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Caen Memorial

Caen Memorial

Caen, one of the most modern cities of the low region of Normandy, played a heavy rol in the battle of Normandy in both Allies and Germans belligerents. This is the reason why here it is found the most extended museum: The Caen Memorial Museum.

What to see?

Officially opened on 6th June of 1988 on the 44th anniversary of the Normandy Landing. Its original name is The Caen-Normandy Memorial: Center for History and Peace, in commemoration for the Second World War and dedicated to the violence history and the intensive conflict of the 20th  century.

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The museum itself is surrounded by three gardens commemorating the three principal Allies in the battle: Canadians, British and American. Moreover, recently the museum opened a new section focused on the Cold War. The museum has many historical pieces such as war wachines, (deactivated) weapons and even a bit of the Berlin Wall!

What to experience?

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V1 bomb

The museum offers you the option to take an audioguide (with an additional price), which will allow you to learn and interact with all you must know about the Second World War: The Holocaust, the Nazi occupied zones and a review of both European and Pacific war, as well as the Cold War and, particularly, the Battle of Normandy.

In order to visit this incredibly museum, we recommend to take a tour or rent a private car. Also there are accesses available from Caen with bus and tram, but with many transfers which will last around 30 minutes to 1 hour to arrive.

Practical information

Hours: Open daily from  9am to 7 pm. Closed on Mondays from November to Febrary. Closed most of January.

Access: Esplanade Général Eisenhower, 14050

Normandy Beach

What To Visit For Your Normandy Battle Tours ?

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.D Day sites, 5 beaches of Normandy, Normandy Battle Tours

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. Normandy Battle ToursThe 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”

Normandy battlefield excursion in 1 to 2 days, Normandy Battle ToursOmaha 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.

Normandy Battle Tours

 

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.

Normandy D-Day sites, Normandy, D-Day sites, france in 5 days, Normandy Battle Tours

 

Now, you have all the tools to prepare ideal Normandy battle tours. So, what are you waiting for ?

 

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Pointe du Hoc

Pointe de Hoc

US President Regan giving a speech for the commemoration of the 40th birthday of the D-Day at Pointe du Hoc.

The Pointe du Hoc is the highest point between western Utah Beach and eastern Omaha Beach. From this point, you can overlook the English Channel. This lookout provides a great view of the coast of Normandy.

Because of its’ particular location, the Germans placed heavy artillery (gun pits) on the cliff, threatening both Omaha and Utah beach. It was then considered an essential mission to blast the German artillery immediately when Operation Overlord began to protect the landing troops and reduce casualties.

On D-Day, the U.S Army attacked and took over Pointe du Hoc after scaling its cliffs. Unfortunately, they discovered the artillery had recently been taken to another location.

 

American cemetery D Day Omaha beach, france tourist attractions

Normandy American Cemetery

American cemetery

On the 8th of June in 1944, the U.S First Army established a temporary cemetery in Normandy. After the war, the present-day cemetery was established just a short distance to the east of the original site building a memorial and a chapel to go along with it.

The cemetery is located on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach. Among the 9 386 graves are the ones of 3 recipients of the Medal of Honor and 2 sons of President Theodore Roosevelt (one being one of the 3 recipients of the Medal of Honor, the other killed during WWI and reburied next to his brother after WWII).

This is a place of reflection to honor the memory of the dead, many Americans go to meditate on the grave of one of their ancestors.

Utah beach

Utah beach

Utah beach is the most western of the five landing beaches during WWII. It was used for amphibious landings undertaken by the United States Army troops. The code name comes from the name of the US state from where one of the officer participating in the landing was from.