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Top Tip for Visiting D-Day Memorial Sites in Normandy (Move Inland!)

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This year marks the 80th Anniversary of the D-Day landings, and Normandy will have a busy summer, especially during the two-week period around the day itself, June 6th.

There’s always been a special buzz around key anniversaries – 50th, 75th, etc. – but this year’s memorial events are considered to be especially significant because it’s likely to be the last major anniversary that D-Day veterans will attend. An 18-year-old serving on D-Day will be 98 this year.

Even if those who experienced D-Day and the Battle of Normandy (Operation Overlord) firsthand have been leaving us, interest in the invasion of Europe shows no sign of diminishing. Two million visitors descend on Normandy each year on trips related to D-Day memorial sites, and this year, Normandy Tourism is expecting three million.

Many, if not most, will be first—or second-generation descendants of those who fought here. Tour guides report a surge in the number of young adult visitors with their families touring Normandy to find where their grandparents and great-grandparents fought.

What D-Day Memorial Sites Should you Visit?

So, whether you are connected to D-Day in some way or just a history enthusiast, what should you see and do?

Well, like most visitors, if you haven’t been before, you should see the key sites on and around the five Normandy beaches and the airborne landing grounds. Amazing museums, memorials, bunkers, and gun batteries are thick on the ground along the coast, but I would suggest the minimum ‘big seven’ sites are:

  • Pegasus Bridge Memorial, a museum at the site of The dramatic taking of the bridge at Bénouville by British Glider forces in the early hours of June 6th.
  • The Juno Centre is a museum that describes the Canadian experience of JUNO BEACH.
  • D-Day Landing Museum/Musée du Débarquement at Arromanches (GOLD BEACH), where the remains of the Mulberry B artificial harbor dominate the seascape.
  • Normandy American Cemetery overlooking OMAHA BEACH.
  • Pointe du Hoc, the dramatically crater-marked clifftop battery that US Rangers assaulted by climbing the cliffs.
  • Utah Beach Museum, which is built on the dunes and defenses overlooking the beach itself.
  • Airborne Museum, Sainte-Mère-Église, which tells the story of the 101st & 82nd Airborne’s assault in the early hours of D-Day.

Tip For Visiting the D-Day Memorial Sites in Normandy

Here comes the ‘tip’ for visiting D-Day memorial sites during the busy season.

Assuming you are mobile – either self-driving or with a driver/guide – and you have time, you should try to get away from the Normandy D-Day beaches and head inland.

Intense as it was, the fighting on the coast was concentrated in the first few days. The rest of the Overlord campaign took until 21st Aug (D+76) to resolve, and there are some fascinating, poignant and less well-known sites to visit inland and away from the madding crowds.

Travel Dudes recommends buying the Travel Guide to Normandy’s Beaches and Battlegrounds, written by our author Alastair.

10 Suggestions for Visiting D-Day Memorial Sites in Normandy

Note: We added their What3Words (W3W) locations. What3words is a unique geocoding system created to pinpoint any spot on Earth with a precision of approximately 3 meters. By converting geographic coordinates into three specific dictionary words, What3words offers a user-friendly way to identify locations accurately. Click on each link to get to the map.

While you’re traveling around, you’ll need to eat! Check out: A Foodie Itinerary for Normandy, France

Abbaye d’Ardenne Canadian Massacre Memorial

On 7 June 1944, the Canadian North Nova Scotia Highlanders and 27th Armoured Regiment were intercepted by the 12th SS Panzer Division (Hitlerjugend) in the village of Authie on the western outskirts of Caen.

Many Canadians were killed or captured. Some of the captured soldiers were taken to the HQ of 25th Panzer Grenadier Regiment in the nearby fortified Abbaye d’Ardenne, where 11 were executed in a small garden. The next day, a further 7 were murdered. The site is now a moving memorial.

(W3W – budget.mimic.friction)

Canadian Massacre Memorial Garden in Abbaye d’Ardenne, Normandy, France. Photo: ©Alastair McKenzie

Hill 112 Memorial

Hardly a clearly defined peak, Hill 112 is more a rolling plateau that has commanding panoramic views over the surrounding countryside. This is what made it so strategically important and why, over 10 weeks of bitter fighting, it cost the lives of 10,000 German and Allied soldiers.

It might have taken even longer and been more costly had the Germans not suddenly been redeployed from the hill to counter-attack the American breakout in the west.

The memorial is an open space with parking and several monuments.

(W3W – withdrew.bookworm.mewing)

Hill 112 Memorial in the Normandy, France.
Hill 112 Memorial in the Normandy, France. Photo: ©Alastair McKenzie

War Reporters Memorial Trail, Bayeux

The 300m trail runs through the woods behind the Bayeux Memorial (a 50-metre neoclassical carved stone façade). It’s marked out by stone pillars, each of which records the names of war correspondents who have been killed or gone missing during a particular year since WW1.

In total, some 2,000+ journalists are named and, inevitably the list keeps growing, so now a second path splits off and runs parallel to the first.

There are several other things to see in this location:

  • The Bayeux Memorial
  • Opposite it across the road is the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) cemetery in Normandy with the graves of 4,100 Commonwealth servicemen, plus 500 graves of other nations, including Germans
  • Next to the trail is the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy, a major museum
  • At the southeast end of the trail, a single memorial stone to the WW2 photo journalist Robert Capa.

(W3W – played.inherit.jukebox) – (W3W – giggled.rock.motivate)

War Reporters Memorial Trail in the Normandy, France.
War Reporters Memorial Trail in the Normandy, France. Photo: ©Alastair McKenzie

90th Infantry Div ‘Tough Ombres’ Monument, Perriers

Perriers is a small town on the southwest side of the Cotentin Peninsula.

There was a tough fight on the outskirts of the town between the US 90th Division and the 6th German Parachute (Fallschirmjäger) Regiment. Go to the center where, right next to the Marie (town hall), there is a small ‘liberation’ museum run for the most part by ex-pat British women, and outside, one of the best memorial statues in Normandy. It features four men from the 90th Division, who all died in the battle for Perriers.

They stand in a tableau; one of them wounded, one is a medic attending to him, a third is guarding them and the fourth, a tank commander waves for support. The thing is, these were all real people and their faces are accurate reproductions.

(W3W – budgie.divisions.unsubtle)

Les Quatre Braves Statue in the Normandy, France.
Les Quatre Braves Statue in Normandy, France. Photo: ©Alastair McKenzie

C-47 Memorial Garden, Picauville

Several C-47 transport aircraft carrying US paratroopers were shot down around the village of Picauville.

There is a collective memorial to them in the centre of the village and individual plaques at the crash sites. One of the aircraft and its occupants are remembered in a small and tranquil garden just outside Picauville.

(W3W – intervening.embarks.caressing)

C-47 Memorial Garden in the Normandy, France.
C-47 Memorial Garden in the Normandy, France. Photo: ©Alastair McKenzie

D-Day Collins Museum

A new museum that opened in April 2023 on the site of General ‘Lighting Joe’ Collins’ (commander of US Army VII Corps) headquarters in July 1944.

It is unusual because the building that Collins occupied was left untouched when the Americans left a few weeks later; an 80-yr-old time capsule. Collins’ office, where he, General Omar Bradley and General Dwight D. Eisenhower planned ‘Operation Cobra‘ – the breakout from Normandy – has been recreated as it was at the time with the original wallpaper, paintings and furniture. Other rooms are also authentic recreations, and the museum makes use of facially accurate mannequins of key characters.

(W3W – gander.selections.wicked)

D-Day Collins Museum in the Normandy, France.
D-Day Collins Museum in the Normandy, France. Photo: ©Alastair McKenzie

Museum of Liberation, Cherbourg

The port city was captured 27 June (D+21) by Gen. Joe Collins (above).

You could spend a lot of time in this city, but head for Fort du Roule, a 19th century fortress on the heights (117m) behind the city where the Museum of Liberation has spectacular views over the port.

If you book in advance, you can tour the German tunnels and gun bunkers carved into the cliffs underneath the fort.

(W3W – gamer.lame.faces)

View from Fort Roule, Cherbourg in the Normandy, France.
View from Fort Roule, Cherbourg. Photo: ©Alastair McKenzie

Orglandes German Military Cemetery

On the northern edge of the village of Orglandes, this spacious cemetery (5 hectares) feels lighter and more open than the other German cemeteries in Normandy, but it’s just as densely packed. Each 50cm-tall stone cross marks the final resting places of up to six deceased soldiers.

In total, 10,155 soldiers are buried here.

(W3W – alleged.runes.meandering)

Orglandes German War Cemetery in the Normandy, France.
Orglandes German War Cemetery in the Normandy, France. Photo: ©Alastair McKenzie

Moissy Ford

I think this is one of Normandy’s most poignant sites.

This was almost the last river crossing left open to the German 7th Army trapped in the ‘Falaise pocket’ by the encircling Allies. In Aug 1944 it was a scene of utter devastation as desperate Germans soldiers fought each other to get across this small ford, while being shelled by artillery and strafed by ground attack aircraft. The trees were all stripped bare from the blasts and the lane to and away from the ford was littered with abandoned vehicles, equipment, dead horses and dead men.

It was a real horror scene. Now it is a tranquil, shaded spot… with a picnic table!

(W3W – tender.thingy.madmen)

Moissy Ford in the Normandy, France.
Moissy Ford in the Normandy, France. Photo: ©Alastair McKenzie

Montormel Memorial & Museum

The scene of fierce fighting between the Germans and the 1st Polish Armoured division who had raced to Hill 262 (Montormel) on 17 Aug 1944 to close the ‘Falaise Gap’ and thus trap the German 7th Army.

Over the next three days the Germans threw everything they had at the Poles in an effort to reopen it, but the Poles just managed to hold on. They started with 2,000 men, 60 officers, and 87 tanks. When they were relieved on 21 August, they were down to 30 tanks, less than 100 men, and just 4 officers.

The Montormel Museum is built into the side of the hill next to the memorial terrace and grassed over so that it has minimal visual impact.

(W3W – legislators.grannies.unsought)

Montormel Memorial in the Normandy, France.
Montormel Memorial in the Normandy, France. Photo: ©Alastair McKenzie

Tourisme Normandie is expecting their normal 2 million visitors to jump to 3 million this year. The peak will be between 1st – 15th June, when, even if you did secure accommodation (virtually all was booked up at least a year ago) you will find parts of the coast closed off to the public and many sites closed for invitation-only anniversary events.

However, the coast in particular will be extra busy throughout the summer. So it’s another reason to take Gen. Montgomery’s (overall commander on the ground) advice – move inland as soon as possible!

Travel Guide to Normandy’s Beaches and Battlegrounds

If this whole topic interests you further, then Travel Dudes recommends the “Travel Guide to Normandy’s Beaches and Battlegrounds” by Bradt, which was written by our author Alastair.

Buy the guide on Amazon here!

It serves as an insightful and detailed companion for anyone wishing to delve into the historical significance and the natural beauty of Normandy’s storied coastline. This guidebook meticulously organizes its content to cater to both history enthusiasts and leisure travelers, detailing the major sites of the D-Day landings and the consequential Battle of Normandy. Each chapter methodically covers a different area, featuring evocative descriptions of the beaches where Allied forces made their legendary advance, along with comprehensive explorations of relevant museums, memorials, cemeteries, and remaining wartime fortifications.

The book stands out for its in-depth historical context which enriches the travel experience, transforming a simple visit into an educational journey through time. Its features include practical travel tips, local anecdotes, and recommendations for further reading, making it a unique tool not only for battlefield tourists but also for those seeking a deeper understanding of the momentous events that unfolded along the French coast. “A Travel Guide to Normandy’s Beaches and Battlegrounds” appeals to a readership ranging from military history aficionados to families and individuals drawn to the intertwined narratives of sacrifice, liberation, and natural splendor that the region offers.

  • Mechtraveller

    I am Alastair McKenzie. I’ve been a travel journalist/editor since 1989, originally in local, then national radio before moving online just before the millennium. I’ve been an active member of the travel blogger & social media community since it started and a regular speaker at social media travel conferences. I’m a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers.

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