Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial#4 in Best Things To Do in Normandy
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Somewhere around 9,000 soldiers are buried in this Colleville-sur-Mer war cemetery, which overlooks Omaha Beach. Most of these lost their lives during the D-Day invasion. There's also a memorial that gives a narrative of the invasion, as well as a reflecting pool and a chapel. And about 1,500 soldiers who were missing-in-action are remembered on the Walls of the Missing, in a semicircle garden to the east of the memorial.
Recent visitors advised setting aside more time than you think you might need, as there is a lot to take in and you don't want to rush through such a moving place. Several others recommended visiting with a tour company to enjoy a more in-depth understanding of the site's significance. Companies like Normandy Sightseeing Tours, Bayeux Shuttle and Paris City Vision earn high praise from past visitors.
Located near the cemetery is the Normandy Visitors Center, which highlights the D-Day timeline, the French resistance and many stories of the men and women who fought and contributed to the Allied operations. Leave time to go to the theater to watch a short film, "On Their Shoulders." Entrance to the visitor center is also free.
Many Americans who visit Normandy are partial to this cemetery and memorial in particular. You can visit this cemetery daily, from about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 6 p.m., depending on the time of year. The cemetery is located a little more than 15 miles northwest of the main train station in Bayeux. From the train station, the cemetery is best reached by car. Learn more on the cemetery's website.
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#1 D-Day Beaches
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.
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