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How To Visit the D-Day Beaches in Normandy From Paris

August 7, 2023
Omaha Beach France

A visit to the D-Day beaches in Normandy is an experience everyone should have at least once in their lives. These beaches hold so much historical importance as the place that marks the beginning of the end of the Nazi occupation during World War II. 

If you’ve ever felt moved to honor the fallen while immersing yourself in history, a visit to the beaches of Normandy is a must. In this post, I’ll give an overview of the history, share my personal insights from visiting the Normandy beaches, and let you know the key sights to see while you’re there. 

A little history on the Normandy beaches

D-Day Memorial

The beaches of Normandy became known worldwide when they were invaded on June 4, 1944. 

This was D-Day, and what happened on this day began the liberation of Europe from Nazi German occupation and marked the beginning of the end of World War II. 

The beaches, which were given the code names Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword, were where nearly 133,000 allied troops from Canada, the U.S., Great Britain, and other European countries landed and joined forces. On D-Day, the Allies launched the largest amphibious attack in history against the Germans who occupied France at the time. 

But as with all wars, thousands of lives were lost on D-Day, making the Normandy beaches a solemn and sacred place to visit and honor those who served and lost their lives for our freedom.

Why you should visit the D-Day beaches

Have you ever wanted to see where an important part of history happened? A trip to the beaches of Normandy can affect you like nothing else can. That’s how I felt when I visited with my family several years ago. 

To see the place where so many people lost their lives in the name of freedom was an experience I will never forget. Just to think of the courage the troops had to have as they battled German forces on Omaha Beach was a humbling experience. And it carried home the truth that the price of freedom can be great. 

Visiting any of the five beaches of Normandy can be an emotional experience for anyone who visits, but they’re worth seeing even if your visit to France won’t be very long. Here are a few things to do in Normandy as you visit the D-Day beaches.

What there is to see and do in Normandy

Normandy Cemetery

While each of the beaches in Normandy offers its own experiences, there are other sites including memorials and cemeteries for visitors to get a better understanding of what happened on D-Day and beyond.

Here are some of the best things to see and do in Normandy on your visit.

  • Omaha Beach: Visit the Omaha Beach Memorial Museum, walk along the beach, and visit the American Cemetery that overlooks the beach.
  • Utah Beach: Browse the Utah Beach Museum, learn about the American troops who landed on the Normandy beaches, and spend some time at the beach landing site.
  • Gold Beach: Visit the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy and learn about the nearly 25,000 British troops who landed here on D-Day. You can see a German gun installation as well as the remnants of Mulberry Harbor.
  • Juno Beach: Spend some time at the Juno Beach Center to learn about the Canadian troops who landed on Juno Beach on D-Day. You can also visit the Canadian War Cemetery here.
  • Sword Beach: Here is where you’ll find the Caen Museum, one of the most revered WWII museums in Europe. Visit the French-British Museum to gain some perspective about the war from French and British troops.
  • Normandy American Cemetery: Overlooking Omaha Beach is the American Cemetery where visitors can view the marked graves of nearly 9,400 American troops, many of whom lost their lives on D-Day. 
  • Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument: Also overlooking Omaha Beach, this cliffside monument is a powerful testament to the American Second Ranger Battalion who scaled the steep cliffs on June 4, 1944, and seized German artillery to prevent counterattacks.

The American Cemetery at Omaha Beach is an especially somber and memorable place to visit. The part of my trip I remember the most was seeing thousands of white crosses dotting the landscape and hearing “Taps” played on the trumpet during a wreath-laying ceremony.

Tips and helpful info for visiting the D-Day beaches

D-Day Memorial

When visiting the D-Day beaches from Paris, here are some helpful tips to help you plan for your trip.

Pack a few essentials. A day trip to the Normandy beaches from Paris will be a full day from the early morning to evening if you want to make the most of your time, so it’s helpful to have a small bag or backpack with you for items you might need. Water, snacks, and sunscreen are a must. Check the weather before you go to see if you should bring an umbrella or jacket as well.

Wear good walking shoes. A sturdy pair of shoes is helpful since you’ll be walking on the beaches and all around the historic sites. Most visits to more than one of the D-Day beaches will involve over a mile of walking.

Understand the context of the places you’re visiting. You might read about them before you go, or visit with a guide who can tell you more about what you’re seeing, but understanding these somber and sacred sites will enhance your experience. This is an important area that affected world history.

Adding the D-Day beaches to your trip to Paris

D-Day beaches

I hope I’ve convinced you that visiting the D-Day beaches of Normandy is absolutely worth it. Even if your visit is focused on the charms of Paris, if you have a day to spare, get outside the city and explore this important historical area. You’ll be glad you did.