My Top 10 Abbeys and Castles in Normandy

My Top 10 Abbeys and Castles in Normandy

These are just some of the abbeys and castles in Normandy I’ve visited. They’re all located in La Manche region of Normandy.

I’ve chosen five abbeys and five châteaux and they’re all equally impressive.


Mont St Michel is on most of my guests’ to-do lists while they are here. This iconic abbey is perched on top of an island and it literally takes your breath away the first time you see it. It’s magical and an absolute must-see for visitors to Normandy. During the summer it’s open until midnight (last entry 11pm). So, how can you make the most of your time there? During the summer it is busy but given it’s an UNESCO world heritage site, it’s not surprising. The links below will give you some of the practical information on tide times, parking, the shuttle buses etc. I’d recommended going early or late in the day to avoid the crowds. Between 12 and 2pm is also a good time as many people will be lunching. The main entrance is to the left of the red and yellow Normandy flag.

Mont St Michel

If the tide is low enough, head for the building on the far left of the picture instead. This is a quieter route and gives you a great view of those fascinating turrets you can see. It’s often busy around the steps leading up to the abbey but there are two queues and one is for groups. You should take the queue on the right hand side which is for individuals. Once you’ve got your tickets, take a free leaflet and decide if you want to purchase an audio guide. Then, you can wander round to your hearts content admiring the amazing architecture and views across the bay. Take your time as it’s not easy to double back as in places you go down narrow spiral stone staircases.

There’s a gift shop at the end which leads out onto a terrace overlooking Tombelaine island. Once you leave the abbey you can then explore the ramparts and main cobbled street full of restaurants, bars and souvenir shops. There are also a few art galleries dotted around. Depending on the tide, you may see groups of people taking a guided walk across the bay. The view from the dam is also impressive and the shuttle bus from the car park stops here. Oh, and be prepared as you drive through the village of Courtils as this is where you’ll catch your first glimpse of the island. The two website for Mont St Michel are: and also For more information you can read my account here.

For a bird’s eye view and fantastic shots of the setting, this video delivers on all counts.

For some close up shots of the abbey via drone, watch this video below

The abbey at Hambye is less than 20 minutes away from me. Beautifully serene and quiet. For more information visit this page.


I enjoyed a day out at Lucerne abbey recently. The story behind the 12th century building is impressive.
Lucerne abbey

Abbaye Sainte-Marie-Madeleine Postel
The Benedictine abbey is at 11 route de l’abbaye in Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte and was founded towards the middle of the 6th century. The amazing abbatial church was largely restored in the 15th century having been partially destroyed during the Hundred Years War. You can visit free of charge between 10am – 12 noon and 2-6pm every day. Guided tours are also possible.

Abbey St Sauveur Le Vicomte

And my final abbey is Lessay. You can see more photos here.
Lessay abbey

For more information about other abbeys in Normandy, visit this link or this one.

Chateaux and Castles

First on my list is Pirou. I really enjoyed my visit here one Sunday morning. The château was renovated by the same person who renovated Lucerne Abbey and both buildings are beautiful. There is also a tapestry similar to the Bayeux tapestry on display. For more photos see here.


Next is the ruined castle at Regnéville. The remains of the donjon seem to defy gravity. The account of my visit is here.

Regnéville chateau Regnéville chateau

Next on my list of castles is the Chateau at Gratot. It’s just outside Coutances and is surrounded by a large moat. You can see more pictures here.
Chateau Gratot Chateau Gratot

This is a very different château. It has no moat and looks more like a stately home. The castle was built in 1755 although some of the outbuildings including a manor house date from 1640 onwards. Ownership of the chateau has changed over the centuries with the latest being several years ago. It was bought by Guillaume Garbe who lived in it for a short time with his family. As they began to renovate it, they discovered that there was dry rot. Ceilings and wooden panelling were ripped out which revealed the severity of the problem as the dry rot had even permeated the stone walls. A restoration project was started and will continue for a number of years. The building is beautiful despite the sorry state it is now in. However, the passion and enthusiasm of its owner is remarkable. Other outbuildings have been converted to provide an income source and fundraising efforts lead by a team of volunteers is underway. I can’t wait to go back when more progress has been made to see this beautiful building brought to life. For more information visit their website.

Normandy history and heritage

My final castle is the Château in Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte. The origins of the castle date from the 10th century. It is English in style and was beseiged twice during The Hundred Years War when it was in English ownership for almost half a century. Parts of the château have been destroyed but the donjon is open for guided tours during July and August. You can walk around free of charge in the upper and lower courtyards admiring the remaining towers and castle walls. Information is available from the tourist office here.

Abbey St Sauveur Le Vicomte

This page has more information about châteaux and castles in Normandy. If I had to choose a favourite from my top 10 list of abbeys and castles in Normandy, then it would be Mont St Michel. However, they all have fascinating stories to tell and a rich history of destruction and restoration.



We spent 3 weeks creating the best online guide to Normandy on the web. It includes everything from a bucket list, must see attractions to the best places to eat and drink.

It covers Mont St Michel, Monet’s garden, the D Day beaches, wine tours and much more. .

It’s packed with our personal recommendations, maps and videos.


Hambye Abbey – My Favourite Abbey Near Gavray

Hambye Abbey – My Favourite Abbey Near Gavray

Hambye Abbey is a delightful 12th century abbey just a few minutes drive from Hambye in Normandy. It was once a thriving monastery but fell into decline with the last monks leaving shortly before the French revolution.

Hambye Abbey

It’s set in a valley in a calm and tranquil site of natural beauty. Despite being quarried, the abbey church ruins exude peace and serenity – perhaps due to the setting.

The buildings are extensive and many of them are intact having being restored. A room above the gatehouse as well as the Lay Brothers’ House often house exhibitions and tell the history of the abbey.

My favourite building is the Chapter House where the monks met every morning to read an extract from the Rule of Saint Benedict. They also dealt with the abbey’s daily business and heard confessions.

Hambye Abbey Hambye Abbey

The cloister occupies the space between the church, the Lay Brothers’ House, the monk’s accommodation and the refectory. It was a space for prayer, meditation and reflection. Today, very little of it remains except for 6 small columns but it boasts a small well-tended garden.

It’s open every day except Tuesdays from April to September but closes at lunchtimes. In July and August it opens on Tuesdays as well. Guided tours of around an hour are also available. See the website for more information and opening hours.

It is a stunning site and I’d buy a season ticket if I could! The restoration programme is a triumph. Despite the fact that the monks have long gone, I always feel as if I’m walking in their footsteps as I discover the environment they lived, worked and prayed in. I’d recommend a visit to Hambye Abbey and to tempt you here’s a drone view showing some of the abbey’s gothic architecture in all its glory.


Normandy’s Most Popular Visitor Attraction

Mont St Michel

A waiting list of almost 790 years for a facelift costing over 2.6 million euros … Was it worth the wait and the price tag? Absolutely! The cloister at Mont St Michel in Normandy was completed in 1228 and a year-long renovation project throughout 2017 has just ended. The photos in the link below show the extent of the restoration work which has included lowering the floors by 15cm, cleaning the wooden vaulted ceilings, the stone work and spandrels above the columns. The spandrels are intricately and beautifully decorated with a botanical theme – a painstaking job. 

Traditionally cloisters are built at the centre of the abbey with all the monastic buildings leading off it. However, Mont St Michel’s cloister was built on top of other buildings as a place of prayer for the monks. It’s is accessed via a small courtyard which leads from the abbey church and then leads to the refectory. The cloister has remained open throughout the work except when materials have been delivered by helicopter. The garden will be planted in spring 2018 to finally complete the restoration project. Despite the numerous visitors that pass through here every year the cloister retains a sense of peace and tranquility – a nod to its original purpose of prayer and reflection.

Created by Chris

Lucerne abbey, Normandy

Lucerne abbey

Day 21, Normandy Advent Calendar. Lucerne Abbey, near Granville in Normandy, is a Premonstratensian monastery founded in 1143.During the French Revolution it was reclaimed by the State with the buildings being used as a cotton mill and also as a source of stone. It is set in a valley with extensive grounds. Restoration started in 1959. The church, lavatories, gatehouse, dovecote, abbot's lodgings and much more are well worth a visit.

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Hambye abbey

Hambye abbey

Day 17 of my Normandy Advent Calendar in which I share some of my favourite things about Normandy. Hambye abbey was founded in 1145 and was a Benedictine monastery. It prospered in the 13th century but gradually slowly slid into a decline. The last monks left the monastery several years before the start of the French revolution. The abbey was then put up for sale and the outlying buildings used for agricultural purposes. Sadly stone from the church was quarried from 1810 onwards and the majority of the cloister was dismantled. In the early 20th century it was listed as an ancient monument, bought privately and has been the subject of a huge restoration project. Although the church is partly ruined, the magnificent pillars remain and the architecture is still breathtaking. Many of the adjacent monastic buildings including the refectory, dormitory, kitchen and chapter house remain intact. Well worth a visit.

Post and photo by Chris at Normandy Gite Holidays
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The abbey church in Lessay, Normandy

Lessay abbey

The church on the left hand side of the photograph is part of the Benedictine abbey founded in 1056. It was almost entirely destroyed twice – once in 1356 and again in 1944. Although the bombings that Normandy endured in 1944 caused some of the damage, explosives planted by German troops caused the majority of the destruction. The damage did reveal the very heart of the abbey church and the original ribbed vaults which did not become popular until later. To the right of the church were the monastery buildings. Both the church and the adjacent buildings were rebuilt. The church was re-opened in 1958 having being rebuilt in an identical style. The rebuilt monastery buildings became a private dwelling but the church remains at the centre of the town's heritage. Tours of the abbey church are available and permission can be sought to view the cloister and private gardens.

Post and photo by Chris from Normandy Gite Holidays

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A relaxing holiday in Normandy

A relaxing holiday in Normandy

Although the October holidays are almost over, it's the ideal time to explore Normandy. Everywhere will be quieter, even Mont St Michel, which can be busy during the summer holidays. It's Normandy's most popular visitor attraction and well worth a visit.

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Abbey de la Lucerne in Normandy

Abbey de la Lucerne in Normandy

There's still time to visit the abbey before it closes at the beginning of November for the winter period. Built in the 12th century, it has undergone an extensive restoration programme. There are several buildings to explore on the site including the charming gatehouse seen from the abbey grounds.

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The most beautiful ruin in France

Jumieges Abbey, Normandy

This is how victor Hugo described Jumièges Abbey, a benedictine monastery in Normandy, situated between Rouen and Le Havre. Founded in 654 by Saint Philibert, it was destroyed in 841 by the Vikings and again during the Hundred Years War. Although it prospered, the French Revolution, saw its decline and parts of the buildings were demolished with the stone being used elsewhere. Today, the impressive ruins of the church, with its tall twin towers, parts of the cloisters, and the library remain. The contents of the library were removed to Rouen when the abbey was dissolved. A 500 year old yew tree in the middle of the former cloister still stands.

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