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Normandy Trip During D-Day Celebrations


I'm in the very early stages of planning a trip to Normandy June 2018. Hubby and I would like to spend the week in Normandy during the D-Day celebrations. Has anyone been there during that time? I'd like to hear what your experiences were, did you enjoy your time there? This is a once in a lifetime trip for my husband, he loves WWII history! So any advise to help me get started would be great!
We plan so far to stay in Bayeux and rent a car.

Thanks you all for your help!

Posted by
851 posts

Congratulations on what will hopefully be a great trip. I have visited Normandy several times, including four D-day anniversaries. First, book a place to stay ASAP! Anywhere close to the events surrounding the commemoration on the anniversary will book quickly (or were booked a year ago). Most of the best ones are already full. Plan a home base and definitely have a car. This area is too spread out to do any other way. Bayeux is a great little medieval city that wasn't destroyed in the war (unlike many others), and has lots of restaurants and hotels. However, I typically spend time on the Western edge of the area in Ste.-Mère-Église (see below). Second (and your husband has probably already done this), learn as much history surrounding the events as you can. Knowing what happened and where will help you pick places to go and things to see—and will help you appreciate things you see even more. The D-day "invasion" area is huge. From Utah Beach to Sword Beach is 45 miles as the crow flies. But you won't be able to fly. And the beaches are all a 15–20 minute drive from the main highway connecting them. A week is great! Too many people try to do this trip in a day or two, and in my humble opinion, that is way too short. Decide what you want to see, and make time for all the little things you didn't anticipate. If you are American, the American area was Omaha Beach and Utah Beach. And the American Airborne area was inland from Utah Beach centered around Sainte-Mère-Église. This town is particularly festive during the anniversary. The American Military is there celebrating in force, and much of the celebration culminates in this town, including a huge military parachute drop on the fields outside of town—this year on Sunday, June 4th. Lots of museums, lots of memorials, lots of hidden surprises on the sides of the road that you would never see if you tried to do a day or two there. Short list for anyone: American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-mer, Pointe-du-Hoc, Battery at Longues-sur-Mer, artificial harbor at Arromanches, Sainte-Mère-Église Airborne Museum and definitely the church square, Utah Beach Museum (the best), walking and contemplating Omaha Bach, The Azeville Battery, Pegasus Bridge (British). Sorry, but I could ramble endlessly. Find me on Facebook and PM me if you want more info.

Posted by
31737 posts


If you're going to be in Normandy for several days on either side of the anniversary date, you may have an opportunity to take one of the excellent local tours. Many of the tour firms close on the anniversary, so that their guides can attend the ceremonies, but they should be open on either side of the anniversary date.

As your husband "loves WWII history", a tour with an expert and knowledgeable guide will provide a much more interesting and memorable look at the history, as well as an opportunity to get to specific sights based on your area of interest. The guides know the area well and can get between sights in the minimum time possible, so it's a more efficient way to get around as opposed to wandering about in a rental car in an area you're not familiar with. Some of the tour firms have excursions based on "themes" such as Band of Brothers or whatever, and they have facts not written in any history books because they've travelled with veterans who were actually there.

If you do decide to take a tour, I'd recommend booking well in advance! Bayeux makes a great "home base" for that area, and that's also where many of the tours depart from. There's also an excellent WWII Museum there, as well as the famous Tapestry which describes a much earlier battle.

Posted by
143 posts

We have found a wonderful gite just 5 mins from the Am cemetery at Colleville---very friendly owners and reasonable prices. PM me if you're interested.

Posted by
190 posts

Thanks so much for the information guys! This gives me a start in planning!

Ken yes we plan on taking a tour of some kind. I gave my husband of list of different tours I found on this forum. I'll let him choose as this is his trip.

PharmerPhil I sent you a PM I forgot to mention if you could send more info my way it would be appreciated.

I'll also need car rental information if any of you have? Where would you recommend picking up a car? If this is at the beginning of our trip I don't think I'd want to pick up a car at CDG airport I think we'd be to tired to drive. I'd like to take the train to Bayeux anywhere along the way we could pick up a car? Or the next day? Thanks.

Posted by
1791 posts

I visited Normandy June 6th, 2012 and there were a lot of celebrations going on and made the experience more special if I had done it at another time of the year. It still is a gathering of veterans as far it is possible seen their age and a good opportunity to hear their stories. Convinced you will have a rememberable experience attending the commemorations.

Not picking up the car at CDG after a long flight is a wise decision. Most do it in the area or closer to Paris if you want to see the more eastern part of Normandy on the way to the D-Day beaches for visiting Honfleur and also to see the half timbered houses you can find there. Had no problem with finding a B&B in the countryside just north of Bayeux.

Posted by
13660 posts

"he loves WW2 history." From which perspective pertaining to the war history itself? Presumably, D-Day and Normandy rank top priority on his list? I would heartily suggest that he concentrate on the literature that covers Normandy, both operational and strategic history, Focus on the various perspectives on D-Day and Normandy, be they the US, British, Canadian, German.

Posted by
509 posts

Hi Wendy,

"... I don't think I'd want to pick up a car at CDG airport I think we'd be too tired to drive."

That's sensible, however: If your schedule permits spending Night 1 at/near CDG, the rental car may be an option. Upon arrival at CDG in May 2016, we checked into a hotel (Marriott) at Roissey-en-France (virtually adjacent to CDG); napped; figured out our SIM card; picked up rental car; had an early dinner. The next morning we were reasonably well-rested and had a pleasant drive to Bayeux (including a stop at Giverny for the Monet gardens, etc..) We suspected we were saving rental costs (as well as rail) by both picking up and returning the car to CDG at the end of our non-Paris wandering. (All that said, we booked a private guide for our D-Day tour and were glad we did as navigation and parking on our own would have been a challenge -- and this wasn't during the June celebration.) We can send recommendations on our guide and a nice VRBO apartment in Bayeux if you wish to send a PM. Our guide picked us up, and returned us, to our front door.

Posted by
10344 posts

I was there once during the anniversary week. On the actual day, the area was sealed off by the police because heads of state were there. You couldn't get close to the area. The day before was fine, but the day of, it was a definite no go area.

Posted by
2031 posts

With the disclaimer that I have not personally taken this tour (visiting the area is on my husband's list), I thought I remembered a National Geographic expedition that visits during the anniversary day, and sure enough I remembered correctly:

Sometimes it is fun to travel with others that have the same interests, but the tour might also be filled for next'd have to inquire. But, if nothing else, it gives you a glimpse at what the tour visits and where it stays, and it is not inexpensive.

We traveled with National Geographic before and give them high marks (as we also do Rick Steves and Tauck).