10 of the best holidays in France easily accessible by ferry

10 of the best holidays in France easily accessible by ferry

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One of the most picturesque spots on the Normandy coast, Honfleur’s picture-perfect harbor is lined with 16th-century townhouses. It’s the right place for long, sunlit lunches and dinners based on fish and seafood caught from the sea at the start of the day. Immerse yourself in the Eugene Boudin museum to discover the rich artistic history of the city, with works by artists including Monet, Dufy and Boudin, and take a walk across the breathtaking Pont de Normandie, a vast cable-stayed bridge, reaching 7,000 feet and having wonderful view of the Seine estuary. Stay in Le Manoir, a charming 18th century manor house with an excellent restaurant (double from £ 167 B&B, sawdays.co.uk). Ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe, dfds.com.


A beach

“A long stretch of beach and a handful of excellent fish restaurants”: Villiers-Sur-Mer. Photograph: David Holbrook / Alamy

If you want to get in and out of sparkling Deauville and Trouville without stopping there, this charming village 10 minutes along the coast is a great place to stay, with a long stretch of beach and a small pedestrian street great seafood restaurants, boutiques and food emporiums . A great base for hikers, the tourist office has maps of 12 circular walks, with 35km of signposted roads to explore on foot, by bike or on horseback. Next, stop at Le Café de France (2 Rue du Général de Gaulle) for moules frites and great local wine, and stay at La Mascotte, a delightful house just a few streets from the beach (double from £ 100, sawdays.co .UK) . Ferry from Portsmouth to Caen, brittany-ferries.com.


Boats in a marina

‘Famous for its wild mussels’: Barfleur. Photograph: David R Frazier Photolibrary, Inc./Alamy

Seafood lovers and history buffs should make a detour to Barfleur; traditional Norman fishing port, which has played a pivotal role in Anglo-French history for over a century, famous for its wild mussels. Sunny evenings are best spent in one of the quaint fish restaurants on the harbor, while days can be enjoyed on the three sandy beaches near the village, with the possibility of sailing and diving nearby. Stay in Fleur et Mer, a charming chambre d’hôte with four bedrooms (some sleeping up to four), with bicycles, caravans and child seats all available for hire (doubles from £ 75 B&B, fleuretmer.fr). Ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg, brittany-ferries.com.


A bridge over a river

‘Monet’s garden in Giverny is easily accessible’: Lyons-la-Forêt. Photograph: Hemis / Alamy

If you are looking for a true sense of escape, this delightful village, steeped in over 1,000 years of history and surrounded by one of the oldest and largest forests in Normandy, is ideal. For centuries the favorite holiday destination of Norman dukes and French kings, thanks to excellent hunting, Lyon is home to a lively 14th-century covered market and its streets are lined with medieval buildings, which now house ancient emporiums, dining rooms. tea and restaurants. Monet’s garden in Giverny is within easy reach, as is Château Gaillard, and La Licorne, a 16th-century building with a spa, indoor and outdoor pools and a renowned restaurant, is an excellent base (doubles from £ 92, hotel-licorne .com). Ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe, dfds.com.


A cathedral overlooks the water

‘Home to one of the most beautiful cathedrals in France’: Amiens. Photograph: Steve Allen Travel Photography / Alamy

A ninety-minute drive from Dieppe, Amiens is an ideal base for a short break; steeped in history, home to one of the most beautiful cathedrals in France, with a handful of fine restaurants lined up along the banks of the Somme. Take a boat trip to discover uniqueness Ortiglioni – 300 hectares of floating gardens that sparkle with color in spring, illuminating the city’s network of canals – and visit the Museum of the Somme, focusing on life in the trenches, in the nearby town of Albert. Stay in La Marotte, one of the city’s most exclusive addresses, which recently added a new spa and bedrooms, housed in a former Banque de France building (double from £ 178, hotel-marotte.com). Ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe, dfds.com.


A busy street

‘Home of the largest flea market in Europe’: Lille. Photograph: Hemis / Alamy

If retail therapy is at the top of your weekend pastimes list, Lille, an hour and 15-minute drive from Calais, is a great choice. The fourth largest city in France is home to Europe’s largest flea market, La Grand Braderie de Lille, as well as the sprawling Euralille shopping center and a charming old town dotted with boutiques, home improvement shops and delicious patisseries. Elegant Flemish-style buildings house classic brasseries along with more contemporary restaurants, and the city’s excellent rail links make it ideal for exploring further afield. Stay at Mama Shelter, a trendy and affordable design hotel with a lively cocktail bar and restaurant (double from £ 92, mamashelter.com). Ferry from Dover to Calais, dfds.com.


Ideal for a family holiday, Boulogne is located just 20 minutes from Calais and combines numerous bucket-and-spade opportunities with a well-preserved old town, home to cobbled streets filled with great restaurants, bars and boutiques. Walk or cycle along the nearby Route de la Corniche for stunning sea views, or explore the rippling sand dunes that rise behind the beaches. Older children can try kite flying or windsurfing, while the whole family can explore the coast by canoe or kayak. Stay in L’Enclos de L’Evêché, a 19th century mansion in the heart of the city, with five charming rooms (doubles from £ 85 B&B, enclosdeleveche.com). Ferry from Dover to Calais, dfds.com.

San Malo

Ideal for a car-free vacation, this walled city offers a fascinating combination of history, great food and long sandy beaches. Begin with a stroll along the ramparts of Intra-Muros, the ancient walled city, before exploring the medieval streets, dotted with creperies selling the region’s typical galettes, oyster stalls, and cider bars. At low tide it is possible to walk to the two picturesque islands facing the city, while the Plage du Sillon – a 3km stretch of sand – is perfect for lazy afternoons with an ice cream and a book. Stay at Villa St Raphael, an elegant 17th century villa with five elegant bedrooms (doubles from £ 85 B&B, villa-st-raphael-saint-malo.com). Ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo, brittany-ferries.com.


Cultural heart of the region, Quimper combines an impressive cathedral and a well-preserved old town with a lively and artistic atmosphere. Famous for his majolica – pottery with distinctive Breton designs – the town has pottery and workshops you can visit, along with the Musee de Faience, which houses over 500 pieces. Picturesque half-timbered houses line the banks of the Odet River, with flower-filled bridges spanning both banks. Immerse yourself in the Musée de Beaux-Arts, which includes several works by Gaugin, and bring cider and galettes for a picnic in the pretty Jardin de la Retraite. Stay at the family-run Hôtel Kregenn, a stone’s throw from the cathedral (double from £ 78 B&B, bestwestern.com). Ferry from Portsmouth to Roscoff, brittany-ferries.com.


If you’re more interested in Brittany’s bucolic hinterland than its crowded beaches, Fougères is a great base for exploring the region’s northwest. Famous for the millennial fortress that looms over it, the largest in Europe, the city is a striking tangle of pretty cobbled streets lined with traditional half-timbered buildings. One of Brittany’s most beautiful castles, Rocher Portail, is nearby, as is Rennes, the regional capital, with its impressive Place de Republique and lively bar scene, thanks to the 20,000 students who call it home. Stay at the 14th-century Château de Montbrault, which exudes classic French style (double from £ 118 B&B, chateau-de-montbrault.com). Ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo, brittany-ferries.com.

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