The Ultimate D-Day Road Trip

Normandy is best known for June 6, 1944– D-Day, or Jour-J en français, also known as the day the Allied troops (Canadian, British, and American) stormed the beaches and overtook Nazi Germany occupation. Essentially, this event was the turning point of the war, which eventually resulted in an Allied-victory.

Normandy is why I first fell in love with France. It’s rustic-beautiful, it’s entrenched in history, and the mix of flying American flags as well as all things French makes me feel like I’m living in the best of both worlds, merging two identities. Perhaps why it’s one of my all-time favorite regions in France.

Unfortunately, Normandy is a bit isolated, so the best way to see all the D-Day sights is by car.  You should give yourself a full day to see the essentials, including Caen, Arromanches, the American Cemetery and Omaha Beach, and Pont-du-Hoc. If you have a few extra days, I highly recommend taking one to check out Mont Saint Michel, another to do Etretat and Honfleur, and a third for Bayeux. My friend and I took two days over this past Christmas break to see the essentials.

D-Day Essentials Include:

  • Le Mémorial de Caen: The Mémorial de Caen is a museum and war memorial in Caen, commemorating the causes; courses of conflict, and liberation of France during World War II. There are also three memorial gardens, The American Garden, The British Garden and the Canadian Garden, all dedicated to the main allied nations who liberated France. The student price for this museum is 16 euros; it is extremely well done and well worth the visit. Plan on spending at least two hours inside.
  • Arromanches: Once you have checked out the Mémorial, head towards the coast, with Arromanches as your first stop. Arromanches is remembered as the location where first a temporary harbor and then later an artificial port was installed, allowing of 9,000 tons of material to be imported per day. Today, you can see what is left from the ports along the seaside. The 360-degree cinema in Arromanches is also currently showing a 20-minute video entitled Normandy’s 100 Days. For 4 euros, you can enjoy the spectacular film on 9 screens, and learn about the terrible Battle of Normandy.This film is extremely moving, and pays tribute to soldiers and civilians who were killed during battle. There is also a small museum.

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  • American Cemetery/Omaha Beach: From Arromanches, continue west to the American Cemetery, located just above Omaha Beach, the bloodiest of all the beaches, in Colleville-sur-Mer. Entrance to the cemetery is free, and walking along the grounds is a very humbling experience. Interestingly enough, the American Cemetery is actually considered to be US soil. It covers 172.5 acres, holds the remains of 9,387 American soldiers, and memorializes 1,557 men on the Walls of the Missing, a semicircular garden on the east side of the memorial, rosettes inscribed alongside the names of those who have since been recovered and identified. You can also take the path down to the actual beach, as well as check out the newly-added information center, with a really great, informative museum downstairs.

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  • Pont du Hoc: The last stop on your Normandy tour should be Pont du Hoc, located another 4 miles (6.4 km) west of the American Cemetery. Pont du Hoc is the highest point between Utah Beach and Omaha Beach, and during the war, the Germans highly secured and fortified the area with concrete bunkers and gun pits. On D-Day, the US Army captured Pont du Hoc via scaling the cliffs. Today, you can admire the spectacular views and explore the bunkers on foot. The remains are actually incredible.

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If you have any extra time in Normandy, I highly recommend:

  • Bayeux, where you can see the oldest tapestry in the world.
  • Etretat, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to!
  • Honfleur, a great, little, ancient port city!
  • Mont Saint Michel, because it’s Mont Saint Michel.

Do you recommend any other Normandy hot spots? Do you love Normandy as much as I do?

Bisous,

Dana

7 thoughts on “The Ultimate D-Day Road Trip

  1. Hello Dana !
    I came here to see whether you had anything on Normandy or not, and voilà! A post on a road trip!

    I must admit, I came here in search of help! You see, next week, I plan to rent a car along with two Spanish assistants and drive around. I’ve checked hostelworld and booking.com for hostels but those sites came up with either nothing or costly hotels. I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about at this time but I was wondering if it’s a good idea to just drive and wherever we end up for the night, look for a room there?

    We don’t have a concrete itinerary yet but we plan to rent the car for about 5-6 days so there’ll be no rush trying to get from place to place. I’m looking forward to this trip because I love road trips and have been wanting to take one. Anyway, I hope your semester is going well! Thank you so much for your time!

    Krystal

    1. I would stay in either Caen or Bayeux: try those cities as they’re a bit bigger, or check out AirBnB and rent a private room!

      Otherwise have a great trip; I love Normandy!

  2. I’ve only ever been to Normandy once. We went to Etretat, because J’s cousin used to live there so we visited with him and his family. So so beautiful! They were all surfers as apparently, it’s a good spot for surfing. We also took a daytrip to Fecamp.

    Need to visit the D-Day beaches! It’s been on my list for ages (my grandfather was over here during WWII), but I haven’t yet had the time.

    1. I feel like Etretat is literally one of my all-time favorite places in France! We should go hiking there this spring, it’s not so far from here!! You definitely need to get to Normandy beaches! Definitely a humble experience!
      I’ll have to check out Fecamp.

      1. We didn’t check out Fecamp too much as it was a lousy day… visited a beach and where they make Benedictine (you can try some Saturday if you’d like).

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