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2 nights in Bayeux for a D-Day Visit


May 2023 we will drive from Lille, France to Bayeux for just 2 nights. We wish that we could work in one more day, but the schedule doesn't allow for it. My husband is reading a few books on the D-Day invasion and is very pleased we are making a little time to visit the region. So much to see and not enough time. We will make the best of it. Thank you for your advice and help in advance!

What stops and visits do you suggest as we drive from Lillie to Bayeux? Villages, beaches and or museums?

Should we hire a guide for the second full day, if so, any recommendations for a company or person?
We've been told..... one beach, one museum and one cemetery. We welcome your advice and recommendations.

We arrive on a Monday, so I need to check if museums, etc. are even open.

Thank you for your help,
Monica and Dennis

Posted by
669 posts

We had a private guide for our first trip to Normandy and found it very worthwhile. Considering the fact that you have a very short window for your trip, attempting to visit it without a guide would be overwhelming and you would miss seeing/learning about many things. The advantage to a private guide, versus a tour is that you are able to personalize your visit a bit, rather than going on a
pre-planned route determined by the tour company. Highly recommend Sylvain Kast. Extremely knowledgeable, personable and excellent communication with him before the tour. One of the finest guides we have ever had on our travels.

Posted by
2672 posts

You can stop in Caen and visit the Caen Memorial Museum (4h 45m from Lille) and Bayeux is another 45 minutes from Caen. You don’t need a guide to visit the beaches and the WWII Normandy Cemetery and Memorial if you have a car.

Posted by
14117 posts

I took a full day tour of D-Day sights with Overlord Tours. One of the best one day tours I've ever taken.

Posted by
13194 posts

I’ve visited twice and had guided tours each time. They do such a wonderful job of laying out the geography ( for instance pointing out where the Germans flooded the area where some of the Airborne divisions had their drop zones), the history of the occupation, how the invasion set up, etc.

I’d recommend spending more time outside where the action took place over museums in this instance. I’d see Utah, Pointe du Hoc and Omaha beaches plus the American cemetery at Omaha. I know many like the museum at Caen but it’s a Peace Museum and not all dedicated to WWII. I liked the smaller museum at Arromanches at the site of the Mulberry Harbor better. If you do choose Caen, be sure to go down into the German bunker on the lower level.

Many recommend Overlord tours. I had one tour with Dale Booth who was exceptional.

On the way between Lille and Bayeux maybe you can work in a stop at Pegasus Bridge.

I also recommend watching the old movie The Longest Day. According to Dale it’s a fairly accurate representation. This is one that has so many of the famous stars from that era including cameos with Richard Burton who apparently begged to be allowed to fly in for a few days filming on a break from filming Cleopatra in Rome with Elizabeth Taylor. As Flight Officer Campbell he has the best line at the end - “ He's dead. I'm crippled. You're lost. Do you suppose it's always like that? I mean war.”.

Posted by
7713 posts

you can do your own tour with your car if you have done your homework or can hire a guide if you have room in your car for one. We had a car for a 5 night side trip to Normandy but still did the Overlord tour of the American beaches and it was excellent. It did include Pont du Hoc and Omaha and Utah as well as the American cemetery and the airborne museum at St. Mere Eglise. We stayed at the Churchill in Bayeux which is a short walk to the Tapestry which we saw the afternoon of the first day as well as the Cathedral and then did the Overlord Tour on the full day. The van stop for that was also near the hotel.

I would not miss Pont du Hoc which I found the most interesting of the landing spots nor would I miss at least one of Utah and Omaha.

Posted by
25514 posts

A full visit to the museum in Caen takes about the whole day. I don't think you have time for that. I'd recommend instead a one-day tour for efficient coverage of a lot of the invasion sites. Depending on how much time you have left, you might consider seeing the modern, smaller museum in Bayeux along with the Bayeux Tapestry, the cathedral and the (smallish) historic district.

Posted by
6160 posts

I'm a fan of the museum in Caen, which is mostly about WWII in Europe as a whole, but it takes a long time, which you really don't have. I suggest a D-Day tour (which I haven't done, but Overlord and Dale Booth get a lot of praise in this forum). Also, try to make some time for the Bayeux Cathedral and nearby Tapestry. Maybe you could visit them late in the day you arrive and/or early in the day you leave. Bayeux is a charming town with good lodging and dining options.

Posted by
1026 posts

Another vote against the "museum" in Caen. There is so much more to see in Normandy, and much better museums if that is what you want to visit. Rouen is a wonderful little city sort of en route to Bayeux, although it is similar in many ways to Bayeux. Lots of half-timbered houses, etc., and a large wonderful cathedral. Unless you need to stop, I would save the time for visiting more places in the D-Day area.

If your husband is reading good books, that will help a lot. The more you know, the more you will appreciate what you see—whether you take a tour or not. I have visited Normandy eight or nine times, and never felt the need for a guide, but others who have taken tours speak highly of them. Because you are from the U.S., you will likely want to concentrate on the U.S. areas of the battle, including Utah and Omaha Beaches, and the airborne areas around Sainte-Mère-Église. Plus, of course, the American Normandy Cemetery, which also overlooks Omaha Beach. The museum at Utah Beach is one of my favorites. Point-du-Hoc is an amazing place to visit, and give you a look over the crater-filled bluff. The river plain at the La Fiére causeway west of SME is a must see for me, and you should really read about this site that the US Army Historian said was "the fiercest battle in the European war." If time allows, there is a little church on the far side of the causeway that is like a shrine for the airborne troopers. likewise, the Church in Angoville-au-Plain near Sainte-Marie-du-Mont was an aid station during June 6th with an amazing story of two medics who treated combatants from both sides, as well as some villagers.

But you would be wise to also visit some other areas where other nations fought. A couple of my favorites are Pegasus Bridge (where the UK Paratroopers had a very daring and successful capture minutes after they dropped), the contemplative Canadian Cemetery in Reviers, and a German cemetery (my favorite is the one in Orglandes, but most people just stop at the more conveniently located one in La Cambe right off the highway). FWIW, that German cemetery in La Cambre holds the remains of twice as many soldiers than the American Normandy Cemetery. Send me a PM if you would like any more info. I'll personally be going back in June 2024 for the 80th anniversary of D-day

Posted by
13194 posts

"the Church in Angoville-au-Plain near Sainte-Marie-du-Mont was an aid station during June 6th with an amazing story of two medics who treated combatants from both sides, as well as some villagers."

Phil, I so agree. That was an extremely poignant visit on Dale's tour. The mayor came to speak to the RS tour group and to thank the Americans for their part in freeing France. He spoke no English but Dale and Rebecca, the RS guide, translated. The Mayor was obviously moved.

Although this description does not mention it, Dale told us that at one point as the battle line shifted over the church a German officer entered the church, looked around and saw the US medics treating everyone equally and asked if they needed any supplies. That just makes me tear up to think about it.

The other thing about a guide is if you had a family member who participated in DDay if you know his military information the guide may be able to tell you where they landed. On my Rick Steves tour one of the group members had an uncle, I think, who landed on Utah. He had the relative's infantry division and Dale was able to point out what part of the beach they landed on. I had asked about one of the Advanced Landing Ground airstrips where a pilot from my Dad's fighter group had landed a couple of days after the invasion and he pointed that out as we went by. Extremely interesting.

Posted by
30 posts

AMAZING! Thank you to everyone for your kind, helpful and generous responses. This forum has never disappointed and we are grateful to each one of you! THANK YOU ALL for taking the time to help us.

Clearly this region is worthy of far more time than we have allotted. In order to maximize the visit we've decided to book a private guide. Thanks to your suggestions we have reached out to a few guides.

This is what one guide sent us last night. The guide tells us that our tour can be tweaked to our liking. We would appreciate your thoughts, honest critics and suggestions based on this initial offer.

1) Utah beach & Omaha beach sectors (US tour n°2): you see the two - very different - landing US beaches/sectors, but there is some consequent driving and it's not possible to spend too much time on each site.

2) Omaha beach & Gold beach sectors: you only see Omaha beach sector - but in great details - and a bit of the British sites. There is far less driving to do and we can afford to spend much more time on Omaha beach, US cemetery and the Pointe du Hoc.

This past weekend we watched the movie "The Longest Day". Incredible heroics and bravery!! Our neighbor was 36, married and had a family when he was called up to serve. His first day of the war experience was D-Day. Max was trained as a medic. Before his death he allowed our then high school-aged son to interview him for a high school project. Max said he didn't talk about that day or the war except to say that he was there to serve his country. Our son was deeply touched and it made an impression on him that has lasted to this day. Such bravery and sincere modesty!

Clearly we need to study up so that we can maximize this short visit. Thank you all for your help and your passion for visiting this sacred region. Very appreciated!

With gratitude.
Monica and Dennis
Illinois, USA

Posted by
9928 posts

It’s too bad you only have one night, allowing for only one full day. Hiring a guide will give you the best experience. We did it on our own with a car our first trip. In October we returned for 4 nights and did a tour with Overlord, which I highly recommend.

We drove from Bayeux to Lille, stopping in Honfleur on the way. We had already seen a lot of the D Day areas between the 7 nights we had spent in the area over two trips. I agree with the suggestion for you to stop at Pegasus Bridge on your travel day. They have a very nice museum and displays. Bayeux has a really good museum as well if you have time for it. I haven’t been to the museum in Caen to compare.

Posted by
7166 posts

Don't miss the Bayeux Tapestry, it is the 900 year old story of the Norman conquest of England.

Posted by
1450 posts

I had already added the Pegasus bridge to my list and now I have added the Angoville- au- Plain Church.
Thanks for the great ideas!

Posted by
1026 posts

As far as your two choices, that is a very tough call. Utah Beach was one of the American Beaches, Gold was the UK. However, Gold Beach has the ruins of the "Mulberry Harbors" quite visible on the beach. These were prefabricated harbors that were towed across the channel so larger ships could offload men and material in the weeks following D-day. There is also a great museum about this part of the battle in Arromanches (which is right where Gold Beach is). There are also a couple of ruins of these harbors at Omaha Beach, but it is better to see the remains at Gold Beach, as well as the ships that were sunk as breakwaters off in the distance of the harbor.

On the other hand, the museum at Utah Beach is one of the best in the area. And if your tour option doesn't include Utah Beach, I would ask if you will at least get to the Airborne areas that were inland from there. The airborne troopers were a huge part of the U.S. participation, and that is were Angoville-au-plain church and the La Fiére causeway are located. Plus the town of Sainte-Mère-Église, its church (from which hangs a dummy of a paratrooper in honor of John Steele who got hung up there on D-day) and the Airborne Museum, which tells the story of the paratroopers. I wouldn't recommend missing that area or that part of your visit at all. This, among others, is a reason why most people recommend more than one full day.

Posted by
10323 posts

We took a tour to the American D-Day beaches and Cemetery. We toured the British and Canadian beaches on our own and they were very interesting too.

Posted by
60 posts

PharmerPhil gave some good suggestions. You will see some German concrete pillboxes at Pont De Hauc. But, try to see the remains of the 85 inch gun turrets that are in the hills above Omaha and Sword beaches. There are 4 or 5 close together, that are a short drive from the beaches. Some are substantially destroyed, while others have the guns nearly intact. You can see how they were positioned for beach protection.

I liked the nearby Pegasus Bridge museum and visited the Ardenne Abbey near Authie (Canadian massacre memorial site).

Posted by
32101 posts

You've received lots of good tips in this thread. With such a very short time frame, it will be important to maximize time at the sights and minimize time travelling between them. That's another value of hiring a local guide.

The five gun emplacements that were mentioned in a previous reply are at Longues sur Mer, and not far from Bayeux. Your guide can probably fit those into the touring route.

I've also toured with Dale and he's an exceptional guide. As you'll have a car, you might also contact Chris Emery - . Like Dale, Chris is also ex-British military.

As mentioned earlier, The Longest Day is a reasonably good representation of the events that took place that day, although not completely accurate. One interesting bit of trivia is that one of the stars in the movie actually took part in the D-Day landings. Richard Todd, who played Major John Howard in the movie, actually fought at Pegasus Bridge.

There's also an excellent museum in Bayeux and of course the famous Tapestry which describes a much earlier battle, if you have time. Another site that you can ask your guide about is the Maisy Battery - .

Prior to your trip, you may be interested in reading D-Day by Antony Beevor. That will give you a good idea about the significance of all the sights you'll be seeing. The book describes the experiences of Major Thomas Dallas, one of the 29th’s battalion commanders and his headquarters staff and that was especially cringe worthy, but to their credit they made the landing despite the circumstances.

As you'll probably want to prioritize the American sites, you may not have time for Pegasus Bridge or any of the Canadian or British sites.

Bon voyage!