Do you know what my specialty is?
Especially thorough research that’s too detailed for anyone’s good. This can get out of hand when it comes to trivia about Mike Gordon (Flash Gordon is his cutest cat) or writing a research paper (TOO MANY TABS), but it’s actually a pretty great skill when it comes to travel planning.
I’ve only visited the D-Day beaches in Normandy once, and only made it to 4 out of the many sites, but just because I’m nice (and a little obsessive), I’ve done all the hard work of digging up the travel info for all the beaches, memorials, and museums so you can have a handy guide to reference as you plan your trip!
Use this list as a jumping off point to plan your visit to the Normandy D-Day sites!
Helpful hint: If you’re completely unfamiliar with the history of D-Day and the landing beaches, this page has an excellent 1-minute summary.
ALL THE D-DAY SITES TO VISIT
listed in order from west to east
- Located in the town of Saint-Mère-Église
- Museum focused on the airborne landings that happened the day before the beach landings
- Very interactive, informative, and personal. Great for kids! I recommend starting here to get a good overview of the Normandy invasions and then working your way through some of the other sites.
- USA landing site (westernmost landing site of the 5 beaches)
- Looks like it provides a very clear overview of the battles. Would be a great place to start for people who don’t know a ton about D-Day or get bogged down with details. It also looks like they have a lot of really cool equipment including planes and tanks, which would be fun for kids (and adults)
- Cliffs scaled to overtake the Germans to ensure success of the beach landings
- You can see original German bunkers and craters from the bombardments
- There’s a parking lot with restrooms, and informative signs throughout the site. Heads up – there’s also a lot of walking.
- USA landing site
- This is just a regular public beach now, but they do have a sculpture memorial on the beach itself
- You can just park in the town and walk right on the beach!
- Museum with tons of memorabilia, personal stories, and model figures and scenes
- A small facility packed with information and relics. Would be overwhelming on a crowded day.
- Located near Omaha Beach
- Burial ground for many American soldiers who lost their lives during the Normandy invasion
- You can also see Omaha Beach from a distance!
- Has a visitor’s center which looks small but nice and interactive. There is a parking lot and public restrooms. This is a must visit!
- Museum with a private collection including personal items and armored vehicles
- It would be very interesting to hear the story of the collector and the history related to how his collection evolved over time. Based on Google reviews, I would definitely add this one to your list if you have time!
- A cliff-side Germany artillery battery that shelled the Allies invading Gold and Omaha beaches
- The battery is the only one in Normandy to retain all its original guns in place and is listed as a historical monument
- Small parking lot and free entrance. Guided tours available from the visitor’s center for a small fee.
- An artificial temporary harbor, called the Mulberry Harbour, was built here after the beach landings so that the Allies could “[unload] heavy equipment without waiting for the conquest of deep water ports”
- You can see remnants of the artificial harbor
- Simply visit the public beach to view the remnants, or check out the 360 cinema museum to get a video overview of the site (located on the harbor!)
- UK landing site
- Museum commemorating the D-Day landings and another significant historical event that happened at the site
- Looks like it’s mostly factual and not as interactive. I’d skip it and go to one of the other museums.
- Canadian and UK landing site
- Museum honoring Canadian soldiers who served during WWII
- Looks like a really great interactive museum with memorabilia and stories. I would love to check this one out.
- UK landing site (the easternmost landing site)
- I don’t think there’s much to check out here, but you could visit if you want to see all 5 of the landing beaches
- The Pegasus was a bridge successfully overtaken by glider pilots on June 5 that protected the Allies against German counter-attack during the invasion of Normandy on the following days
- A modern bridge replaced the original on-site in 1994, but the museum allows you to see (and walk on!) the original bridge
- There is also more to see and learn about the airborne division
- Looks like a shorter visit, but would be awesome to see after going to the Airborne Museum.
- Located in the town of Caen
- Museum covering WWII, the D-Day landings, and the Cold War
- Focused on global history and the fragility of peace
- Less war memorabilia and more videos and information
- Catch the history of Europe video!
- As it has a broader focus, it looks like it would be excellent if you’ve already visited other WWII museums, or simply to close out your experience after spending a lot of time in the area. It seems like it would also provide a great, full overview of the war if you just spend your time on the Normandy invasion section.
- Located southeast of the coast
- A museum dedicated to showing what life was like for citizens during wartime
- It’s a bit out of the way compared to the other destinations, but it sounds like it would be fascinating, especially if you are interested in individual’s stories.
Have you visited any of the D-Day sites? Which ones would you recommend hitting (or avoiding)?