Not everyone is a fan of history. Nonetheless, we all have a duty of rememberance toward those who fought and perished at the D Day landing sites during the Normandy invasion of June 1944.
These are some of the main World War II sites and you may like to look at our other maps of Normandy. You can visit the D Day landing sites with a private guide, on a group tour, or on your own as part of a self guided tour of France. All of our tours are self-guided driving tours of France - however, we believe that some areas are better experienced with the help of a private guide who can explain the history and interesting stories of a place. This helps visitors develop a fuller understanding and become fully immersed in French history and culture. For a better understanding of the Battle of Normandy, the D-Day landing sites, and the strategy employed by the Allied Troops, we warmly recommend visiting the landing beaches with a local guide.
Normandy INVASION WW2 Sites Map
D Day landing sites - map of Normandy ©www.france-for-visitors.com
This is the westernmost beach of the five landing areas of the Normandy Invasion of World War II. It was invaded on D-Day by elements of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division and was taken with relatively few casualties. In the pre-dawn hours of the landing, units of the 82nd and 101st airborne divisions were air-dropped inland from the landing beach. They suffered many casualties from drowning and enemy fire but succeeded in their objective of isolating the invasion forces from defending German units.
Sainte Mère Eglise
Sainte Mere Eglise was the first French town liberated by the Allies during the Normandy Invasion. On the night of June 5–6, American paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division landed there behind the German defences, with the aim of cutting off the Carentan-Cherbourg road. The local Airborne Museum has some interesting exhibits and a reconstruction of the attack.
Omaha Beach was invaded on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) by units of the U.S. 29th and 1st infantry divisions. Many soldiers drowned during the approach from ships offshore, or were killed by defending fire from German troops surrounding the beach.
Omaha beach is sadly famous for the most devastating but glorious moment of the Normandy invasion. It is on this American sector that the number of Allied casualties was highest. This very long sandy beach remains a silent homage to the D-Day and its victims. It has an impressive war memorial monument on the beach, and a museum with artillery equipment from the battle. To really live the experience and understand what happened during the Normandy invasion, we recommend hiring a private guide who can take you to the most relevant places of interest, and talk you through the events. The nearby town of Bayeux has a larger and even more impressive War Museum, with more information about the history of the battle, photo, artillery and other war exhibits. It's worth a visit if you have time.
Omaha Beach - ©OTI Bayeux
The American Cemetery in Colleville sur Mer
Right above Omaha beach, the American cemetery, stretching away as far as the eye can see, reminds us of the importance of the battle of Normandy in this sector. Omaha beach is key to understanding the US invasion. However, if you don't know much about this historical event - or don't have a guide to explain it to you in depth - you may well feel like you've missed out on something. This is why we work with local Norman guides who speak English fluently and have grown up in the area. They will have you factually live and understand what happened on D-Day.
US Cemetery Memorial in Colleville sur Mer - ©OTI Bayeux
Arromanches is known for its artificial port called “Mulberry” that was constructed during the Second World War in eight days. It reaches 5 miles and was finished just before the Normandy invasion. At that time, it was a technical prowess to be able to build a port in such a short timeframe, it is a proof of the industrial and technological exploit of the war. Enormous blocks of cement were dragged from England to let them drop near Arromanches so the big war boat could moor and discharge the hundreds of soldiers and war vehicles and weapons it had on his board on the D Day.
More recently, an important attraction that we recommend is the 360° movie theater called Arromanches 360, which projects different movies every year made up of archives about the invasion of Normandy. It is not just a documentary, it is a moving and intense experience so the spectator deeply feels what happened. The dramatic scenes of the Normandy landings on the D Day will plunge you right at its heart.
We have worked on daily itineraries in Normandy so our travelers can discover WWII history as well as this beautiful region’s gardens, historical sites, gastronomy and lovely people. As you will see on the internet, there are dozens of landing sites you can visit and you will feel lost to make a choice. We have selected few landing sites that we think are very representative of what happened on D-Day so you will feel and understand what happened on the Normandy beaches.
Artificial Port of Arromanches during the Landing in Normandy - ©OTI Bayeux
Pointe du Hoc
During the World War 2, the overhang of the cliff into the English Channel was fortified by the Germans to establish an observation post. From there, the Nazis could see the entire ocean that would be invaded by the Western Allies during the Invasion of Normandy.
The Omaha beach was planned to be able to overtake this vantage point, particularly dangerous for the “Overlord” operation chances of success. It was a fastidious task for the American and the Nazis did not give up easily.
Nowadays, in commemoration of this epic encounter, a granite needle was placed at the very edge of the Pointe du Hoc as a memorial.
The ground had been bombed so much that today, you still have this surreal feeling of being on the moon.
Pointe du Hoc - ©OTI Bayeux
Juno Beach was the second beach from the east - after Sword Beach - among the five landing areas of the Normandy Invasion. It was assaulted on D-Day, by units of the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division, who took heavy casualties in the first wave but by the end of the day succeeded in taking control of the area.The landing area code-named Juno Beach was 6 miles wide and stretched on the small fishing port of Courseulles-sur-Mer. Canadian travelers will find answer to all their questions in the very interesting Juno Beach Visitors Center.
To pay tribute to the Canadian soldiers, traveler can go to the Canadian Cemetery in Reviers - between Caen and Courseulles sur Mer - which hosts 2,049 graves.
Juno Beach Visitor Center
Gold & Sword Beaches and the British Cemeteries
Gold Beach was the centre beach of the five designated landing areas of the Normandy Invasion of World War II. It was assaulted and taken by units of the British 50th Infantry Division. The landing area code-named Gold Beach was 5 miles wide. On the western end of the beach was the small port of Arromanches, and slightly west of that port was the town of Longues-sur-Mer (and the German Battery).
Sword Beach, the easternmost beach of the 5 landing areas, was assaulted by units of the British 3rd Division, with French and British commandos attached. Shortly after midnight on D-Day morning, elements of the 6th Airborne Division seized bridges inland from the beach and also silenced artillery pieces that threatened the seaborne landing forces.
British Cemetery in Bayeux following the Normandy Invasion during World Way II - ©OTI Bayeux
Less known by Anglo-Saxon travelers, there are also German cemeteries in Normandy - the most visited is La Cambe. It is composed of an impressive necropolis surrounded a gigantic lawn, where the 21 500 German soldiers who died during the Normandy Invasion are now resting.
German Cemetery in La Cambe - ©OTI Bayeux
For those who want to depen their knowledge of the main conflicts of the 20th Century, Caen Memorial is a must see. A whole part of the museum is dedicated to the Second World War and specifically the Invasion of Normandy...but there are also a lot of exhibits about World War I.
The museum was officially opened on 6 June 1988 on the 44th Anniversary of D Day by the French President François Mitterrand.
Caen Memorial has eveolved througout the years and in 1991 a gallery dedicated to the Nobel Peace Prize was opened. 3 gardens, dedicated to the American, Canadian and British soldiers have been planted. President Jacques Chirac inaugurated in 2002 an extention to the museum dedicated to the Cold War (including fragments of the Berlin Wall).
If you only plan to the visit the part about WWII, you should allow about a half-day. If you want to see the whole museum, then target to stay in Caen for the whole day. We recommend the visit of Caen Memorial to history lovers - who stay at least 5 days in Normandy.
Non Violence - This masterpiece will welcome you in Caen Memorial - Sculptor: Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd, Sweden. He made it as a response to John Lennon's murderer. From the same serie, there are "non violence" masterpieces in the Headquarter of the United Nations in NY or in the European Union in Brussles.