The Seine-Maritime (department number 76) is located in the region of Haute-Normandie. The department was originally known as Seine-Inférieure (Lower Seine) until 1955 when it changed to its current name Seine-Maritime (Coastal-Seine) because Inférieure was regarded as derogatory by the inhabitants of the department. In 2004 the population was estimated to be 1,245,457.
The capital of the department is the city of Rouen. Other large towns in the department are the coastal towns of Dieppe and Le Hâvre.
The landscape of the department is typically coastal as you would expect with historic ruins and Norman castles dotting the landscape. Along the coastline is stunning cliff scenery and half-timbered villages.
In addition to the gastronomy offerings you would expect in Normandy, namely the cider, fish, meat and cheeses other delectable delights specific of the department include Bénédictine liqueur and apple sugars from Rouen.
Why you should visit Seine-Maritime for your next holiday in France
If you enjoy sightseeing and places with an interesting historic past then you need go no further than Seine-Maritime. Teamed with its magnificent beaches, divine gastronomy and its close proximity to the UK, this department is a perfect destination for a long holiday or short break.
The department enjoys a similar climate to the UK but its location means it is slightly milder year round. As with England, summers are warm with temperatures in the mid 20C and in the height of the season, temperatures can reach into the 30’s.
What to see in the Seine-Maritime
Rouen is brimming with monuments, medieval streets and churches. The city is particularly famed for the Place du Vieux Marché, where Joan of Arc was martyred. The town’s gothic cathedral was a favourite of Claude Monet and he famously painted the cathedral’s facade at almost every moment of the day. One of these priceless pieces of art is on show today at the Musée des Beaux Arts.
The main routes through the city may be less picturesque but they do keep traffic away from the prettier, medieval pedestrianised centre.
Places of particular interest include:
- The Rue Gros Horloge with its big clock.
- St Ouen is in some people’s opinion more impressive than the cathedral as its interior is often empty leaving the sun to cast colored images from the stained glass across its flagstone floor.
- Place St Marc on Sunday mornings is the setting for the giant flea market with the majority of the shops open until lunchtime.
- The Rive Gauche near the Eglise St Sever hosts a bric-a-brac market on Thursday mornings.
The major cross-Channel port is the main feature of this seaside town but Dieppe has in some ways benefited from the arrival of the tunnel. The seafront has been given a face-lift and the streets are now lined with welcoming cafés and restaurants.
The château-musée is situated high on the hill top and boasts panoramic views across the long pebble beach which is host to an annual kite festival. Dieppe continues to be a bustling port and a large Saturday market draws big crowds from the villages around.
Le Hâvre is still a major western ferry port and dominates the mouth of the Seine. The port is a popular choice for holiday makers who would rather spend longer on the crossing than the drive. Places to visit include the Eglise St Joseph and the Musée Malraux (also known as the Musée des Beaux Arts) houses a fine collection of canvasses by the Impressionists, who painted extensively in Normandy.
Caudebec-en-Caux and Lillebonne
These lovely towns offer several attractions, some still undiscovered to a certain degree. These include the abbey at St Wandrille near Caudebec-en-Caux where the monks sing the Gregorian chant every day, the surprisingly well preserved Roman amphitheatre in the centre of Lillebonne, and the gorgeous cheese from Neufchâtel-en-Bray whose heart-shaped form dates from the Hundred Years' War.
Etretat is located along the Alabaster Coast (Côte d’Albâtre) and is famous for its chalk cliffs and needles which were popular subjects by the Impressionists. The town is looking a little weathered but is still worth visiting for its breath-taking scenery and selection of restaurants.
The town is known for its infamous Bénédictine liqueur and guided tours in the palace in the centre of town offers visitors a chance to sample this tipple. Fishing boats still land their catches at Fécamp, guaranteeing fresh seafood in the harbour-front restaurants.
Gournay en Bray
A small town, Gournay en Bray has a lovely little romanesque church.
Le Tréport is located in the north east of the Seine-Maritime and was popular as a beach resort with Parisians in the late 19th century thanks to a rail link. Surrounded by white cliffs, the quayside houses many hotels and restaurants that enjoy views of the fishing boats and yachts.
Saint Valéry en Caux
St Valéry en Caux is situated west of Dieppe. The towns centre and marina was entirely rebuilt after WWII and the nearby nuclear power station has brought prosperity. A little further west of the town, little rock pools can be found, which are always popular with kiddies of all ages.
The capital of Pays de Caux, Yvetot, is an important market town completely rebuilt after WWII. The Wednesday and Saturday markets take over the central streets and it's still possible to hear the ancient dialect Cauchois being spoken. The circular pink church dating from the 1950s may seem an eyesore from outside but the stained glass inside almost makes up for it.
How to get to Seine-Maritime
Skysouth are the only direct airline and they fly six times a week direct from Shoreham (ESH) to Caen (CFR). Prices start at around £70 for a single trip.
Driving would be the common mode of transport to get to the department as Seine-Maritime is just a quick hop across the channel to either Le Hâvre or Dieppe, both conveniently located within the department.
Go by Eurostar from the UK to Calais and then take the TGV to Le Havre or Rouen.