A French Second World War History Tour: Dunkirk and D-Day

Over the festive season, you may have found yourself curled up on the sofa with a turkey sandwich watching an old classic World War 2 film, possibly by choice or because grandad insisted on it.

Each major site of the war is of untold historic significance, and as such are important places to visit. However, as it was such a vast conflict, the most significant locations are often quite far apart or are difficult to get to. 

None the less, standing in the footsteps of our grandfathers or great-grandfathers can be a truly profound experience and is definitely worth experiencing. 

Dunkirk

If seeing the new film has sparked your curiosity to visit, then you will be happy to hear that visiting Dunkirk is actually quite simple. 

The city is located right on the border to Belgium, so as such you might find it easier to search for a cheap flight to Ghent in Belgium, or Lille in France. It will be wise to compare flights to either location to ascertain which will be best for you. 

From Lille, you can reach Dunkirk directly by train. To get there from Ghent, you have to take a train to Lille, then another train to Dunkirk. 

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Standing on the beach in Dunkirk, it is easy to imagine what it must have been like to be a stranded soldier, looking out to sea. 

In Dunkirk, there is a museum commemorating the battle located in some fascinating French coastal fortifications dating back to 1874. 

The Normandy Beaches

Even if you don't know much about the Second World War, you're probably well aware of the allied invasion of Normandy and the later liberation of France. This all started on a small stretch of coastline in Normandy near Bayeux. On June 6th, 1944, they stormed the beaches code-named Gold, Sword, Omaha, Utah, and Juno, and by doing so, they changed the course of the war and world history with it. 

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Due to their proximity to the UK, they are very easily accessible. We recommend booking a cheap flight to Paris, then booking a bus or train to Bayeux. Alternatively, renting a car will make it much easier to see specific sites. From here there are a number of cheap buses that will take you to any of the beachheads. In commemoration of D-Day, the beaches were renamed with their D-Day code names, so are easy to find. These beaches see a number of visitors, so accommodation is relatively cheap and there are many interesting museums and sites of historic interest around them. 

On the cliffs a few miles west of Omaha beach is a lesser known, but extremely important site of the D-Day landings - Pointe Du Hoc, where American Rangers scaled the steep cliffs to stop artillery firing on the soldiers on the beaches. As this is away from the tide, signs of the battle are everywhere. 

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It is worth seeing some of the nearby villages to the beaches, many of these were important sites following D-Day.

We strongly recommend visiting the cemeteries near Bayeux (the American and German cemeteries are close and are deeply impactful). Each one is a field of endless white crosses, and from each, you'll gain a real understanding of the cost of the war, and gain a greater appreciation for the peace in Europe we enjoy and why it must be protected.