D-Day Beaches#1 in Best Things To Do in Normandy
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World War II's successful Operation Overlord took place on the coast of France. Although there were heavy Allied casualties, this invasion turned the tide in the war and helped lead to the fall of Nazi Germany. Today this piece of coastline, which includes Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah beaches, is collectively known as the D-Day Beaches.
Visitors can tour the approximately 50-mile stretch of sand and pop by a number of museums, memorials and cemeteries that are spread out alongside the coastline either with a tour or on their own. If you're driving yourself, start in the town of Arromanches, which hosts two museums that help provide context for the battle sites. The American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer and the Pointe-du-Hoc bomb craters are also especially moving. If you'd rather let someone else do the driving, recent visitors recommend going with a tour guide to fully appreciate the area's historic importance and receive a comprehensive overview. If you're visiting in June, you'll likely come across several ceremonies and reenactment groups commemorating the anniversary. Thanks to Normandy's unpredictable weather, you'll want to dress in layers (no matter the time of your visit) and bring rain gear, according to past visitors.
Three of the more popular traveler-recommended tour companies include Overlord Tours, Bayeux Shuttle and Normandy Sightseeing Tours. Public buses are also an option, though not as convenient as having your own set of wheels. Bus Verts du Calvados operates several routes that depart from Bayeux, including the No. 74 and No. 70. The beaches are free to visit, but you'll have to pay to gain access to the museums. For more information about the beaches and D-Day memorials and museums, visit the Normandy Tourism website.
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#2 Mont Saint-Michel Abbey (Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel)
Surrounded by sea in the high tide and sand in low, Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel is one of France's most-toured sites outside of the popular Parisian landmarks. It's also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its first incarnation was raised on the 264-foot-high rock beginning in the 10th century, but additions were added well into the 19th century. Today, you can tour the abbey and the little village at its base, as well as several museums. Tours are offered year-round, but you can also traipse the massive structure on your own.
Guided tours – which are included in the cost of admission – do not require advance booking and are offered in French and English year-round. Tours are also offered in German, Italian and Spanish in July and August.
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