Considering it’s on our doorstep, France, and specifically North France, is a little undiscovered for some of us Brits.

So, when I started talking P&O Ferries about being a part of their new campaign, I was excited to explore what the North Coast has to offer.

Naturally, I wanted something, or somewhere that offered some adventure. And you know what? I found it a little difficult to find useful info about what was on offer and where, so that led me to this article.

In this guide, I’ll go through the best things to do in Northern France, including some adventure activities too, which is what I love to travel for.

Frustratingly during my research, I’d find cool things to do that were not in Northern France, Google would list websites that were all of France, or central France. So, for arguments sake, I’m just referring to North France.

For this article that’s the coastal area or anywhere within one hour’s drive. That was because I was travelling from Dover to Calais with P&O Ferries, so I didn’t want to go too far.

Introduction Best Things to Do in Northern France

Before going through all the best activities in North France, let’s discuss some essentials that may be interesting for you when coming.

Is Northern France Worth Visiting?

Absolutely, Northern France is a treasure trove of experiences worth visiting. It’s a region rich in history, culture, and stunning landscapes.

From the picturesque cliffs of Normandy to the charming streets of Lille and the battlefields of Somme, it offers a diverse array of attractions. Whether you’re a history lover, a foodie, or just love exploring little, not-so-popular towns, coming to Northern France is a great idea.

What is the Best Time to Visit the North of France?

The best time to visit Northern France is from April to October. During these months, you’ll enjoy mild to warm weather, making it perfect for exploring the outdoors and sightseeing.

Spring (April-May) brings blooming landscapes and fewer crowds, ideal for leisurely exploration. Summer (June-August) is great for beach visits and outdoor festivals, though it’s the peak tourist season.

Early autumn (September-October) is another excellent time, with fewer tourists and pleasant weather, perfect for enjoying the region’s natural beauty and cultural sites.

What are the Must-visit Cities in Northern France?

In Northern France, several cities stand out as must-visit destinations. Lille, the regional capital, is known for its vibrant culture, beautiful architecture, and lively markets. Rouen, with its stunning Gothic cathedral and rich history, is a hidden gem.

Calais and Dunkirk are not just key transport hubs but also hold significant historical interest, especially for WWII history buffs.

Amiens, with its remarkable cathedral and floating gardens, offers a unique experience.

Lastly, the picturesque coastal towns of Le Touquet and Honfleur provide charming seaside escapes with delicious seafood.

10 Best Things to Do in Northern France

Étretat– Surfing

The first place on my list was Étretat, I’d known about this place before my research, and it was the only place I was certain to visit.

As part of the What Next campaign, my Instagram followers would vote one of two choices, often it was close, and I could generally get an idea of which way they’d go.

I gave the option of Kite-Surfing in Houlgate or Surfing in Étretat. I heard the waves here are perfect for beginners, and that’s me. I’ve done it a handful of times, stood up a few times but that’s it.


However, surfing wasn’t meant to be, despite checking the surf the day before, there were no waves in Étretat that day, which led me to explore other activities, no bad thing.

If you’ve never been Étretat is known for its stunning chalk cliffs, and the archway that overlooks the pristine beach. Surfing in front of that would have been great, but kayaking through it, even better!

It only took 15 minutes in a single kayak to get to the arch, pass it and find myself on the private beach between the two giant rock formations, brilliant.

On the way back the weather picked up, the wind was crazy, so be careful, it flipped my kayak, but thankfully all I lost were cheap sunglasses (the GoPro made it). To see this on video, head to my Instagram Highlights!

Finally, if you come to Etretat, you must hike around the cliffs. I say hike, it’s more like a walk but still.

Allow plenty of time because there’s several photo spots and the further away from the beach you get, the more secluded it is.

Two-Caps National Park

The national park that seems to go by many names! Whatever you want to call it, there are two peaks, viewpoints of caps here, both of which are worth walking.

There’s a nice hike between the two, if you have a few hours of the whole day. For Cap-Blanc Nez (the Eastern cap) you can park either at the top or the bottom.

I chose the bottom for the exercise and to feel like I earned it, this is the tougher walk of the two, and in my opinion the better 360 views. For Cap Griz-Nez you can’t park that close but it’s a much easier walk.

There are so many other activities that could have their own paragraph in this article, such as kayaking, sailing, wind-surfing, surfing (I’ve only mentioned Etretat, but there are so many more), paint-balling or even horse riding.

Once you cross over to Normandy use the Normandy Tourism website as a first port of call for adventure and activities, it’s great.

And if you’re into your photography, you must stop by Mont Saint-Michel, no matter how touristy it can get.

Visit Mont Saint Michel

A trip to Northern France is incomplete without experiencing the magic of Mont Saint Michel, an island that looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale.

Rising from the midst of sandy shores, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a gorgeous blend of medieval architecture and natural beauty.

The Mont Saint Michel dates back to the 8th century and is a testament to medieval engineering and religious devotion.

No matter how long you have, I recommend getting a guided tour of the abbey to discover its history and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding bay.

The narrow, winding streets of the Mont are a delight to explore. Lined with quaint shops and traditional restaurants, they offer a glimpse into the life of this unique commune.

Be sure to try some local specialties like the famous omelette at La Mère Poulard, a classic culinary experience on the island.


The North Coast of France is very popular with kite-surfing, and you’re a little spoilt for choice when it comes to where to do it.

My pick was Houlgate, but there are several places you can choose from. For example, near Ouistreham or further west close to Cherbourg or Coutances.

Kite-surfing is something I’ve never tried, and I’ve been told you’ll need a couple of days to begin to master it, but it looks such great fun once you do.

For Kite-surfing options in Normandy check out their hand map feature here.

Learn About Joan of Arc in Rouen

Rouen is a city steeped in history and famously known as the place where Joan of Arc was tried and executed. Visiting Rouen offers a deep dive into the life and legacy of this French heroine.

Start at the Historial Jeanne d’Arc, a museum dedicated to her life, located in the archbishop’s palace where her trial took place. The immersive experience here brings her story to life through interactive exhibits and historical documents.

Don’t miss the Vieux-Marché, the site of her martyrdom, now marked by a modern church and a cross.

Exploring Rouen is like walking through the pages of history, offering a profound understanding of Joan of Arc’s impact on French history.

While in town, I recommend signing up for a tour, which doesn’t only include a tour about Joan of Arc but also the highlights in town.

Eole Aventure

Set on a big lake, Eole Aventure is a park close to Caen with so much to do. I set my Instagram followers the What Next of wake-boarding behind the wire or the big slide jump.

They choose the latter, which I was at first a bit disappointed with as I really wanted to wake-board, but it was a lot of fun.

This is park that caters for the whole family, with an inflatable aqua-park, the wake-boarding, zip-lining and paint-balling.

Sand Yachting

Sand Yachting (or Blow Karting) is an activity that has the same principles (and sail) as wind-surfing, but you’re in a 3-wheeled kart!

For this you need a lot of space and flat firm sand, so where you can do it is limited, but it’s great fun.

Despite this you can still find them all along the north and west coast of Normandy, take a look at the handy map feature here to see where is most convenient for you.

Go for a Swim at Deauville Beach

Deauville, often referred to as the “Parisian Riviera,” is renowned for its elegant charm and beautiful beach.

The beach at Deauville is a glamorous retreat with its famous colorful parasols and perfectly aligned beach cabins named after Hollywood celebrities.

The soft sandy beach is ideal for a relaxing swim or just basking in the sun. The iconic boardwalk, “Les Planches,” is perfect for a leisurely stroll with splendid views of the English Channel.

Deauville is not just about the beach; it’s also famous for its horse racing, film festival, and luxury shops, and visiting around is one of the best things to do in Northern France.

Visit The Famous French Castles

Northern France is dotted with spectacular castles, each telling a story of the region’s rich history and architectural grandeur. Here are the top 5 must-visit castles:

  • Château de Chantilly: This stunning castle houses one of the finest art collections in France and is surrounded by magnificent gardens.
  • Château de Pierrefonds: Restored by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century, this castle looks like it’s straight out of a medieval fairy tale.
  • Château de Compiègne: Known for its classical French architecture and its role during various periods of French history, including being Napoleon III’s summer residence.
  • Château de Coucy: Although partly ruined, it still boasts one of the most impressive medieval fortresses with a rich history.
  • Château de Rambures: A beautifully preserved example of medieval military architecture, set in a lovely park.

Visiting these castles is like stepping back in time, offering a glimpse into the lives of the nobility and the historical events that shaped France.

Each castle, with its unique history and stunning architecture, offers a fascinating journey through France’s past.

Ferry Travel to France

I love travelling to France by ferry, the flexibility of having my car with me and the short and easy route from Dover to Calais with P&O Ferries, makes this trip a breeze.

It’s amazing that once you arrive in Calais, Europe is quite literally on your doorstep. From festivals, cycling routes, or even countries like Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany (to name just a few).

You can take anything you want with you, from surf boards to tents. In fact, I took my tent in case I ended up at a festival, and I did – check out the campaign below.

Conclusion – Best Things to Do in the North of France

Have you been to the North of France? What was your highlight? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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