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Normandy 75th Anniversary - Tips and Ideas?


I will be travelling to France for the first time for three weeks in June (June 4-June 23). The first leg of my trip will be spent in Normandy to see D-Day related sites, museums, etc and other festivities for the 75th Anniversary. I'm planning this myself and have read a lot about other people's trips in the Normandy region and the landing beaches, but I have consumed so much information that I'm just getting very overwhelmed and still have no concrete ideas about the best way to do things and I was hoping some people could give me some insight and help with the itinerary. Also, since it is the 75th, I'm sure there are events I'm going to attend that would be different than the 'regular' Normandy trips/sites people do...

Here are my questions so far:
Flying into CDG on June 4th, 10:30am. Overnight flight from Boston. I heard it is a good idea to rent a car for exploring Normandy, as it is rural and there are a lot of memorials, bunkers, relics, sites, etc that having a car will enable you to stop at and explore at your leisure. I also read that it is ill-advised to rent a car immediately after the flight and try to drive. So would it be better for me to take a train from CDG to a city in Normandy and then rent a car in that city? If so, which city would be the best to start in? I guess start from the East and work towards the West?

Would it be an option to base myself out of a centrally located city to the landing beaches and embark and return each day to that city or would it be better to start at one end and make my way through Normandy, staying at a different place each night?

I heard tours are recommended, particularly Overlord Tours. I would be open to dedicating a whole day to a tour. Anyone have an input on the best tours to do?

Also, since it is the 75th, which commemoration event is the main one? The schedule of events for the 75th is many pages long with tons of stuff going on all over the region at like every city. I can't seem to track down which event this might be. For example, I've been to Gettysburg anniversaries before and there is one big event and you can't miss it, it's in Gettysburg, at the battlefields. I realize that the Invasion of Normandy was over a large area, but is there/where is the MAIN event? Along these lines, are there any other events that are planned to be well-attended or considered popular?

Same thing goes for museums, I realize there are lots of museums of many different sizes in many cities, but is there one museum that is the main one for the Invasion? What other museums are popular or have a good collection of artifacts, history, or in general, provide a good experience?

What are the must-see locations and memorials (for ex. American cemetery at Colleville, Point du Hoc, Omaha Beach, etc.)?

There are just so many sites to stop and see, I'm pretty overwhelmed with organizing this. I'm looking to see the major ones and also attended some of the more popular 75th Anniv events.

Thank you for your help!

Posted by
4824 posts

I'm nervous just reading your post. It's going to be very busy and you should probably arrange lodging ASAP. I can recommend Le Mulberry in Arromanches. However, you will probably want a car if you base there. Without a car, from what I heard, your best bet is Bayeux. We did not take any tours. I know Overlord is highly recommended. I highly recommend the small museum in Arromanches, Pointe du hoc, Caen museum, Utah Beach Museum and the American Cemetary. We also went to a couple smaller museums.

We took a train the Chartres and then drove to Normandy the following morning. You could do similar, by going to Rouen or Vernon or take a train to Bayeux and rent a car there.

Posted by
503 posts

The two cities that are most commonly considered as bases for the Normandy landing beaches are Bayeux and Caen, although there are a number of small towns throughout the area. Both have Normandy landing/WWII-related museums. There's a clear marked preference for Bayeux in my experience on the board, I think because of practicality (it's generally closer to most of the beaches, tours like Overlord tend to leave from there), atmosphere (Caen was pretty destroyed in WWII while the historic architecture of Bayeux was virtually untouched as most of the forces were battling in, well, Caen), and other reasons (the Tapestry museum tends to draw visitors).

It's my impression that the Bayeux WWII museum is more highly regarded than the Caen museum -- but there are plenty of reviews online so you can form your own opinion.

I don't mean to be a letdown, but if you have not yet booked accommodation and you plan to stay close to the landing beaches on 6 June, I suspect you will have difficulty finding any kind of reasonably priced and/or available accommodation on that date in the area, as you are unfortunately far from the only person who has had the idea to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy. I would look at hotels or lodging in Bayeux, Caen, or the vicinity and see what their availability is; you may have to consider shifting your schedule around if you don't find anything acceptable.

Similarly, I would contact tour providers straightaway if you have some dates in mind just to check availability. Again, I suspect that many of the tours will already be booked. If that's the case, you should plan or re-schedule accordingly.

A rental car is generally recommended unless you plan to stick exclusively to cities (Bayeux, Caen) and take tours with transportation. If you need an automatic vehicle, your best bet is to rent in larger cities (Paris, Rouen, Caen).

Posted by
3940 posts

Unfortunately I have to agree with Andrew. The 75th Anniversary is a big deal, with many official representatives of the Allied nations attending the main celebrations on June 6th as well as huge numbers of interested visitors. You are very late attempting to find accommodations in the immediate beaches areas, and tickets to the major events are likely long gone; I know for a fact that the Canadian ceremony on Juno beach has a waiting list. Perhaps check to see if there is information about the official American ceremonies on your own Veteran's website.

Car rentals in Bayeux and Caen may already be in short supply for your dates. But try ASAP for one of the rental agencies near the train station In Caen, especially if you will need an automatic. And given the late booking, I'd think you are best to find one fairly central place and stay put if possible, and travel each day to the area you are interested in, rather than trying to find a different hotel for each night. If you are going to book an Overlord tour, that should be done ASAP as well.

Posted by
1629 posts

I’m planning a trip to Normandy in November. We originally planned to fly into a Paris (overnight from US), then take the train to Bayeux and get a rental car. This process seems time consuming: possibly 2 hrs to clear immigration and get bags, 1 hr taxi to Gare St. Lazaro, wait time until train, then 2-3 hr train ride.

The car rental place in Bayeux is small (operates out of a gas station on the outskirts of town), so you’d need to take a taxi from the train station. It has limited hours, so we discovered we wouldn’t get in to town in time. We actually rearranged our trip so Normandy is not our first stop, just due to the logistics of getting there. If you’re planning to see Paris, you might consider spending your time in Paris first, then heading to Normandy later.

Just for kicks, I looked at lodging for 4 nights starting 6/4 in Bayeux on There are normally tons of options, but NOT on your dates. A one bedroom apartment that your could rent for 4 nights in May for $340 is going for $1,395 for 6/4-6/8. Lodging will be a huge challenge, and it will be WAY overpriced during that time. I would seriously consider making Normandy your last stop on your trip instead of your first. It will probably still be VERY crowded, but looking at that same apartment mentioned above, the rate for 6/18-6/22 drops back to $340 and there are TONS of other options.

I imagine it’s like staying in NYC on New Years Eve. If you know what you’re getting into and are willing to pay through the nose for the experience, it will be amazing. But it could be amazing in other ways on other days, too.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you all for the information! I do realize that I'm late to the game for the amount of people who decided that June 2019 would be the time they wanted to visit Normandy - but these are the events that draw people who normally wouldn't make it an immediate priority to try and visit!

I see there are still some lodging options in the region and I will definitely try to rent a vehicle... Since my flight is scheduled to arrive in the AM in Paris, I suppose it would be smart to get started on at least a few things the day I arrive. Like get from CDG to wherever I can find a car (hopefully Caen), then maybe go to the museum in Caen and see the Merville battery. Then head to Bayeux to end the day. I just don't want to waste the day of arrival!

If I would try to operate out of a location, it looks like Bayeux is fairly close to everything from Merville to Pointe du Hoc; but if I can see the stuff near Caen on the first day, I could get even more central if I could find a place near La Cambe (then that would be central from Arromanches to Utah Beach). If not, I suppose it would be reasonable to maybe spend three nights in Bayeux then make my way to the northwest and maybe stay one night inland from Utah Beach to see things around there?

I expect to spend five full days in the Normandy region (half of the day June 4th to half of the day June 9th), with one afternoon/evening being devoted to getting to Mont St Michel, staying overnight, then returning to Paris the next day. MSM is too much to do in a single day from what I see.

Posted by
10681 posts

We will be in Normandy next week and I know what you mean about the planning! I can tell you what guided me in the planning and my decisions.

  1. We like to be car free as much as possible. We will take the train to Bayeux (I would not drive after an overnight flight) and make it our base for 7 nights.
  2. We will use trains to go to Caen for a day.
  3. Taking a D-Day tour with Normandy Sightseeing Tours . We decided on them because it is a small group, only 9 people.
  4. Spending one full day in Bayeux to see the tapestry, museum, etc.
  5. Renting a car for three days in Bayeux and will return it there. Will explore areas the tour does not cover, head out toward Cherbourg along the coast in pursuit of some nature, country walking, non-WWII scenery for one day, Hinfleur for one day, and one day for the Route du Cidre.
  6. Would love to go to Mont St. Michel but also feel it is too much for one day.

Try for lodging. Good source of what might still be available and easier then contacting a dozen places directly.

Good luck and happy travels!

Posted by
24062 posts

I liked the museum in Caen, but it takes a broad look at the subject matter and is extremely large. One could spend all day there. It's not something I'd want to tackle in a sleep-deprived/jetlagged state on my arrival day. It's a fairly expensive ticket, and you'll need a taxi unless you're willing to deal with the not-super-frequent city bus, which is not difficult under normal conditions, but you may well be mentally fog-bound that first day.

I stayed in Caen for several days, using it as a base for public-transportation day-trips to Falaise (good, new, civilians-in-wartime museum that also covers the Resistance), Honfleur, Cabourg and Deauville. As already noted, it's not much of a destination itself aside from the Peace Museum. There are two abbeys that survived the war, the castle, and one very short street quite near the castle that retains some medieval architecture but is now very touristy. Otherwise, Caen is short on charm.

With a rental car you could choose a different base. Bayeux is definitely more attractive as well as a lot more practical for D-Day sites. I highly, highly recommend that you take one of the small-group (van) tours, most of which are run out of Bayeux. A full-day tour with an experienced driver/guide will cover much more ground than you can manage yourself, and you'll be given a lot of background information that will make the experience more meaningful. My US-focused Overlord Tour included the Airborne Museum in St.-Mere-Eglise (if one was willing to pack a lunch or grab a sandwich and wolf it down rather than opting for a sit-down lunch). You could spend an extra day (or more) seeing additional sites and museums in the area on your own. I thought the museum in Bayeux was quite good.

Posted by
7138 posts

I think you had better scramble and get the lodging sorted and then work on the rental car, etc. If you don't have a place to stay, the rest is moot. FYI we had several posters on this forum that started making their reservations for this about 1 year ago. Others had said that they don't feel that this is necessarily the best time to see the D-Day sights since so many of them will have limited access due to special ceremonies taking place. I suppose the limited access is the trade off for the excitement of being there for the anniversary.

Good luck to you. I do suggest a day tour. I learned so much by spending a day with a knowledgable tour guide and I knew quite a bit to start with.

Posted by
64 posts

If you're ever on the road between Bayeux and Caen, spend a thought on S/Sgt Louie Miori who died there on August 1, 1944. He was 26 years old. 12th Inf Regt, 4th Inf Div. I met his brothers, who survived the war. They said he was the funniest guy they ever met. That is a wonderful epitaph.

Posted by
6383 posts

I would normally say that a car is helpful in Normandy, but the anniversary is a special situation. It isn't easy to park at the most important sites on a normal, jammed, Summer day. Many of the access roads are one lane in each direction. I think your plan is not realistic. You have to assume that some events will be limited to dignitaries and certain classes of veterans. You are going to find a lot of closures. Europe is even less devoted to full-public-access than is the U.S. (By that, I'm alluding to the occasional distant-traveler who posts on NYC newsboards about visiting the 9/11 Memorial on September 11. That doesn't happen!)

I don't believe you said if this is your first trip to Europe? It can be difficult to drive a long distance after a night with zero good-quality sleep. A car is very helpful for MSM, but I would expect increased "Beaches" visitors to result in increased traffic to MSM as well. Are you aware that you cannot take a train from CDG to Normandy? You have to switch non-adjacent rail stations in downtown Paris, by taxi or Metro.

Posted by
5697 posts

We have rented cars in Caen twice -- Enterprise and AutoEurope -- good supply of automatics, easy to find across from the train station.

Posted by
922 posts

I'll add to the chorus. I have been to Normandy seven times—six of them for an anniversary (including the 70th anniversary). And I will be there this year participating in several events. But keep in mind, I made my reservation two tears ago, and have been making plans for everything else for many months.

First lodging (as someone else said, without this everything else is moot). In general I would say Bayeux is your best bet. But my guess is all options there have been gone for over a half of a year. You will unfortunately have to broaden your search considerably. I know of people who were only able to find places as far away as St. Lo, and that reservation was made last winter.

Second, a car. You just need one for a multi-day trip to Normandy. No way around it. It is a fairly rural region, and the sights are spread out over a long distance. Best bet is to rent one from Caen, where you can train in and out of the region. I have rented from Bayeux, but it is more of a hassle, and you're in a car anyway. The cities are only 20 minutes apart.

Third tours. I have never taken one, but many people highly recommend them. However for your dates, the point is moot. No decent tour operator has availability for those dates and hasn't for quite some time. Do your homework (i.e., study up and read about the events of the battle) and do your own tour. Besides, you will be there for several days, so you have to find your way around for much of it anyway.

Fourth, museums. There are several good ones (the Utah Beach Museum is my favorite), and several mediocre ones. IMHO, the Caen "Memorial" is a waste of a lot of time and money, and off the beaten path. I would pick a few decent museums to go to for rainy days (Utah Beach, Overlord Museum, Bayeux Museum), but to waste too much precious vacation time in museums when you can see the real thing (or learn the history ahead of time), isn't the best use of limited time.

Lastly the events surrounding the 75th anniversary. Yes, it will be very busy. And some sights and entire regions will be off-limits at certain times, particularly on the 6th itself when many heads of state will be attending. However, Normandy—even those areas particular to D-day—is a huge area. There is always somewhere to go, and something to see. Again, earn the history now, when you aren't ticking valuable vacation time away, and make lists of the many, many sights to see. There still be many sights with few visitors at any given time. If you want to attend commemorative ceremonies, many will be listed by the local tourist boards. But while valuable and memorable, they are somber and time-consuming. Nothing wrong with that, but be aware. Forget about things like the services at the American Cemetery on the 6th itself if you don't already have an invite, or anything attended by heads of state. But many smaller memorial dedications happen in too many places to list. And there are some big events such as fireworks on all of the beaches on the 6th, and two mass parachute drops (and many smaller ones) where there is ample opportunity to watch the events over a large area. Personally, I'll be parachuting into Sanderville (near Caen) from a huge formation of WWII-era planes flying in from England on June 5th.

Hope my info isn't too depressing. If you want to go, you should, and you can. I wouldn't miss it for the world! Just be realistic, and be prepared to make different plans than you might have made for a different time of year.

Posted by
7 posts

Hello everyone and thank you for all the helpful information! Sorry for the long delay in replying, but I read everyone's messages as they were posted.

I will be taking the TVG from Gare St Lazare to Caen and picking up a rental car to travel through Normandy.

I secured lodging and was also able to get a spot on a guided tour on the 8th.

Thank you all for the ideas and tips! I think the Normandy part of my trip is going to be very hectic and subject to constant changes, BUT, the whole catalyst for me going to France this year was the 75th Anniv, so I was determined to be there at this time. Could it be better/easier? Yes. But this will be special to be a part of. Now on to my next questions - Provence [new thread :-) ]...

Posted by
5 posts

Has anyone been to the Brittany American Cemetery in St. James? We will be going on D-Day and need info on parking. How far is St. James from the cemetery?

Posted by
7 posts


On google maps it looks like the Cemetery is only about a mile from Saint James.

Posted by
922 posts

I have been to the Brittany American Cemetery cemetery. It is wonderful, and much less visited than the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-mer. It holds around half the graves as the Normandy cemetery too. Normally there is parking right across the street from the entrance. But I recall it being fairly small, and I'll guess they have remote parking with a shuttle bus to get people there on the 6th. All of these cemeteries are run by the American Battle Monuments Commission, and they have a web page specifically for the ceremonies around the 75th anniversary of D-day:

Plus if you visit their web site, there is a page for each cemetery.