Please sign in to post.

World War I Sites

My husband interested in visiting some of the World War I sites. Does anyone know if there are self guided or guided tours that specialize in World War I?

Thanks in advance.

Posted by
12040 posts

I can give you information on specific sites in Belgium. France probably has much more, but I'm not familiar with the sites there.

The largest concentraton of WWI relics sits around the Yrpres salient in West Flanders. Two companies that offer tours of the area are Salient Tours and Quasimodo. To self-tour the area, you will need a car.

There are several sites around Mons. SHAPE occassionally offers "staff rides" for military personel, but I don't know if these are open to the public. I am not aware of any guided tour companies for this area.

Some of the fortresses around Liege remain, but otherwise, Liege isn't a city I would go out of my way to visit.

The Royal Military Museum in Brussels contains a huge collection of material from WWI (and also the interwar period and WWII). Surprisingly, the display doesn't focus soley on Belgium, but has a varied collection from all combatants. It also has the largest collection of pickelhauben (that distinctive spiked helmet of Germany) that I have ever seen.

Finally, nearly every town in France and Belgium seems to have a war monument. Some are small and modest, some like that in Chartres, are huge.

Posted by
283 posts

The best WWI battlefield areas in France are to the east of Paris: Verdun is the center and the biggest battlefield. Two years ago, we stayed for 2 weeks in Floing (near Sedan) on the Belgioum border in a rented gite. Within an easy drive is Verdun, some of the forts used in WWI, the war and peace museum, etc. We filled the two weeks tromping battlefields, finding the town near the Sargent York sight, etc. We even went to Belgium to see the Battle of the Bulge. We use a book by Major and Mrs. Holt. Here is a link to their books at amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_b?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=major+and+mrs+holt

The books are older, but we found the descriptions, tours, etc. very accurate, as they follow roads that are still there and numbered the same. Even their advice about packing a picnic was still spot on.

This year we are doing the western part of that area, staying in Epernay at another gite. (I insisted that there be something for me this time, so I got Champagne.) We plan to do Souisson, Chateau Thierry, etc. I suppose he will also want to return to Verdun.

In Romagne, there is a small museum of battlefield findings. The owner leads tours of the battlefields on Saturday. He and his wife are great resources and speak English. Here is a link to his website:

http://www.worldwar1.nl/romagne/romagne.html

You could also check with the TI in Verdun for tours, as we did this on our own.

One word of advice: if you do this by driving, it is easy. But there are limited bathrooms, etc. We developed the rule on this trip--never pass up a bathroom break when one is available. We always took our lunch, as it was hard to find places to eat. Gas is impossible to get on Sunday, so be sure to gas up on Saturday ahead of time.

Posted by
320 posts

Ann:

Also check out the website of the American Battle Monuments Commission. They have details and locations for American military cemeteries overseas. There are several WWI cemeteries in Europe.

In 1993 on our honeymoon we were just wandering about in our car near the Champagne region when we saw a little sign that said "American Cemetery" - we followed the signs and it was very moving and impressive. Have fun.

Posted by
253 posts

We also have seen the Verdun site. This is big enough and interesting enough to satisfy any curiosities about World War I battlefields and it has enough information to do your own tour of the area. You just need a car.

Posted by
434 posts

There are two outstanding WWI sites near Arras in the Somme area of NE France.

  1. Beaumont Hamel (http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/remembers/sub.cfm?source=memorials/ww1mem/beaumonthamel) is a where the Newfoundlanders fought bravely against the Germans. There is a Visitors Centre as well as a battle ground walk and tour. Well worth the time to have a guided tour. This is one of the only places where you can actually walk through the actual battleground (on a pathway) and see the bomb craters and trenches. Quite amazing and moving to actually see and hear the stories.

  2. Vimy Ridge (http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/remembers/sub.cfm?source=memorials/ww1mem/vimy ) is a WWI mecca for Canadians. This memorial area is about 200 acres in size and has been set aside in memory of the brave soldiers who fought and died there. There is an amazing monument, recently refurbished, Interpretive Centre, and tour of the underground tunnels.

My husband had 3 great uncles who survived fighting in WWI so we spent 2-3 days in the Arras and Albert area viewing the battlefields where they fought. There are also a number of other Commonwealth, European and American monuments, museums and grave sites throughout the Somme. Visitor centers will be very helpful sources of information. You will be overwhelmed by the many grave sites that are scattered throughout the countryside. Some are small, some are massive, but all commemorate the fallen.

Posted by
1821 posts

Several of my travel books for France mention a Verdun site called the Douaumont Ossuary. You might want to include it if you are in the area. To get a feel for this tragedy, you might want to watch the movie "A Very Long Engagement." I don't know if the trenches depicted are part of Verdun or the Somme, but the scope is overwhelming.

Posted by
10344 posts

Douaumont Ossuary (above post): The remains of 130,000 unidentied French and German soldiers killed during the Battle of Verdun are in the Ossuary. The 130,000 unidentified are out of a total of about 230,000 soldiers killed and 700,000 total casualties (dead, missing, and wounded).

Posted by
12040 posts

For the Ypres Salient, yes, if you take one of the bus tours. Quasimodo operates out of Bruges and Salient Tours from Ieper.

Posted by
6 posts

I've looked into touring the Verdun battlefied this summer. The city tourism office has a 4 hour guided tour, so you can do it with out a car, but the tour is in French only. They do have brochures and info in English, so if you have no car, it is an option. It goes from 2-6.

I was going to do it as a day trip from Paris via the TGV at Meuse. Then there is a 30 min bus ride from Meuse TGV to the city of Verdun.

Posted by
977 posts

We are doing a whole day tour next September ('Out in the Somme')with Western Front Tours. It departs from Arras. If you want more information please PM me.

Posted by
2779 posts

Are you looking for battle fields? Or the buildings in Berlin and London where the big shots stayed?