Normandy is a large region with a varied history dating back centuries. For many, hearing Normandy makes you think of its more recent past and role in World War II. If it’s your first time visiting Normandy, visiting the D-Day sites is extremely important. Here are the details of our Normandy D-Day tour with additional information on sightseeing in Bayeux.
Booking a Tour
We booked our small group tour through Ophorus. The tour focused on sites in Normandy pertaining to the United States’ involvement in D-Day. These stops included: Utah and Omaha Beaches, the US cemetery, Pointe du Hoc, and Sainte-Mère-Église.
It’s possible to visit all of these sites on your own with a rental car. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about World War II and we found we got a lot more out of our visit by taking a tour.
D-Day Sites in Normandy
You’ll learn more on your tour but here’s an introduction to each of the stops on our D-Day tour. For additional information on D-Day and the Normandy invasion, check out this site.
The village of Sainte-Mère-Église was occupied by the Germans in the spring of 1944. It was the earliest of the D-Day landings when paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division landed there. One paratrooper, John Steele, got caught on the spire of the church and was taken prisoner by Germans. He later escaped and returned to the village, aiding in the capture of 30 German soldiers and the killing of 11 more.
The village is still appreciative of the American’s liberation of the village. One token of their appreciation is a stained glass window in the church that depicts paratroopers alongside the Virgin Mary.
The landing on Utah Beach was considered the most successful one of the five Allied beaches in Normandy. Paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division landed here the night before the D-Day invasion.
Almost 197 soldiers were killed and 60 went missing during the landing on Utah Beach. After securing Utah Beach, Allied forces went on to liberate the town of Cherbourg.
While we did not have time to visit on our tour, you can stop at the Utah Beach Landing Museum if you visit Utah Beach on your own. There are also several memorials located at Utah Beach.
Pointe du Hoc
Pointe du Hoc is the highest point between Utah Beach and Omaha Beach, providing a lookout for the Germans to spot sea attacks from the English Channel.
On D-Day, U.S. rangers had to scale Pointe du Hoc, a 100-foot cliff overlooking the English Channel.
The site has many German bunkers and bomb craters.
Omaha Beach was the deadliest of the Allied landings.
Troops disembarked too far from shore resulting in the death of thousands of Allied troops (think Saving Private Ryan).
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
The last stop of the tour is the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.
The cemetery is on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach.
It is the final resting place of 9,388 Americans killed during the invasion of Normandy and other military operations of World War II.
Points of Interest in Bayeux
Since the D-Day tour left from Bayeux, we made time to visit the two most popular attractions: the Bayeux Cathedral and the Bayeux Tapestry.
The Bayeux Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral consecrated in 1077. It is said that this is the site were William, Duke of Normandy and King of England forced Harold Godwinson to take an oath which was later broken, leading to the Norman conquest of England. You’ll learn more about that when visiting the Bayeux Tapestry.
Our tour didn’t start until 9:00 am, so we visited the Bayeux Cathedral beforehand. It closes at 6:00 or 7:00 pm depending on the time of year, so it’s also possible to visit after.
The Bayeux Tapestry is a 230-foot embroidered tapestry depicting the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England. This story involves William, Duke of Normandy and Harold Godwinson and ends with the Battle of Hastings.
The Bayeux Tapestry is located at the Bayeux Museum. You can purchase a ticket for the Tapestry only. The ticket includes an audio guide explaining the story depicted in the tapestry. The museum closes at 6:00 pm, but we were back early enough from our tour to fit in a visit.
Learning about the events of June 6th, 1944, better known as D-Day, is an important history lesson for any visitor to Normandy. A Normandy D-Day tour is the best way to learn about these historic events. While this post focuses on the American landing sites, other tours are available that include British and Canadian sites.