I wasn’t sure about a guided D Day tour of the Normandy Beaches because my obsession with the history of the Second World War means I envisioned exploring Normandy on my own. I wanted to wander without a timeline through the area that I had researched, read about, and obsessively watched on Band of Brothers (like 300 times)!
Before I left for France, though, a friend insisted that I take a guided D Day tour of Normandy. I listened, and I’m so glad that I did!
Let’s dive in!
There are a LOT of D Day tours out there, so it can be hard to narrow down the options.
Whether you choose a self-guided tour or a guided tour of the Normandy Beaches and beyond, make sure that you see, at a minimum, the following sites:
You’ll want to start your tour at the Caen Memorial Museum and spend at least half of a day. Many organized tours will include the D Day exhibits at the museum, but I really enjoyed wandering this on my own and recommend that you do the same.
In order to see the Caen Memorial Museum outside of the tour, I took a train from Paris to Caen and joined my guided tour there at the museum after designing my own D Day tour of the exhibits. (This just means I wandered freely for hours!) I actually went back to the museum after the tour as well!
Mind the opening hours on holidays as they can be restrictive. But most days the museum is open from 9 am to 7 pm.
It costs about 20 euros for a full-priced ticket to the Caen Memorial Museum (if you go outside of an organized D Day tour.)
Taking the high ground is an enduring idiom for a damned good reason. That becomes very clear at Pointe du Hoc on your D Day tour of Normandy and its beaches.
“WWII Buff” I claim to be, but I had no idea that the 2nd Ranger Battalion scaled a 100-foot cliff at Pointe Du Hoc to disable the German artillery that was firing on the landings at Omaha and Utah beach.
Standing at the top of those 100-foot cliffs, the highest point between the Utah and Omaha beaches, one cannot physically imagine climbing them at all, let alone against fierce resistance. The 2nd Ranger Battalion started climbing with more than 220 men. Two days later, the damaging German guns were disabled and the highway and German supply lane south of Pointe Du Hoc was cut. But just 90 men of the 2nd Ranger Battalion were left when their relief arrived.
From this clifftop vantage point, it’s impossible not to notice that this view is from the German perspective. Exploring the German fortifications with its barbed wire still intact and the mazes of haphazardly built concrete thruways is surreal.
The ground at Pointe Du Hoc – even to this day – is pockmarked with the evidence of a hailstorm of Allied bombs on this high ground.
Of course, you’ll want to see the beaches of Normandy on your D Day tour.
It is difficult to explain the powerful emotions of standing on that quiet sand and attempting to picture the peaceful waters as they were on D Day. When these same peaceful waters were filled with the unprecedented naval power of the Allied Forces and the blood of those who never made it ashore.
Or to comprehend the courage it must have taken to storm that beach with its fortified hills and to withstand the Hellfire from above.
The guided portion of my D Day tour had only Omaha Beach on the itinerary, but we had Canadians in our group who requested to see Juno Beach. I felt lucky to honor the Canadian lives given that day as well as the American lives (and other Allied soldiers).
If you do take a guided tour, ask to see more than one beach and consider visiting a D Day beach that your countrymen did not land on. It helps to understand the immensity of the action on that day.
The French Government gave the United States a good chunk of high ground overlooking Omaha Beach for the creation of the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. As an American, it was important for me to see this cemetery.
Here you can walk between the meticulously aligned rows of crosses and read the names of those who stormed the beaches, scaled the walls or jumped from planes into enemy territory on the “Day of Days”. It is impossible not to notice that the unprecedented air, land, and sea efforts of D-Day meant the ultimate sacrifice from every corner of America.
The allis manufactured the pieces of two large, artificial ports in Britain to be towed to the Normandy beaches and assembled after the victory of D Day.
You can still the remains of this impressive engineering wonder today. You do get a very good overview of this at the museum as well.
I really enjoyed my guided overnight D Day tour with LinkParis.com. I was able to customize the tour, touring the museum on my own, but still utilizing the train transportation that was coordinated for me, the tour of the D Day sites in Normandy with an excellent guide and driver, and the hotel stay.
The tour was about $500 inclusive of transportation, overnight stay, and guide.
I was really grateful that I wasn’t heading straight back to Paris after my guided D Day tour because I really needed some time to decompress in Caen. But there are some well-rated Normandy day-tour options out there if that’s more your speed.
I’m also very intrigued by Viator’s Band of Brothers D Day Tour!
If you do decide to stay overnight in Normandy outside of an organized D Day tour, check out this map with available accommodations in the area:
I had one of my best meals in France at Le P’tit B, a French/Italian restaurant in a pedestrian-only street in Caen. Maybe it was the great value of the pre-fixe meal or the great, reflective conversation. That’s bound to happen after such an intense day of touring the D Day sites of Normandy.
If you enjoyed this post, please check out my “Never Forget” series about WWII historical sites. You may be interested in this collection of travel and history posts or these tips for traveling through France.