Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on 9-11. Volunteer today


Military and Veterans Discount


Free AARP E-Books

Protecting Yourself Online for Dummies

Here's the mini guide you need to steer through the hazards with confidence.

Learn More


AARP Games - Play Now!


AARP Staying Sharp: Keep Your Brain Healthy

News & Politics Forums

Share your opinions on news and current events that matter most to you.

Join the discussion »

AARP Auto Buying Program



Your Self-guided 'D-Day Tour' of Normandy

Where to go and what to see

Normandy map

The D-Day invasion beaches. — Bettmann/Corbis

An assortment of travel companies offer World War II-oriented guided tours of the Normandy coast, site of the Allied invasion on D-Day — June 6, 1944.

See also: Trip to Normandy still tells the real D-Day story

But if you're up to renting a car and heading out on your own (the French drive on the same side of the road as we do, just faster), you can pass on the tour bus option and explore the French countryside and coastline at your own pace.

The Land and History

The Normandy region features rugged English Channel beaches beneath towering cliffs, expansive stretches of farmland dotted with small villages, and the remains of both medieval and 20th-century warfare.

Although the distance from Paris or Charles de Gaulle airport is suitable for a long day trip (the drive takes about three hours each way), you should spend at least a night or two at one of the area's many historic inns and small hotels.

From Paris, you approach the Normandy coastline from the east through the city of Caen or town of Bayeux. They lie just south of the 50-mile stretch of D-Day landing sites that Allied forces dubbed — from east to west — Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah beaches. (Note: On the map above, north is at the bottom.)

By the spring of 1944, Nazi Germany had controlled France and its northern coast for four years. As supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, U.S. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower planned and supervised the invasion, called Operation Overlord. British and Canadian airborne and infantry forces were responsible for the eastern portion of the invasion, hitting Sword (British), Juno (Canadian) and Gold (British) beaches. American forces handled the western half of the assault, covering the region running from Bayeux to Carentan.

Most American visitors gravitate toward Omaha and Utah beaches, behind which paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne landed in support of the seaborne assaults by U.S. infantry divisions. Omaha, considered the bloodiest of the invasion beaches with more than 2,000 casualties, was a fearsome place to come ashore; the Germans had fortified the beach with barricades and obstacles to ward off invaders, and high cliffs provided a perch for them to fire down upon arriving Allied forces.

Things to See and Places to Go

Caen: An 11th-century city that was almost entirely destroyed during the war, Caen is home to a visitor center and museum, the Caen War Memorial, which is used by many as a starting point for touring the Normandy beaches. The Pegasus Bridge across the Caen Canal, in nearby Ranville-Benouville, was the first bridge to be liberated by the Allies after the invasion. (The original bridge is on display at the Pegasus Memorial Museum.)

Bayeux: The first town liberated by the Allies, Bayeux Medieval Downtown, attracts tourists with its shops, restaurants, hotels and famous Bayeux Tapestry, a 230-foot-long wall hanging that depicts the history of William the Conqueror's Norman invasion of England in 1066.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.



Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

member benefit aarp financial service auto insurance

AARP® Auto Insurance Program from The Hartford offers members no-cost quotes.

membership benefit financial college aarp

Advice on saving for education from AARP® College Savings Solutions from TIAA-CREF.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can earn 3% cash back on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points