The Normandy Landings was one of the most dramatic conflicts in the Second World War. On 6 June 1944 allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy in the largest seaborne invasion in history, aiming to liberate France from German rule
To this day, the beaches are popular destinations for tourists and for visitors wanting to pay their respects and commemorate the events of D-Day. There are memorials, cemeteries and museums in the towns surrounding the beaches.
There are five D-Day beaches – from west to east, Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword beaches, while other key battle sites include Pointe du Hoc, Arromanches and Pegasus Bridge.
The remains of Mulbery Harbour can still be seen at Arromanches. Built by Churchill’s vision within a few days after D Day, this temporary port was used to disembark an army with all the men and supplies necessary to liberate Europe. One of the most industrial and maritime achievements of the war.
The name Omaha Beach which up until 6 June 1944 only existed as an operational code name, has continued to jointly designate the beaches of three villages, Colleville, Saint-Laurent and Vierville, in memory of the soldiers of the 1st American division who landed there and suffered the heaviest casualties on D-Day.
There are so many interesting, educational and moving things to experience here and a must for people of all ages.
When visiting war cemeteries and memorials be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and dress respectfully.
Tours in Normandy vary in length and often include the following beaches.
Mont Saint Michel
Located only three-and-a-half hours from Paris, Mont Saint-Michel marks the border between Normandy and Brittany and is a true emblem of French heritage. Surrounded by a splendid bay and perched on a rocky islet this ‘Wonder of the West’ dates back to the Middle Ages.
At the entrance, after going through the King’s Gate, with its drawbridge, you will find the Grande Rue, or main street, where the main museums, shops and medieval houses are located. You can climb the Grand Degré staircase to the fascinating 8th century Benedictine abbey with its Gothic architecture, cloister, dining hall and garden overlooking the sea. You will be amazed by the panoramic view before you as you walk along the town walls. Don’t forget to make time to enjoy a delicious crepe or buy some souvenirs.
Giverny is a village in the region of Normandy approximately 70 kms from Paris. Impressionist painter Claude Monet lived and worked here from 1883 until his death in 1926. The artist’s former home and elaborate gardens, where he produced the famous water lily series are now the Foundation Claude Monet museum. Just 900 metres away from the Foundation is Saint-Radegonde Church where Monet’s tomb can be visited. Nearby, there is the Museum of impressionism.
Although most visitors come here because of Monet it is worth noting that Giverny is a lovely town in itself and worth taking a stroll around.
Also, surrounding hills are the perfect setting for nature walks, rambles and hikes. The old railroad path is a great option for a walk to Vernon, approximately five kilometres.
Honfleur, a working harbour in Normandy is an absolute gem. It was popular with impressionist painters like Monet and Boudin who found its changing light and picturesque quays inspiring.
The Vieux Bassin, the inner harbour which was first created for Louis XIV, is lined with cafes, bars, restaurants and art galleries. Its one of the best places in town to sit and watch boats going in and out, listen to the bells ring in the towns church and enjoy the wonderful light of Honfleur.
At night the harbour lights up, music fills the air from lively restaurants and people stroll around the Vieux Bassin, shops are open until late – there is a festive feel to it all.
Etretat is about a two hour drive from Paris and is famous for the towering white chalk cliffs carved by wind and water. The village of Etretat lies at beach level, niched between the two highest arched rock wonders. The village consists of some attractive half-timbered buildings that house shops and cafes.
The natural beauty of Etretat has long attracted artists such as Monet, whose paintings entice even more visitors to this special place.
On the Amont clifftop, fishermen constructed the small chapelle, Nortre Dame de la Garde, in 1856. There is also an amazing needle-like structure, known in French as an Aiguille.
You can go for some stunning walks along the cliff tops, where there are more surprises, including a breath taking golf course. At night from the famous cliff formations on the beach you can see them magically lit up.
Rouen is the capital of the northern French region of Normandy. It is a port city on the river Seine and is particularly charming thanks to its medieval alleyways, its lively pedestrian streets, its half-timbered houses and its famous Gros Horloge, an astronomical clock that is one of the city’s treasures. All very photo worthy. Many Impressionist painters were inspired by the beauty of the city, including Claude Monet, who painted various views of the cathedral.
As the city was so popular with artists and has a deep history there are numerous museums to visit.
Rouen saw the tragic end of Saint Joan of Arc’s life. Follow in her footsteps beginning with a visit to the Historial Jeanne d’Arc, her trial site turned museum. Approximately one kilometre away is the Joan of Arc Tower, her former dungeon. Then the Eglise Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc de Rouen where she was burned at the stake. The church is lined with stunning stained glass windows.
Like Paris, the Seine river weaves through breaking the city into two banks. The pathway that follows the river’s waters is ideal for an evening stroll, watching as boats and river cruises pass by.
Today, Rouen is famous for the Armada festival where you can enjoy concerts along the quays as well as many other activities.