and an exciting nightlife. And of course, you have the lovely Seine river crossing through the city, offering a peaceful and beautiful place to sit and relax or take a cruise! Click here for details about beautiful Rouen.

France, Normandie - Rouen Notre Dame Cathedral
Rouen Notre Dame Cathedral

The Impressionists’ Trail & Varengeville-sur-Mer

Situated on the majestic Alabaster coast of Normandy is a small hamlet called Varengeville-sur-Mer. So small, it could easily be missed!… But the giant artists of the 19th century did not overlook this beautiful town. The gorgeous scenery of Varengeville-sur-Mer has been painted on canvases by Renoir, Monet, Pissarro and others.  It is a must place to visit when traveling in Normandy.

Eglise St Valéry church - Varengeville, Normandie France
Eglise St Valéry church – Varengeville
Photo by Pierre Lesage (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Paul Signac’s Love Affair with Barfleur

Barfleur Harbour - Paul Signac Painting
Barfleur Harbour – Paul Signac Painting

Historically, Barfleur was one of the most important ports during the Middle Ages and the first port in Normandy.

Later on, artists, painters and writers came to this beautiful town, charmed by its old-time character. Paul Signac, the famous pointillist & post-impressionism painter was one of them.  Signac loved Barfleur so much that he purchased a home & lived in Barfleur for a few years in the 1930s. The writer Victor Hugo was another who spent time here.

Today Barfleur continues to attract visitors with it’s rustic, medieval & rural charm. It is no wonder that this town in Normandy has been officially awarded as one of the “most beautiful villages of France’’ or in French – Les Plus Beaux Villages de France.

For more information about Barfleur, press here.

Barfleur Harbour, France Normandie
Barfleur Normandy / photo by James Stringer (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Iconic Mont Saint Michel

One of the most visited sites in France is Mont Saint Michel. It is estimated that  2.5 million people visit this place every year.

The neo-impressionism painter, Paul Signac was also in awe of this amazing Abbey. He immortalized it on his canvas in 1897 using the Pointillism art technique. The painting is beautiful as it captures the abbey in the morning light as the sun is rising. Amazingly, the Abbey has hardly changed since Signac captured it on his canvas over a century ago!!  

Seurat Painting of Mont Saint Michel in Normandy
Paul Signac painting of Mont Saint Michel [Public Domain]

Press here for more information about this beautiful landmark in Normandy

Where to Stay in Normandy

When we spent five magnificent days in Normandy, we based ourselves in stunning Bayeaux and medieval Honfleur. Both towns are full of French historical charm. By staying in both places, we were able to travel through different parts of Normandy with ease. There are plenty of historical and cultural sites scattered all across the region.

Check out Booking to assist you in finding fabulous Normandy hotels.

My recommendation is to stay in picture-perfect Honfleur and Bayeax.

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Looking for Normandy tours in the footsteps of the Impressionists? Check out the wonderful options below:

Festival Normandie Impressionniste – Save the Date!

Since 2010, the Normandy region hosts an incredible 5 month festival called “Festival Normandie Impressionniste“. The Normandy Impressionism Festival celebrates the close connection of the 19th century impressionism art movement to the Normandy region. 

It comprises of many different kinds of events including:

  • special exhibitions of the famous impressionism painters in various art museums scatter across the region
  • exhibitions of contemporary artists inspired by the impressionists
  • concerts
  • lectures
  • sound & light shows and so much more!

This festival happens every three years and the next impressionism festival scheduled is between the dates April 3 to September 6, 2020. This festival is a major event, attracting over a million visitors. It is one of the largest festivals of its kind in all of France.

If you are planning a trip to France between April and September in 2020 you are IN LUCK! Add Normandy to your itinerary!

Normandy Tourism for a Road Trip.
Tips & Trips of Where to Go & What to See!