At about 250 km north-west from Paris, walking on the coast of Normandy, we came across 5 legendary beaches, visited every year by many tourists, especially Americans. From East to West, facing the English Channel, they are: Sword Beach, Juno Beach , Gold Beach, Omaha Beach and Utah Beach. These places bear the mark of WWII and give everyone an important history lesson.
How to get to the historical beaches from Normandy
You can get here by car, from Paris or Caen, or by bus from Caen. I would say that the best solution is to rent a car, because this way you can get directly to the beach with less time lost. However public bus lines and private companies in Caen will take you to most of the D-Day sites, offering battlefield tours.
Things to know about the Normady beaches
Not a big fan of history ?!. Well here is a short explanation of what happened there. These sandy beaches were on 6 june 1944 the place where thousands of American men (and not only) fought and gave their life for liberty in World War II. On that day, called D-day , Allied Forces (America, Canada ,Britain and France) attacked the German army, who had invaded France.
After a long time of waiting for the perfect moment and place for the the battle, the Allied Forces decided to surprise the Germans and landed on these 5 beaches, occupied by the German Army. But things didn’t go according to their plans and many allied soldiers were killed, thanks to the poor planning of the attacks. The areas were divided like this:
Utah and Omaha Beach – American sectors.
Gold and Sword Beach – British sectors
Juno Beach – Canadian sectors.
The exact number of people killed on these landing beaches will probably never be known. Omaha Beach, was the bloodiest of these areas, with around 4,700 USA casualties.Still at the end of the day the operation was declared successful.
If you want to get a visual idea of the D- day, see the American movie “Saving Private Ryan”. Even though just a few scenes from the movie were filmed in Normandy, you will get the idea.
Normandy beaches – things to see today
Today the 5 beaches are just peaceful places, where groups of people come to walk and remember the day of 6 june 1944.
As you walk, indicators, memorials and war monuments help you imagine the areas where the battles took place .
National Guard Monument at Omaha Beach in France
Omaha Beach sectors indicator
Almost every beach has a war museum (containing photos, films, military uniforms and guns) telling the story of the invasion and liberation: Omaha Museum and Big Red One Assault Museum at Omaha beach, Sainte Marie du Mont Museum at Utah Beach, the Gold Beach Museum located in the town of Ver Sur Mer in Normandy.
At Omaha Beach(the sector with the most monuments), from place to place you can see the hills( bunkers) where the German army stood and the Normandy American Cemetery. This cemetery of 70 hectares has around 9400 American tombs, that are is now in the care of the French families living in that area.
View of the German fortifications at Omaha Beach
If you decide to visit the north of France, put Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah Beach on your ” to see” list.
Other things in Normandy that might interest you:
- A walk along the beaches in Normandy
- Visit to Monet's House and Gardens
- Spring weather in France
- Mont Saint Michel – a Normandy Attraction