Lost In Landmarks

D-Day beaches self drive tour (2023): a 3 day itinerary in Normandy, France

With the echoes of the past whistling around every beach, town and bunker, Normandy is the place to go to reflect on world war 2 and the pivotal events that happened there. It can be a hard hitting place for sure so having the ability to explore at your own pace, or have an afternoon off if needed, is a good idea. That’s where a self drive tour comes in.

When we self drove the coastline of Normandy we really appreciated being able to take in what we needed, explore different kinds of sights (not just museums) and take more than just the war stories too. We traveled with our kids so it made it even more essential we could pick and choose our destinations.

If you’re looking to explore the Normandy World War 2 sites then read on for our guide to a D-Day beaches self drive tour. It really is a perfect way to see the area!  Since it’s a fairly compact region with plenty to see and do whether you’re a complete history addict or just want to pay respects to the troops who lost their lives so many years ago.

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I’ve based this self drive itinerary on our own experiences driving the route and also for it to be perfect for someone going to Normandy from the UK on a ferry to Cherbourg.  If you find yourself coming from the opposite end of the country, perhaps arriving in Dieppe or Calais, or if you’re travelling internationally and starting from Paris, feel free to reverse the route.

Essentials for your D-Day explorations:

  • Guide book with background info on the D-Day Sites
  • Normandy Road map

Guided tour from Bayeux

  • Half Day Small group tour to Omaha Beach

Accommodation for your self drive D-Day tour

It is possible to just base yourself in one town for the duration of the trip and if you’re going to do that then I recommend staying in Bayeaux as it’s fairly central to all the beaches and D-Day sites.  This is a great idea if you don’t want to be changing hotels every day and want to be able to relax on an evening in familiar surroundings.  

  • Grande Hotel Du Luxembourg : A 4 star hotel with pool, comfortable rooms and a restaurant on site. Parking is available but paid.
  • Château de Bellefontaine : A hotel close by to the town but with the feel of the countryside. Free parking available.
  • Villa Des Ursulines : Vacation rental apartments in Bayeaux. Free street parking nearby

If you want to maximise your time in the area and also want to see some new towns then I’ve given some ideas below on where to stay that is near to the days sites.

You might also like to check the map below for some other accommodation ideas in Normandy:

3 day D-Day beaches itinerary – quick look

Why do a d-day beaches self drive tour.

Normandy, and specifically the D-Day beaches , are such important places that are inspiring, sad and unbelievable all at the same time. To me it’s vitally important that we remember what happened in world war two and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom and their country.

Many people have relatives who served at the time and want to retrace their steps, see what difficulties they faced and pay respects to them and their fallen friends. Other people want to know what happened and for them seeing the place in real life can bring the time to life.

I include myself in this last one – I knew of D-Day but not a great deal really, but seeing the sites for myself really brought home the loss of life, the commitment our countries had to winning the war and the huge scale of the operation. Visiting inspired me to learn a lot more about the time period and as we went on our trip with our kids, means they learned a lot too!   As living veterans who served there are getting less and less each year, passing on the knowledge of these times is extremely important I feel.  

Why self drive rather than doing a tour?  

I’m personally someone who likes to do it myself when travelling so I’m always keen to see places with my own timescale.  When we visited Utah beach it was terrible weather and we just couldn’t stay there so we were free to move on.  If we were on a tour we’d have had a very wet day!

I find self guided tours to be great for those who aren’t just there for the war history and want to just incorporate it in to a road trip and exploration of an area.  We travelled with kids, one of whom loves anything to do with war history and one who can tolerate it but it’s not her idea of a fun day out – if this is you, whether you have kids or just another travelling companion who isn’t quite as keen as you are on the sites you can tailor the days to suit you.  If spending time at a cemetery is going to be too upsetting or a museum is boring then you can wrap it up and move on.

Tours can be good if you’re really interested in getting all the information that you need from experienced tour guides and also if you don’t want to navigate the roads.  

If you’re coming from the UK you might find some coach tours like this one good and if you’re based in Paris there’s quite a few from there too.  

The best place to base yourself if you want to have just a day tour is Bayeaux as many go from there.   I’ll not be talking too much about the history of what happened in this Normandy itinerary – if you want to know a little more about the places mentioned here and what happened do take a look at my guide to the Normandy beaches and WW2 sites .

A note about museums – there are a number of museums in the area, loads in fact and probably more than you can ever fit in to a small trip.  Feel free to pick and choose as to what appeals to you and your interests – it’s unlikely you’ll want to do them all and I’d probably suggest not trying to do too many since it will likely lead to museum fatigue!  I’ve added links to the websites so you can figure out which ones to spend your time in.  

Notes for visiting around D-Day (June 6th)

This itinerary works really well at any time of the year but if you’re planning to visit Normandy for the anniversary of the landings you might need to consider some other things:

  • From the end of May to the middle of June The D-Day Festival takes place

Fairs, reenactments, special museum displays and parades take place in the days around the 6th of June. Way too many to mention but plenty to take your pick from. Here’s a look at the 2022 programme so you can see the kinds of things happening.

  • Accommodation will be in much higher demand

It’s highly recommended to book well in advance if you’re set on visiting at this time of year. Booking is my suggested place to look, and they have the best cancellation policies I find as well as often the best prices.

  • It’ll be a much different experience than you’d get any other time

With sombre remembrance and also celebrations of the feat of the Allies it’s one of those unique times to visit that will be much different to coming at other times of the year

3-day Normandy Road Trip Itinerary

Optional – spend the night before your driving tour just by Utah beach at Le Grand Hard for a small French countryside hotel experience or Relais de la Liberte which is a small guest house – both have excellent reviews and have plenty of free parking.  

normandy utah beach tank

Morning: Utah beach

55km from Cherbourg or 60km from Bayeux

We start our Normandy D-Day itinerary at the most western of the landing beaches – Utah.  Landed by the Americans, this was one of the more successful operations.  If you’re coming from the ferry or starting in Bayeaux it should be less than an hour to get here.

You can spend your time walking on the beach, taking in some of the monuments around to the various companies involved or you can also start off your D-Day trip in the Musée du Débarquement and learn about the landings.  

I suggest allowing for a couple of hours here, depending on if you decide to do the museum or not.  Its a nice beach and a really nice place to walk along.

Be sure to look out for the monument to the the liberation of France.  This is called Milestone 00 and commemorates the United States involvement in the liberation of France along this road.

Parking – there is plenty of parking available at Utah beach and also picnic benches if you want to bring some food too for lunch.  

st mere eglise normandy airborne

Afternoon: Sainte-Mère-Église

Driving time- 20 mins.  17km from Utah beach

It’s easy to assume Normandy is just the beaches and the landings there – as I found when I visited there’s so much more that went on!  

One well known story is that of the airborne forces who landed troops just prior to the beach landings and who played a part in securing towns and strategic points. Sainte-Mère-Église received some of these forces who actually landed there by accident, and who planned to land further out.  This wasn’t great for the Allies and many died and one man even got his parachute caught on the church steeple and he had to pretend to be dead to avoid being shot at.

Sainte-Mère-Église is a lovely town to walk around and explore.  There’s one thing I love in France and it’s the feeling of the villages with cafes and bakeries just waiting to be enjoyed!  You can see the church where the paratrooper got himself caught, there’s a dummy still on the steeple as a monument to him.  

We also enjoyed the museum which talks about the role of the airborne troops in D-Day and what planes and gliders they used.  

Parking – plenty of parking in the village itself.    

If you have time: On the way to Carenten from Sainte-Mère-Église is the D-Day experience museum  just outside the village of Saint-Côme-du-Mont

Overnight : You could choose to spend the evening in Sainte-Mère-Église itself – Logis Le Sainte Mere is a recommended hotel. Alternatively spend the evening in Carentan at the Hôtel Le Vauban   and be a little bit closer to the next day’s sights.  

Morning – Maisy Battery

Driving time – 20 mins.  20km from Carentan

Our second day starts at Maisy Battery which is a little known site near to Pointe du Hoc and which played a big role in what went on there.  It’s basically a myriad of tunnels that the Germans used to attack the Allied forces from but the interesting part is that the whole story and site was lost to historians until just recently and when it was discovered it changed a lot of the perceptions of what actually happened on the day.  

It’s only open in summer months but if you can add it in to your itinerary then it would be a great addition.  Check their website here .  

pointe du hoc normandy france

Pointe du Hoc

Driving time – 10 mins.  7 km from Maisy Battery

A short drive from Maisy Battery is Pointe Du Hoc itself.  There’s a lot to look at here with many paths taking you around the site showing shelters and gun placements as well as a moving memorial right by the cliff’s edge.  I found this site really moving myself and would definitely recommend a trip here – there’s a small visitor centre with a movie playing to help you get your head around what went on here.  

omaha beach memorial

Afternoon – Omaha beach

Driving time – 15 mins.  9km from Pointe Du Hoc

Omaha beach is another of the landing beaches that the American troops landed on and this one was not as successful as the Utah landing.  As such there was a great number of lives lost here and many people come to pay their respects from all countries.

At the centre of the beach itself is a very moving memorial and the Memorial Museum of Omaha Beach and towards the eastern end (as you drive from Pointe Du Hoc) there is also another museum about D-Day at Omaha beach .  

Parking – there is parking at either end of the beach or by the memorial in the middle but bear in mind how much walking you want to do before you decide where to park!  It’s a lovely long beach with houses dotted along the beach front – plenty of time for walking and reflection.    

normandy american cemetery

American Cemetery

Driving time – 10 mins.  5km from Omaha Beach

Just up from the beach is the resting place for many of the Americans who lost their lives not just at Omaha but on the whole Normandy landing campaign.  It’s a sombre and moving place but one that I feel should be seen if you’re going to the effort of visiting the WW2 sites.  

There is no pathway from the beach at present – check their site out here for more information.    

If you have time: just by the American Cemetery is the Overlord Museum with more artefacts and exhibitions about the Omaha landings  

Overnight in Bayeux – The Hotel Du Luxembourg is a highly recommended 4 star hotel which would be a good option in the town.  

arromanches beach and mulberry harbour

Morning – Arromanches-les-Bains (Gold Beach)

Driving time – 20 mins.  12km from Bayeaux

Arromanches was one my favourite sites to visit myself, coming from someone who knew very little about the landings.  You can see remnants of the artificial harbour that was created once the beaches were secured and when the tide is out actually walk up to them.

This is part of Gold beach which was one of the beaches that the British soldiers were charged with.  There’s a museum here all about the landings and also the building of the harbour and how they used it to bring supplies to Europe.  

Courseulles sur Mer, France - april 22 2018 : the Centre Juno Beach, D Day Canadian memorial

Courselles-sur-Mer (Juno beach)

Driving time – 20 mins.  13km from Arromanches

Juno beach is just a small drive from Arromanches and you can see where the Canadian troops landed and fought.  Again there’s a museum here dedicated to that story called the Juno Beach Centre . The town by Juno beach is called Courselles-sur-Mer and it’s a pleasant place to walk around and have lunch with a marina and cafes.  

pegasus bridge normandy d day

Afternoon – Ouistreham (Sword Beach)

Driving time – 30 mins.  20km from Courselles-sur-Mer  

Finally our trip concludes with the British landing beach of Sword which is a wide open beach at the town of Ouistreham.  This was the first beach we ever saw and it was very weird to see such a ‘normal’ looking beach with such history – wasn’t what I was expecting!  

The town is big and perfect for supplies and to enjoy restaurants and other amenities. While in the town make sure to head to the Pegasus bridge memorial for another slightly different story – this is where British Commando troops were parachuted in the day before D-Day to secure the bridge.  A museum tells the story and you can walk around outside to learn about what went on that day.  

If you have time:   Longues Sur Mer just east of Arromanches might be worth checking out at the beginning of your day – it’s a battery placement site which is free to enter with some tours also taking place that are good value. Ouistreham has a number of museums in the town too including one about Commandos and one about Hitler’s Sea wall.

Overnight :  For your final night enjoy the small seaside town of Ouistreham, an evening walk on the beach and perhaps a French Pastry or two.  There are number of good hotel options in the town like Hôtel le phare or La Villa Andry

Ouistreham is the port that Brittany Ferries uses (but actually calls Caen) so if you’re using them to get home this is the perfect stop for you.  

More days in Normandy?

If you have more time to spend in Normandy then I suggest adding in some time in the towns of Caen, Bayeaux and really just slowing down and exploring the area.  There’s so much more to Normandy than just the World War 2 sites and if you’re visiting with people who don’t have as much of an interest then it’s worth taking some days out from that.  

We also really enjoyed the beaches on the west coast of Normandy on the Cotentin peninsula and of course there’s also Mont St Michel over that way too which is a must see!  

Planning your trip

Useful links for planning your trip:

Brittany Ferries   (Poole – Cherbourg. Portsmouth – Caen or Le Havre)  DFDS Ferries  (Newhaven – Dieppe)  P&O Ferries  (Dover – Calais)   

Booking.com  (Hotels and Apartments)  Hotels.com  (Hotels and Apartments)  VRBO  (Apartments and Rooms)   

Skyscanner  (flights – best airports are Caen from the UK or Paris for international flights)  Discover Cars  (car rentals)

Recommended books

I highly recommend the Liberation Route Europe book by Rough Guide that has recently come out.  It tells a lot about the background of what was going on in the war prior to DDay and the eventual liberation.  Will also inspire you to go to many more sites around Europe – just warning you!

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The D-Day Visitors handbook also comes highly recommended although I haven’t seen it first hand. I’ll be sneaking a peak soon as planning to get one as a gift for someone!

A guide book to Normandy like this Rough Guide is also a good idea for the planning phases so you can see what else is around the area – vital if you want to enjoy more than just the WW2 history.

Finally a map is essential for your self drive tour – there are many available like this one  – we ended up getting a ring bound France map since we were doing lots of driving in the country.  

What to take to Normandy

If you’re coming from out of the country and renting a car then make sure to add in a sat nav system to your hire car.  If sticking with a phone system then it’s really important to have a car charging kit so it doesn’t die while driving!

If you’re coming from the UK by car you’ll also need to have a European driving kit – this has the required items that you need by law over in France (each country has different rules and they do change but if I’m honest, having some hi vis vests and warning triangles in the car is not going to hurt – get them!).

You definitely need to have the GB sticker and some headlight deflectors as well as soon as you arrive – you can normally get them on the ferries but at a much higher price so worth getting in advance  

France is a really easy country to navigate especially by car but I’d definitely recommend taking a really good road map with you just in case mobile or sat nav signals go down.   This is like the one that we used .

As for a sat nav system I suggest that you make sure you either have some capability on your phone like we did or get a dedicated system with European maps like this one .  

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3 day self drive itinerary for exploring the Normandy beaches in France. These beaches saw action in WW2 and many museums, graveyards and monuments can be found now along the coast. If you only have 3 days in the area here's what you should do. Northern France itinerary | WW2 France itinerary | Normandy self drive tour | Normandy 3 day itinerary

Kirsty Bartholomew

6 thoughts on “D-Day beaches self drive tour (2023): a 3 day itinerary in Normandy, France”

Hi His blog was added to Best Travel Blogs 2020 to the WWII Travel Blogs & Tours list Kate Best Regards

Do you have any suggestions how to incorporate this itinerary with festivities on/around June 6? We are planning to go in June of 2024. Thanks

Hi Judy (apologies for the delay in replying – I only just came across this!)

so each year there’s A LOT of events going on around that time, although obviously COVID slowed it down, here was the 2022 programme of events . Quite a lot goes on.

I’d suggest to keep an eye on the Normandy Tourist Board website for when the years timetable gets updated and plan your trip around that.

You could base yourself fairly central to give yourself plenty of wiggle room to attend any events you want.

I’m an experienced guide for the Normandy battlefields and have some great tips for anyone travelling there. 1. If you want to attend for the D-Day anniversary book EARLY as anything within reasonable driving distance will be sold out. I guarantee it. 2. Do yourself a favor and don’t try to do a day trip from Paris. You will miss just way too much. It’s a three hour drive from Paris. 3. Don’t even waste your time with a 3-Day trip. On these itineraries you will drive right past A LOT of extremely historical locations and you won’t even know it. 4. I NEVER stay in hotels there. B&B’s are definitely the way to go. Many speak English and are a fantastic experience. I highly recommend Richard (Dick) Coopers place called Blazing Sky. He can hook you up with info, recommend tours, and his place played a part in the Airborne battles. BOOK EARLY!! 5. I HIGHLY suggest you book a tour. If you are going to do just 3 days, You can take a one day tour with many assorted guys. 5. Do yourself a favour and do at least 5 days. A week is HIGHLY recommended. Book three to four different tours. One to cover the British/Canadian battles. One to do the American Beaches etc. Then one or two days to cover the US Airborne battle locations. For instance, you will drive past 25-35 important locations just from St. Come du Mont to Ravenoville. They can get you access to very important places that you won’t get on your own. 6. If visiting for the DDay celebrations, be prepared to spend a lot of time in gridlock. It’s cool to see all the vehicles and jump demonstrations but you will miss out on seeing many important battle locations. April-September is a great time to visit and with the exception of the DDay dates, it will be easy to hit the important sites AND get a place to stay.

With the extra days you can hit Mont St. Michelle, Cherbourg, German Cemeteries, St. Lo, The Bayeau Tapestry and many other places.

I cannot recommend enough not doing it on your own!! You will miss SO much, even with a guide book.

I haven’t been guiding tours for several years, but I would consider doing fully arranged tours that will encompass lodging, tours, transportation (if need be), food, etc. Basically everything.

Thanks for the tips Mark!

Hi Mark You have provided great information. I can assume you have only scratched the surface! I have a group of 5-6 people who are retired US military interested in WE2 sites. We would like a guide – as you suggest to maximize our time. We intend to get a cruise 1 June 2024 , Le Havre to Paris as we finish Normandy area. What would you estimate the costs for such a group for say 5 days?

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One of Normandy's main selling points is its culture, a prime example being Giverny and its marvelous gardens and water lilies, home of Claude Monet and a number of other Impressionist painters. We will be happy to include a skip-the-line visit to Monet's house and gardens in your Normandy driving tour.

Despite its international fame, especially in the US, it might surpise you to know that most French people aren't familiar with this place. To us - the Frenchies - Monet is associated with the Musée D'Orsay in Paris, as it's where you will find most of his paintings.  Monet's gardens  at Giverny are beautiful, especially from May through July, but they can get very crowded.  

Waterlilies in the Japanese garden Giverny Normandy Tours

Waterlilies in the Japanese garden in Giverny

World War II Sites: Battle of Normandy Tours

D-day beaches self drive tour.

Many of our travelers come to Normandy to learn the history of their father, uncle or grand-father who were involved in the D Day landings in 1944 . This is always an emotional experience, regardless of whether you have relative who fought or not, and so we do our best to make sure our travelers get as much detailed information as possible about what happened to those brave soldiers. For those who have names, dates or places they want to learn about – we will be happy to craft the itinerary accordingly.

We have selected a very few English-speaking guides who specialize in Normandy D Day tours. They will be happy to take you on a Battle of Normandy tour and bring the history of this area alive and answer all of your questions. To us, this is a must – at least if this is your first visit to Normandy. 

Normandy Beach Tours

For American travelers, Omaha or Utah Beach as well as Sainte Mere Eglise and Pointe du Hoc are a must see. The American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer  – right above Omaha Beach - is also incredibly impressive and illustrates the enormity of the sacrifice the Allies made to free the French people. The German, British and Canadian cemeteries are equally awe-inspiring.

Canadian travelers will get the chance to learn about the Canadian landing at  Juno Beach Center , which is very interesting. British people can visit Sword Beach , North of Caen to discover the history of their ancestors. It is also worth checking out the impressive remains of the  Arromanches artificial bridge which was built in a night.

Whether you like better a self-guided tour of Normandy beaches or you rather take a battlefields guided tour, we can craft your days in Normandy to make the most of your time. 

normandy invasion on d day Normandy Tours

©Calvados Toursime - Arromanches Artificial Port

Mont Saint Michel Village & Abbey

A day visiting Unesco World Heritage site and popular tourist attraction  Mont Saint Michel is a must, too. This 8th-century abbey sitting atop a tidal island off the Normandy coast is a sight to behold and is definitely worth your time. In your Normandy itinerary, we will tell you the best way to visit Mont St Michel so that you avoid the tourist crowds and learn all the secrets of this mystical place.

Many people visiting Normandy plan a trip to Mont Saint Michel, a small village built on a rock off the Norman coast. It is the most visited site in France and is likely to continue to be thanks to its beauty, history, architecture and the rhythm of the tide as it laps against its shore. The fascination we feel standing in front of this mystical site never ceases. Mont Saint Michel and its bay became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Click here to read more about Mont Saint Michel . 

mont saint michel village - Normandy Tours

©Ben Bard - Mont Saint Michel Village & Abbey

The Normandy Hinterland

Thinking about Normandy might conjure up images of sandy beaches, but that's not all the spectacular region has to offer.  Normandy’s hinterland is a beautiful part of the country and well worth taking the time to explore. Its rolling green hills, black and white cows and apple orchards give the area a unique character. Combine that with some of the most beautiful villages in France featuring gorgeous half-timbered houses and cobblestone streets, and you’re all set for the perfect Normandy driving tour! 

Make sure you spend some time in the  Pays d’Auge , admiring its picturesque villages, such as Beuvron-en-Auge with its beautiful half timbered houses.

normandy back country Normandy Tours

©Dieter Basse - Half-Timbered Houses in Normandy

Normandy Beach Resorts : Honfleur to Cabourg

Along the Normandy coast, from Dieppe in the North of Rouen to Honfleur , Deauville and Cabourg , Normandy was - and still is - one of the main getaway destinations for the Parisians.

In the 19th century, famous painters such as Eugène Boudin immortalized these weekends in Deauville or Honfleur through their art. Later Monet and Manet – impressionist painters – also tried to reproduce the very special light that shines down on the Normandy beaches in the morning, at dawn or on a stormy day.

Top tip: if you are planning on driving from Paris CDG airport to Normandy direct on the day of your arrival, make sure you have " moules frites " for lunch in Honfleur port, followed by a stroll along the Deauville boardwalk. This is the perfect way to start your Normandy tour and unwind after your flight and get your first taste of French life !

eugene boudin deauville Normandy Tours

Bathing Time in Deauville by Eugène Boudin in 1865

Normandy's Old Cities

Many historical sites were bombed during the Invasion of Normandy . However, many sites remain untouched (or were rebuilt after the war). 

  • Bayeux's old town  with its majestic cathedral and millennium old Bayeux Tapestry  depicting the Norman conquest of England in 1066 are must-sees. Bayeux city, 5 miles inland behind Arromanches' artificial harbor, is the only big city that remained untouched by WWII and is perfect for strolling around, soaking up the atmosphere of Normandy. 
  • Those passionate about impressionist painters or Joan of Arc will also enjoy visiting Rouen . 

bayeux old city Normandy Tours

©Ben Bard - Bayeux Old City

Normandy Gastronomy: if you like apples and dairy products...

You'll find out while self-driving in the Normandy, that the people there know how to enjoy life! Reputed gastronomes, they love a good home-made meal with a drink. Normandy is affectionately called the "butter land of the gods" because of its important production of some of France’s finest dairy products. With its seafood, cheese and apples, Normandy cuisine is one of the best in France. 

normandy seafood

Why You Should avoid Day Trips from Paris to Normandy

Normandy is famous worldwide for playing a vital role in the Second World War . The American landings on Omaha and Utah beaches and the Canadian and British landings in Juno, Gold and Sword beach marked the beginning of the end of a terrible war. Today, thinking about Normandy, we all have these images in mind: military cemeteries, memorials and bombarded cities. A day trip from Paris is simply not enough to truly make the most of this fascinating part of France : a self guided tour of Normandy for several days is the best way to discover the region.

There is so much more to this authentic region, which is why it's worth giving it as much time as you can afford. Here are three great reasons to spend more than a day in Normandy!

Over 1000 years of Normandy history

Of course, the history of Normandy extends far beyond the 20th century. It was first invaded by the Vikings in 845 (find out more aout the Siege of Paris ). It bore witness to Joan of Arc ’s bravery in the early 15th century, when  she was burned at the stake . It saw  William the Conqueror ’s endless thirst for greatness, followed by the Hundred Years War (between France and Great Britain) and then World Wars I and II . Too much to see in a day ! You should take your time and enjoy our self-guided tours of Normandy battlefields. 

Normandy Gastronomy

Normandy cuisine is renowned for its mouth-watering taste, with a particular focus on dairy, alcohol and seafood . Local specialties include butter and other dairy products, as well as Norman cider and Calvados (apple brandy). The apples come from the local orchards that you will spot as you make your way through the Norman hinterland and seaside.

The People of Normandy

Perhaps one of the best things about Normandy is the people who live there . It’s always difficult to generalize on these matters - and neither Guillaume nor Emilie have Norman roots. However, speaking objectively, we know the people of Normandy are joyful, open people who are easy to talk to and eager to welcome you to their region.

Before or After Normandy, where to ?

Normandy is only a 1 hour to 4 hour drive from Paris , depending if you want to reach Giverny or Mont Saint Michel. 

It is also about 2hrs30 to 3hrs drive to the Loire Valley , which makes a Paris, Normandy and Loire Valley wonderful itinerary without driving too much in between the different regions.

Also, Brittany region is right next to Normandy and a great addition to your self drive trip in France.

We take pride in crafting personalized tours of Normandy that take people to the popular places and attractions but avoid the worst of the tourist crowds. Better than an organized group tour, this self guided tour allows you to explore Normandy by car at your own pace. Scroll down to see a list of tours that include Normandy, or contact us to let us know your wishes and we can craft a tour just for you.

Explore Normandy at your own pace on a self drive tour with France Just For You

FAQs about Normandy

To fully understand the history of the Normandy region, we suggest a self-guided driving tour of Normandy for about 3 to 5 days (or more). Then, for travelers interested in history, we will plan for a Battle of Normandy tour with a local guide. For history lovers we will recommend a mix of D-Day beaches self-drive tour (for the site where you won't need a guide) and guided tours (private or with a small group depending on your budget) for the rest of the time.

All the D-Day beaches are open to the public freely. Some travelers may be surprised to see locals bathing in this area but for les Normands, it's part of history, but it's also the place you come with your children and enjoy the nice weather. Normandy beach tours are very popular with Northern American and British travelers.

It depends on the season you are visiting. June, with D-Day anniversary celebrations, gets booked at least 6 months in advance and our best guides are book over a year ahead for all the month of June. 

If you come another month of the year, booking about 4 months ahead gives us flexibility to craft your self-guided driving tour of Normandy and include all your wishes. 

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Our travelers’ reviews.

My wife and I recently engaged Emilie, of France Just For You, to plan a two week trip to Provence in the first two weeks of May. It was mid-March and we found Emilie during a web search of self-driving tours of France. What a find! Emilie responded within twenty-four hours with very specific questions, wanting to know more about us, our interests …

My wife and I recently engaged Emilie, of France Just For You, to plan a two week trip to Provence in the first two weeks of May. It was mid-March and we found Emilie during a web search of self-driving tours of France. What a find! Emilie responded within twenty-four hours with very specific questions, wanting to know more about us, our interests and preferences for things like accommodation, rental vehicle, activities, etc. and our budget. From there she took over, developed an outline of a suggested trip and after we agreed that we liked it, she developed it into a complete, and we mean complete, tour package. She booked Five Star B&B’s which lived up to their reputation; all hosts were fluent in English. She arranged an excellent rental car complete with an English GPS, first class tickets on the TGV from Avignon to Charles de Gaulle airport and overnight accommodation at CDG. Two weeks before our departure, Emilie couriered a package that included a 300 page book that contained a detailed daily itinerary of sight-seeing self-drive tours she recommended we do. This book included maps and GPS co-ordinates of every B&B, all points of interest, parking lot locations (most helpful!) and many recommended restaurants. It also contained a lot of very useful information for North Americans visiting France including material on food, wine, culture, driving and language. Emilie knows France and will guide you to the places most tourists never get to see. Her thoroughness and attention to detail are impressive. She provided prompt responses to all our communication and was even available 24/7 while we were in France in case any problems arose. All our accommodations were top-notch. Emilie has extremely high standards and therefore, we have no hesitation recommending France Just For You.

We would like to add our names to everyone else here who have had a truly excellent experience when using Emilie's, France Just For You company. We drove 2800 km on a recent holiday, and it was all arranged by Emilie. Everything she organized was perfect. We stayed in B and Bs and although we know a little French, all of our hosts spoke fluent …

We would like to add our names to everyone else here who have had a truly excellent experience when using Emilie's, France Just For You company. We drove 2800 km on a recent holiday, and it was all arranged by Emilie. Everything she organized was perfect. We stayed in B and Bs and although we know a little French, all of our hosts spoke fluent English. We had private guides for both the WW1 battlegrounds and then for Juno Beach, the Canadian WW2 D-Day landing beach. They showed up right on time and where both just amazing. She organized a wine tour that was fun and a walking food tour in Avignon. If anyone likes doing food tours, this one is a must! Our rental car was waiting when we got to the agency, although there was a very slight misunderstanding at first, but a quick call to Emilie sorted everything out. We had a very nice hybrid, automatic transmission car, with full, walkaway insurance. The personalized guide books she provides are just full of things one would never know without her books. We had a moble phone with unlimited text talk and data to Canada (although in truth I used my iphone as I was so familiar with it and it's apps.) I could go on and on, but let me say that everything from start to finish was looked after impeccably, and for anyone considering a driving holiday in France, we recommend France Just For You with as high a rating as it is possible to assign. She is great!!!

We worked with Emilie to craft a 10 day trip that customized one of the trips on their website and were wonderfully pleased with our whole experience. The b&b hosts and various guided events we participated in all treated us wonderfully and were clear that Emilie had visited & vetted each property (and even rooms!) The personal tour book we …

We worked with Emilie to craft a 10 day trip that customized one of the trips on their website and were wonderfully pleased with our whole experience. The b&b hosts and various guided events we participated in all treated us wonderfully and were clear that Emilie had visited & vetted each property (and even rooms!) The personal tour book we received to follow allowed us to choose our activities in each area (Paris, Normandy & Loire Valley), but gave us Emilie's thoughts on her favorites - she has excellent taste! We highly recommend working with France Just For You and would do it again ourselves in a heartbeat!

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Sipping coffee & chasing dreams, a self-guided tour of historic d-day sites in normandy.

White crosses at Normandy American D-Day Cemetery

Visiting the historic D-Day sites is an unforgettable way to spend the day.  It is one of those bucket list trips that leave you better for having made them. June 6, 1944, is one of the most historic dates in world history. The victory achieved on D-Day changed the course of the world.  

The freedoms I have today are in large part due to the battles fought on the shores of Normandy. If you have an opportunity to travel to France, take some time to visit the D-Day sites in Normandy. You’ll never forget it.

In this post, I share my one-day self-guided itinerary to some of the D-Day sites in Normandy, France.  You’ll get a chance to learn about my experience and also see how easy it is to plan your own trip to this historic region. Although I would have preferred a minimum of 2 days for my visit, even with only one day to see the D-Day sites, you can cover a lot of ground and still have an unforgettable trip.

Overview of Our One-Day Itinerary to D-Day Sites in Normandy

Click on the map below to view trip details and driving directions for this route., what we saw on our one day self-guided tour:.

  • Church of Sainte-Mere-Eglise
  • Airborne Museum at Sainte-Mere-Eglise
  • La Cambe German war cemetery
  • Pointe du Hoc
  • National Guard Association Monument at Omaha Beach
  • Omaha Beach Memorial
  • Lunch at D-Day House at Omaha Beach
  • Normandy American Cemetery

Where We Started Our Road Trip

We took a direct train from Paris to Caen, where we’d booked our hotel and rental car.  In addition to spending one day seeing the D-Day sites, we also spent one day driving to Mont-Saint-Michel . For our one-day D-Day itinerary, we drove from our hotel in Caen to our first stop, the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mere-Eglise. Then we worked our way back in the direction of Caen for the remainder of the itinerary.

Tip: You could easily make this trip in reverse, and depending on what time of year you go, you may want to.  We discovered during our visit here in October, that places open later and close earlier in the fall and winter.  

So in the case of our route, we arrived at the Airborne Museum, thinking it opened at 9:00 a.m. (according to Google) only to discover it did not open until 10:00. Thus, we could have started at the Normandy American Cemetery, which opened at 9:00 and closed at 5:00 and then saved the Airborne Museum for last, which closed at 6:00 p.m.  Live and learn!

Benefits of a Self-Guided Road Trip to See D-Day Sites

By driving yourself to the D-Day sites, you have more flexibility and choices in which places you see and how long you spend there. Driving in France was easy for me since they drive on the same side of the road as we do in the U.S. As long as you can drive a car with a manual transmission, it is pretty much the same as driving in the States. The road signs may look a little different, but all in all, it’s a very similar experience.

However, if you’re not comfortable with driving on your own in France, there are a lot of tour companies that will drive you around to the historic D-Day sites. You can take 12-hour day trips from Paris, or local tours starting at Caen and Bayeux. So decide on whichever option works best for you and your itinerary.

A Little Background About This Trip

My visit to Normandy, France, was a part of a 2 1/2 month backpacking trip I took with my friend through Europe.  As I planned our route and the “must-see” stops along the way, I knew that visiting Normandy, France, and the historic D-Day sites was a must for me.  Our visit to Normandy was during the final three weeks of our trip through Europe.  

Before arriving in Normandy, we toured the house where Anne Frank hid in the attic before being captured by the Nazis. We visited Berlin and walked over what was once Hitler’s underground bunker and wandered through the Memorial to the Murdered Jews.  Then we traveled to Krakow, Poland, where we took a day trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps. Finally, we went to Normandy, France, and visited some of the historic D-Day sites.  

It was a journey through World War II history, starting with the atrocities that forced people into hiding and ultimately led to the death of millions of people. Our travels brought us full circle to Normandy, and the history surrounding D-Day, the battles leading up to it, and the battles fought afterward. 

Although the history surrounding D-Day was one of tragedy, it was also one of triumph and hope. I saw the bleakness of death at Auschwitz, which only made my visit to the D-Day sites all the more impactful. The price was high, the sacrifice great, but freedom demands we risk everything or end up with nothing. I am so grateful for those who gave their lives so I could live in freedom.

A mannequin of a paratrooper hanging from the church steeple in Sainte-Mere-Eglise.

Site 1: Church of Sainte-Mere-Eglise

We started our day of sightseeing in the town of Sainte-Mère-Église. We arrived a little after 9 a.m. and found that the Airborne Museum didn’t open until 10 a.m. So we wandered over to the Church of Sainte-Mère-Église, where a mannequin of a paratrooper’s body hangs from the church steeple.

John M. Steele

We learned more about the paratrooper represented on the church steeple during our visit to the Airborne Museum. His name was John Steele, and he was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division. During the drop into  Sainte-Mère-Église,  one of the houses caught fire, which unfortunately illuminated the night sky, and thus the paratroopers dropping in. 

John Steele was hit in the foot on his way down and lost control of his parachute. His parachute caught on the church steeple. He hung there for around 2 hours, pretending to be dead before German soldiers came up and brought his body down. They took him as a prisoner, but three days later, he escaped and returned to his division. He survived WWII and returned home after the war was over. 

stained glass window of angel and paratroopers

A beautiful stained glass window in the Church at Sainte-Mere-Eglise.

There is so much more to John Steele’s story and to the paratroopers that dropped that night. For any of you who have watched “The Longest Day,” you might remember seeing the scene of the paratroopers dropping in.

The real story is full of heroism, as one of his fellow troopers on the ground gave his life to save John’s.  The chaos was compounded by the house fire, which lit up the sky and made them glowing targets.

Go inside the church and take a look around. There is a beautiful stained glass window created in memory of the paratroopers that lost their lives here. There is also another one portraying the angel Michael surrounded by the symbols of the various Allied forces who fought to free  Sainte-Mère-Église.

Time Spent Here: (~ 30 minutes) Location: Church of Sainte-Mère-Église, Rue Koenig, 50480 Sainte-Mère-Église, France Commute Time to Next Site: ~ 1-minute walk across the parking lot.

A woman standing next to the entrance to the airborne Museum

Site 2: The Airborne Museum at Sainte-Mere-Eglise

The Airborne Museum  is a thoughtfully designed museum made up of multiple buildings as well as an outdoor area. At the ticket desk, you receive a tablet to carry with you as you make your way through the different areas.  The tablet provides additional information about the exhibits and includes interactive features, which if you have kids, they will especially enjoy this feature. For the most part, you won’t need the tablet. However, it guides you in a particular order throughout the museum complex.

The first building we entered after purchasing our tickets was the building designed like the inside of a big parachute.  Inside there are numerous displays of paratrooper’s gear, mementos, and stories of some of those involved in the liberation of  Sainte-Mère-Église . The museum does a beautiful job portraying the details of what these paratroopers must have gone through to prepare for their mission.

In the next building is a large display of an airplane, and on one side is a mannequin of President Eisenhower and a printed copy of his D-Day order.  Many of these guys were barely out of high school. They didn’t have much training, and yet they were going into one of the biggest and most important battles in US history. They would be some of the first boots on the ground for the US military in Normandy, France.

“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.” ~ General Dwight D. Eisenhower

Airplane replica at Airborne Museum D-Day Normandy

One of the Airborne Museum’s life-sized displays.

In another room, audio speakers play the sounds of battle along with a display of an aerial view of  Sainte-Mère-Église . I also learned during my visit here, that the paratroopers had to carry packs that weighed anywhere from 90 lbs to 180 lbs!  Can you imagine jumping from a plane with a pack the size of a human strapped to your back?

The Soldier’s Stories Helped to Connect on a Personal Level

It was incredible to hear their stories and to take a glimpse into what those men went through. It was heroic yes, but also scary. Real courage isn’t without fear. It’s acknowledging the fear and moving forward in spite of it. Courage understands what’s at stake.

We watched a touching film that showed the images of Holocaust survivors and also the piles of dead bodies. Tears sprang to my eyes as it put in perspective what was being fought for.  All of our future freedoms were at stake if Hitler, and the other countries fighting against democracy, had not been stopped.

I highly recommend making the Airborne Museum a part of your itinerary when visiting D-Day sites in Normandy. They took excellent care to make it a moving and thoughtful museum and memorial to 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.

Time Spent Here:  (~ 1.5 hours) Location: Airborne Museum, 14 Rue Eisenhower, 50480 Sainte-Mère-Église, France Commute Time to Next Site: ~ 30-minute drive

entryway to La Cambe D-Day German War Cemetery

The entryway in the German war cemetery at La Cambe.

Site 3: La Cambe German War Cemetery

Our next stop is the La Cambe German war cemetery . It is a simple and somber graveyard, and it is also the largest war cemetery in Normandy. There are over 21,000 bodies buried here as compared with the less than 10,000 buried at the American cemetery in Colleville-Sur-Mer.

As you walk through the entrance to the cemetery, you notice straight in front of you, a mound of raised earth (also known as a tumulus). Sitting on top is a giant dark stone cross with a man and a woman on either side. I assume this represents the mother and father of the dead. I recommend you walk to the top and get a bird’s eye view of the enormous size of this cemetery.  

Most of the graves are marked with simple bronze-colored stones set in the ground. There are also rows of dark stone crosses spaced here and there across the cemetery. As I pass by the markers, I notice that most of the soldiers buried here were only 18 or 19 years old.  According to the cemetery , most of the soldiers buried here died between June 6, 1944, and August 20, 1944.

The German soldiers buried here were teenagers sent off to war by the command of their country. A surviving German soldier said that some of the soldiers enlisted in WWII were only 16 years old, forced to go to war, scared to death, wanting to run, but told they’d be shot if they did.  They had families who loved them and mourned their loss.  War is ugly no matter which side you’re on.

La Cambe German War Cemetery at D-Day Normandy

A view of the German cemetery at La Cambe from atop the tumulus.

A Comparison of Two Cemeteries

My visit to the German war cemetery at La Cambe provided a thoughtful comparison with my visit to the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-Sur-Mer. I left the La Cambe cemetery feeling sorrow at the tragic loss as a result of this war.  Although there is still certainly a sense of loss at the American cemetery, I left it feeling a sense of pride and gratefulness. It was a cemetery that celebrated and thanked those buried within, rather than only mourning their loss.

Time Spent Here:  (~ 30 minutes) Location:  La Cambe German war cemetery, Les Noires Terres, 14230 La Cambe, France Commute Time to Next Site: ~ 20-minute drive

Path to the memorial for fallen Rangers at Pointe du Hoc

Looking down the path to the memorial for the fallen Rangers at Pointe du Hoc.

Site 4: Pointe du Hoc

Next, we drive to the parking area for Pointe Du Hoc . Near the parking area is a memorial to the Army Rangers who gave their lives during the bloody battle fought here.  It is a moving tribute to their courage and sacrifice. It tells the story of the Ranger’s persistence to scale the cliffs soaking wet in the middle of a storm while being gunned down by Germans from above.

What courage and commitment it took for them to continue scaling the almost 100-foot cliffs! Their fellow soldiers were dying one after another, and yet they continued to climb until at last some of them reached the top and claimed Pointe du Hoc as an Allied stronghold.

The cliffs at Pointe du Hoc

The same cliffs at Pointe du Hoc the Rangers once scaled.

This, of course, is the short version.  The entire story of what occurred at Pointe Du Hoc on June 6, 1944, is an incredible tale of heroism. It is almost unbelievable, like something out of a Hollywood movie, and yet it’s true. These men defied unbelievable odds. 

craters formed from aerial bombings at Pointe du Hoc

The craters from the aerial bombings dot the landscape.

Lunar Landscape

F rom the memorial near the parking lot, you continue down a trail leading to the very cliffs these Rangers climbed on that dark and stormy night. You walk past large craters from aerial bombings and get a chance to step inside the bunkers the Germans built to house their 155mm arterial guns. These guns could target ships up to 12 miles offshore! You can understand why it was so crucial for Allied forces to overtake these strongholds to win the fight on D-Day.

The walk to the stone memorial overlooking the water is memorable in itself. It gives you a scope of the type of battle fought here.  Kids will enjoy exploring the craters and empty bunkers. The walk from the parking lot takes about 10 minutes.  Make sure to wear sturdy walking shoes and give yourself enough time to explore the grounds before heading on to your next stop.

Time Spent Here:  (~ 1 hour) Location:  Pointe du Hoc, 14450 Cricqueville-en-Bessin, France Commute Time to Next Site: ~ 15-minute drive

National Guard Association Monument

The National Guard Association Monument built atop a former German pillbox.

Site 5: National Guard Association Monument at Omaha Beach

The  National Guard monument  located along Omaha Beach is an inspiring monument dedicated to the soldiers of the National Guard who fought not only in World War I but also in World War II.  That was one of the things written on the monument that stuck out to me. It mentioned how the sons of the National Guardsmen would fight for freedom in WWII just as their fathers had fought for freedom during WWI. What a powerful legacy.

Take time to read the words and quotes engraved on each side of the monument. Close to the monument is another memorial of a National Guardsmen carrying his fellow soldier out of battle. This memorial is in tribute to the National Guardsmen of the 29th Division’s 116th Infantry Regimental Combat Team. 

They were some of the first to land on the area that is now referred to as “bloody Omaha.” They came with brothers, and boyhood friends, never to return home to their families or to live out their lives.  They were so young and so courageous. The soldiers who fought in WWII are true superheroes. 

Memorial to National Guard

The tribute to the National Guard titled “Ever Forward.”

Walk along the beach while you’re here and look up at the cliffs. Imagine what it was like for the soldiers who landed on these shores, wet, cold and disoriented, being gunned down in the water before they even had a chance to fight. No matter what, they wouldn’t be stopped.  They knew what they had to do, no matter the cost!

Time Spent Here:  (~ 15 minutes) Location:  National Guard Monument (Secteur Charlie), 12 Boulevard de Cauvigny, 14710 Vierville-sur-Mer, France Commute Time to Next Site:  ~ 5-minute drive

Site 6: Omaha Beach Memorial

We drove along the waterfront for another 5 minutes before reaching the parking area for the Omaha Beach Memorial.  The wind was blowing and the cold air bit into our skin. The skies were blue and clouds dotted the horizon. It made me think of the weather conditions the soldiers dealt with during the early morning hours on June 6, 1944. 

I tried to imagine a much darker and stormier scene.  The first wave of soldiers arriving soaking wet, many drowned before they ever made it to shore. Gunfire raining down from German soldiers perched on the cliffs and the beach. This was war, ugly and chaotic with freedom on the line.  

I live in the light of victory, but on D-Day, victory was still being fought for. It was a scene of tragedy, and decades later, many survivors would continue to have a hard time talking about it. I’ll never truly understand the full cost, but I’ll do my best to live gratefully.

A stone memorial at Omaha beach commemorating D-Day.

A stone memorial at Omaha beach commemorating D-Day.

Next to the parking lot, there is a large stone marker, which is a memorial to the Allied forces landing here on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.  On one side of the stone memorial is the inscription: —No mission too difficult —No sacrifice too great. Duty First. Forced Omaha Beach at dawn 6 June. The other is etched with the images of soldiers and reads:  Erected in memory of those —The 116th RCT 29th Infantry Division AUS landed here June 6, 1944.

Just behind it is a beautiful metal sculpture rising out of the sand just off the shore. The sculpture created by French sculptor Anilore Banon is titled “Les Braves.” According to Banon, the sculpture consists of the following three elements:

The Wings of Hope –  So that the spirit which carried these men on June 6, 1944, continues to inspire us, reminding us that together it is always possible to change the future. 

Rise Freedom! –  So that the example of those who rose against barbarity, helps us remain standing strong against all forms of inhumanity. 

Wings of Fraternity –  So that this surge of brotherhood always reminds us of our responsibility towards others as well as ourselves. On June 6th, 1944, these men were more than soldiers, they were our brothers.

Les Braves D-Day Sculpture

“Les Braves” sculpture on Omaha Beach.

The people of Normandy are still very grateful to the American and Allied forces for freeing them from the Germans.

If you have extra time and want to stop, there is the  Omaha Beach Museum  about a 5-minute walk from the Omaha Beach Memorial.

Time Spent Here:  (~ 1 hour) Location:  Omaha Beach Memorial, Avenue de la Libération, 14710 Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, France Commute Time to Next Site:  ~ 15 minute drive

Lunch Break

We ate lunch at the D-Day restaurant across from the Omaha Beach Memorial parking lot. It was a choice of convenience. However, it was warm and cozy inside the restaurant. My lunch consisted of some toast topped with ham and cheese. It was a warm break from the chilly weather outside.

I recommend packing snacks and water in your car, and possibly a picnic lunch if you’re able to. I didn’t see too many dining choices along this route.  However, that may be due in part to the time of year when we visited. In the summer, you might find more options available.

Location: D-Day House, 1 Rue Désiré Lemière, 14710 Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, France

Normandy American Cemetery for WWII

This beautiful cemetery dotted with white crosses is a serene resting place for the heroes buried here.

Site 7: Normandy American Cemetery & Memorial

Next, we drove to  the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer. Due to the delay at the Airborne Museum, we only had about an hour to spend at the cemetery before it closed at 5:00. So we quickly parked and headed down the long path.  We bypassed the visitor’s center, knowing what little time we had and instead continued to follow the path towards the ocean, along the infinity pool, and then curving around to the cemetery.

mosaic at Normandy American Cemetery

The beautiful mosaic on the chapel ceiling.

The rows and rows of white crosses stretched out almost endlessly in front of us.  People were milling about through the rows of crosses, searching perhaps for the grave of a loved one.  As you walk throughout the Normandy American cemetery, you feel almost as though you are in a park and not a cemetery. The setting is so lush and green. It is very peaceful.

Sculptures & Artistic Tributes to the Fallen

Make sure to stop in the cemetery’s chapel.  It is the rotund building at the center of the cemetery. Step inside the small chapel and admire the beauty and thoughtfulness put into the gorgeous mosaic on the chapel’s ceiling. American painter Leon Kroll created this beautiful portrait symbolizing American on one side, sending out her son to battle and France on the other side, taking our fallen soldier in her arms.  It is such a beautiful image.  

After you finish your walk around the cemetery, make your way to the large reflection pool where you’ll see a tall bronze statue rising above from the far end.  This beautiful sculpture created by  Donald Harcourt De Lueis titled “Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves.” It bears an inscription at the bottom that reads “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” On the walls close to it, you’ll find huge maps displaying all of the various forces along the shore and their routes.  It is awe-inspiring!

Bronze sculpture at D-Day cemetery in Normandy France

“The Spirit of American Youth Rising.”

If you have time, walk along the shores of Omaha Beach below the cemetery. Make sure to stop in at the visitor’s center for more helpful information regarding those buried here and to view the beautiful infinity pool.  They have volunteers on staff who can also help you locate any loved ones who are buried here.  

Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer is a beautiful park-like setting, very peaceful.  A wonderful resting place and memorial to these soldiers.

Time Spent Here:  (~ 1 hour) Location:  Normandy American Cemetery, 14710 Colleville-sur-Mer, France Commute Time to Next Site: This was the final stop, and it was about a 45-minute drive back to Caen.

The reflection pool at Normandy American Cemetery.

The reflection pool at Normandy American Cemetery.

Tips & Recommendations for a Self-Guided Tour of D-Day Sites

Planning tips.

  • Always check the hours for each museum directly on the museum’s website. Google is not always up to date on its listing for hours and operations.
  • Pack snacks and drinks in the car to keep your energy up in between stops.
  • Make sure you can drive a manual transmission before renting a car in Europe.
  • Organize your day, so you have the most time at the sites you want to see. Then if you can’t make it to all the stops on the list, you will at least have seen the ones most important to you first.
  • Wear layers and sturdy walking shoes.

How Much Time To Spend Here

There is so much to see that you could spend days or possibly weeks here, depending on your interests.  However, with only one day, you’ll need to pick the top sights you want to see and save the rest for your next trip. One site I would have liked to have fit into our day was Utah Beach. I guess I’ll save that for my next trip!

Getting Here:

You can take a direct train from Paris’ Saint-Lazare station to Caen. This takes approximately 2 hours, 15 minutes. You can also take a train from Caen to Bayeux if you prefer to stay there.  In Bayeux, bus #70 takes you to many of the D-Day sites if you prefer not to drive.  You can also, of course, book a tour of the sites. Caen also has an airport so if you’re coming from somewhere other than Paris, you might check to see if they have flights that go through it.

Recommended Apps to Download Before Your Trip

Google Maps:   This invaluable tool will help you get to each destination along your journey. If you plan to do a self-guided driving itinerary, then you will want to install Google Maps on your phone ahead of time and also download it for offline use.

Normandy D-Day 1944 (by Spot on Locations Ltd):  This  Normandy D-Day app  provides the names and locations for all the various D-Day sites in Normandy. It gives historical details associated with each area and includes over 500 photos and 100 locations. If you like learning more about the history, then consider downloading this app before your trip and looking through the areas you’ll visit and read up on the history associated with each.

Rick Steves Audio Europe:  Consider downloading this app before any trip you take to Europe.  If you enjoy self-guided tours, then you will appreciate this app. Just put your earbuds in, and Rick Steves will guide you on your walking tour to whichever destination you’ve chosen on the app. 

 So say you choose France, you will then see a list of all the audio guides the app has for France.  Look for the one titled “Normandy: D-Day Sites” and listen to this before your trip to D-Day to get an idea about what there is to see and learn more about the history of the region. The app has not only audio walking guides, but also interviews with local experts on a variety of subjects relating to each location.

crosses at American Cemetery in Normandy.

Roses and flowers left by crosses. Reminders that they are not forgotten.

Closing Thoughts on D-Day

Visiting the D-Day sites in Normandy was like walking through the history books. It is one thing to read about this incredible date in history, but it is something else to see the area firsthand. To see the graves of the thousands of soldiers who lost their lives here, and to read about their individual stories is an incredible and moving way to spend the day.  

Visiting sites like D-Day or even Auschwitz remind me of the beauty of the human spirit. Yes, there is an ugly side to humanity. However, there is also resilience and a determination to overcome even the worst odds for the good of mankind.

I hope you plan a trip to visit Normandy, France, and the historic D-Day sites. However, if you can’t do that right now, why not visit a local Veteran’s Cemetery or museum near you, dedicated to those who gave so we could have freedom.  Say thank you the next time you see a veteran, and let’s use our freedom to show compassion and grace to everyone we meet.

Thank You to All Who Served and Continue to Serve

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10 comments.

I enjoyed your article, very informative and clear. Great tip about a packed lunch. Gives that bit more freedom to go at your own pace and wander away from the bigger sites. Also big thanks for mentioning my app Normandy DDay 1944. It’s not exhaustive on locations but gives a taste for smaller cemeteries and locations off the beaten track. All the best, Evelyn

Hi Evelyn, thank you so much for responding! I think your app is a wonderful way to learn more about the history of the area that I would not have known otherwise. Thank you so much for creating such a valuable tool!

What a wonderful article and very well written. We’re going to Normandy in September. I and excited to visit the area my dad fought in! Thank you for all this information.

Thank you Robin! I am so excited for you to get to visit that area, especially since your dad fought there. I know it will be a special trip!

Excellent overview on visiting normandy sites in a day

Thank you! I hope you enjoy your visit there!

I just got back to my hotel room in Caen. I followed your day, nearly identically, down to the restaurant. I did add Utah Beach to my itinerary, and the finished at the Overlord Museum. What a full and awe-inspiring day. I was so grateful I found your blog. It was the perfect guide to the perfect day.

That’s wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing, it made me smile. I am happy to know you had an inspiring visit. The Normandy area is so beautiful and rich in history.

We followed your itinerary closely and had a magnificent day with lots of things to think about. Thanks you so much Charity for sharing this.

Hi Paul, thank you so much for letting me know how your trip went! I am happy to hear my post helped. It is such a beautiful and historically rich area, you are right in saying it gives one lots to think about.

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A brief description of the D-Day Landings

The french resistance, airborne landings, sword beach, omaha beach, pointe du hoc.

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Normandy and the D Day Landings

The Second World War D Day landings on the coast of Normandy on 6 June 1944 were the largest and most complex military undertaking in history. To be successful, the Normandy D Day invasion force would have to be overwhelming. The problems involved in planning and undertaking the D Day landings were massive.

The story of the Normandy landings from the coast of Britain was an event that powerfully evokes the courage and sacrifice of those who took part in the D Day battles. Our WW2 Normandy independent self drive tour pack will take you to the sites of some of the most dramatic events of D Day from both the British and American sectors.

These are just some examples of sites which can be included in a D Day tour; however, there are many more:

Pegasus Bridge

This is the site of one of the most famous and remarkable events from D Day. Just after midnight, ninety men of the British 6th Airborne Division landed in three gliders within 50 yards of the bridge, which was captured within ten minutes. Despite numerous counter-attacks, the bridge was held until the early afternoon, when the airborne troops were relieved by forces which had landed on the beaches. The whole site is highly atmospheric and a visit to the museum, where the original bridge is located, is a highlight of any tour.

Arromanches

Once ashore it was essential to rapidly build up the strength of Allied forces and to bring ashore enormous quantities of stores. To achieve this, two harbours were built in Britain and towed across the Channel to Normandy. Constructing these harbours and bringing them to Normandy was a colossal task. 2.5 million men and 500,000 vehicles were eventually landed at the harbour at Arromanches and its remains are still quite visible today.

This beach was the landing site of the British 50th Northumbrian Division. A number of the German concrete defences still remain. From the beach, the visitor can follow the advance inland of the Green Howards, to the village of Crépon  where Company Sergeant Major Stan Hollis was awarded the only Victoria Cross of D Day. Today, the village is the site of the Green Howards memorial, one of the finest of the many memorials in the area.

Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery

The Allies suffered the highest D Day casualties on Omaha Beach. Although the beach where American troops landed has changed significantly, many features of the German defences remain and it still has a powerful impact on any visitor.  The cemetery is probably the most visited of the D Day sites and has featured in numerous films and documentaries. 9,000 American service personnel are buried here and the story on many of them is told in the extensive visitors’ centre.

Pointe du Hoc

This is one of the most striking of the German gun battery sites. Although covered in bomb craters, large sections of the German defences remain, some of which can be entered by visitors. This was the site of the famous cliff assault by American Rangers, who captured the site, only to find that the guns had been removed from the emplacements. Completely surrounded, the Rangers fought off German attacks for two days, until the survivors were relieved by troops from the beaches.

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Normandy Beaches

On D-Day, 6 June 1944, Allied forces launched a combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France. Codenamed Operation 'Overlord', the Allied landings on the Normandy beaches marked the start of a long and costly campaign to liberate north-west Europe from German occupation.

This self drive tour will take you to the important sites along the Normandy coastline.

  • Pegasus Bridge LISTEN
  • Grand Bunker, Ouistreham LISTEN
  • German Battery, Merville Sur Mere LISTEN
  • Canadian Memorial Centre, Juno Beach LISTEN
  • Arromanches LISTEN
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Normandy D'Day Tours- Gold Beach, British West, American East and West sectors, drop zone, Mont St Michel tours

From 1000€ up to 4 people

Private tour, american d-day tour, from le havre, visit key battle sites.

Explore the D-Day landing beaches of Normandy and gain insight into Europe’s World War II history on this full-day tour from Le Havre. Visit key battle sites including Omaha Beach and the Pointe du Hoc  with a guide, and learn of the sacrifices made during WWII. Read the names of soldiers missing in action at the Normandy American Cemetery.

Full day tour departure from Le Havre

After an hour and a half to reach the British sector.

Then, we will join the American sector to make you discover the lunar landscape of the Pointe du Hoc, the American cemetery of Colleville sur mer so that we can collect you on the graves of American soldiers. We will give you a lunch break before reaching the port of Le Havre.

Full day tour’s route

Longues sur mer (german gun battery) devonshire reg't, colleville sur mer (us cemetery), omaha beach (1st and 29th u.s divisions), pointe du hoc (2nd u.s rangers).

Stops at different monuments along the way

  • Museum admission when there is on the program
  • Pickup and drop off hotel (if requested)

does not include

  • Museum admission

CANCELLATION POLICY

There will be a full refund if you cancel at least 15 days prior to the first day of the tour. But, if you cancel : between 8 and 14 days before the first day of the tour, we will refund 75% of the total invoice. between 3 and 7 days before the first day of the tour, we will refund 50% of the total invoice. If you cancel within 48 hours of your tour no refund will be given.

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One-day guided tours of the landing beaches and battlefields. Choose from U.S., British or Canadian Sector tours. The very best experience.

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D-Day Douglas DC-3 C-47

Follow in the footsteps of a specific regiment, company or unit, from the landing beaches to the battles for Normandy.

THREE DAY TOURS

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More detail, more knowledge and more impact. Experience the sights and sites that shorter tours can’t cover. Get off the beaten track.

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D-Day Tours. The Normandy invasion brought to life. 

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Battles raged through Normandy until Sept. 1944. We go beyond the beaches and show you the locations of the key engagements in the campaign to push further into France, away from the landing beaches..

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D-DAY CEMETERY TOURS

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Pay tribute to fallen heroes in the moving atmosphere of the D-Day cemeteries

I just thought I would drop you a little note to thank Malcolm for the fabulous day we had with him on Saturday, the one day tour he took us on was perfect in every way and his enthusiasm for the subject is portrayed in the way he delivers the lectures/talks at the various locations he took us to, we ended up feeling that we were actually there on D Day so much is his passion for the subject, bearing in mind he has most probably delivered the same talks numerous times, but you could not tell. The numerous locations he took us to where perfect and I know we would never have found most of them and as such we would have missed some important locations/events that happened in the areas on D day. I would like to thank yourself for the lovely picnic lunches that you provided, they were just the right amount of food and a perfect mix of foods, and the location Malcolm took us to have our food was excellent. So I would like to thank you both for making the day absolutely perfect in every way and it totally exceeded our expectations.
Engrossing, informative, and intimate D-Day tour with a true expert on the subject! If you are looking for an engrossing, informative, and intimate D-Day tour that you will remember for years to come, look no further. Working out scheduling and meeting arrangements with Allison and Malcom was a breeze. When the day came, it was everything my partner and I could have wanted in an eight-hour tour. Malcolm’s understanding of the scope of the Day of Days (and the days beyond), is astonishing, and he is able to present his knowledge in a way that is wholly digestible and easy to understand. He expertly relays the macro and the micro of the European Theater of War through interweaving facts, statistics, and data, with amazing personal stories of individual persons or groups. This gave my partner and I an appreciation of both the broader global consequences of WWII, as well as the most important side – the war at the human level. Malcolm’s tours are a gem, and I would happily go back to schedule a week long sojourn with Malcolm across Normandy. If you are looking for a fantastic Normandy tour, this is it. He was even nice enough to stop at a local store so my partner and I could grab more power outlet adapters! Thanks for the lovely day, Malcolm!
It’s barely a week since we returned home to the states from a wonderfully memorable trip, of which you and Malcolm were such a big part. I think that by now, Malcolm might have mentioned to you what I had revealed to him in the last few moments of our tour – I am a Private Tour Guide in New York. Of course I did not want to reveal that info prior to or during our tour with Malcolm, because I knew it could make a fellow guide just a wee bit uncomfortable about being judged. Malcolm was a masterful tour guide and mad our tour of the D-Day Beaches and the Normandy area so much more remarkable, revealing, but most importantly – moving. The best tour guides, have a real knack for relating stories that bring history alive and Malcolm has the passion and the interest in the subject that make the D-day experience with him something very special. …I wanted to thank you for being so accommodating at the last minute (twice)… Thanks for offering to put us up at your property and then eventually changing our private tour date that allowed us to catch a ride to Mont St. Michel. Also, your lunch box you prepared for our tour day was delicious – in particular the ham and cheese baguette, and the wonderful homemade apple cake dessert – loved it. Good job ! Malcolm, like me, has found later in life, what he is truly built to do – relate incredibly important history that changed the world (in a very positive way) and show where it all happened.
Absolutely mezmerizing! From first contact to after the trip concluded Malcolm and his wife Allison treated us like family. Arriving in Bayeaux and seeing massive tour buses and large vans loading dozens of tourists it was refreshing seeing Malcolm standing alone and escorting us to his SUV. He prepares a folder for each tour and provides visual aides to reproduce the soldiers first hand accounts. Books and Hollywood do nothing to bring out the TRUTH and personal visceral feelings one encounters as you step in the footsteps of history. See and feel the bombed out bunkers, craters and turn off your phone/camera, place yourself upon those sites and just close your eyes. Malcolm is not just a guide but a story teller. He is so passionate about this subject. We talked the entire time. He took the time for personal interaction with both my 30 yo and 16 yo son along with my wife and myself. No one felt excluded. Halfway through the tours, his wife Allison provided a nice homemade picnic (optional and recommended) included sandwiches, quiche, fruit, wine and waters in a nice farming area away from the tour groups. Luckily we arrived with very low crowds and never saw more than 10-20 people at any of the sites. He truly is private and allows you to customize the tour, but follow his recommendations. You won’t be disappointed. If you want to see gift shops, this isn’t the guy for you! We just got home to the US and I can not stop watching war documentaries. I feel I have a much better understanding and can honestly say, “Hey, I saw that”! Thank you Malcolm and Allison.
Came to France to do the Normandy tour. Learned more from Malcolm in two days than I did in ten years at school. The accommodation was excellent and we recommend the old railway cycling track as an outdoor activity. We were privileged to avail of Alison’s cooking – and it is to be highly recommended. Both Alison and Malcolm were the perfect hosts and we can’t forget little Archie & Hendley (the dog and cat!).
Thank you so much for the excellent 2 day tour. It was a great experience. I had expected to see bunkers, guns, tanks, and so forth, as we did. But I had no idea that we would be treated to the many anecdotes and stories you tell so well, like that of the extraordinary bravery and skill of the glider pilots that made it possible to seize Pegasus Bridge. Or the stories of John Steele at Sainte-Mere-Eglise, of Lt. Richard Winters and Easy Company at Brecourt, of Lt. Col. Robert Cole, and others. Your extensive knowledge of the heroic exploits of the men that made D-Day a success is remarkable. That fund of knowledge combined with your passion to tell their stories made for extraordinary experience for Matt and for me, an experience that surpassed even our greatest expectations. So thank you. And a hearty thank you to Alison too for the delightful lunches. I feel very fortunate to have had you as a guide and would recommend you to anyone who wants to understand the events of D-Day.
Thank you for such an incredible day. This was the part of our trip that we were looking forward to the most, and it turned out to be the absolute highlight of our entire week. We truly felt like we were in a graduate level history course going to the various battlefield sights, churches, monuments, and beach landing sites with you. Having the opportunity to learn more about our great-uncle’s experience once he was dropped behind enemy lines was truly incredible, and it was absolutely awe-inspiring to visit the American cemetery where he is buried. The personal touch that you and Alison, with her fantastic picnic lunch, added to our day was so unique. We’re looking forward to sharing our experience with the rest of our family, especially our grandfather.
In Sept. 2014 my husband and I spent three wonderful days staying with the Cloughs and touring the Normandy Battlefields. The cottage, the meals, the extensive tour – all were wonderful ! Malcolm has such an extensive knowledge of the war and presents it in a professional, knowledgable, entertaining manner. We saw so many sites that wouldn’t be included on shorter tours. This was a Christmas gift to my husband and I thought I might be bored touring so many war sites, this was never the case. Malcolm’s wife, Alison, provided delicious breakfasts every morning, lovely lunches to be eaten while on the tour, and grand dinners. We ate in their dining room and they made us feel like old friends rather than guests. The cottage we had was spotless and decorated with care, plus, after Malcolm picked us up at the airport Alison had a basket with bread, cheese and other treats waiting for us. We have traveled to many places and this tour and the wonderful accommodations/meals are at the top of our list of 5-Star experiences.
What a wonderful day we had with you! Your knowledge was incredible and your enthusiasm was contagious. And your willingness to go at our pace displayed a level of customer service from which others could well learn. We all agreed that the day was extremely informative and enjoyable, and that we would gladly do it again with you as our guide. As Glenna (aka Grandma) said yesterday as we were re-living our day with you, “anyone who is doing a D-Day tour needs to use Malcolm”. I don’t think there is any higher praise than from an 89-yr old woman whose husband served in the war and who lived it herself. Thanks you so very much for you knowledge, enthusiasm and kindness. If you and your wife ever come to the States and decide to pass through St. Louis, Missouri, we would be happy to host you. Best wishes in your endeavors and thanks again!
Although we were pretty ignorant about the D-Day Invasion and had no personal connection to that part of WW2, it was a subject that interested us. So we did a detour from Cape Town, South Africa, via Normandy en route to see our family. We spent three nights with Alison and Malcolm Clough in their lovely home in the country and Malcolm was our personal guide for 2 full days. Malcolm’s incredible knowledge of the Invasion and his passion for the subject brought history alive for us. We stood at inland battle sites, had the drama of capturing bridges played out, visited all five beaches heard amazing stories of heroes – some of whom survived and some of whom sadly died in active service during the Invasion. At the end of each day we visited a war cemetery which was emotional and very sobering. Our days were long but relaxed and totally absorbing. Alison provided a delicious picnic each day and Malcolm always found the perfect place to enjoy it. We found this so much nicer that sitting in a restaurant and ‘wasting time’. There was so much to hear and see. I “found” Malcolm on the website and we reckon we hit Number One. Thank you Malcolm for imparting your knowledge in such a relaxed manner and so patiently. We were enthralled and give you a 5 Star rating. Alison, thank for our lovely studio accommodation, all the goodies in the fridge and your delicious meals. We loved it all and felt very much at home with you.
Of all the things we saw and did during our adventures, two stand out. One was kayaking in the Shetlands and the other was the time we spent with you in Normandy. I looked forward to every day we were in your care, and you two and Peter did a marvelous job. The accommodations were first class, the food was great, and most of all your companionship was the key to a truly wonderful experience. Such good care you took with us to insure we had a good time. Malcolm meeting us at the ferry. Alison’s cooking. Peter being Peter. What fun we had! I couldn’t help but feel, as I looked at the other tour groups being herded along, that no one was getting the quality experience that we were having. Malcolm and Peter’s knowledge of the events and locations was superb (I like to think I know a little about them myself), and brought to life so vividly with their narrative and stories that it stirred up emotions and feelings that surprised me with their intensity. And how many of those other people got to retire to such a nice bit of France, and have dinner and conversation with their hosts in their home at the end of the day, and even get to see their wedding pictures? You made us feel special, but I suppose you make everyone that crosses your threshold feel that way. To get to walk along the beaches, stand on the bluffs, walk through the shell craters and look down from the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc! I will never forget my moments at the American Cemetery. We thank you so much!
“My wife and I have been stationed in Europe with the United States Army for the past three years, and we recently took a vacation to visit Paris and the Normandy Coast. We planned for a single day to visit Normandy and scheduled a tour with D-Day Tours of Normandy, which is owned and operated by Malcolm Clough. Malcolm was waiting for us at the train station and immediately after showing us to his SUV, the tour began. He was more than willing to modify our trip based on our timeline and interests, and his extreme knowledge and personal excitement regarding all aspects of the D-Day invasion made the trip so much more fulfilling for my wife and I. Malcolm was able to take us to every major site on each of the battlefields, to include the American cemetery, all the while supplementing the experience with his extensive historical knowledge. The tour lasted the entire day and included a lunch packed and prepared by his wife Alison, who operates their catering and B&B business. I highly recommend Malcolm and his tours, he was extremely helpful and willing to work with us based on our schedule. He was a fantastic guide, and the only person I would hire to take my family and friends to the D-Day battlefields.”
‘Thanks so much for the fantastic day. Your tour of the D-Day sights was the highlight of trip for my aunt and I. Your narrative at Omaha beach made D-Day tangible for me. The tour you gave us of the American cemetery was poignant. The visit to Pont du Hoc was spectacular. We truly appreciate the bespoke approach you took with us- accommodating all of our requests, adjusting on the fly, and giving us a full day that we will always remember and treasure’… Kate Downes, Phoenix, Arizona, USA. “Our tour … had a definite impact on each of us. We appreciated your style, and the personal nature of the tour. I think when you told us that we were taking the same steps as the soldiers, it really made us think. Also, that the entire world might be a very different place if not for the brave soldiers on D-Day. …Thanks again, you were an important part of our holiday this year”
Stephanie and I are finally back from our French trip and write to express our profound appreciation for your company/services last week. Not only did you enlighten us as to the events on the D Day beaches and beyond, but you made us feel we were touring with a kindred spirit. We have much more of an understanding for the role Steph’s father played in the war, which whilst emotional, especially for Steph, only increases our pride of him – especially having seen the exact places where he fought and some of his friends fell. It was frighteningly easy to picture him defending the troops with his machine gun in the various woods, fields and ridges on our trip. This was his story. Having now visited Normandy and the battlegrounds, I can understand why he chose not to tell it. But it was important to Steph and I that it was told, and that his children and grandchildren know what he did. You bought that story to life for us with both facts and understanding, and we thank you. … It looked like it was a great deal of work for you, but rest assured every second of it was absorbed by us with great gratitude….
Malcolm and Alison provide an unparalleled experience for a visit to the beaches. His depth of knowledge is extremely impressive. Alison’s culinary skills will cause you to want to return solely for her delicacies. If a competitor offered a free guiding service I would turn them down, and still pay for another visit with Malcolm and Alison.
I’ve been on a number of battlefield tours over the years but none have been as informative or as interesting as yours. It was truly a memorable day and the highlight of my holiday. Your flexibility in accommodating the changing itinerary meant I came away feeling as though I had seen the key sites. You really made the whole experience come alive with your stories and expert knowledge.

Contact Malcolm or Alison today. We look forward to hearing from you.  .fusion-button.button-1 {border-radius:2px;} Click here to email

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Patrick Hilyer's

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D-DAY TOURS

We Love Normandy provide private D-Day tours across the Normandy region. Patrick is an experienced, qualified driver/guide and a member of the Normandy Battlefield Tour Guides Association. He will take you on an unforgettable tour of the D-Day sites, tailored to your areas of interest. His online program of WW2 broadcasts - Virtual D-Day - has been enjoyed by thousands of people worldwide, and he is delighted to welcome our international visitors back to beautiful Normandy.

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SAINT-MALO '44 - a private guided tour of the town featured in the NETFLIX series

All The Light We Cannot See

including Intra-Muros, Fort National, Cité d'Aleth, Tour Solidor, and Fort La Varde

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

A private guided tour, d-day destinations.

All the historic D-Day sites are proposed, and our tours are tailored to your areas of interest. The US Airborne sector, Omaha Beach, Pointe du Hoc, Utah Beach, the US Cemetery... these can all be toured in a day. Want to explore the British sector? Aromanches and the Mulberry harbour, Bayeux and the CWGC cemetery, the Longues-sur-Mer artillery battery, the brand-new British Normandy Memorial, Gold Beach, Sword Beach and the iconic Pegasus Bridge - can also be covered in a 9-hour tour. Those interested in the Canadian sector - Juno Beach, Courseulles-sur-Mer, Bernières, the Abbey d'Ardenne and the cemetery at Bény-sur-Mer - can visit all these sites and more.

Patrick Hilyer

PATRICK'S D-DAY MAP

See our interactive map of all the best D-Day sites in the Battle of Normandy area. Plan your own self-drive tour, or use the map to select the areas you would like to see during a guided tour. Click here .

Interactive D-Day Map

TOUR VEHICLE

Your comfort and security are our top priorities. Patrick is a fully qualified professional driver (VTC) and carries unlimited personal accident insurance cover. Your vehicle takes up to 6 guests in air-conditioned comfort. Click here for a detailed description of the tour vehicle.

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BOOK YOUR D-DAY TOUR NOW!

We're currently taking inquiries and bookings for Private D-Day tours in 2024. The price of a full-day private tour is from  92€ per person (based on 6 people).

Payment can be made using our secure on-line payment platform (STRIPE), or by credit card or cash on the day of the tour.

Click here for prices and bookings

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TOUR SCHEDULE

Patrick will pick you up from any location within the Bayeux area, and other pick-up locations can be arranged. Tours typically begin at 9am and return at around 6pm.

For the US SECTOR TOUR itinerary scroll down or click here .

For the BRITISH & CANADIAN SECTOR tour itinerary scroll down or click here .

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TESTIMONIALS

Click here to see all our reviews on TripAdvisor.

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MEALS AND REFRESHMENTS

Your tour vehicle is stocked with complimentary cold mineral water. For lunch there are two options: a tasty meal at a local restaurant or a delicious picnic from Nicky's Kitchen prepared specially for you. Picnic hampers from 20€ per person including drinks.

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ALL-INCLUSIVE PACKAGE D-DAY TOUR

Small group private tour from 4 to 8 people (based on double occupancy). A unique, all-inclusive 3-day adventure in the heart of the Battle of Normandy region. The package includes:

2 full days of touring

2 nights exclusive* half-board accommodation

Transfers from/to Bayeux or Caen rail station

Modern, air-conditioned vehicle with fully qualified English-speaking driver/guide Patrick 

Paris pickup available by arrangement***

Dinners and in-house hosting provided by Nicky's Kitchen.

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AMERICAN SECTOR D-DAY TOUR

We start with an early pick-up from any hotel in the Bayeux area and arrive at our first destination: Utah Beach. We will visit the memorials, the bunkers, climb aboard a landing craft (LCVP) and then walk down to the beach where Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr told his battalion commanders: “We will start the war from here!”

"...I cannot recommend Patrick enough. He is fluent in both English and French which I found a huge plus as our French is not near conversational. His knowledge was profound and he really timed our whole time together perfectly. As an American, I found the whole day to by unbelievably emotional as well as spiritual. Patrick's guidance and expertise made it that much more special..."

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Time allowing, before leaving we can visit the Utah Beach Landing Museum*, watch a short but highly informative movie and view the impressive exhibits which include Major Dewhurst’s B26 Marauder ‘Dinah Might’, a DUKW amphibious truck and a restored Higgins Boat landing craft.

Utah Beach signpost

Sainte-Marie-du-Mont

From Utah Beach we take one of the five causeways which provided the troops with their only exits from the beach across the flooded fields, past the Leadership Monument dedicated to Major Richard Winters, Easy Company 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Brecourt Manor and the Easy Company Monument and through to Sainte-Marie-du-Mont – one of the first villages to be liberated on D-Day.

Sainte-Mère-Eglise

We arrive next at Sainte-Mère-Eglise, a place made famous by the movie The Longest Day, where a manikin of paratrooper John Steele still swings from his chute lines atop the spire of the town’s 14th-century church. A visit to the church to see the beautiful stained-glass windows which commemorate the town’s Airborne liberators is followed by a stroll in the town square – the scene of one of D-Day’s first assaults on the night of June 5-6 1944. At this point we can enjoy a quick, simple lunch break and (time allowing) visit the Airborne Museum whose fascinating exhibits include a WACO glider and an entire C47 Dakota transport plane.

If we are running ahead of schedule, we can visit the village church of Angoville-au-Plain, where two young army medics, Robert Wright and Ken Moore, valiantly treated over 80 casualties during the battle.

Sainte Mere Eglise church window

Window in the church of Sainte-Mère-Eglise

Pointe du Hoc cratered landscape

Pointe du Hoc

After lunch we will travel the long road which links the Utah/Airborne sectors to Omaha sector, stopping en-route at the site of one of D-Day’s hardest fought (and held) objectives: Pointe du Hoc. We will learn about the 2nd Rangers battalion who, led by Lieutenant Colonel James Earl Rudder, scaled the seemingly insurmountable cliffs to capture the gun battery complex to the west of Omaha beach. We will see the big gun emplacement pits and casemates and visit the Fire Control bunker.

Omaha Beach

From Pointe du Hoc it’s a short, pleasant drive to the villages that run the length of Omaha Beach – Vierville-sur-Mer, Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer and Colleville-sur-Mer. We will visit the Omaha beach memorials and set foot on the beach that claimed more allied casualties than any other on D-Day. We will follow the ‘draws’ – the heavily defended steep-sided gullies which provided the only vehicle exits from the beach.

Omaha Beach from WN60

Omaha Beach from Strongpoint 60

Lowering the flag at Colleville cemetery

Lowering the flags at 'Taps' at the American cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer

Colleville cemetery.

The North American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer covers 172 acres of beautifully tended cliff-top lawns above the vast expanse of Omaha beach. We will visit the memorial, the wall dedicated to over 1,500 missing soldiers, and the graves themselves – 9,387 crosses and stars of David. We can locate and visit the grave of a relative, or pay respects to some of the cemetery’s notable heroes, among them Theodore Roosevelt Jr, his brother Quentin, the brothers Preston and Robert Niland (who inspired the story of Saving Private Ryan), General Leslie J McNair, and Medal of Honor recipients Lieutenant Jimmie Watters Monteith Jr and Technical Sergeant Frank D. Peregory. We will plan to be at the cemetery for Taps and the solemn ceremony of the lowering of the flags (4:00pm during the winter period / 5:00pm during the summer period).

If time allows, we can visit Strongpoint 60 which gives a wonderful sweeping view of the beach itself.

At the end of the tour you will be transferred  to your hotel or pick-up point.

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BRITISH & CANADIAN SECTOR D-DAY TOUR

Pegasus bridge, ranville.

We begin with an early pick-up from any hotel in the Bayeux area then transfer to our first stop, Pegasus Bridge Memorial.

We’ll learn about Operation Deadstick – the 6th Airborne Division’s textbook capture of the Caen canal and Orne bridges in the early hours of D-Day – then step across the original bascule bridge, renamed Pegasus after the paratroopers’ flying horse insignia.

There’s a short and informative film introduced by HRH Prince Charles who inaugurated the memorial in 2000, and some fascinating exhibits including a full-scale replica of a Horsa Glider.

"Patrick had the day planned out from the start with many stops from Pegasus Bridge to Juno Beach and more, and he left the Canadian Cemetery to be the last of our stops so we could look back on the day and reflect on the sacrifice made that day by so many. He was very informative during the day at the sites and during the drive between the stops. I would recommend Patrick and We Love Normandy to anyone planning a trip to Normandy"

British Commandos Sword Beach 6 June 194

Lord Lovat's Commandos of 1st Special Service Brigade.

Photo: wikimediacommons.

Fortress Hillman, Colleville-Montgomery

Colleville-Montgomery, Strongpoint Hillman

After disembarking at Sword Beach, the 1st Suffolks advanced towards Caen and encountered two German strongpoints codenamed ‘Hillman’ and ‘Morris’. The garrison at Morris surrendered, but the defenders in the underground fortress of Hillman fought on (many to the death) until the evening of D-Day. We will visit the bunkers and trenches that cover an area of over 20 hectares. The village of Colleville was renamed Colleville-Montgomery in Monty’s honour (and to distinguish it from the village of the same name near Omaha beach).

Juno Beach Memorial

Fortress Hillman, Colleville-Montgomery

Sword beach.

We arrive at the eastern end of the landing beaches at Ouistreham and pause to visit Lord Lovat’s statue, the 70th Anniversary Sword Beach Memorial, and the Kieffer Monument (a tribute to the French commandos). By the end of D-Day, over 28,000 men had come ashore at Sword for 683 casualties. We will then follow the coastal road through the villages of Riva Bella, Lion-sur-Mer and Luc-sur-Mer to the Canadian sector.

From Sword we arrive at Juno: six miles of beach from Langrune-sur-Mer to Graye-sur-Mer. Here Major General Keller’s Canadian 3rd Infantry came ashore. 21,000 troops landed but several companies – notably the Royal Winnipeg Rifles and The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada – suffered heavy casualties. Resistance from the German 716th Infantry Division and elements of 21st Panzer resulted in nearly 1,000 troops killed, wounded or captured. We will see Canada House in Bernières-sur-Mer (one of the first private residences to be liberated on D-Day), the Juno Beach Centre and the charming marina at Courseulles-sur-Mer – the port where Winston Churchill first disembarked on June 12, 1944. Here we can pause for a quick lunch at one of the many cafés and restaurants on the harbour front.

Sword Beach Bunker Museum

Le Grand Bunker museum, Sword Beach

Canadian memorial, juno beach.

Gold beach, just north of the cathedral town of Bayeux, was the responsibility of the British XXX Corps under Lieutenant General Bucknall. 25,000 men disembarked on Gold’s five miles of sand but the German defence resulted in over a thousand British casualties. One man’s courage – Sergeant Stanley Hollis – earned him the only Victoria Cross awarded on D-Day. We will visit the tram stop on the beach (misidentified by allied reconnaissance as an enemy pillbox) where Hollis came ashore, the Mont Fleury Battery which he neutralised almost single-handedly, the British Normandy Memorial and the village of Crépon where a memorial to his Brigade, The Green Howards, now stands.

Green Howards Memorial, Crépon

The Green Howards Memorial, Crépon

Arromanches.

Continuing westwards, we arrive in the seaside village of Arromanches-les-Bains. The gently curving bay, sheltered on two sides by cliffs, was the ideal location for the Brits’ artificial harbour, codenamed Mulberry B. We will view the remains of the harbour from the cliffs and descend to the beach where several of the giant caissons used to support the floating piers can still be viewed. On June 15 1944 the harbour began operating and by the end of the war 2.5 million troops, half a million vehicles and 4 million tonnes of supplies had been brought ashore.

Phoenix Caisson, part of the Mulberry Harbour, Arromanches

Longues-sur-mer.

A little further west we arrive at the gun battery at Longues-sur-Mer. On D-Day, four 152mm guns in concrete casemates fired on targets at sea and on the beaches. The British cruisers HMS Ajax and HMS Argonaut put the battery out of action, but we will see three of the original guns that are still in position. If we run to schedule we can visit the Fire Control bunker which is remarkably intact.

Longues-sur-Mer Battery

152mm gun at the Longues-sur-Mer battery

Bayeux, british cemetery.

We end the day with a solemn visit to the final resting place of 4,648 British servicemen and the memorial to over 1,800 missing, at the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in Bayeux. For Canadian guests we can visit the Canadian cemetery at Bény-sur-Mer near Juno Beach.

Bayeux Cemetery

British Cemetery, Bayeux

Finding the Universe

Travel tales, photography and a dash of humor

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2 Days in Normandy: The D-Day Landing Beaches & Mont St. Michel

Last updated: April 19, 2024 . Written by Laurence Norah - 35 Comments

Despite living in France for three years, I didn’t do much sight seeing. So when the opportunity arose to spend 2 days in Normandy, visiting Mont St. Michel and the D-Day Landing beaches in the north-west of the country, we leapt at it.

We didn’t have a great deal of time to play with as we were visiting my parents further south in France, but we gave ourselves a couple of days in Normandy, basing ourselves near Mont St. Michel, with the aim of exploring both that and the Normandy D-Day Landing Beaches.

2 Days in Normandy - Mont St Michel France

Which was what we did. In this post, we’re going to share everything you need to know to spend two days in Normandy, including some tips on where to stay.

We’ve also put some tour options together in case you don’t want to do this all yourself. The closest tour to the itinerary we have described is this one , which departs from Paris, but we have a number of options including tours departing from Bayeux.

Now though, let’s get started with our guide to exploring the Normandy Landing beaches and Mont St. Michel over two days.

2 Days in Normandy

Day 1: visit mont st. michel.

When we visited Mont St. Michel and the D-Day beaches we were travelling from the UK. We took the overnight ferry with Brittany Ferries from Portsmouth to St. Malo. This meant that we had a good night’s sleep, arriving into France at around 9am local time.

Our guest house was an hour’s drive from St. Malo, and they were fine with us arriving early, so we did just that. After dropping our belongings off and parking the car, our first day was largely spent exploring Mont St. Michel.

2 Days in Normandy - Mont St. Michel

This was, very conveniently, within walking distance of our guest house . This is a handy tip – if you’re going to stay near Mont St. Michel, stay within walking distance.

There’s no way to drive to the island on your own, and if you park there’s a daily fee for doing so (unless you park in the evening when it becomes free). And I’m sure you’d prefer to spend that money on a nice bottle of local cider, or a few glasses of wine, like we did.

There is a causeway to the island, and a free shuttle bus runs from the car park to the island. However, I’d suggest that for your first visit, you walk all the way to the island. The views are gorgeous all the way, and you can really appreciate the magnificence of the island as you get closer to it. Then, you can get the shuttle bus on the way home!

2 Days in Normandy - Bus to Mont St. Michel

The island itself had more on it than I was expecting. There’s a whole village, with shops, two ATM’s, a number of restaurants and of course, plenty of places to buy souvenirs from your visit. There are even hotels on the island, so you can stay over and enjoy Mont St. Michel when the crowds dissipate for the night.

Speaking of crowds, the streets are narrow, so it can get crowded. We visited on a less busy than average day, and it still got tight in places, so I imagine that in summer it must be very busy!

2 Days in Normandy - Mont St Michel reflections square

After stopping for lunch (many places do a menu of the day option for €17 – €20), we followed the street up to the Abbey which crowns the hill. This is the key point of pilgrimage for visitors, and the focal point of the island.

It’s not free to visit the Abbey, with opening hours varying depending on the season. Check the latest opening hours and prices here .

We suggest buying your ticket in advance online here to skip the queues. The online price is the same as buying it in person.

The good news is that entry includes an hour-long guided tour. Tours depart somewhat regularly and are offered in both French and English.

Obviously, we went for the English language option, and had a wonderful tour that taught us about the history of the abbey, the key events that led to its construction and look today, as well as the function of many of the rooms.

If you visit, I’d very much recommend taking the tour to learn a bit about the place. But if there is not a tour going during your visit, you can also purchase an audioguide or just do a self-guided tour with the free leaflet included.

2 Days in Normandy - Interior Mont St Michel Abbey

Finally, once the tour was over, we headed out of the abbey and took the bus back to the mainland, where we had a spot of dinner accompanied by some excellent Normandy cider.

I then spent the evening capturing the sunset over the Mont, which was just gorgeous. So good in fact that I went the next night as well!

Mont St Michel France

Day 2: Visit the D-Day Normandy Landing Beaches

Our second day in Normandy was a busy one. Having had a full day to explore Mont St. Michel at our leisure, we set ourselves the challenge of visiting some of the D-Day landing beaches in France.

There are quite a variety of sights, museums, memorials and attractions to visit, but we only had a day, so put together an itinerary that we felt was going to give us a good overview of the area and history. Here’s what we did, which we think makes for a good day of exploring the D-Day landing beaches and museums.

1. Utah Beach & Utah Beach D-Day Museum

We started by visiting Utah beach, where there is an excellent D-Day museum dedicated to the landings at Utah Beach.

From our research, this was indicated to be one of the best D-Day landing museums, and even though time meant we didn’t visit any of the others, it was certainly an excellent way to start our journey.

Utah Beach Memorial

With a focus on the events at Utah Beach specifically, one of the US landing beaches, the museum went over the key highlights of 6th June 1944, including the planning leading up to it, and the story of the day itself.

There was an excellent video about the day, oral histories as well as objects and vehicles that were used.

Most impressive of these is an original B-26 bomber, one of six surviving in the world, and of the same type as those used during the bombing runs that happened in the moments before the men landed on the beach.

Utah beach museum

We then spent some time on the actual beach, and viewing the various memorials. It’s hard to really visualise what it must have been like here all those years ago, and I have to say that visiting the museum was a really worthwhile way to get a really good overview of how it was.

Utah Beach Memorial

We then had a break for lunch in the wonderful Le Roosevelt Cafe, built around a bunker which housed a German communications center. Then, we headed on to:

2. Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Found in Coleville-Sur-Mer, and managed by the American Battle Monuments Commission, the Normandy American Cemetry and Memorial is the final resting place of over 9,000 US military personnel, the majority of whom lost their lives either during the D-Day landings, or in the days and weeks following the landings.

American War Cemetery Normandy

It was the first US WW2 cemetery on European soil, and was established as a temporary location on the 8th of June – two days after the landings started – a necessity given the high casualty rates, particularly at nearby Omaha Beach, which was the most heavily defended of all the landing locations.

American War Cemetery Normandy Theodore Roosevelt

Today, there is a visitor center, a memorial, chapel, and of course, the cemetery itself, all of which are free to visitors.

The visitor center is excellent, telling the story of the landings with a focus on the personal stories and losses of the people involved, particularly at Omaha beach.

It’s very worth taking some time to fully explore this. Then, of course, the cemetery is a sombre reminder of quite how many people died in this conflict.

3. Omaha Beach Monument

From the War Cemetery we headed back down to Omaha Beach itself, and the monument to the D-Day landings.

There are actually two installations here – the huge monument itself, and a huge stainless steel art installation known as “The Braves”, which commemorates the 60th anniversary of the landings.

Omaha Beach Memorial

Both are worth looking at, and of course, you’ll want to spend some time here on the beach as we did, casting your mind back across the decades, and just trying to get a tiny idea of the horrors that were witnessed here.

4. Pointe Du Hoc

Our last stop on our D-Day Landings Day was Pointe Du Hoc. This is a rocky cliff top area, the highest point of land between Utah and Omaha beaches, and during WW2, was a heavily defended German installation and lookout point.

It was thought that the destruction of this stronghold was going to be critical to the success of the D-Day landings, as the six 155mm guns that were believed to be installed here could have wreaked devastation on forces landing at both Omaha and Utah beaches.

American Battle Monument Point Du Hoc 3

To accomplish this mission, a 225 strong force of US Rangers was dispatched in the early hours of June 6th, with the mission of scaling the 100ft cliffs and destroying the 155mm guns.

As it turned out, the guns had all been moved to a nearby orchard to protect them from Allied bombardments, so whilst the rangers did find them and destroy them, the risk was not as great as first thought. The battle for Pointe Du Hoc was also costly, with 70 percent casualties, so even though deemed a success, it was with a brutal loss of life.

American Battle Monument Point Du Hoc

Today, Pointe Du Hoc serves as a monument to the Rangers who fought here. Other than the encroachment of nature, the site is not much different today to how it was when the Rangers landed.

Many of the original concrete bunkers, bomb craters and installations are still in place, and you can freely wander the area, and marvel at the challenges that must have faced the men landing here, from the rough seas to the 100ft cliffs to the barbed wire.

There is also a visitor centre, although it had just closed when we arrived. If it is something that interests you though, you can check the opening hours here to be sure that you schedule your day appropriately.

 American Battle Monument Point Du Hoc 2

Pointe Du Hoc was the last stop on our tour of the Normandy D-Day beaches. It wasn’t the sort of day that fills you with joy, but I certainly learnt a great deal, and left with a heightened sense of admiration and respect for the many people who gave their lives so Europe and the world could be free.

Now, on to answering some questions you might have, as well as some practicalities.

Where we stayed in Normandy

There are lots of options for accommodation at Mont St. Michel. We found ourselves a little chambre d’hote , which is the French equivalent of a B&B.

This was excellent value, and within walking a half hour’s walk of Mont St. Michel – and more importantly, a ten-minute walk to where I was able to get photos like this:

Mont St Michel sunset Vanguard

We actually found that there are lots of these in the Mont St. Michel area, you can see Mont St Michel listings here on booking.com

There were three Chambres D’Hotes near each other, including the one we stayed at , with a price for two people, including breakfast, usually in the region of €70 – €120. Definitely an option worth investigating.

How To Get Around Normandy

Since we took the ferry, we were able to take our own car to France. This was very handy, and definitely meant we got to see everything we wanted to see at our pace.

I’d definitely recommend a car as the best option to get as much in as you can for your trip. If you’re coming from the UK, Brittany Ferries operates to a number of destinations in France, with Cherbourg, St. Malo and Caen likely to be your best options for a trip like the one we did.

If you’re looking to hire a car in France, we recommend searching for your car rental on Discover Cars here . They compare a range of providers so you can find the best deal for your trip.

Tours of Normandy and the D-Day Beaches

If you would rather not have the hassle of planning your car hire or hotels, it’s also possible to visit the D-Day beaches and Mont St. Michel on a guided tour. This will also carry the benefit that you will have someone on hand to explain the significance of what you are seeing.

It is possible to do this as a day trip from Paris, however the day trips will focus on either Mont St. Michel or the D-Day Beaches, as doing both would be challenging in a day from Paris. There are however two day (and longer) tours like this which cover both sights. Here are some options:

  • A 1 day tour from Paris of Mont. St Michel , which includes transport and your entry ticket
  • A 1 day tour from Paris of the Normandy D-Day landing beaches , which includes transport, museum entry and guide
  • A 2-day tour of Normandy, Saint Malo and Mont St Michel from Paris , which includes transport, overnight 4* accommodation, some meals, a guide, and entrance fees. This would be our recommended option from Paris if you have the time as it covers many of the locations in our guide.

There are many more tours to choose from, you can see a selection on Viator here , and GetYourGuide here

These tours all run from Paris as this is the most popular departure point. However, there are also tours from Bayeux in Normandy, which you can reach by a 2.5 hour train from Paris. In this case, we’d suggest booking a 1 day tour of the D-Day beaches, and a 1 day tour of Mont. St Michel. Here are some options:

  • A 1 day tour of Mont St. Michel , including transport and guide
  • A private 1 day tour of Mont St. Michel , also including transport and guide. This is a similar tour with departure from either Caen or Bayeux.
  • A 1 day small group tour of the D-Day beaches , with a particular focus on the beaches used by the American forces.

Getting To Normandy from the UK

As mentioned above, we took the ferry from Portsmouth to St. Malo (and back again!) with Brittany Ferries .

We had a four berth cabin on both crossings, which was particularly handy for the night crossing to France as it meant we could have a good night’s sleep. Each cabin also includes a sink, toilet, and shower so you can arrive feeling refreshed.

Brittany Ferries Cabin Bretagne

The boat was also well equipped, and we enjoyed an excellent dinner on board on our way to France, and a lovely lunch on the day crossing back. In the evening, after our dinner, we went and watched the cabaret show (and partook of the excellent bar!), with Jess having a huge cocktail and me going for a slightly simpler beer option.

Brittany Ferries Dinne Bretagne

Jess also got involved in the magic show (this seems to happen to her a lot!), as a man rather worryingly stuck a sword through her throat. This was a lot of fun, and overall, we’re happy to recommend the Brittany Ferries experience to anyone looking to travel to and from the UK by ferry with a car.

Bretagne Ferry Brittany Ferry crossing

Further Reading for your Visit

We’ve written more about France to help you plan your visit to this lovely country. Here are some resources we think you’ll find useful:

  • We have a 2 Day Paris Itinerary as well as a 3 Day Paris Itinerary
  • We also have a guide to spending a day in Paris , if you’re on a really tight schedule and just want to focus on the highlights
  • Our guide to the Best Photography Locations in Paris
  • A full review of the Paris Pass , to help you save money on your visit, as well as a review of the Paris Museum Pass
  • A guide to the best afternoon tea in Paris
  • A guide to choosing the best Seine Boat River tour
  • A guide to recognising and avoiding common Paris scams

And that pretty much wraps up our two days experience in Normandy! Have you ever visited the sights in the article? Have any tips or experiences to share? Let us know about them in the comments below!

Cloudy exterior Mont St Michel France

So you know, we received complimentary tickets from Brittany Ferries to and from the UK for two people and a car. All other expenses, including meals and drinks on the boat, as well as our accommodation and activities in France, we covered ourselves. As always, you can read our code of ethics to find out how we choose to work with!

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There are 35 comments on this post

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Michael Giblin says

11th January 2024 at 5:18 am

Hi Jessica Thanks for the interesting article, especially the links to other information. We plan to go to France in Septembers, spend 6 nights in Paris then take the train to Bayeux rent a car and spend 3 days visiting the Normandy sites then spend 3 nights in Tours visiting the Loire Valley. Then take the train To Paris and head home. Your travel log is really helpful because after reading yours and many travel logs, we realize we can rent a car and do self-guided tours and go at our own pace. My wife speaks French so that will be a big help. Thank you.

Laurence Norah says

13th January 2024 at 2:00 pm

It’s our pleasure Michael, have a wonderful trip to France and do let us know if you have any questions!

Eileen Cowley says

9th September 2023 at 2:08 am

I love all this wonderful and insiteful information about a 2 day Normandy visit. We will visit Mont St. Michel on the 1st day, and the beaches you recommended on the second. Should we stay 2 nights in the hotel close to St. Michel. or check out, visit the beaches and choose another location close to Point de Hoc? Thank you!

10th September 2023 at 3:05 pm

Thanks very much! So I would probably recommend checking out and moving on so you don’t have to drive backwards and forward so much. Of course, it will depend a bit on your overall itinerary, but personally I’d find somewhere closer to where you’ll be visiting on your second day.

Have a lovely time in France, let me know if you have any more questions!

Linda Karol says

16th July 2022 at 8:07 pm

Hello! My so is in the Air Force and was recently involved in the DDay Reinactment. I will go onto your Facebook site and post some of his pictures for you.

21st July 2022 at 7:54 pm

Thank you very much Linda 🙂

26th June 2022 at 8:49 pm

we are staying in Dol De Bretagne for a week ( arriving in st Malo) then driving up to normandy on the Friday so we can see the D Day beaches etc before getting the ferry on the Sunday from Caen back to the UK. we will have 2 days and your itinerary has been big help , where do you think the best place to stay is please ? Caen ? Bayeux , or somewhere else. we need to be at Caen for 7.30 on the Sunday morning for the ferry so don’t want to have to travel too far to get there. we are leaving Dol early fri morning so will have 2 full days . thanks for your help

27th June 2022 at 9:50 am

I think either Caen or Bayeux would work. Caen would obviously be easier for your early morning ferry, so I might opt for that, and it’s not too far to the majority of beaches. There are also lots of accommodation options in Caen as you can see here .

Have a great trip and let me know if you have any more questions!

Nicolas Mata says

14th June 2022 at 2:31 pm

Very educational. By the way, how did you create your own blog?

14th June 2022 at 4:19 pm

Thanks Nicolas! I created it initially back in 2010 using Google’s free Blogger service. Then I migrated to a paid service using WordPress. We actually have a complete guide to starting a blog , which you might find interesting 🙂

Patricia says

6th June 2022 at 5:15 pm

Fantastic comments and beautiful photos. Thank you

6th June 2022 at 5:50 pm

Thanks very much Patricia!

Stuart Robertson says

20th April 2022 at 6:55 pm

As the majority of troops to land on D-Day were British, it’s a shame you visited exclusively American sites. For information, Omaha was not the most heavily defended beach, Sword was.

20th April 2022 at 7:55 pm

Thanks for your comment! As my wife is American and had family members who took part in the landings, those were the beaches we chose to visit as they had the most personal connection to us. My grandfather was British, but I believe his war was primarily in Italy. Of course we are grateful for all their service, but don’t feel they would think any the less of us for which beach we visited. Hopefully we will be able to return soon and see more of the landing locations.

In terms of Omaha vs Sword, do you have a citation for that? The Imperial War Museum website here state that Omaha was the most heavily defended of the beaches, but I would add I am happy to change the information if there’s a more authoritative source.

Thanks again for your comment!

Linda Hyers says

4th March 2020 at 9:43 pm

We are going to Paris mid July and want to go to Normandy & St Michel. Looks like most of the tours leave on Thurs. we need to tour on Tues-Friday. Any ideas?

5th March 2020 at 2:05 pm

Hmm, that is a bit of a conundrum. I have a few options for you, depending on your budget.

First, there are a number of private tours you can take, where the day is less relevant. However, these are definitely more pricey. There are quite a few options listed on Viator, such as this one .

You might also try reaching out to Context Travel who do custom private tours of Normandy here . You get a 10% discount with our link too.

If the above options are out of budget, I have another idea.

You could take a 1 day tour of the Normandy Beach locations, like this one .

The advantage of the above tour is that is actually starts in Caen train station, not Paris, so you are not paying for a return trip to Paris as part of the tour. Instead, you would need to book your own train ticket to Caen. The fastest train takes around 2h – 2h30, so if you get an early train you can be in Caen by 9am.

You would then take the full day tour of the D-Day beaches and sights, which are harder to see without a tour or if you don’t have your own transport. You can then overnight in Caen, or head on to Mont St. Michel.

There’s a direct bus from Caen to Mont St. Michel, which takes around 3 hours. You can book this online. You can then spend the day exploring Mont St. Michel before heading back to Paris.

I appreciate this would be a bit more work on your end, but it would be much more cost effective than a private tour, and you would only need to book your train / coach tickets. You can book both of those in advance here .

Let me know if you need any further advice, I’m happy to help!

22nd February 2020 at 2:47 pm

Hi !!! Love the way you write and off course your photografy! My soon to be 15 year old son wants a trip to the D day beaches. We will be in London for 6 days then Paris for two days then we plan to be in Normandy for two days and we want to make sure we see Mt St Michel and the D day beaches! (Great suggestions from you on the aviator tours for 1 day only on those- we most probably book that) Is any way we can go from there back to London (to depart to the US) with out going back to Paris? Somebody suggested the ferry but then is there a train to London ? We obviously won’t have a car.

22nd February 2020 at 2:54 pm

Thanks very much Maria!

So yes, you can definitely take a ferry from Normandy or Brittany to the UK. Ferries depart from Caen, Cherbourg, Le Havre or Saint Malo and go to Portsmouth, and then it’s easy to take a train from Portsmouth directly to London, it takes around 2 hours. There’s also plenty to see in Portsmouth!

A couple of guides you might find useful:

This guide to getting from Paris to London, which actually has ferry information for all the major ports you should find helpful: https://independenttravelcats.com/how-to-get-from-london-to-paris/

This guide to things to do in Portsmouth: https://www.findingtheuniverse.com/things-to-do-in-portsmouth-uk/

Let me know if I can help any more, and have a great trip!

Kristi says

12th February 2020 at 1:07 am

This info is fantastic. We’re planning a trip in June from London into Paris, then Normandy. Frankly, Normandy is to be our highlight, as its my husband’s 50th and its a bucket list item. We are taking our three kids (8,12, 14) and all love history. I’m doing my homework and came across your site. Thank you for this info. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to see both MSM and the American beaches/cemetery/museum. should we have a hub in Caen? We do want to take our time in the Normandy region and not be too rushed. Thank you!!

12th February 2020 at 1:35 pm

Thanks very much! I would definitely recommend having a base somewhere so you can have at least two days to explore. You’ll need at least a full day for the D-Day sites, and at least half a day for MSM. We based ourselves near MSM, but that was purely because I love photography, so I wanted to be within walking distance of the Mount at sunset and sunrise! Caen would make a great base for both, easy for the beaches and other D-Day sites, and within easy driving distance of MSM. It’s also accessible by direct train from Paris in 2 hours, which is going to be the fastest way to get there, and then you can hire a car in Caen.

Let me know if you have any more questions, I hope you have a wonderful trip and happy birthday to your husband 😀

Michelle says

21st October 2019 at 9:49 pm

We are traveling from Paris to Rennes by train. Renting a car and driving to Mont St Michel. I would love to see Dinan but it may possibly be to far “out of the way” and I don’t want to rush MSM but a few hours should be plenty there…? I would like to stay somewhere near MSM for one night. Then the next morning drive to Bayeux and DDay beaches staying in Caen to return car and hop on the train back to Paris. Any suggestions of towns to visit or see along the route from MSM to Bayeux? Also any suggestions of towns to stay in near MSM.

25th October 2019 at 4:51 pm

Hi Michelle!

Sorry for the slow response! We’ve been moving house, which has been a bit time consuming, and left us without internet for a while.

Anyway, you are correct, a few hours at Mont St Michel would be more than enough. It’s around an hour from Mont St. Michel to Dinan, so that would be theoretically doable in the same day.

From MSM to Bayeux is only 1h 38 minutes. So I would suggest just heading up that way and straight to the coast and the beaches, which run for a fair distance along the coast north of Bayeux.

For accommodation near MSM, well, you can either stay on the Mont itself, or one of the nearby villages. If you look at the map on this page , you should get an idea of nearby accommodation options 🙂

Have a great trip!

Susan Haydon says

29th May 2019 at 7:42 am

Hi Laurence,

We are off to Normandy this coming weekend. Do you have an approximate cost of entry fees to museums etc. or can you point me in the right direction to find these? Also, I would love to print this article to take with us. Is there a way to print it without all the ads?

Thank you to you and Jess for the excellent coverage of this wonderful location.

29th May 2019 at 10:59 am

So we don’t have a print feature like that – the best option would be to temporarily install an ad blocking extension I think. Alternatively you could copy the text into a word document and delete the ads / images.

For the museums, the prices are quite well hidden, if you can even find the website 😉 They vary, but i would estimate between €8 and €12 euros on average. For example, here are the Utah Museum prices: https://www.utah-beach.com/information/?lang=en

Have a wonderful trip, do let us know how you get on 🙂

29th May 2019 at 12:48 pm

Many thank, will do ????

17th October 2019 at 6:42 pm

I hope you had a great trip. This is too late for your Normandy trip, but in case you use our site in the future, I just wanted to let you know that we finally figured out how to implement a print feature, so you can now print ad and image free versions of all our pages from the print button on the site.

stephane yao says

29th April 2019 at 3:49 am

Hi Laurence, we plan to take on 1 day trip from the mont st michelle to the destination deauville. During this day, is it possible to follow your 3 landing location in 1 day by a rented car?

sincerly Stéphane

30th April 2019 at 5:41 pm

Hi Stéphane,

This is definitely possible as Jess and I did exactly this 🙂 So you shouldn’t have any problems,

8th April 2019 at 11:34 am

Hi there im heading to st.malo at the end of this month with hubbie is there a tour bus r train that culd take us to utah beach and the ww11 memorial that u mentioned thankyou

8th April 2019 at 11:43 am

It’s around a 2.5 hour drive to the D-Day beaches from St. Malo, so most tour companies instead operate from nearer locations like Cherbourg. From St. Malo, most tours are focused instead on Mont St. Michel. So the best option is likely to rent a car and drive yourself as I have not been able to find a tour from St. Malo. It is of course possible that they exist, but you might have to contact the local tourism office in St. Malo for information.

8th April 2019 at 12:03 pm

Thankyou Laurence

betseysheprow says

2nd February 2019 at 7:54 pm

is it possible to get a group guided tour of normandy and is it worth it?

3rd February 2019 at 11:49 am

It is certainly possible, here are two options, this one from Caen, and this one from Paris .

We have never done a tour like this so I can’t comment if it is worth it, but the reviews are positive, and we think that having a guide to help walk you through some of the history can only be a good thing 🙂

Have a great trip

20th April 2022 at 7:13 pm

Do bear in mind its a 9 hour round trip drive from central Paris to Utah Beach. A day trip from Paris is doable but it’s much better to get an early train from St Laxare to Carentan (depart 7am & 2.5 hrs) and then get a tour commencing there (look up Allan Bryson – a great guide).

20th April 2022 at 7:57 pm

This is absolutely true. We definitely feel the train is a better option and ideally folks should spend at least one night as well in the area if possible, if not more!

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Visiting the D-Day Landing Beaches

Normandy Tourism, France

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Visiting the D-Day Landing Beaches

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Updated on 18 July 2023

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D-Day and the Battle of Normandy were predominantly fought in the départements of Calvados, Manche and Orne, and it is here that you will find the many memorials, cemeteries and museums that commemorate what happened. The D-Day Landing Beaches extend over 70km from Sainte-Marie-du-Mont to Ouistreham, via Colleville-sur-Mer and Arromanches-les-Bains. Here’s our fully comprehensive D-Day map to help you plan where to visit.

REMEMBRANCE sites

Nearly 3,000 Allied servicemen, mostly soldiers, lost their lives on D-Day. Every year, millions come to see where and how the conflict took place. The D-Day Landing Beaches have since become a symbol of the price of peace across the world. Our fully comprehensive D-Day map below will help you work out which remembrance sites – museums, beaches, cemeteries and memorials – to visit during your stay.

Map of the D-Day Landing Beaches: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno et Sword

GUIDED TOURS Of THE D-Day Landing BEACHES

On foot, or by minibus, bike or coach, there is a network of qualified English-speaking guides ( guides-conférenciers ) who specialise in showing visitors around Normandy’s many remembrance sites. We recommend if you book a tour to arrange for your guide to meet you at the train station or your hotel for a door-to-door service.

If you need to remind yourself of Normandy’s World War II history before your tour, here is a handy guide to the main phases of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy .

A Jeep ride in the footsteps of the 101st Airborne Division

A Jeep ride in the footsteps of the 101st Airborne Division

Updated on 12 April 2024

Our weekend family tour of the D-Day Landing Beaches

Our weekend family tour of the D-Day Landing Beaches

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The D-Day Landing Beaches with a dog

The D-Day Landing Beaches with a dog

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I went on an e-bike tour of D-Day landing beaches – and saw a fading history

As the 80th anniversary of the normandy landings approaches, a slow tour of those pivotal beaches offers a deeply moving perspective.

Sculpture 'The Braves', by sculptor Anilore Banon, erected on Omaha Beach to honor the American soldiers who were killed during the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer (Photo by: Godard F/Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

So many hues of grey. Gunmetal surf slaps and jostles my boat. Pearly foam sluices over the bow, spray stinging my cheeks beneath a silverish sky. Ahead, a low, misshapen concrete slab: German bunker Wn47 , glowering across the sandy crescent. I leap from my craft into grizzled shallows. The undertow sucks at my ankles as I splash ashore on Gold beach.

‘My home in France cost just £60k – my life would be unaffordable in the UK’

'My home in France costs just £60k - my life would be unaffordable in the UK'

It would, of course, be both disingenuous and disrespectful to compare kayaking off the Normandy coast to the experiences of more than 150,000 Allied troops who landed here on 6 June, 1944, 80 years ago this week.

Clearly, paddling on to Asnelles beach bears no resemblance to Saving Private Ryan . But it does offer an immersive alternative perspective on that first pivotal step in Operation Overlord, the campaign to liberate France from Nazi Germany and is the centrepiece of an e-bike tour of those Normandy beaches.

Diverse activities are commemorating the 80th anniversary during this month’s D-Day Festival , ranging from parachute drops, camp reconstructions, re-enactments and parades to talks, concerts and swing dances. That’s on top of special exhibitions and events at the region’s 94 museums, memorials and cemeteries.

There’s no shortage of tours, too, and it’s easy to take in key locations by hire car or public transport. Better still, though, pedal the well-signed Vélo Maritime cycle route for the freedom to pause, detour and delve deeper.

Normandy’s enduring memory of D-Day was evident even as I collected my e-bike at Ouistreham ferry terminal , packing my panniers alongside a memorial to Royal Navy and Royal Marines crews in the harbour car park.

Aerial American Cemetery Normandy France Omaha Beach

Two blocks west, I passed the hulking concrete monolith of Le Grand Bunker – the Museum of the Atlantic Wall , named for the system of German defences stretching 1,670 miles from Arctic Norway to France’s border with Spain. Soon after came the D-Day 70th Anniversary Memorial overlooking the eastern-most sector targeted by Allied forces, predominantly British troops, codenamed Sword Beach.

First stop was Courseulles-sur-Mer’s innovative Juno Beach Centre , where interactive displays encourage young visitors to ponder the motivations and experiences of Canadian troops who landed in this zone.

Its pioneering green initiatives include a low-carbon tariff that’s proliferated across Normandy: simply show your public transport ticket, or a photo proving you’ve arrived on foot or bike, for a hefty discount.

D-Day beaches by kayak and bike Image via writer Paul Bloomfield

Beyond Ver-sur-Mer and the eastern edge of Gold beach, I cut inland to the British Normandy Memorial , where 1,475 silhouetted servicemen, and a number of nurses, comprise the Standing With Giants installation. This is a powerful reminder of the human cost of the assault – yet represents only the fatalities under British command on D-Day.

The overall tally of casualties during the Battle for Normandy was far higher – probably more than 550,000, plus civilians.

Such an ambitious operation required planning on a scale never seen. Among the most audacious schemes was the installation of two vast temporary Mulberry harbours, focus of the recently reopened D-Day Museum in Arromanches . Today, surviving elements are the decaying but still colossal “beetles” and concrete-filled cylinders ( caissons ) scattered across the bay like so many gargantuan Lego bricks.

Second World War veteran, 102, dies on way to D-Day event in France

Second World War veteran, 102, dies on way to D-Day event in France

The following morning, I paddled out to inspect these barnacle-pimpled blocks with Valentin Fessard, who guided me inside one of the hollow chambers. As He explained that these concrete reminders of the project are gradually crumbling: “Some years ago I watched as one collapsed, vanishing all at once,” he recalled. “Probably in a few decades there will be almost nothing to see.”

On I rode, west past the formidable cliff-top battery at Longues-sur-Mer, its monstrous guns’ rusted barrels still aimed towards Gold and neighbouring Omaha beach, the US landing sector that was my last stop.

At Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, beneath the expansive American Cemetery and the gleaming wings of Anilore Banon’s sculpture Les Braves , I swapped my road cycle for an electric fatbike to roam Omaha with Laurent Guerin.

Etching diagrams in the sands, he mapped out the action and explained how underwater ridges and runnels proved fatally challenging to so many troops driving or splashing ashore.

Finally, he led me to a new memorial to a pair of formerly unsung heroes.

VER-SUR-MER, FRANCE - MAY 26: An art installation featuring 1,475 upcycled giant soldier silhouettes by 'Standing with Giants,' symbolizing the British-commanded fatalities on June 6, 1944, displayed at the British Normandy Memorial in Ver-sur-Mer to commemorate the 80th Anniversary of D-Day, on May 26, 2024, in British Normandy Memorial, Ver-sur-Mer, Normandy, France. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Naval Ensign Lawrence S Karnowski and army engineer First Lieutenant Joseph J Gregory formed an unlikely partnership, battling to clear obstacles thwarting US forces from taking the beach in the first minutes of the landing. Under heavy fire, they not only opened corridors for advancing troops but also tended to injured men; while doing so, Gregory succumbed to his own wounds.

Laurent and I fell into a respectful silence, recalling the bravery and tenacity of these men and the other 2,400 casualties sustained on Omaha alone. Hearing such untold stories on the sands where they unfolded is a privilege indeed.

Getting there Return fares on Brittany Ferries, Portsmouth–Caen/Ouistreham, from £98, brittany-ferries.co.uk Where to visit Roulez Jeunesse rents e-bikes from €30 per day, roulezjeunesse.bike/en . Kayak tours around the Mulberry Harbour cost €40pp, charavoile-asnelles.fr/kayak-paddle . Four-hour e-fatbike tours along Omaha Beach cost €100pp, velomaha.fr . D Day Festival, to 16 June, ddayfestival.com . La Velomaritime runs along France’s Channel coastline, lavelomaritime.com Juno Beach Centre, junobeach.org D-Day Museum Arromanches, musee-arromanches.fr/en More information britishnormandymemorial.org en.normandie-tourisme.fr calvados-tourisme.co.uk

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Normandy Landing Beaches Tours

The celebration of the 80th

In 2024, Normandy will honor the memory of these events and of these men and women who came from all over the world to liberate us.

The international ceremony on June 6, 2024 will take place in…

The Calvados prefecture announced on Tuesday October 17 the location of the international ceremony on June 6, 2024.

The ceremony will take place in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer in Calvados, in the American sector, near Omaha Beach where 2,500 American soldiers lost their lives.

This ceremony will be an opportunity to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Landings and the Battle of Normandy in the presence of numerous heads of state and representatives of the belligerent nations.

As a reminder, in 2014 on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, 19 heads of state were present on Ouistreham beach (Sword Beach).

Visit the Calvados Prefecture website

A regional mobilization will take place to celebrate this major ten-year anniversary. The Normandy Region will be there alongside the Normans.

The calendar of events will be available on this page from the end of 2023 then in paper version in spring 2024.

On this site you will find from 2024:

the map of all events certified by the Region practical information around official commemorations thematic files to take advantage of all the events key dates of 1944 A little history

The Landing of June 6, 1944 was a decisive turning point in the Second World War: the Liberation of France and Europe began on the beaches of Normandy. It is in Normandy that the face of today’s world took shape. Since 1942, with the Dieppe Raid, the history of Normandy as a whole has been closely linked to that of the return of Liberty, Peace and Reconciliation.

On June 6, 1944 and the days that followed, thousands of young men representing around fifteen different nations and 177 Frenchmen from the Kieffer Commando landed on the Normandy beaches to liberate the territory. On June 6, at midnight, more than 150,000 allied soldiers were in Normandy, including 23,000 paratroopers and 20,000 vehicles of all sizes. 12,000 men were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. Three months of battles followed to liberate Normandy. Then it was the turn of Paris and finally of all of Europe.

Even today, through remains, cemeteries, visiting places, an emblematic Reconstruction heritage, these traces are still visible and allow this memory to be alive in Normandy. The Landing of June 6, 1944 and the Battle of Normandy are engraved in the mind of every Norman and are part of a common heritage that we have a duty to pass on.

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