What to visit in Normandy, France

As a traveler, visiting Normandy should definitely be on your bucket list. And yes, you can visit it on your own, with my guidance. This war-ridden corner of France has so much history to offer, and our recent trip was nothing short of an unforgettable experience. In this blog, we will take you through the different stops we made along the way and show you why you must visit Normandy. Don’t forget it’s just a small drive from Paris! So put it on your must-see list when going to France.

Bayeux: Oldest original town in Normandy

Our first stop was Bayeux, a charming town famous for its tapestry depicting the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England in 1066. A little town where history comes alive in the form of a 70-meter-long tapestry! This charming town is famous for its intricate embroidery, depicting the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England in 1066. It’s like a medieval comic strip but way more epic! I was even lucky, and there was an extra exhibition from David Hockney! As a traveler, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you gaze at battles, feasts, and falconry scenes. And when you’re done exploring the tapestry, be sure to stroll through the town’s medieval streets. Did you know that Bayeux, the charming French town, managed to survive World War II almost unscathed? This means that the buildings you see today are the real deal – no replicas or restorations needed! And don’t forget to stop for some delicious French cuisine. I’ve tried a salty crepe with a seafood mix at “Le moulin de la galette.” It was delicious! And the scenery by the water was fairytale-like. Downside: the prices were pretty touristy for France.

Go ahead and take a stroll through the streets, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time. And if you’re lucky, you might even stumble upon a hidden gem or two! There’s a rumor that the street art could be Banksy’s!

D-Day Experience and dead man’s corner: Feel the invasion of Normandy

If you’re a history buff who appreciates immersing themselves in past events, then the D-Day Experience museum is a must-see destination. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to truly understand the significance of June 6th, 1944, and experience it in a way that will leave a lasting impact on you. I even heard firsthand that a veteran described the flight simulator in the museum as “very close to the real deal.”

Dead Man’s Corner is an essential stop for those interested in learning more about the Battle of Normandy. This strategic location was the site of a legendary incident during the war: an American Stuart tank was destroyed, and the commander’s body remained visible in the turret for days. Today, Dead Man’s Corner stands as a testament to the bravery and sacrifice of those who fought in the war.

After visiting these sites, I highly recommend driving to the small church of Angoville-au-plain. In this video, you will see why 👇

The Grim story of Angoville-au-Plain

Bike Ride by Cliffs over Omaha Beach: Nature and War in Normandy

Looking for an adventure that combines stunning views with a touch of history? Look no further than this scenic bike ride along the cliffs overlooking Omaha Beach! Our journey took us along a trail filled with breathtaking views and stops at iconic war landmarks like the Overlord Museum and Omaha Beach itself. We found this route by searching on Komoot, but let me tell you – it was worth the effort. Now, I have to be honest with you – the way back was a bit of a challenge. We ended up on a busy road that didn’t feel very bike-friendly. If you’re planning on taking this route, I suggest sticking to the existing trail along the coast instead of venturing inland. Trust me, and your legs will thank you! But overall, this adventure is a must-see for any traveler looking for a unique and unforgettable experience. We took a scenic bike ride by cliffs overlooking Omaha Beach, giving us breathtaking coastline views.

Port-en-Bessin-Hupain: Normandy’s seafood massacre

Port-en-Bessin-Hupain is more than just a quaint fishing village. It’s a foodie’s paradise where the local cuisine reigns supreme. Prepare your taste buds for the ultimate treat with the scrumptious coquilles sain Jacques and refreshing cider. The charming restaurants, all lined up in a row, are just waiting for you to indulge in their delectable offerings. After a packed lunch, take a leisurely stroll to the picturesque beach and witness a “Coquilles massacre.” Don’t worry; it’s not as gruesome as it sounds! You’ll be amazed by the sheer number of beautiful shells just waiting for you to pick them up. Feeling a little crafty or need a budget-friendly souvenir? This is the perfect opportunity to gather some pretty shells to take home with you. So, whether you’re a food lover or a beachgoer, Port-en-Bessin-Hupain is a destination that should not be missed on your travels. And who knows, maybe you’ll even discover your new favorite dish!

Saint-Mère-Église: Invasion of Normandy gone wrong

If you’re interested in learning some fascinating facts about World War II, visiting Saint-Mère-Église is a must. This is the very spot where John Steele, an American paratrooper, famously got snagged on the church spire during the D-Day invasion. Even today, a parachute doll hangs from the spire in memory of that day.

To understand the events that led to this, it is essential to note that the majority of the Pathfinders sent ahead of the Paratroopers to mark the drop zone failed. Adding to this challenge, weather conditions worsened. While each squadron leader had lights on their wings, the rest of the formation flew without lights relying solely on visual navigation. Unfortunately, the pilot leading Steele’s group was inexperienced and, in fear of anti-aircraft fire, climbed too high before ordering his paratroopers to jump directly above Sainte-Mère-Église. Tragically, several members of Company F lost their lives even before reaching solid ground. John continued heading towards safety but crashed into a beautiful XII-century church called Sainte-Mère-Église itself instead while trying to avoid being caught up in fires below. His parachute got entangled with one of the sculptures adorning the bell tower base, leaving him suspended about twelve meters off ground level; he was unable to escape as he struggled unsuccessfully cut himself free using a knife that slipped from his grasp and fell down alongside the wall below him.

At this point, he was completely vulnerable and exposed under enemy fire, forced to pretend to be dead while keeping half-opened eyes fixed heavenward, praying for rescue… As hours ticked by, slowly turning into three long ones, no sign of support appeared horizon. Finally, two Germans noticed John hanging there. They promptly proceeded to sever lines connecting parachute. Having successfully cut the lines, Steele and six other American soldiers were taken captive. His captivity nor detained for too long, but four days later, he managed to escape through a small window.

For us, the biggest adventure was lunch. We stumbled upon an American-themed diner called “Nyco’s Happy Diner.“And that did not disappoint. The menu was limited to classic favorites like bagels, fries, and shakes, but everything was delicious. And to top it off, we couldn’t help but feel like we were dining with the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll himself, thanks to the life-size Elvis display.

Utah Beach: The gateway to mainland

Utah Beach Normandy

Utah Beach was an absolute game changer on D-Day – and today, lucky travelers like you can learn all about it by making a pilgrimage to the Utah Beach D-Day museum. As you wander towards the beach entrance, be sure to keep an eye out for the life-size statues of soldiers disembarking from the legendary and historic “Higgins boats.” This is a stop you won’t want to miss, but fair warning – there isn’t too much to keep you entertained in the immediate surroundings. Still, paying your respects to the incredible courage and sacrifice of those who made history on these shores is worth visiting.

Overlord Museum : Real-life war scenes

Discover the ultimate World War II experience at the Overlord Museum! This museum offers unparalleled insight into all aspects of the war, from tanks to personal artifacts from soldiers who fought in Normandy. The exhibits are expertly curated, and each display is thoughtfully designed to immerse you in the historical events of the time. But wait, there’s more! Even if you’re not feeling like splurging on an entrance fee, the museum’s garden is brimming with tanks for the perfect photo opportunity. Don’t miss the chance to snap a pic with these impressive war machines!

Arromanches-les-Bains : Architectural history and Mulberry harbor

Arromanches-les-Bains, a quaint seashore town with a rich history, was a vital landing site for the Allied forces during the D-Day invasion. Visitors can now witness the remains of the Mulberry Harbor, a crucial infrastructure built to support the invasion. Nowadays, you can just see the decaying pieces float in the sea.

Apart from the historical significance, the town is also home to stunning belle epoque villas and a charming shopping street. And if you’re a foodie, you’re in for a treat! Head over to Restaurant la Maison du 6 for their all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. Trust us; it’s a must-try!

American Cemetery: Respect the resting

As our journey to Normandy came to an end, we found ourselves standing in front of the American Cemetery. The atmosphere was somber, yet there was an undeniable beauty in the tribute to those who paid the ultimate price for the sake of freedom. We took the time to honor three brave soldiers by laying flowers on their graves: Louis Klepac, Charles D. Clark, and Fred E. Kitchens. Our friend, with a heart full of kindness, is determined to keep their memory alive by sharing their stories. You can read more about their stories on his website. For all you fellow travelers out there, visiting the American Cemetery is a humbling experience that reminds us of the sacrifices made by so many. So, next time you find yourself in the vicinity, be sure to stop by and pay your respects. It’s the least we can do.

German Battery Longues-sur-Mer: Walk through the bunker

During our visit to Longues-sur-Mer, we had the opportunity to explore the German Battery site, which offers a unique perspective on the events of D-Day. The site boasts a series of bunkers that visitors can walk through, and the grounds where German artillery was once positioned can also be visited. It’s a fascinating experience that provides insight into the strategic planning and tactics employed by the German army during this significant historical event.

So, is Normandy worth visiting?

Yes! Even if it’s a short trip from Paris. Aside from war tourism, like the Heavy Water mission in Norway, you can also indulge in local cuisines, such as fresh fish and cider (sorry, oyster lovers!), making it a complete experience of Normandy. We hope this guide has inspired you to add Normandy to your travel itinerary.

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