Home France 4 Days in Fougères and Giverny – medieval spirit and Monet

4 Days in Fougères and Giverny – medieval spirit and Monet

written by ipanematravels 29th January 2017

A weekend break is the preferred form of travelling if you have a full time job. This time I am offering you a short travel to France with highlights as Fougères, Le Mont Saint-Michel and Giverny. My personal favourite in this trip was Fougères, a town that you won’t find as a hot spot in any travel guide, but yet so charming and unexpectedly beautiful.

Day 1

Fougères

On this trip we were travelling by car, but you can reach Fougères also by train (less than 3 hours from Paris ) or by plane, nearest airport being the one in Rennes with direct connections to many European cities. When searching for a place to stay, opt out for the old town. If you happen to be there at the weekend, do not miss the thriving  atmosphere at the local market on the Saturday morning.

Use the first day to immerse in the Upper Town, walk the streets, admire the castle from a distance. There’s still time to visit it later on during this trip.

For dinner choose one of the small restaurants offering Brittany’s most famous dish – the galette, a pancake-like savory dish made of buckwheat which can be served with anything from ham, cheese and eggs to black pudding.

Then end the day watching the night falling down above the medieval castle with a glass of your favourite drink, choose also for local – pommeau or cider, or just get a beer or a glass of wine. Enjoy the moment as the time has stopped at this place centuries ago.

Day 2

Mont Saint-Michel

A new day, time for new adventures. Head to Mont Saint-Michel – a magnet for millions of tourists each year, more than 3 million to be precise. Be prepared with comfortable shoes when you go to Mont Saint-Michel, as since 2015 the parking is on the mainland and you will need to walk about 2.5 km to the island. There are shuttle buses, of course, but then you have to line up and for the same time you can reach the island by walking.

In my humble opinion Mont Saint-Michel is to be enjoyed from a distance. With each step on the 2.5 km long way to the island you can enjoy the small pile of stone houses with a church spire on top growing bigger and bigger. Once there, you have to share this place with an average of 10 000 other tourists. It can be very crowded! It’s better if you go late in the afternoon, the chances that it will be swarming are less. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in the middle of a big anthill.

The Grand Aquarium of Saint-Malo

Having had enough of the hassle and bustle of Mont Saint-Michel go somewhere different in the afternoon. My suggestion is the Grand Aquarium of Saint-Malo. You can admire the diversity of the oceans and the seas represented here by more than 6000 species – from sharks to giant turtles, various kinds of corals and coral reef fishes. Do not miss a dive with the Nautibus – a miniature submarine, a totally unique experience.

Saint-Malo is at about 50 km drive from Mont Saint-Michel. After  the aquarium you can opt either to stay for the evening in Saint-Malo, another beautiful place in France, or go back to Fougères (Saint-Malo – Fougères is about 85 km).

If you can add one more day to your trip – spend a whole day at Saint-Malo. Parking there can be hell, so my suggestion is go to Dinard, leave your car there and take the boat to Saint-Malo.

Day 3

The Public Garden

We are back at Fougères. Start your day with a walk along  rue Nationale. Just at the end of it and behind the Saint-Léonard Church you’ll find the Public Garden of Fougères. From there you can enjoy a magnificent view down on the Castle.

The Medieval Quarter

From the Public Garden descend to the Medieval Quarter – the district of the craftsmen. Some of the houses date back to the 15c and the half-timbered houses are from the 17 c.

Walk all the way along the walls of the castle via Boulevard Jacques Faucheux to the square in front of the Castle. From there you can enter the gardens of Val Nançon.

Val Nançon

Val Nançon is a green patch of 2 ha situated at the foot of the Northern ramparts of the city and along the river of Nançon. It consists of family gardens, botanical garden, jardin de curé, a plant cage and a bamboo garden. It is a peaceful place where you can go for a stroll or just sit and enjoy the seasonal beauty.  In the middle of the Gardens you can find the Oeuvre à la vie, a contemporary art work of Louis-Marie Catta, a symbol of a world of cultures.

The Castle of Fougères

Now it’s time to visit the castle and enjoy it from inside. I am sure you will hear the clippity-clop of the horses carrying knights in heavy armour… The place is almost surreal and absolutely stunning, it works like a time machine. It is one of the biggest preserved in good condition fortresses in Europe. The first wooden structure was demolished in 1166 and its place Roul II, Lord of Fougères, erected the new stone fortification.

A view from the castle to the main gate, the Upper Town (at the background) and the Medieval Quarter (in the middle)

Pacy-sur-Eure

The second highlight of this weekend break is Giverny, but staying anywhere in this small place can be very challenging with high rates and all accommodations being fully booked months in advance.

On this trip we chose for Pacy-sur-Eure – a small town on the river Eure, at only 20 minutes drive from Giverny. From Fougères to Pacy-sur-Eure it’s about 3 hours drive.

This small town can’t offer much itself – a nice hotel with a decent restaurant, some nice views on the river Eure and that’s all about it.

Day 4

Vernon

On the way to Giverny stop at this small town on the river Seine. It’s not a very famous touristic destination but you can still discover a few charming sights:

  • the Collegiate Church of Our Lady;
  • the half-timbered houses;
  • the Old Mill, and
  • the Tourelles Castle.

Giverny

Why should you visit this small village? Well, if you are an Impressionism lover and you admire in particular Monet you can’t miss his house and a garden in Giverny. The artist had lived there for 43 years and you can see some of his paintings coming to life in front of your eyes when you walk around the pond or over the bridge, or in the fields around his house. This place is quite touristic, so be prepared to share its beauty with hordes of tourists with cameras, but you can still steal a few unique moments to enjoy its serenity.

If you are a Monet fan, I would recommend you to combine in one trip Giverny and Paris with the Musée d’Orsay and the Orangery, or if not possible, visit them shortly one after the other, starting with Giverny.

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42 comments

Gorges du Verdon - France - Complete Guide | Ipanema travels to... 5th August 2017 at 11:21 pm

[…] By now you should have already noticed that France is one of my favourite destinations. Have you already been to Provence and do you want to discover another region of France, you might like visiting some of the most charming places along the Dordogne River. If you are looking for a short trip destination, you might try my suggestion on Fougéres and Giverny, featuring a stop at Le Mont Saint-Michel. […]

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Vedante | The Lavish Nomad 25th May 2017 at 10:31 am

This is a very well written guide and love the pictures! The castle really interests me and I would love to visit this place one day.

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Melody Pittman (@melodytravels) 24th May 2017 at 6:49 pm

What fabulous destinations to visit! I love them all. I can certainly see from your pictures why so many famous painters came from and painted these areas. That food pic, is it a crepe?? Looks heavenly! I hope to see Mont Saint Michel some day for myself. 😉

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ipanematravels 29th May 2017 at 8:16 pm

It is actually a galette – a type of savoury pancake.

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Chronic Wanderlust 23rd May 2017 at 3:16 am

All those castles and views – I wonder how it would be to live there. JK – but I’d be more than happy to visit them at least and see the gorgeous landscape as well!

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Juliette | Snorkels To Snow 23rd May 2017 at 3:03 am

What a gorgeous place to visit! Those buildings are such a delight, and Mt St Michel looks magnificent, like a castle! I also love galettes, definitely ate a lot of those while I was in France! I love the medieval feel to this place, how charming.

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Sarah Stierch 22nd May 2017 at 9:17 pm

How gorgeous – and the history, wow. Two places I have alway wanted to visit! Thanks for sharing your experience!

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Audrey 22nd May 2017 at 5:09 pm

All I can say is wow. The pictures are beautiful

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Kerri 22nd May 2017 at 10:34 am

France is my number one country in the entire world! Loved Mont St Michel….how incredible is this place. When we went, we had a motorhome and had to make sure we were back before the tide came in! The galette looked pretty superb here too….another favourite. I remember my husband had one with andouille…….we later found out it was intestine ! Glad I didn’t have that one. Gorgeous photos of a gorgeous piece of France.

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ipanematravels 22nd May 2017 at 11:07 pm

Haha… I had that one as well. I am just addicted to galettes, I guess. I would love them with anything…

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Carolina Colborn 22nd May 2017 at 8:46 am

Wow, what a weekend! You covered a lot and this will be my route too. Monet. St. Michel and Fougeres!

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Passports and Pigtails 22nd May 2017 at 6:40 am

Oh what I wouldn’t give for this to be a weekend trip for us! I cannot get over how massive that fortress is, and would love to see it for myself! After a trip to visit Mont St Michel, of course 😉

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The Great Wide Somewhere 21st May 2017 at 11:33 pm

This is a wonderful lineup, and definitely a great idea for visitors to France who would like to experience more of the country while still being able to stay close to Paris as a base. I travelled to Mont St. Michel in 2008, and I agree with your statement that it is best enjoyed from a distance! My friends and I were in a group of three, and next to the massive tour groups we felt stressed out and crowded!

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neha 14th May 2017 at 8:21 am

Fougères has that medieval world charm that most European cities are famous for. I can see it has some great architectural marvel as well. I will love to visit here

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Penny 13th May 2017 at 5:47 pm

My first experience with buckwheat was in Russia. I had no idea that the French used it too. Making pancakes out of it seems like such an awesome idea.

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ipanematravels 13th May 2017 at 5:48 pm

and the taste is just to die for 🙂

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yaswtanu 13th May 2017 at 5:07 am

Can’t decide which is more beautiful – Giverny or the fort of Fougeres. There is so much to see in France and we really feel that we should spend some time living there so we can cover all the places. Do you have a few more pics? A Picasa account perhaps.

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ipanematravels 13th May 2017 at 11:11 am

Oh, France is soooo beautiful! I can’t decide, either 🙂 No, I don’t have a picasa, or similar, account for my blog, but I guess that’s a great idea! Thanks for suggesting it! That will be my new project.

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yaswtanu 13th May 2017 at 4:31 pm

Happy to help. You could check out our blog too and maybe give us a few suggestions.

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bruceschinkel19 13th May 2017 at 3:43 am

I had never heard of this area, but it looks amazing! Definitely pinning this post for my next trip to France

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Twinkle Star 🌟 12th May 2017 at 9:59 pm

I actually went to Toulouse in France, but I’ve never got the chance to visit Saint Michel! Thank you for sharing!!!

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nomadbiba 28th April 2017 at 12:05 pm

Great post! Mont Saint-Michel is definitely on my bucket list, I’ve seen so many beautiful photos of it. I just wonder how would someone manage to get a photo sans the crowds. And Giverny looks so peaceful and relaxing. I hope I can visit someday. Thanks for sharing!

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ipanematravels 29th April 2017 at 1:15 am

Getting a pic of Mont Saint Michel – mission impossible… You have to be there really early in the morning… or photoshop 😉

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seismatters 27th April 2017 at 8:18 am

Isn’t France just a dream? Ugh I love your photos. My husband and I went to France on our honeymoon and you just brought me back there! We loved Giverny. Visited Mont St Michel when the workers were on strike and it was a rainy day, so we got in for free AND there were no crowds! It was hilarious.

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Nofar Gluzman 27th April 2017 at 6:38 am

Wow, your pictures of Fougères have me wanting to book a flight right away! Thanks for this great guide, I’ll definitely be saving it for the future.

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The Wanderlust Dietitian 27th April 2017 at 2:57 am

So fun! We road tripped France last year for about 3 weeks and loved the Normandy and Loire Valley areas.

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FoxintheForest117 27th April 2017 at 12:42 am

WOW! Mt Saint-Michel has gotten CROWDED over the years! But I can’t deny the charm of France. It’s small villages are just lovely!

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Yuen Mi 27th April 2017 at 12:41 am

Monet’s house in Giverny looks beautiful, but too crowded for me. Fougères sounds like such a beautiful town and non-touristy? It’s the perfect destination if I ever have the chance to go. Will definitely bookmark for later reference!

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ipanematravels 27th April 2017 at 11:44 am

I must admit that the house was too crowded for me, too, but as I am a huge fan of him, I somehow tried to ignore the rest of the mass around me.

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Jamie 27th April 2017 at 12:14 am

You had me at: Fougères, a town that you won’t find as a hot spot in any travel guide, but yet so charming and unexpectedly beautiful – this is my kind of travel! I’ve pinned this for a future trip.

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Milana's Travels 26th April 2017 at 11:52 pm

Am I crazy to say that the galette looks and sounds really delicious? What an amazing place! Your pictures make me really want to go there.

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skohl967 26th April 2017 at 9:49 pm

GAH! How earth did I miss all these cool things when I was in France?! I guess I’ll have to go back…(no complaints about that though!)

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PrachiJ 26th April 2017 at 9:24 pm

Amazing Pictures! Your post gave me some serious wanderlust! 😀

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Haley 26th April 2017 at 9:01 pm

great post. I, too agree that weekends are best for traveling while working a 9-5. Giverny looks breath taking! I could only imagine such beautiful scenery !

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Agness of Fit Travelling 27th February 2017 at 1:48 pm

Your post left me speechless, Daniela! I have never thought that such beautiful place exists on Earth!

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ipanematravels 27th February 2017 at 6:50 pm

Thanks, Agnieszka! I hope one day you can visit them. And if you feel inspired, than I’ve reached my goal – to make people long for places where they have never been 🙂

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Maartje 11th February 2017 at 12:19 pm

Great post Brigitte! I love Monet’s paintings and recognise the tiny green bridge & romantic gardens, so beautiful!

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ipanematravels 11th February 2017 at 12:25 pm

Hi Maartje! Thanks for your comment! Maybe you can change my name to Daniela 🙂 Not sure how you came up with Brigitte 🙂

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Life...One Big Adventure 3rd February 2017 at 12:17 am

Oh, take me back to France! If I can’t be there physically, I can dream about it while enjoying your blog.

Thanks for igniting my wanderlust all over again! Mel

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ipanematravels 3rd February 2017 at 6:47 pm

Thanks, Mel! France is one my favourite topics. You can’t say I know it. You keep discovering and re-discovering it… Grts. Daniela

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Life...One Big Adventure 3rd February 2017 at 9:40 pm

One of my all time dreams is to live in France for 6 months (or longer) and truly absorb all its beautiful culture AND improve my school-girl French.

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