Updated: Sep 6, 2021
When you think of the Seine, you naturally think of Paris and rightly so. All Seine river cruises begin or end (or both) in Paris and some even include a visit to the Versailles palace and gardens just outside the city.
You may also think of the incredible visits you can have to the Normandy Beaches and memorials. These are certainly a highlight and an awe-inspiring look into the historic events that took place here.
But you may not know as much about the stops in between. I've highlighted the key sights and activities in each of these locales.
This charming town, with the imposing Château Gaillard, the former stronghold of Richard the Lionheart, is situated on the chalk cliffs high above the Seine. As the name might suggest, Les Andelys is divided into its two original components: the fishing villages of Grand-Andely and Petit-Andely. For those that prefer an active adventure, you can hike to the chateau from the banks of the Seine, admiring the scenic views along the way. For those who wish to explore the area on two wheels, join a guided bike tour through this charming town. Along the river, below, Petit Andely will enchant you with its marina, old half-timbered houses, and flowered quays. The history of Grand Andely is intimately linked to the past of the Duchy of Normandy and features museums, churches, and 19th-century bourgeois residences.
The French commune of Mantes-La-Jolie was founded in the early Middle Ages and served as a port between Paris and Rouen. You’ll have three different ways to explore this port, each with a knowledgeable local guide. The first is a city tour during which you may see some of Mantes-La-Jolie’s beautiful religious structures, like the Gothic Notre Dame de Mantes, followed by a unique visit to a bee farm. Or, visit the distinctive Château d’Anet, an elegant Renaissance château built in the 16th century by King Henri II for his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. Or you may choose to enhance your visit with a bike tour and venture further through the city to take in more of its history and charm.
Vernon & Giverny
Monet often painted the small riverside town of Vernon, so you are likely to recognize scenes the master rendered in oils on your way to his home in the village of Giverny, where he lived and worked for more than 40 years. The country roads between Vernon and Giverny offer an easy and pretty bike ride, an excursion offered by most river cruises. Experience the colorful splendor of Claude Monet’s magnificent gardens at his former home in Giverny, taking in the water lilies, Japanese bridges, and graceful willow trees immortalized in his paintings. Or opt for a journey to Château de Gaillon, a picturesque Renaissance-style castle, as well as the beautiful Gardens d’Acquigny, boasting waterfalls, bridges, canals, and a wide variety of trees and plant life.
This medieval city, situated on the banks of the River Seine, is Normandy’s vibrant, historic and cultural capital. Monet’s famous depictions of Rouen Cathedral have made this vast edifice many visitors’ favorite building in the city, but there are also many fine museums to explore, not to mention the Gros Horloge clock tower, France’s oldest inn La Couronne, and the beautiful modern church dedicated to Joan of Arc, who was martyred in Rouen.
A UNESCO-designated seaside town with over 1000 years of history, renowned for its picturesque harbor, and for being an inspirational site for Impressionist painters. Honfleur is on an estuary where the Seine river meets the English Channel. The Vieux-Bassin (old harbor) is lined with 16th- to 18th-century townhouses.
Wonderful extensions on Seine river cruises are available and include visits to St. Malo, Dinard, Dinan, Mont St. Michel, Chartres Cathedral, and of course Paris. New itineraries are also popping up in 2022 and 2023 for this area of France.