1944. June, the 6th. D.Day of the invasion of Normandy. Soldiers from 16 different nationalities landed on Normandy’s beaches, marking the start of Europe’s liberation from the Nazis. Allies landed on the 5 beaches of Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. Back on the track of a broken past.
All along Normandy Coast are monuments and museums dedicated to World War II. In fact, the battle of Normandy was a decisive turn for peace in Europe. 4 days are needed to do a complete tour. But you can skip some steps.
Practical Information Before Doing Normandy Battle Tours :
For Normandy Battle Tours, you can rent a car. But I recommend you contact a tourism agency or to book a tour with a guide since organizing this tour will be pretty difficult, especially if you do not know French roads well. As for public transportation, it is limited and not advised.
Day 1 : Mémorial of Caen, Sword Beach and Canadian Tour
To start Normandy Battle Tours, you should visit the Memorial of Caen, one of the most important museum on World War II. It covers the contemporary history from Sarajevo to the fall of the Berlin wall. You can take a ticket for the visit of the Memorial of Caen and for “Arromanches 360”, a circular cinema with unique footage of WWII.
Then visit Juno Beach and the Sword Beach, where the Merville Battery is located. At the Merville battery, you will discover the Germans’ defense system, with 20km-ranged cannons.
At Juno Beach, which was affected to the Canadian army, was held a bloody battle. The low tide and the lack of visibility, led to a late arrival of the army, enabling the opposing army to organize itself. Thus, Canadians suffered heavy losses. It is also the beach of Charles de Gaulle’s return (you can take a look at the Lorraine cross).
The Center Juno Beach is the only Canadian museum. It depicts Canada’s role during World War II.
Day 2 : Arromanches, the “Musée du Débarquement” and the British Cemetery
Arromanches’ port, also called Port Mulberry or Port Winston, is the ground zero for the operation. Actually, there were 2 harbors but the one on Omaha beach was destroyed by the storm. The floating port was decisive for the liberation of France, especially for the offensive of Montgomery at Caen. The artificial harbor was built for the battle in 8 days thanks to a system of spare parts. Located on the middle of the 5 beaches, weapons and ammunitions were provided by this bridge.
Enjoy a 19-minute movie at “Arromanches 360“, a circular cinema with exclusive images and footages of the World War II, ideal to immerse in the context of the war.
After this, you can visit the “Musée du Débarquement” of Arromanches, the first museum to commemorate the battle of Normandy. Built on the ruins, the museum will describe how the harbor was made.
Then, you can walk through the British cemetery. Actually, there are 27 cemeteries in Normandy. So there is no need to visit all of them.
Day 3 : Omaha Beach and the “Pointe du Hoc”
Omaha beach is also called “Bloody Omaha“, since one of the most devastating battles was here. Near Omaha beach, you will find a memorial and the American cemetery, where almost 10 000 soldiers who fought for peace are buried. For a better understanding of the context, I recommend you visit the visitor center.
The Museum of D-Day Omaha was built in commemoration of American soldiers who fought on Omaha Beach. Some special pieces are displayed as a rebuilding of Port Arromanches A.
After Omaha beach, you should admire the Pointe du Hoc. American rangers climbed steep cliffs to take this important observation base of German fortifications. They discovered then that the Germans had moved their cannons a few days before. The mission was so risky that from the 225 rangers, only 90 were in shape to fight. It still bears the marks of the intense bombing from the Allies. You will be able to visit the remaining bunkers.
Day 4 : Sainte-Mère-Eglise, the batteries of Marcouf and Utah Beach
Sainte-Mère l’Eglise is the first village liberated by the Americans. Paratroopers took a lead role in this mission. One story in particular, made this village famous. Wounded in the legs, one paratrooper landed on the Church tower and remained hanging here for 3 hours. He pretended to be dead, then was captured by the Germans and fortunately he managed to escape. A manikin was put on the Church as a souvenir.
The Airborne museum covers especially the role of paratroopers and the material and techniques of the time.
After visiting the museum, you can either explore the labyrinth of the batterie of Crisberg or the battery of Azeville. The first one, the battery of Crisberg, has shown the most opposition. Its 30km-ranged guns made it the most impressive battery of the Normandy Coast.
To end your Normandy Battle Tours, go to Utah Beach. In the “Musée du Débarquement” is displayed one of the 3 last bombardiers still existing, the bombardier B26.
Now, you have all the tools to prepare ideal Normandy battle tours. So, what are you waiting for ?