The Manche department is in north-west Normandy, on the Cotentin Peninsula, which extends into the English Channel. There is Cherbourg at the northern end and the departmental capital of Saint-Lo.
Manche is best known as being home to the world-famous island and Monastery of Mon-Saint-Michel.
The department takes its name from the English Channel called La Manche in France. The word sleeve in French is Manche which is what the English Channel is said to resemble.
Many visitors pass through the Manche mainly because the ferry port town of Cherbourg is at the north of the peninsula. There are many highlights along the way which shouldn’t be missed.
You will find sandy beaches particularly in the resorts along the western coast. There is great scenery both along the coast and inland and there is also a very quiet rural backdrop that combines open fields and woodlands, marshlands and coastal clifftop walks which all play a part in shaping the appeal of the Manche department.
In The South-
The town of Coutances is situated in the southern half of the Manche department. A must visit attraction would be the impressive cathedral of Notre Dame. You can explore the roman style abbey church of Lessay. If you travel east of here is the zoo at Champrepus (near Saint-Lo) which is very popular with visitors.
Further south is the resort of Granville. The view looking out across the bay are delightful. Continuing along the coast a short distance you can reach the island and abbey at Mont-Saint-Michel. On the border with Brittany this historical pilgrimage centre is a truly beautiful site and one of the most popular tourist destinations in France.
There is a second much more modest Abbey at La Lucerne which is very interesting to visit which is slightly overshadowed by its famous neighbour.
The town of Avranches is pleasant to explore with its medieval castle and further east, Mortain has a 12th century abbey, church with cloisters and a scenic waterfall called the Grand Cascade.
In The North-
First place to visit would be Cherbourg, and interesting town that has historical monument, most of which have been reconstructed after damage in the Second World War.
There is a large aquarium complex, the Cite de la Mer. Here you can visit the nuclear submarine ‘La Redoutable’. This is definitely the most popular tourist attractions in Normandy. There is an amazing section of coast with cliffs and natural rock bays called the Cap de la Hague, found in the far north west of the Cotentin peninsula.
The pretty villages of Barfleur is actually classified as one of the ‘most beautiful villages in France’
On the eastern coast there are two destinations that are unmissable to those interested in the Normandy D-Day landings.
Utah beach and the D-Day landings museum at Sainte-Marie-du-Mont is the site of the first part of France liberated by the troops arriving across the Channel by boat (4 hours after the airborne landings). Sainte-Mere-Eglise was first place in France to be liberated by US parachutists, commemorated in the Airborne Museum here.
Manche Historical Monuments
Considering the amount of damage suffered by the region during the 1944 invasion of northern France, its hard to believe that any important historical monuments are still standing. However, there are some amazing ones often with some considerable renovations since the war.
The abbeys at Hambye and Lucerne and Coutances cathedral are the major religious monuments although there are many smaller chapels and churches to discover in Manche. Not forgetting the many castles across Manche some are defined as fine manor houses ta=rather than grand castles, but each has its own appeal and interest.