A Journey Through Iconic WWII Sites in Normandy
Updated: Mar 20
If you’re a history buff with a particular interest in World War II, a river cruise that includes Normandy is perfect for you. Not only will you visit the unforgettable D-Day beaches and have the opportunity to explore incredible museums and historic sites, but you’ll also enjoy the stunning coastline and incredible food of the region.
For now, here’s a taste of the World War II sites you may experience while on an in-depth Normandy tour:
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
In Colleville-sur-Mer, you can visit the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, which is set on the site of the temporary American St. Laurent Cemetery (the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II). The 173-acre cemetery contains the graves of 9,386 soldiers who lost their lives in the war, most of whom were killed during the D-Day landings and related operations. Visit the Walls of the Missing, inscribed with 1,557 names - the rosettes mark the names of those individuals who have since been recovered and identified. Walk from the cemetery down to the beach, where you can look out across the English Channel.
There is a small museum at Omaha Beach, where you can see uniform and military vehicle displays. More sobering artifacts include personal objects belonging to civilians caught in the battles, including a well-loved teddy bear. Follow the infinity pool to the beach and reflect on the Day of Days.
Longues-sur-Mer Artillery Battery
A large component of the Atlantic Wall, this artillery battery includes a firing command post and four casements, each of which houses a 150mm artillery piece. The battery is located in the Allied assault zone overlooking the English channel.
While Arromanches Village is today a popular seaside resort town, history-minded visitors will want to learn more about how the village was linked with the liberation of western Europe following D-Day. Notice the large concrete blocks that are the remains of the floating Mulberry Harbour that was used during World War II landings. The area became known as Port Winston (after Winston Churchill) and saw the arrival of 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles and four million tons of supplies. The best view of Port Winston and nearby Gold Beach is from the hill east of town, where you can also watch archival footage of the Battle of Normandy at the Arromanches 360° Circular Cinema.
Visit the significant beach of the Canadian sector - Juno. The undeveloped area of Juno Beach allows you to see ruins of German bunkers and some of the original D-Day beach obstacles. At the Juno Beach Center, you can learn more about the Canadian contribution to the D-Day invasions.
In the area of the Juno and Gold beaches, visit the historic Pegasus Bridge, originally the bridges of Ranville and Benouville. The bridges were recaptured by the British 5th Parachute Brigade, whose emblem was Pegasus.
Additional World War II Museums Near Normandy
Mémorial de Caen (Caen Memorial Museum): considered one of the top museums in the area and built atop a German bunker
Airborne Museum: dedicated to the US Army paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions who parachuted into Normandy in the hours leading up to D-Day
Utah Beach Landing Museum: located right on Utah Beach, including historical artifacts, oral histories and original vehicles to tell the story of D-Day
These suggestions for what to see and do in the Normandy area are really just the beginning. Depending on your level of interest and fascination with World War II history, you can spend several days exploring the coastline area and nearby. For tips and expert guidance, be in touch. I’d love to help plan your experience. Reach out by booking a consultation through my Services page.