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10+ Gorgeous Places You Must Visit in Northern France

Last Updated on 1st March 2023 by Sophie Nadeau

Picture France. What do you think of? Baguettes, bicycles, and the Eiffel Tower? Now, think of French life away from Paris. I’m guessing you’re probably conjuring up images of the picture perfect azure blue French Riviera, and the endless stretches of Provence beaches in your mind’s eye. Well, there’s also a whole load of France worth visiting in the north of l’Hexagone as well! And so here are 11 gorgeous and breathtaking places to visit in Northern France.

10 gorgeous places to visit in Northern France: dreamy view of Dinan, Brittany
Gorgeous Places in Northern France. Inspiration for your French adventures in Europe. Mont Saint Michel, Saint Malo, etc!

Best places to visit in northern France

Saint-Malo, Ille-et-Vilaine

The walled city of Saint-Malo has seen plenty of events and history over the years; including pirates during the middle ages and inhabitation by the Gauls in the 1st-century.

So iconic is the settlement in Brittany that it has been featured in countless books, art works, and movies over the years. The fortified city was even the birthplace of Jacques Cartier, the man who claimed modern Quebec for what is now France.

All that is left of what was New France is the archipelago of Saint Pierre and Miquelon. With this being said, head to northern France and you can visit the Breton city of Saint-Malo for yourself; wander the ramparts, explore ancient buildings, and soak up the historic atmosphere.

Top things to do in Brittany, very best things to do in Western France: walled city of Saint Malo

Bayeux, Calvados

Bayeux may well be one of the best places to visit in Northern France, but it is often overshadowed by its more famous wall hanging of the same name, that of the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman Conquest of England. The tapestry is a staggering 70 metres long and 50 centimetres tall.

Situated 30km northwest of Caen, Bayeux itself was first founded during the Gallo-Roman period and is now filled with plenty of museums, making this city the perfect French destination for history enthusiasts.

Some of the best museums to visit in Bayeux include the Battle of Normandy Memorial Museum (a tribute to those who took part in the D-Day landings) and, of course, the Bayeux Tapestry Museum, where you can see the Bayeux tapestry for yourself.

Bayeux France
Bayeux/ Kirk Fisher/ Shutterstock

Rouen, Seine-Maritime

With its timber-framed houses and links to Joan of Arc (who was allegedly burned at the stake in the centre of the city), you can’t go wrong by dedicating at least a day or two to exploring the city of Rouen on any Northern French adventure.

Capital of the Normandy region, the old part of the city is dominated by one of the most impressive Gothic cathedrals in France, if not all of Europe, as well as plenty of cobbled lanes to meander along. At Christmastime, Rouen also boasts its own cozy Christmas market in the shadow of the cathedral.

Best things to do in Rouen, Normandy, Northern France! Acitivites, places to go and history to see in Rouen.

Le Havre, Seine-Maritime

The fishing city of Le Havre is situated at the very mouth of the River Seine (yep, the same waterway which flows its way through Paris) and Le Havre’s name literally means ‘the Harbour’ or ‘the Port’.

Though not the most aesthetically pleasing city in France, the architecture of the city has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site on account of its unique post war architecture.

Founded in 1517 by Francois I, the city was constructed to cope with the ever-increasing maritime needs of the tiny towns of Harfleur and Honfleur.

Today, Le Havre is filled with plenty of things to do; including traditional French eateries and various museums. Elsewhere in the city, Le Havre boardwalk offers plenty of restaurants serving up fresh sea-inspired menus.

le havre france beach huts

Mont Saint Michel, Manche

Of course, no Northern France bucket list would be complete without a mention of the ever-iconic and ever-famous conically shaped tidal island that is Mont Saint Michel, which is separated from mainland France twice a day by the tide.

Once there, you’ll find an impossibly peched Gothic-style abbey (thanks to renovations by Viollet-le-Duc- a man who also had a go at altering Notre Dame and Carcassone, with varying degrees of success).

An ecclesiastical building has been situated on the mount for well over a thousand years and is just as impressive today as it must have been centuries ago. Today, a small village has sprung up around the abbey and the fortified church can be visited throughout the year.


Amiens, Hauts-de-France

This medieval city was once home to author Jules Verne, writer of Around the World in Eighty Days, and today his house can be visited in the centre of Amiens. Elsewhere, the city is filled with medieval architecture, as well as plenty of museums, and one of the most impressive Gothic cathedrals in Europe.

In December each year, one of the largest Christmas markets in France can be found in the centre of the city, a real treat for those of us who love a cozy ambiance, vin chaud, and piping hot snacks!

Amiens Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame d'Amiens )

Carnac, Morbihan

Known in the language of Breton as ‘Karnag’, Carnac is home to one of the largest Neolithic sites in the world and is filled with menhirs, stone circles and dolmens aplenty. In total, there are 10,000 slabs of granite; all aligned in various ways and each of varying size and form.

No one knows why they were erected and so the mystery surrounding these UNESCO world heritage protected stones remains. Nearby there’s the town of Carnac, and in a forest closer still, is said to be the birthplace of Merlin from Arthurian Legend.

Carnac Stones, Brittany, France

Honfleur, Calvados

Pretty and picturesque, Honfleur is situated by the sea and filled with fairytale-like houses; exactly the kind of scene you’d expect to find on a vintage French postcard, or perhaps in an old movie.

While much of the attraction of Honfleur lies in its old world charm and picture-perfect views, there are also a few museums in town, as well as some excellent coastal walks nearby.

Much like other popular spots in Normandy, Honfleur gets particularly busy in high summer and so the best time to visit is either in the late spring or early autumn. Honfleur also boasts a surprising number of hidden gems.

maritime museum honfleur

Etretat, Seine-Maritime

While England has the White Cliffs of Dover, France has Etretat. This stunning stretch of coastline comprises of the village of Etretat, a set of chalky sea pillars, and an outstanding area of natural beauty encompassing ancient churches and winding coastal paths.

Just remember though, Étretat is where all the Parisians come to holiday, and so if you’re expecting some of the cheaper prices that can be found in the rest of Northern France, you’ll be in for a shock- the accommodation and restaurants in Etretat and its surrounds are all Parisian prices.

Most beautiful towns in Normandy, Northern France: Étretat

Lille, Hauts-de-France

A pretty city with plenty of history, Lille is located right on the border with Belgium, and the resulting blend of French and Belgian cultures means that the city is full of Flemish influences, including beautiful Flemish architecture and cuisine that is typical of the region.

One of the top spots in the city where you can enjoy Flemish Renaissance architecture is the Vieille Bourse de Lille, which today functions as a second-hand book market. Be sure to bring cash and be prepared to look through piles of books- you’re sure to find treasure!

A trip to Lille can easily be combined with a visit to Brussels or Ghent, although you’ll likely want to spend at least a day or two dedicated entirely to exploring this fascinating city, especially its stunning old town and the streets surrounding Grand Place. For even more inspiration, be sure to check out our one day in Lille suggested itinerary.

sunrise in Lille, France

Dinan, Côtes-d’Armor

While more West of France than East, the medieval town of Dinan is still Northern French enough to make the list! And just as well, because this is the French fairytale town you’ve never heard of, but should most definitely visit.

Filled with pretty houses, a steep medieval high street, and plenty of local bakeries, no trip to Brittany, or indeed Northern France, would be complete without a visit to the walled city of Dinan!

Most beautiful places in Brittany: Brittany Attractions and must see places and things to do to add to your European bucket list. Best things to do in Brittany, France!: dinan tourism

Enjoyed reading about the most beautiful places to visit in Northern France? Pin it now, read it again later:

Amazing places to visit in the North of France. Wanderlust and Inspiration for your French adventures in Europe. Mont Saint Michel, Saint Malo, Rouen, etc.
Beautiful Places in Northern France. Inspiration for your French adventures in Europe. Mont Saint Michel, Saint Malo, etc!

Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A fan of all things France related, she runs when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She currently splits her time between Paris and London. Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.

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Joseph marcucilli

Sunday 20th of January 2019

Normandy Beach and cemetery.

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