We will honour them on the beaches: As the 80th anniversary of D-Day approaches, here is your indispensable guide to visiting the battlefields of Normandy and paying homage to the fallen

Not since those ceramic poppies at the Tower of London have I seen a public artwork which makes such a powerful point in such an evocative setting: 1,475 life-size silhouettes, one for every British serviceman who died on D-Day, overlooking the scene of some of the fiercest action.

Free of charge, it is just one of so many stirring sights which will be receiving a great deal of attention in the coming days.

The 80th anniversary of D-Day will draw world leaders and veterans back to the beaches where the fate of Europe hung in the balance on the early hours of June 6, 1944. More than 150,000 British, American and Canadian servicemen were the spearhead of an assault which led to the liberation of France, followed by the liberation of Europe less than a year later.

Avoid visiting on the actual anniversary, given all the security. However, at any other time, Normandy’s D-Day trail makes for a magnificent trip – or even a stopover en route to the continent.

You won’t see everything – the Normandy landings spanned 50 miles of coast and the three-month Battle of Normandy raged for miles inland. So here are some suggestions for a two-day itinerary.

Normandy’s D-Day trail makes for a magnificent trip. Here are some suggestions for a two-day itinerary 


Take a cabin on the overnight Brittany Ferries crossing from Portsmouth to Caen. That way, you arrive at dawn near the spot where so many British troops came ashore on D-Day – Sword Beach. Grab breakfast in a café in Ouistreham.

Hillman Fortress, Colleville-Montgomery

Before the museums open, take a short trip to see what lay in store for the troops before their feet were dry. On open land, this German bunker complex has not changed since 1944 when the Suffolk Regiment fought a fierce battle to seize control of an enemy vantage point between Sword Beach and the city of Caen. It was one of the toughest challenges on D-Day itself. There is no entry charge. In the summer months, local volunteers are on hand to unlock the hefty steel doors and offer guided tours.

See the ‘Hillman Fortified Site’ page at caenlamer-tourisme.com.

Memorial Pegasus, Ranville

Sacrifice: Pegasus Bridge, a lifting bridge over the Caen ship canal, which was liberated early on D-Day

Sacrifice: Pegasus Bridge, a lifting bridge over the Caen ship canal, which was liberated early on D-Day

A ten-minute drive brings you to one of the must-see landmarks. D-Day was not just about ‘the beaches’. Before the first landing craft had come ashore, thousands of airborne troops were dropped inland to seize key positions.

The Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, led by Major John Howard, landed in gliders to capture two key bridges. The first, a lifting bridge over the Caen ship canal, became the first piece of France to be liberated, henceforth renamed Pegasus Bridge after the flying horse insignia of the 6th Airborne Division.

After it was replaced in 1994, the steel bridge was dumped in a field until it was rescued to form the majestic centrepiece of this wonderful museum (£7.60 for adults and £4.70 for children). Honouring all Britain’s airborne forces, it has plenty of hardware (for adults and children alike).

There is a full-size replica of the famous Horsa glider plus vehicles, guns and – new this summer – a Bren gun carrier immaculately restored by a grateful Frenchman. Also spotless is an original Bailey bridge, newly repainted by a team of retired Royal Engineers who turned up with pots and brushes. A short walk across the canal takes you to the Café Gondree, still owned by Arlette, the little girl who welcomed Major Howard and his men that night in 1944.

Visit musee.memorial-pegasus.com

D-Day Wings Museum, Carpiquet

Just off the ring road around Caen, you will find an impressive collection of D-Day aircraft in a huge hangar next to the city’s Carpiquet Airport (£7.60/£6). A hands-on venue, it allows visitors inside cockpits. Take a spin at the helm of a Bofors anti-aircraft gun, too.

Visit ddaywingsmuseum.com

Juno Beach Centre, Courseulles-sur-Mer

Liberated: British troops at Juno Beach on D-Day. Built into the sand is the gleaming Juno Beach Centre (£7.25 entry), which tells the story of the troops that landed there

Liberated: British troops at Juno Beach on D-Day. Built into the sand is the gleaming Juno Beach Centre (£7.25 entry), which tells the story of the troops that landed there

Head back to the coast at Courseulles, codenamed Juno Beach. This was the main sector for the gallant Canadians who, by the end of D-Day, had fought their way further inland than any other Allied division. All volunteers, there were 5,500 of them who never came home.

Built into the sand, the gleaming Juno Beach Centre (£7.25 entry) tells their story with stirring audio-visual exhibits.

Take the guided tour of the well-preserved German bunker in the dunes and imagine what it must have been like waking up to see the full might of the Allied war machine coming up the beach. 

Visit junobeach.org

The British Normandy Memorial, Ver sur Mer

Robert Hardman at the Standing With Giants memorial to British servicemen

Robert Hardman at the Standing With Giants memorial to British servicemen

If you only visit one place, then come to this beautiful 44-acre site overlooking the central sector which the British codenamed Gold Beach. It was only opened in 2021 following a long campaign by the veterans, with the support of the Daily Mail, and is now a permanent tribute to all 22,440 British servicemen – and two women – who gave their lives during the Normandy campaign.

It is a great spot from which to get your bearings since it is right in the middle of the Allied landing zones. Just off the coast, you see the remains of the mighty Mulberry harbour, the ingenious portable docks that kept the invasion forces resupplied.

Immediately below a herd of Normandy cows, you see the spot where Stan Hollis of the Green Howards landed, before winning the only Victoria Cross awarded on D-Day itself. Drive five minutes up the road to Crepon and see where it happened.

What makes a visit so special this year is the installation of ‘Standing With Giants’, the 1,475 life-size silhouettes. As of June 6, there will also be the brand new Winston Churchill visitor centre and café for a well-earned cup of tea. For a few pounds, you can sponsor a plaque in the name of a loved one.

Visit britishnormandymemorial.org


The ancient cathedral city of Bayeux (which was spared bombardment) is a perfect stopover between the British and U.S. sectors.


Bayeux Commonwealth Cemetery and Battle of Normandy Museum

The largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in Normandy, with 4,648 men buried here and with a memorial opposite to a further 1,800 of the missing. The adjacent museum provides a good overview. If time permits the next day, go further back in time and visit the Bayeux Tapestry.

Explore at cwgc.org, bayeuxmuseum.com

Arromanches Museum

Arromanches is where the Allies built the huge Mulberry harbour, having towed giant concrete caissons across the Channel

Arromanches is where the Allies built the huge Mulberry harbour, having towed giant concrete caissons across the Channel

Seven miles north of Bayeux, the seaside town of Arromanches has been adopted by British veterans as a home from home. Union flags fly everywhere and restaurants serve ‘le fish and chips’.

This is where the Allies built the huge Mulberry harbour, having towed giant concrete caissons across the Channel. By July, it was landing up to 9,000 tons of supplies each day, along a ten-mile network of floating roads.

By November it had imported nearly 700,000 tons of kit while delivering the wounded and 11,000 prisoners in the opposite direction. It remains one of the most impressive feats of engineering in modern military history.

The seafront museum has been completely rebuilt in the past couple of years and offers an excellent overview of the entire Normandy campaign as well as the story of the Mulberry miracle.

Visit musee-arromanches.fr

US cemetery Colleville-sur-Mer

Continuing west of Arromanches brings you to the U.S. beaches. The highest casualty rates on D-Day were at ‘bloody Omaha’ and the scale of loss is reflected in the beautiful tree-lined American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, the final resting place of 9,388 servicemen overlooking Omaha Beach itself. The cemetery appears at the start and end of the film Saving Private Ryan. Each day, an hour before closing time, there is a poignant flag-lowering ceremony.

See more at abmc.gov/normandy

Overlord Museum and Omaha Beach Memorial Museum

For those who like an ‘immersive experience’, with plenty of sounds and machinery, the Overlord Museum (entry £8.15) does not disappoint. Featuring a hefty collection of tanks, guns, motorbikes and trucks collected by the late Michel Leloup, this exhibition is housed in a large industrial unit a short drive from the cemetery.

A five-minute drive away, next to the beach, is the more conventional Omaha Beach Memorial Museum (entry £6.60) with many more detailed exhibits and a 25-minute film. Among the displays is a tribute to the ‘Bedford Boys’, the 20 young men from one small Virginia town killed on D-Day itself.

Visit overlordmuseum.com, musee-memorial-omaha.com

Airborne Museum and Utah Beach Museum

The first town liberated by U.S. paratroopers, Sainte-Mere-Eglise still proudly maintains its disconcerting replica of Private John Steele dangling by his parachute from the church (he survived). The Airborne Museum (entry £9.80) has a simulator replicating the terrifying night flight through the flak in a C-47.

From here, it is a short drive to the western end of the D-Day landings on Utah Beach and its substantial museum overlooking the sea (entry £7.70).

See more at airborne-museum.org, utah-beach.com


The main hubs for exploring Normandy are Caen and Bayeux. We stayed at the four-star Grand Hotel du Luxembourg & Spa in Bayeux; doubles from £127 (grand-hotel-luxembourg.com). Normandy Tourism has a full list of D-Day events (en.normandie-tourisme.fr). 

Brittany Ferries sails from Portsmouth to Caen, Cherbourg and St Malo. Return ferry for a car with two people from £600 with a cabin both ways (brittany-ferries.co.uk). Leger Holidays has four-day ‘D-Day Landings in Normandy’ coach tours from £439pp including ferry crossing, guides and hotel (legerbattlefields.co.uk). 

Trafalgar has eight-day ‘France Tour of D-Day Beaches, Mont-Saint-Michel and the Loire Valley’ coach tours from £2,204pp including hotels, guides and some meals (trafalgar.com). For bespoke tours, have a look at objectivedday.com or dday4you.com.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk