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Which WW2 museums in Normandy?

Hi we will be in Bayeux for 3 nights. I’m an history teacher and I would like to vist 2-3 ww2 museums in the region. We have chosen to skip the memorîal of Caen since it’s too Big and cover too large (we are here for WW2 beaches).

Sel what would be the best to give my teens a good oveview about the ww2 history in Normandy ?

Ouistrihem ? New museum in Arromanches ? Bayeux ?

We all speak french on a daily basis.

Thanks !

Posted by
1028 posts

I think the Bayeux Museum gives a decent overview. Other museums tend to focus in on a particular area, country, or technology, so it may depend on your interests. Here are some I recommend going from West to East:

Azeville Battery—This larger German gun emplacement offers a walking tour inside the bunkers and tunnels. Fascinating look at the life of the German Soldiers working these defenses, and the artillery battles between ships and shore.

Utah Beach Landing Museum—This is my all-time favorite museum in the area and covers this western end of operations, including civilian life in Normandy under occupation, and naval operations off shore. It is inside a German Bunker that was captured on this beach.

Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mère-Église—Covers mostly U.S. Airborne Operations.

Normandy Victory Museum—Covers mostly U.S. operations in between Utah and Omaha beaches, and has a good "virtual reality" exhibit.

Overlord Museum outside of the American Normandy Cemetery—Fantastic collection of all sorts of vehicles used in Normandy.

Musée du Débarquement in Arromanches—I haven't been since they completely remodeled it, but among other things, it covers the artificial harbors that were built and towed into place for off-loading of supplies. The remains of these can be seen right on the beach and off shore outside of the museum.

Arromanches 360° Circular Cinema—great 3D exhibit, and you can walk down the hill to the Arromanches beach and see the artificial harbor remains from this nice, hilltop location.

Juno Beach Center—Concentrates on the Canadian soldiers who landed on this beach.

Musée du Débarquement in Ouistreham. Built into a tall, concrete German artillery observation bunker, gives a good feel for the German defenses in this area.

Memorial Pegasus in Ranville. This covers British Airborne operations, including the heroic capture of the draw bridge over this canal, which was done by crash landing three gliders right at the foot of the bridge. The original drawbridge is on the museum grounds.

Memorial des Civils dans La Guerre in Falaise—This museum is focused on the civilian experience in Normandy.

I am sure I am missing many—some intentionally that I don't think are worth the visit (Caen Memorial and Memorial Museum of Omaha Beach)—and some just because I forgot to mention them. Of course, there are many sights that are not technically museums that are very worthwhile. I do agree with the above comment that you do yourself a favor by learning the big picture history of the Battle for Normandy before going. A couple hours with a good movie or book will pay off in spades, and let you spend more time seeing and understanding the sights, rather than getting a history lesson. Bon Voyage!

Posted by
324 posts

Definitely the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, the museum and 360 theater in Arromanche, and the museum at the American cemetery.

Posted by
972 posts

Juno Beach Centre in Courseulles-sur-Mer is amazing, particularly the tours that take you right down to the beach.

Posted by
404 posts

You have received good advice so far. I will just add one thing we did when we visited in 2017. We attended the flag-lowering ceremony at the end of the day at the American cemetery. (Just google American Cemetery in Normandy). It is very moving and capped our day of self-touring in Normandy. (We had a car and visited one museum and Omaha Beach, and wandered the cemetery reading names of the fallen and saying prayers for them.) We didn't try to see all that there was to see in just one day, but took our time where we were and truly felt the history and humanity of the area. If we had had another day, I would have visited St. Mere Eglise and the German cemetery, to round out my perspective.
By the way, you should definitely try some cider tasting while there. It is quite a treat!

Posted by
9207 posts

We’ve been to most all of them and we thought the Bayeux Museum was the best. We really disliked the Caen Museum, so good call.

Posted by
237 posts

I also liked the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mere-Eglise. Interesting exhibit (I was there in 2018) about things the soldiers carried that made it feel so personal and your students might like walking through the glider and being in a plane that is rocking as flack is exploding around them. So glad students are doing trips like this. Thank-you.

Posted by
26 posts

We were in Bayeux in May and had a full day with a guide from Overlord Tours that was FANTASTIC. As we were interested in the Canadian sites he took us to the Juno Beach museum, but he also took us to see Canada House in Bernieres Sur Mer. Of the two - I have to say for me, standing in front of that house looking out at the ocean knowing it was the spot our soldiers landed on DDay was much more meaningful than the museum, especially with family who were there. It is a private residence so not always possible to get inside. We also visited the museum in Bayeux on our own, which I thought was MUCH better than the Juno Beach museum.

Posted by
649 posts

Just want to say I thought the Caen Peace Museum was amazing....gave great insight into the why's of WW11 and was very thought provoking. We also liked the Bayeaux Museum and walked to the nearby cemetery where both British and German soldiers were buried. Very moving to see the very young ages of the soldiers

Posted by
502 posts

PharmrerPhil, thanks for the detailed reply! Very helpful to me and I’m sure the OP as well.

Posted by
25613 posts

PharmerPhil is our expert on the D-Day invasion area, so I'm relieved that he, too, likes the museum in Bayeux.

One other place I went was the newish miseum in Falaise that focuses on the civilian experience during the war, including Resistance activities.

Posted by
1901 posts

Assume you are Canadian. I have visited the Juno Beach Centre two weeks ago and liked the 45min guided tour to the beach and after it had a short but interesting talk with the guide about a few things I wanted to know. The centre is more about information, so to my opinion for someone with a deeper historical interest in the Canadian part of the campaign worth a visit.

This was my third visit to the D-Day beaches and visited throughout the years the Utah Beach Landing Museum, PharmerPhil desribes so well. Musée de Débarquement in Arromanches, Mémorial de Caen and the museum in Bayeux too. Caen is more about the international political aspects of WW2 in general and didn’t add much to that what all already knew. With some serious reading about this at home not directly a mustsee to my idea. The others are more about the battles themselfs and for me all worthwhile to visit.

Interesting can be visiting smaller museums run by locals and always open to a conversation or they can direct you to places that remain for most under the radar. I know you will limit this trip to the beaches, nevertheless I want to mention the Montormel Memorial east of Falaise where the Battle of Normandy ended August ‘44.

Posted by
404 posts

I would like to add something to try to see while you are in Normandy....the lowering of the flag at day's end in the American Cemetary. It is a very moving ceremony, You can check what time it will be at the Normandy American Cemetary site on We ended our self-driven tour there, then walked around the gravesites paying our respects afterward.
Happy trip!

Posted by
404 posts

Oops! I already posted about the cemetary! My bad! I guyess it really left an impression on me.

Posted by
2037 posts

If the focus is for the teens, I would suggest the 360 Cinema in Arromanches and the Overlord museum.

We also visited the Airborne museum and Utah Beach museum. But the 360 Cinema puts you right in the middle of the landings. And Overlord is a series of “scenes” so to speak, with mannequins and vehicles that make each scenario look so real. It’s like walking through a movie set. Definitely not a lonely piece of equipment with a little plaque describing it.

Posted by
9207 posts

Our favorite by far is the Bayeux WWII museum. Small, not expensive, everything explained well. We really dislike the Caen museum, so good call.

Posted by
39 posts

Your question has me thinking. PharmerPhil has a great list of options. As others have indicated, the best part of the Normandy experience is more tactile, being on Omaha Beach at low tide, climbing into a C47, being inside the bunkers at Pointe du Hoc, standing in the casements at Longues sur Mer, walking through the cemeteries.

For books, I recommend Night Drop for a thorough understanding of the American Airborne battles, for instance. Once you have the context, it makes all the difference to know the significance of what you're looking at. Otherwise it's just a bunch or random places with statues. With context, visiting the sites is much more impactful than the museums to me, especially the ones that focus on the campaigns.

The best experiential museum to me is SME Airborne. Merville Battery and Pegasus Bridge are very good. Movie at Juno is excellent, and I like the audio histories there. WN60 and WN62 are great. Others mentioned above too.