After commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings earlier this year, the Beaches of Normandy continue to welcome tourists to remember the battles that turned the tide in World War II.
Beautiful landscapes, intense history, and a sobering dose of the realities of war all blend to make a worthwhile trip away from the Parisian crowds.
The good news is it won’t break the bank if you plan appropriately.
Here are a few ways to save time and money on a trip to these iconic sites.
1. Time management
Treat yourself and don’t try to do it in a day. Of course, if you’re pressed for time, you can visit a memorial and a beach during the day and return to Paris in the evening. It’s tough but doable.
Instead, give yourself at least one night in one of the nearby towns so that you can enjoy more of what the Normandy beaches have to offer. Two nights is even better, and hotel rates will usually be cheaper than in Paris.
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2. Getting there on the cheap
Public transportation to the beaches is reliable, but it takes time. A train to Caen or Bayeux takes about two hours. From Bayeux, true Cheapos can plan a bus route to the beaches. The line 70 of the Bus Verts, for example, takes about thirty minutes to get to Omaha Beach for just a few for euros. Plan your trip carefully because buses don’t run too often, so missing one could mean a long wait!
The best option, though it will be pricier, is to rent a car from a town outside Paris. It may cost more upfront, but you’ll be able to experience more without a potentially costly taxi ride when you miss the last bus to town.
To see more details about transportation options in Normandy, check out this local website.
3. Stay in Bayeux
There are numerous options in Bayeux for affordable stays, allowing you to use the charming town as a base for your Normandy escapades. It’s located midway between most of the major sights, making in a convenient option. The town itself has a stunning cathedral and a world-famous tapestry if you decide to stay longer.
Search for hotels in Bayeux
Caen is a slightly larger town, and it sometimes has some good deals, though Bayeux is arguably a more worthwhile experience for visitors. If you’re looking for more options, you can search for hotels in Lowery Normandy.
From east to west, the main beaches are Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha, and Utah. Omaha Beach tends to attract more Americans since it is also home to the cemetery dedicated to fallen U.S. troops and features the cliffs where Germans defended against the Allied invasion. Each beach has its story, with memorials and museums open to the public.
It’s best to do some research on them beforehand to choose which one or two are most important to you to visit and then plan accordingly, to economize on driving time (and fuel!).
5. Museums and memorials
To understand the importance of each beach, there are exhibitions dotting the coastline and towns around Normandy. Some of the most famous include the Musée du Embarquement in Arromanches where the artificial port was built, Musée Mémorial de la Bataille de Normandie in Bayeux, the Le Mémorial in Caen, and the Utah Beach Landing Museum.
It will be impossible to visit every beach and museum, so, again, choose the one or two that seem the most interesting to you. If traveling with children, one might be enough.
The most famous is the American cemetery at Omaha Beach, where white marble tombs face the United States. Its visitor center was renovated in time for the 75th anniversary of the landings in 2019. A visit here is humbling and free, but it’s not the only cemetery worth visiting. British, Canadian, and German cemeteries also line the coast, like the Bayeux War Cemetery, home to over 4,000 Commonwealth troops.
There are dozens to visit, some containing only a few tombs while the American cemetery has nearly 10,000 graves.
7. Take a tour
While ParisCityVision does offer day trips from Paris, consider booking a local guide once in Normandy. Some companies like Normandy Sightseeing Tours offer half and full-day options but get creative with your Googling for other options that might be more intimate or budget-friendly.
The value of a guide is that you’ll be able to learn about the beaches, bunkers, and other sights that you may otherwise just look at without truly understanding what happened.
8. Study hard
If you’re going the true cheapo route and bypassing a guide, then do yourself a solid and study up on the importance of the beaches before going. Those who are unfamiliar with what happened along the Normandy coast may have difficulty understanding the significance of these beaches.
It would frankly be a waste of time to rush out for the photo op without taking a moment to appreciate the fallen soldiers and all that happened on these pristine sandy shorelines.
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9. Bag that lunch
A classic tip for any trip around France, be sure to bring your lunch. Fantastic baguette sandwiches and pastries at the local bakery in Bayeux, for example, are affordable and fantastic alternatives to spending time in a mediocre café somewhere on the road.
We’d rather nibble a €3 jambon beurre (ham and butter sandwich) while overlooking the crashing waves than sitting in a roadside cafeteria, wouldn’t you?
10. Don’t miss Mont Saint Michel
While going to the Normandy Beaches is an experience unto itself, consider stretching the trip even longer and driving to nearby Mont Saint Michel, an hour and a half drive from Bayeux. It’s not related to the WWII landings, but if you’re halfway there, it would be a shame to miss one of France’s most iconic tourist sights.
Have you been to the Beaches of Normandy?
Share your favorite tips in the comments below.