D-Day Landing Beaches

How to Plan a Visit to the D-Day Landing Beaches (You Don’t Need to be a History Buff)

France is drenched in rich history and the D-Day landing beaches in Normandy are no exception to this. Many years have passed since the historic D-Day landings but, fortunately for us, the area is now full of memorials, museums and cemeteries so that the stories do not have to be lost in the sand. Instead, they are brought to life in a respectful and touching way through these fitting tributes. There’s so much to see there that you would need a lot of time to get through it all, this guide is a compilation of the top spots I saw that you could add to your trip if you only have a weekend or so in this once brutal, now beautiful area of France. Before we get started, if you think that it is only relevant to military history buffs, think again. I am certainly no history buff and didn’t know much at all about the significance of the D-Day landing beaches before visiting (before you jump down my throat remember I’m Australian & we weren’t really involved in this so it’s not really a huge focus in school). The point is, I went into visiting this area with limited knowledge at best and I was able to learn a lot through the informative exhibits and films. I didn’t feel left behind because I didn’t know enough. Many of the sites and museums are free and there is a focus on preserving and sharing the stories, knowledge and history of it all which is something I appreciate.

How to Plan a Visit to the D-Day Landing Beaches

Visiting the D-Day Landing Beaches in France is a must do & here is a complete guide to help you plan your visit.

D-day landing beaches

Day 1 schedule: In order of how it is presented in the blog post

Utah Beach

For only an 8 Euro entrance fee, a visit to the Utah Beach Museum is well worth a visit. This impressive museum moves through the D-Day landings in a chronological order taking you through the strategy, the preparations, through the mission itself and right to the ultimate outcome. If you’re like me and don’t know much about what happened, this is a good place to start. I found this museum really interesting, with a good mix of artifacts and explanations to gain an understanding from.

Travel Tip: There is also an award winning film shown at various intervals throughout the day so check the times after you get your ticket. 

After the museum, you can venture outside to view the series of monuments and leftover equipment on display before walking on the beach itself. There isn’t anything on the beach itself as far as monuments, only the sand and ocean water is left behind, but it is a good way to try to imagine all that you have just been learning about.

For more information visit the official website.

D-Day Landing Beaches

D-Day Landing Beaches

D-Day Landing Beaches

Pointe Du Hoc

Though Pointe Du Hoc isn’t one of the five D-Day landing beaches, it is, in my opinion, a must see while you are visiting the sites in the area. If you have no knowledge of the significance of Pointe Du Hoc (again don’t worry neither did I), then I recommend visiting the small museum before walking out to the actual site. There is no entrance fee though you will go through a security screen and bag check before entering. The museum is small, with only a couple of exhibits, but they play a video on loop to which allows you to see the site through a new set of eyes. Not only is it interesting to learn about the brave men who scaled the huge cliffs while under fire, but, through the personal stories of surviving soldiers, it also gives you a confronting dose of what was reality for those who were there. All of a sudden, as you walk out to the site you don’t just see cliffs and bunkers, instead they are animated as you envision the the stories you heard in the video playing out.

Outside, the site is made up of a walking path where you can walk around the tops of the steep, jagged cliffs, alongside huge craters left behind and through bunkers. It is completely open to the elements which is something to keep in mind if you are visiting on a hot summer day or if it is raining.

Travel Tip: Before visiting the walking path, take a free pamphlet from the museum which has a map of the path and explains what each station is. There isn’t a plaque at each spot, so this pamphlet will help you get a greater understanding once you are out there (unless of course you know the difference between a Ten-Person Bunker and a Ammunition Bunker in which case you probably won’t need the pamphlet). If you are more of a tech person, download the Pointe Du Hoc App which uses your GPS location as you walk the path to share information on each station.

For more information visit the official website.

D-Day Landing Beaches

D-Day Landing Beaches

D-Day Landing Beaches

Normandy American Cemetery

This site is made up of two parts independent of each other, though I would recommend visiting both for the complete experience. The first part is to enter the Visitors Center and walk through the museum. There is no fee to enter, but you will go through a security point and have your bag checked before entry. The museum will walk you through exhibits before leading you to the two areas that set it apart in my opinion. There was a wall filled with photos of soldiers and information about their individual stories, and finally an empty hallway which played an audio recording of the names of soldiers, read out one by one. After these you will be led out to the cemetery section, and once out, you cannot re-enter without going back through the security point so be sure to sign the guestbook on the way out.

The cemetery itself can best be described as humbling, serving as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices of war. The cemetery is the final resting place for 9387 American soldiers, and, as your eyes follow row upon row of neatly arranged white crosses, they seem endless. I will be the first to admit that there is not one photo I took that conveyed the sheer volume of graves. This humbling experience needs to be seen in person to be able to fully appreciate the sheer scale of the site and, in my opinion, it is something that everyone should see.

Travel Tip: Download the Normandy American Cemetery App prior to visiting as using the Wi-Fi in the Visitors Center to download it can take a long time. The app allows you to learn more about stories of the soldiers, find specific graves and has more information to help you plan your visit.

For more information visit the official website.

D-Day Landing Beaches

D-Day Landing Beaches

D-Day Landing Beaches

 Overlord Museum

As you exit the Normandy American Cemetery you will come to a roundabout where you will find the Overlord Museum. What began as a personal collection of military equipment has over time grown into this museum full of impressive displays. It’s primarily an equipment museum, so as you walk through the exhibits you will see a focus on vehicles, tanks and weapons. It’s hard to have a favorite museum, and while I liked them all for different reasons, I think this was my favorite because of the way it was laid out and being able to see the equipment up close, in a new light. Seeing the historic tanks lined with bullet holes made it more real for me as opposed to seeing a re-creation of a tank and the equipment in this museum made me feel like going back in time where I was imagining what these objects had been through.

It’s all really well staged and there’s lots of placards providing information (again great for people with limited knowledge of these subjects) and was well worth the 7.80 Euro entrance fee for sure.

For more information visit the website.

D-Day Landing Beaches

D-Day Landing Beaches

D-Day Landing Beaches

Omaha Beach

Unfortunately, on the day of my visit the path down to Omaha Beach from the Normandy American Cemetery was closed so I did not see that section of the beach. From researching on TripAdvisor it does look very interesting though and a moving place to reflect. Hopefully it is open when you visit so that you can follow the stair path down to the beach and see more of the area. Instead, after my visit to the Overlord Museum, I drove to the main monument and walked around in that area.

D-day landing beaches

Day 2 schedule – beginning at Sword Beach and following the coastline stopping at monuments along the way until arriving at Gold Beach.

Juno (Canadian), Sword & Gold Beaches (British)

These three are the smaller scale beaches in terms of things to see around them and in my opinion you can see them and their monuments in a half day. I actually visited all there beaches after a half day trip to Falaise to see the Castle of William the Conquerer and was still able to squeeze them all in. I started at Sword Beach (just put it into Google Maps) and then followed the coastline up to Gold Beach, stopping at monuments I saw along the way. I visited in February which was not peak season so it was really easy to stop and park anywhere I saw a monument but if you are visiting in peak season, you may want to plan out your day a little more than what I did. Here are a couple of ideas.

Sword Beach is a nice area to walk around and has a monument in the main area. Juno beach has a Canadian monument off the main road that runs parallel to the ocean as well as the Centre Juno Beach which is a Canadian Museum. There is also a bunker and a couple of monuments outside the museum before you walk onto the beach. When you visit Gold Beach check out the Musee Gold Beach to finish off your day. You don’t need to allow a lot of time as it is a small museum, but the people running it are really kind and so passionate about their work. I loved the models they had on display of battle scenes, it seemed as though they had thought of every detail.

D-Day Landing Beaches

D-Day Landing Beaches

D-Day Landing Beaches

D-Day Landing Beaches

Where to stay

I stayed in the town of Bayeux at a cozy, historic AirBnb (check out this post for more information). I loved this central location because I could visit all of the D-Day landing beaches with a 40 minute drive at most, but I was also be close to Bayeux town which offered a variety of great restaurants, cafes and stores.

4 Comments

  • Abby March 18, 2017 at 7:50 am

    Wow! I didn’t know that there was a beach named Utah Beach in Normandy. I’ve been to France before, but have not reached Normandy yet. Being a history buff, Utah Beach Museum, Musee Gold Beach and William the Conqueror’s Castle are now on my already long list. Thanks for posting!

    Reply
    • Katie Mac March 21, 2017 at 8:04 am

      Thanks Abby! I hope you get to visit the Normandy area, it was full of so many interesting sites.

      Reply
  • Leigh March 18, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    This region is high on my bucket list for sure. I am sure it’s quite sobering to visit, but I feel like it’s a must for Americans visiting France. Excellent photos as well, thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Katie Mac March 21, 2017 at 8:04 am

      Yes definitely sobering and also a must see especially for Americans in my opinion. Thanks so much for checking it out.

      Reply

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