Normandy landing beaches, Calvados: tourism & sightseeing
Visit Normandy landing beaches (Normandy, France)
The Normandy Landings began on the 6th June 1944, when 130,000 troops set off from the south coast of England (including some from the port at Bucklers Hard where Nelson's ships had launched 150 years earlier) and landed on the beaches of Normandy. Operation Overlord had begun.
First an air-based landing took place very early in the morning, with both British and American troops being parachuted in to occupied France, followed by a sea-based invasion at 6.30 in the morning. In just that one day 130,000 troops were landed on the Normandy coast at Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah beaches.
The map show the principal landing points along the Normandy coast
Despite a great deal of lives lost (50,000 in Calvados alone), these battles represented the turning point of the Second World War in western Europe.
Visiting the beaches
For many people a visit to the beaches of the Normandy Landings is a pilgrimage rather than a holiday destination. Many still have memories of that time while others have memories of relations lost in the battles on those beaches.
The memorial on Omaha Beach is a simple yet very beautiful tribute to the Normandy Landings
As you walk along the beaches or through the cemeteries, the sense of history and importance of the places is inescapable. It is an extremely moving event to walk on the Normandy Landings beaches, and also to visit the cemeteries containing thousands of graves in well tended lines, and to reflect on what the world might be like today without the bravery and victory of those landings.
If you plan to visit the Normandy Landing beaches, the coast road can be followed to Sword, Juno, Gold and Omaha beaches - and Utah beach is just a little further.
At Gold Beach this defensive gun position still points out to sea as a reminder...
West of Omaha Beach you can also visit Pointe de Hoc and see the cliffs that the US troops needed to climb as part of the landings in the face of strong defence from the Germans - the various bunkers and craters left by the bombs remind us how severe the battle was at this point.
Several important cemeteries are also passed along this route, while just off Gold Beach at Arromanches you can see the remains of the floating harbour (the Mulberry Harbour) built hurriedly by the allies and used during the landings.
The remains of Mulberry Harbour, just off Gold beach at the town of Arromanches
Many visitors to the landing beaches also like to see the Cafe Gondrée, the first house in France to be liberated in the landings. In truth there is little to actually see on the beaches themselves apart from the remains of the Mullberry harbour and a moving tribute built in the sand at Omaha beach.
The War Cemeteries are an evocative reminder of the large numbers that died during the invasions. This is the American War cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer overlooking Omaha Beach
Behind the beaches you will see the remains of bunkers used by the Germans to defend the territory, and even some barbed wire fence sections have been left intact.
The Merville Battery posed a very serious threat to the landings and its elimination was a primary goal for paratroopers from the 6th Airborne Division prior to the land-based landings
Battles of Normandy Museums
There are several museums dedicated to the events including:
- The Memorial Museum for the Battles of Normandy in Bayeux offers a great deal of information about the landings.
- At Utah Beach and in Arromanches there are Landing Day Museums - the museum at Utah Beach includes various large equipment used in the landings
- The Museum of the Occupation is at Sainte-Marie-du-Mont
- The Museum of the Liberation can be seen at Cherbourg
- An Airborne Museum is found at Sainte-Marie-Eglise
- The Memorial Museum of Omaha Beach is at Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer
Map of Normandy landing beaches and places nearby
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Address: Plages du débarquement, Normandy, France || GPS: latitude 49.375, longitude -0.892
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Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby
- Bayeux: secteur sauvegarde (17 km)
- Cathédrale Notre Dame (Bayeux): religious monument (18 km)
- Baie des Veys: site of natural beauty (18 km)
- Abbaye de Cerisy-la-Forêt (Cerisy-la-Foret): religious monument (20 km)
- Plantbessin: remarkable garden (20 km)
- Forêt de Cerisy: site of natural beauty (21 km)
- Eglise de Saint Pierre (Rucqueville): religious monument (26 km)
- Prieuré (Saint-Gabriel-Brecy): religious monument (26 km)
- Jardins du château de Brécy: remarkable garden (26 km)
- Prieuré de Saint Gabriel Brécy (Saint-Gabriel-Brecy): religious monument (26 km)
- Marais du Cotentin et du Bessin: regional natural parc (31 km)
- Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue tours (Vauban fortifications): heritage site (36 km)
The French version of this page is at Normandy landing beaches (Francais)