Our Top 10 D-Day sites rated and reviewed so you know exactly what to see in Normandy in 2021 and 2022.
Number 1: Omaha Beach and the US Cemetery
Bloody Omaha, as the beach became known, is a four-mile stretch of golden sand where two entire American infantry divisions came ashore on D-Day. There are so many points of interest all along its length, but we recommend visiting Fox Green sector at the E3 Draw below the village of Colleville-sur-Mer. From the Combat Medics monument in the sand to the top of the bluffs and the 1st Infantry Division monument you can visit the bluffs, the trenches and the bunkers of German strongpoint WN62*. The firing position of the so-called Beast of Omaha, Hein Severloh, is located near the top of the bluffs next to his CO’s artillery observation bunker (open to the public). Severloh is infamous for having killed and injured hundreds of US troops during the morning of June 6th, firing over 12,000 machinegun and rifle rounds. A monument to the 5th Engineers Special Brigade is built above one of the 75mm artillery casemates.
From the Big Red 1 monument it’s only a short stroll to the American Cemetery where 9,388 servicemen and women are laid to rest among 175 acres of manicured lawns and trees overlooking the beach. The visitors’ centre and movie theatre are free of charge. Visit the chapel, the garden of the missing and the memorial where Presidents and veterans alike have gathered to commemorate the fallen. Time your visit to end at 5pm (in summer) or 4pm (in winter) to watch the flag ceremony and hear the bugle call, Taps.**
Near the main entrance to the cemetery is the Overlord Museum – popular with all those interested in military hardware and vehicles.
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* Very limited access for wheelchair users.
** Check with the ABMC for Covid-related measures that may affect the ceremony.
There are far too many fascinating sites in the D-Day Landings area to place in list of 10, so here are some of our other favourites that didn’t quite make it…
The German artillery batteries of Crisbecq and Azeville in Utah Sector, Grandcamp-Maisy in Omaha Sector, and the Merville Battery and Strongpoint Hillman in Sword Sector are all well worth a visit.
The various British, Canadian, Polish and German war cemeteries are certainly worth a detour.
The towns of Carentan, Saint-Come-du-Mont (the Dead-Man’s-Corner Museum and the D-Day Experience) and Sainte-Marie-du-Mont in the US Sector, plus Riva Bella (Ouistreham) in the British Sector are recommended, as is the fabulous Memorial Museum in the city of Caen.
Two sites of Nazi atrocities should not be overlooked: the town of Graignes where 44 civilians plus American POWs were massacred by the 17th SS Panzer troops around June 11th 1944, and the Abbaye d’Ardennes where 20 Canadian POWs were murdered by troops of the 12th SS Panzer Division on 7/8 June 1944.
The Leadership Monument to Captain Richard Winters of Easy Company, 506th PIR of the 101st Airborne is easy to spot on the way back from Utah Beach, and just around the corner is Brécourt Manor and the Easy Company Monument – near the site of the field gun battery taken out by Winters and his men on D-Day. Also for those interested in the US Airborne: La Fière bridge with its memorials to the airborne troops including the ‘Iron Mike’ monument.
Finally, the tiny medieval church in the village of Angoville-au-Plain where two US medics from the 101st Airborne treated American, German and civilian casualties is well worth a stop if you have time en route to Utah Beach.