Planning a trip to Normandy? Then check out our 5 ideas for visiting the D-Day landing beaches: where history meets the duty to remember!

Nearly 75 years ago, the biggest military operation of all time took place: the Allied landings of 1944. The Côté de Nacre, with its beautiful sandy beaches, saw the landing of American, British and French troops from all over the world, who had come to liberate Western Europe. The landscapes, museums, memorials and military cemeteries of this land and its beaches still bear witness to these historic operations. Would you like to relive history and immerse yourself in this impressive and heroic event? In this article, we give you our five ideas for visiting the Normandy D-Day landing beaches.

Walk in the footsteps of the soldiers from all over the world who landed here. Discover their stories and enjoy a solemn moment.

The D-Day landing beaches in a nutshell

On the night of 5 to 6 June 1944, the Allied landings in Normandy were launched. The aim of this vast operation was to create an Allied bridgehead in north-west Europe and thus open up a new front in the west against Nazi Germany. On that day, around a hundred thousand American, British, French, Canadian, Polish, Czech and Australian soldiers landed on the five beaches chosen by the Allied command. These five beaches all had a code name:

  • Utah
  • Omaha
  • Gold
  • Juno
  • Sword

They stretch between Sainte-Mère-Eglise, Bayeux and Cabourg. On that day, and even more so in the days that followed, thousands of soldiers sacrificed their lives in the hope of liberating Europe from the Nazi yoke. To commemorate these men and this titanic operation, the Normandy D-Day landing beaches are now home to a number of memorial sites. Among the unmissable are :

  • La Pointe du Hoc
  • Utah Beach and its D-Day museum
  • Omaha Beach and the American military cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer

🔗 Read Also: Guide to the Caen Memorial: Tickets, Pricing, and Timings

Maps of the D-Day landing beaches

D-Day landing beaches Maps
Explore Historic WWII Sites in Normandy

1. Utah Beach

Utah Beach, the most known D-Day landing beaches

Utah Beach is the first of the Normandy landing beaches from the west. It stretches from Sainte-Marie-du-Mont to Quinéville and is around 5 kilometres long, with the main assault zone at Varreville. This sector was highly strategic for the Allies. Landing on Utah Beach enabled them to quickly seize the port of Cherbourg.

The landing on this beach was certainly the least costly in terms of human lives, with results close to the Allies’ initial objectives. The success of this landing was also due to the paratroopers of the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions who had dropped the night before on the rear of the beach. The operation was featured in the television series Band of Brothers, created by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.

  • At Sainte-Mère-Église, the Airborne Museum pays tribute to the American divisions that distinguished themselves during the parachute drops on 6 June 1944 and the day that followed.
  • On the very spot where the American forces landed on 6 June 1944, you will also find the fascinating Utah Beach Museum. It offers a complete chronological tour of this historic event and the landing on this strategic beach. The star of the museum, and the highlight of the collection, is an authentic B-26 bomber. This aircraft was responsible for the success of the landings. If you’re coming to visit the Normandy landing beaches, don’t miss this museum!

The best way to discover Utah Beach

Soldiers at Utah Beach

To immerse yourself in the atmosphere, we recommend that you start your visit to the Normandy landing beaches with a stop at the Airborne Museum. Obviously, this is the best option if you start your visit from the west. If you’ve started from the beaches to the east, then we think this museum should be at the very end.

You can then drive to the Utah Beach Landing Museum, which is just a 15-minute drive from Sainte-Mère-Église. Visit the museum first, then take the time to stroll along the beach. You’ll be able to remember the events and visualise them better on the actual site.

2. Omaha Beach

military cemetery at Omaha Beach
Military cemetery at Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach is the second most westerly beach. It is also the best known of the Normandy landing beaches. After all, if there was one place where this gigantic operation almost failed, it was on Omaha Beach, in Colleville-sur-Mer! It was here that the Allies suffered the most casualties during the operation. It is therefore nicknamed Bloody Omaha. On the sand of Omaha Beach, in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer to be precise, stands the Statue of the Brave.

At Omaha Beach, you can visit the important Omaha Beach Memorial Museum. You will also find the vast Colleville American Cemetery, inaugurated in 1956 and built in the heart of a 70-hectare area granted by France to the United States. More than 9,000 headstones stand in perfect alignment on a majestic grass esplanade. The emotion is palpable! Behind the cemetery, inland, you can also visit the Overlord Museum, which tells the whole story of the D-Day landings. It also boasts a unique collection of over 10,000 items, including more than 40 vehicles, tanks and cannons.

Omaha Beach one of the most popular Normandy D-Day Landing Beaches

Between Utah and Omaha Beach, you should also visit the Pointe du Hoc. Heavily fortified, the German guns in this position had to be neutralised if the landings on the two beaches were to be successful. It was stormed and captured on the morning of 6 June by Colonel Rudder’s Rangers, at the cost of heavy losses. Today it bears witness to the violence of the fighting.

The best way to discover Omaha Beach

After visiting Utah Beach, head east to Pointe du Hoc along the D913, then the N13 and finally the D514. By car, the journey takes an average of 40 minutes. You can then continue by car via the D514 to Omaha Beach, its museums and cemetery. The journey takes just 10 minutes by car.

To discover Omaha Beach and visit the Normandy landing beaches in a different way, you can also opt for two wonderful walks!

  • The Omaha Beach circuit offers a short wooded loop, starting at the Belambra car park. Follow the yellow markings to the Omaha cemetery car park. From here, you can choose to stop or continue on your way and visit it later, at the end of the walk.
  • In this case, you will have to walk along the car park at the side of the road. Once you reach the roundabout, the service road will take you to a wooded path lined with brambles, before joining a landscape of dunes along the beach. You’ll then start on the trail for the Great American Loop, which is more arduous, but full of striking relics and views. The Omaha cemetery can be reached at the end of this loop via a path that leads back up to the lookout.

3. Gold Beach

Longues-sur-Mer Battery
Longues-sur-Mer Battery

Located at the centre of the landing zone, the Gold Beach sector saw the landing of British forces. At Gold and Juno, the Anglo-Canadian army’s threefold objective was to take Bayeux, block the main Bayeux-Caen axis to all German tanks and link up with the Americans at Port-en-Bessin. Most of these objectives were achieved by the morning of 7 June. Arromanches, immediately to the west of Gold Beach, was transformed into a vast artificial port. The remains of this can still be seen today.

At Gold Beach, if you want to visit the Normandy landing beaches, don’t miss these two museums:

  • The Musée du Débarquement, which looks in detail at the design and construction of the port.
  • You’ll also find Arromanches 360. This circular cinema presents the full story of the Battle of Normandy.

The best way to discover Gold Beach

Arromanches is just 30 minutes from Omaha Beach. You should always follow the D514 road eastwards. On the way, you can stop off at the Longues-sur-Mer Battery. These coastal defences bear witness to the Germans’ impressive fortifications and the harshness of the fighting. However, there are no explanatory panels.

4. Juno Beach

Juno Beach

he Juno Beach sector is the one assigned to the Canadians. On 6 June 1944, 14,000 Canadians and 9,000 British landed on this beach. These troops suffered heavy losses in this sector, due to fierce German resistance, bad weather and bombing raids that were less effective than hoped. Despite some setbacks, the objectives were generally achieved by the following morning.

Today, you can visit the Juno Beach Centre, which presents the Anglo-Canadian landings and the course of operations in the area.

The best way to discover Juno Beach

Juno Beach is located in Courseulles-sur-Mer, as is the museum of the same name. You can reach the town in just 20 minutes by car from Arromanches. You’ll also need to follow the same D514 road eastwards.

5. Sword Beach

Sword Beach

Sword Beach is the most easterly beach. This area is the only one of the five D-Day beaches where French commandos landed. It was here that the N°4 Franco-British Commando landed on Sword Beach on 6 June 1944. This beach is 8 kilometres long, stretching from Ouistreham to Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer.

In this area, we recommend you visit the N°4 Commando Museum, as well as the Atlantic Wall Museum, the Bunker. Both are in Ouistreham.

The best way to discover Sword Beach

We recommend that you reach Ouistreham by car. The town is a 30-minute drive from Courseulles-sur-Mer. You should always follow the same D514 road. Once there, visit the two museums first, then head up Sword Beach at your leisure.

You will then have visited the Normandy D-Day landing beaches in their entirety!

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