June 6, 1944 is one of the great dates in history. After several years of war and Nazi occupation, Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy to liberate Europe. It was the largest airborne and amphibious operation of all time. This landing was followed by the Battle of Normandy throughout the summer of 1944. It was an event that had a profound effect on the region. During your camping holiday in Normandy, you will have the opportunity to discover the many places of memory linked to D-Day.
The landing beaches
The American sector
Their names are familiar to us. The two best known beaches are those in the American sector. UTAH AND OMAHA BEACHES were made popular to us by the cinema. Omaha Beach in particular has left its mark on the popular imagination. This beach, which stretches from Vierville-sur-Mer to Colleville-sur-Mer, saw some of the deadliest battles and it was not long before the assault failed. In the Omaha Beach sector, Pointe du Hoc was also the scene of a spectacular operation. The 2nd Ranger Battalion was tasked with climbing a 30-metre-high cliff to destroy a German battery. It is undoubtedly one of the best preserved landing sites today. The site can be visited along a path that winds its way through shell holes and bunkers. The Colleville-sur-Mer cemetery, where 9387 American soldiers are buried, bears witness to the violence of the fighting. Indeed, 10,600 allied soldiers died on the beaches during the landing. A terrible toll, but still lower than the allied staff who feared higher losses. The beach of Omaha itself has preserved few traces of the landings, but it remains an important place of memory. However, its surroundings are rich in sites to visit such as the Overlord Museum and the Omaha Beach Memorial Museum.
The British sector
Gold Beach is located in the British sector. This is where the 50th British division landed before retaking Bayeux and Arromanches. The capture of Arromanches was very important because the town had to house an artificial harbour to unload vehicles, supplies and soldiers while waiting for the main continental ports to be recaptured. During the 100 days following the landing, 400,000 soldiers and 500,000 vehicles passed through the Port Winston of Arromanches. British soldiers were also in charge of the Sword Beach area, the most easterly area on the Normandy front. It is here that the famous Bénouville Bridge, renamed Pegasus Bridge during the landings, is located. Its strategic position made it a major target to prevent the German counter-attack. Its capture was entrusted to the English paratroopers.
The Canadian sector
Juno Beach is an area stretching from Bernières-sur-Mer to Courseulles-sur-Mer. Canadian troops were in charge of taking this area back from the German troops.
Museums and places of memory
There are many museums and places of remembrance or commemoration around the beaches of Calvados or La Manche. Many of them are worthy of interest. However, if you have to limit your visit to just a few of these sites, here are some of the ones we recommend during your camping holiday in Normandy.
If you have to sum up your stay in Normandy in just one visit, the Caen Memorial should be it. This memorial was at its creation dedicated to the Battle of Normandy. Over the years, its theme has evolved somewhat and it has become an interpretation centre on world peace. It now focuses on historical periods such as the Cold War or the creation of the European Union. However, the Battle of Normandy remains one of the main themes of the Memorial. With an intelligent museography rich in films you will learn all about the landing and the ensuing battle. It is an exciting visit that will appeal to parents and children alike. This museum, which ranks among the most visited in the Province with more than 400,000 admissions per year, also houses a former German bunker in its basement. The Caen Memorial also organises excursions to the sites of the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy.
The Caen Memorial is a very popular museum, it is advisable to book your ticket in advance: https://billetterie.memorial-caen.fr. Especially if you are coming to Normandy for the ceremonies on 6th June. Count 19.80 € per person at the full rate. The rate may seem high but the visit can keep you busy all day if you want to do it thoroughly!
D-Day Experience in Carentan
The highlight of the D-Day Experience visit is the D-Day Tour which looks back at the landing of the American paratroopers, the immersive journey which takes you back to a 1944 Channel crossing aboard a C-47. Here you are in the shoes of a parachutist on his way to Normandy. As the plane vibrates to the rhythm of the engines, you discover through the portholes the armada of boats on their way to the continent.
Price: from 13 to 19€ at full price.
360 Arromanches cinema
As mentioned above, Arromanches played a central role in the landing and the Battle of Normandy. This artificial port “Mulberry B” indeed saw the majority of the allied troops march past during the first days after D-Day, until the capture of the port of Cherbourg. Not surprisingly, Arromanches is home to some of the most important sites, including the circular Arromanches 360 cinema. This cinema, composed of 9 circular screens, immerses you in the battles of the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy.
Full price: 6.5€. A joint ticket between Cinéma 360 Arromanches, the Caen Memorial and the Falaise Memorial is available for 28€.
Utah Beach Landing Museum
Utah Beach was one of the key places of the landing. And yet… Originally the boats were supposed to arrive two kilometres away. A fortunate mistake because Utah Beach was poorly defended and the losses were low compared to the neighbouring beaches. A museum, the Utah Beach Landing Museum, retraces the landing in 10 key stages. You will have the opportunity to admire an authentic B-26 bomber.
Full price: 8€.
Sainte-Mère Eglise and the Airborne Museum
Sainte-Mère-Eglise was the first town liberated by the allied troops. This earned it an international reputation as well as the scene of the parachutist in the film The Longest Day. A parachutist was suspended all night long from the bell tower of the church in the small Norman town. A statue on the roof of the church commemorates this event. Many people limit their visit to Sainte-Mère-Eglise to a photo of this bell tower. This is a pity because the Airborne Museum is also worth a visit. This museum goes back to the parachuting operation that preceded the landing. On the night of June 5-6, 6000 parachutists were dropped into the Normandy hinterland to prepare for the arrival of the Allied troops.
Part of the museum is closed for renovation until April 2021. Full price during this period: 8€. The price will change when the building is reopened.
There are many other sites to visit around Caen and Bayeux if you have the time. All the more so as several packages allow you to take tickets that open the doors of several museums. Full-day or half-day tours from Caen or Bayeux also allow you to discover the highlights of D-Day in the company of qualified guides. If you are interested in the Second World War from afar, one or two days will be enough to discover the most emblematic places of D-Day. On the other hand, if you are passionate about the subject, plan a camping holiday in Normandy for at least 4 or 5 days, as there is so much to do and visit on the Calavdos and Channel coastline. For more details on visits and activities related to D-Day, do not hesitate to connect to the Normandie Tourisme website, where you will find a lot of information to organise your stay in Normandy.
Every year, on 6 June as well as a few days before and after this date, a multitude of events take place on the coasts of the English Channel and Calvados. At every street corner of Sainte-Mère-Eglise or on the beaches of Utah or Omaha Beach, you will come across WWII enthusiasts in period military costumes and Willys Jeeps, the true emblem of the American arrival in Normandy. Numerous gatherings are organised around the main D-Day sites. Some commemorate the sacrifice of thousands of young people and are full of emotion. Others, on the other hand, remember the joy of a France that was celebrating its liberation. For example, balls are held here and there to the sound of Glenn Miller and the American Big Bands. Fireworks or parachute jumps are also on the programme for these few days. Find the programme of festivities on the Normandy tourism website or on https://www.ddayfestival.com. The 2020 events had been partly cancelled due to Covid. So everyone hopes that the 2021 edition can take place as usual. Keep yourself informed.
The week of 6th June is a week during which the campsites in La Manche and Calvados are very busy. So remember to reserve your place for your camping holiday in Normandy during this period.
Our campsites in Normandy near the D-Day sites
A selection of campsites for tents, caravans and motorhomes in the Manche and Calvados regions close to the landing sites.