Verdun, Meuse: tourism & sightseeing

Photo of Verdun in North East France (Lorraine region)

Visit Verdun (Lorraine, France)

A very important historical site in Verdun is the Citadelle, which stands on a site where there once stood an Abbey, built by the Merovingian kings. The early parts of the citadel date back to the reign of Henry IV (1553-1610), later continued by Vauban. During World War I it formed the first shelter for the population, which was quickly evacuated, and it was occupied only by troops.

Today you can visit the seven tunnels of the fort through a circuit that reconstructs environments and modes of everyday life during the war, with animated scenes and virtual images.

As well as visiting the military fortress of Verdun you should visit the beautiful and original Verdun Cathedral in the Place Ginisty. The façade of the cathedral is embellished by an elegant portico with a composite Romanesque and Gothic style. The apses are polygonal and of considerable charm; and within rises itself a canopy of extraordinary Baroque manufacture.

The Cathedral suffered very heavy damage during the First World War but has been well reconstructed.

Visit Verdun batlefields

It is usual practice to visit the region around Verdun, where there are battlefields and forts including Fort Vaux (built around 1880 and then strengthened in 1911) and with views overlooking the entire valley to the south of Vaux - it was around here that the bloody battles took place from March to April 1916. The other fortress, even more impressive than that of Vaux, is the Douaumont Fort, which was the scene of battles in February and June 1916.

Several monuments pay testimony to the war, including the Victory Monument, erected in 1929 on the ruins of the ancient Roman city walls. In the crypt is maintained the roll of honour of the French and American soldiers decorated in this area during the First and Second World War. Other tributes include the 'Memorial of the Battle 1914-1918', near the village of Fleury, with the museum on World War I and an exceptional collection of objects of the time, also the 'Douamont Ossuary', the shrine of the 130,000 French and Germans fallen.

Something sweet...

Alongside the many examples of one of the toughest wars in human history, Verdun also tries to offer the tourist 'something sweet', like his "bonbons". Travelling around the region also try the quiche lorraine (pie with bacon, eggs and cream), or the potée lorraine (soup made of pork, cabbage and potatoes), or a Tourte à la Lorraine (pork pie, veal and eggs). For desserts, the Madeleines (sponge cake), the macarons (a kind of macaroons), and finally the gauffres (waffles bread with jam or honey and powdered sugar).

Verdun History

The history of Verdun is forever tied to the First World War I (1914-1918) and to the extraordinary and bloody war that developed around it, and of which the city and surrounding region bears obvious traces.

However, the history of Verdun is rooted in very ancient times. At first it was a settlement of the Gauls, and, after the conquest by the Romans, it was called “Castrum Virudonum”; in other words it became a major walled city for the Romans. At the end of the ninth century (843), with the division of the Carolingian Empire, Verdun was assigned to the Kingdom of Lorraine, and from 879 it was a possession of France; but later, in 923, it was united to the German Empire.

Over the centuries, it was ruled by secular and ecclesiastical lords. The Episcopal authority over the city was reinforced from the tenth century, when it was confirmed by the Emperor Otto III (980-1002), but the city was characterized by harsh struggles between the bourgeoisie and Bishops for supremacy.

In 1552 it was occupied again by the French during the reign of Henry II, who guaranteed administrative autonomy to the city. In the eighteenth century the “Citadel souterain” (“Underground Citadel”) was built by Vauban (1633-1707), completed in the nineteenth century. The main feature of the Citadel was its numerous underground tunnels. Over the centuries Verdun had always been a strategic military point in the defence of France against external attacks; as in 1792, when the Prussians attacked the city, which was defended valiantly; and in the Prussian War of 1870, when it suffered hard bombings from August until October.

Another historical moment that saw Verdun heavily involved was in the battle of the Marne (1914), when the city was bombed and virtually destroyed. But the event which the name of Verdun is linked is the 'Battle of Verdun', which was, as has been said, a true “battle of mutual annihilation”, one of the most terrible battles of the entire World War I (along with nearby Somme and Passchendaele)

You can find more local travel ideas in the Lorraine guide.

See also:

Map of Verdun and places nearby

Address: Verdun, Lorraine, 55100, France || GPS: latitude 49.162, longitude 5.38759

Plan your visit to Verdun, Meuse

Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby

  • Beaulieu-en-Argonne: ville fleurie 4* (27 km)

Market days in Verdun, France

Regular market(s) are held in Verdun each Friday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)

The French version of this page is at Verdun (Francais)