While I’m sure you would love to visit them all, sometimes you have to concentrate on choosing only the best D-Day beach to visit in order to pack everything into your busy travel schedule. If you’ve done any research on D-Day landing beaches in Normandy, then you already know there are five to choose from:
Each of these offers its own unique experiences, museums, relics, activities, and more. So, if you only have time to visit one, which is the best D-Day beach to visit? Well, that all depends. But this post is here to help you choose!
Prefer someone else to pick for you? Check out my list of the Best Normandy Day Tours from Paris.
How to choose the best D-Day beach to visit
Which of the 5 Normandy landing beaches you will designate the best D-Day beach to visit will depend on several factors. Things like: your interests, your time limit, who’s visiting, and from where?
All five are worth a visit if you have the time (naturally), but choosing the best one for you can be narrowed down to a few criteria. However, if you only have one day to spend exploring World War II history in Normandy, I highly recommend you prioritize these 7 sites. (They’re spread across a few of the beach sectors.)
I do list just one beach in that post (which you should definitely check out… I’ll wait…) but read on and I’ll explain a little as to why and why that one may not be the best D-Day beach to visit for you.
Best D-Day beach to visit for Americans
If you’re an American visiting Normandy, you’ll likely find Omaha Beach to be the best D-Day beach for you. While the United States, Canada, and Great Britain all participated in the D-Day landings, Omaha Beach is one of the two American landing beaches.
In the Omaha Beach sector you’ll get to revisit one of the most significant locations in American history. As an American, when you think of “D-Day,” you’re probably thinking of the footage you’ve seen of troops storming Omaha Beach. In our minds, the two are synonymous.
You’ll get to visit the beach itself (that you’ve seen in so many movies), as well as other significant locations like Pointe du Hoc where the U.S. Army defeated the Germans by scaling cliffs using grappling hooks and ladders. (One of the most jaw-dropping sites to visit here, in my humble opinion.)
You’ll be able to visit museums like the D-Day Omaha Museum and the Overlord Museum and see the many memorials to American troops. Plus, you’ll also be able to spend some time at Normandy American Cemetery, arguably the most famous American war cemetery in the world.
Check out all there is to see and do at Omaha Beach here.
Where to stay near Omaha Beach
If you’re looking to concentrate your time in and around Omaha Beach, check out these popular places to stay:
- La Sapinière (in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer) – Right across the street from the beach itself, modest and budget-friendly, reviewers love the location, the hotel’s restaurant, and the friendly staff.
- La Ferme aux Chats (in Formigny) – Adorable B&B, rave reviews for its homemade breakfasts, the size and cleanliness of the rooms, and the welcoming staff.
- See all Omaha Beach area hotels here to find the best one for you.
Best D-Day beach to visit for Canadians
For Canadian visitors to Normandy, you might find Juno Beach is the best D-Day beach to visit. Juno Beach is where Canadian troops landed on D-Day and where you might find the most relatable history.
At Juno Beach, you can explore the Juno Beach Center—Normandy’s only museum dedicated to Canada’s D-Day contributions. You can also check out the Canada House—a historic home and the first to be liberated by Canadian troops—that has since become a memorial to Canadian troops.
It’s also here at Juno Beach where you’ll find the Canadian War Cemetery. This cemetery serves as the final resting place for Canadians who died on D-Day and in the Battle of Caen the following month.
Juno Beach itself also contains a number of memorials to Canada’s fighting forces like the Canadian Gunners, the Fourth Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, the Royal Canadian Navy, and more. The Juno Beach Markers also explain the history of Canada’s D-Day beach landing with an hour-by-hour account, illustrations, and more.
Check out all there is to see and do at Juno Beach here.
Where to stay near Juno Beach
If you’re looking to concentrate your time in and around Omaha Beach, check out these well-reviewed hotels:
- Ferme de la Rançonnière (in Crépon) – Beautiful property in a relaxing location in the French countryside, reviewers love the location and property.
- Le Manoir de Mathan (also in Crépon) – Well-reviewed for its location, beautiful garden property, and the large, comfortable rooms.
- La Cremaillere (in Courseulles-sur-Mer) – Modern hotel directly on the beach, comfortable rooms, great views and staff.
- See all Juno Beach area hotels here in case there’s something you like better.
Best D-Day beach to visit for Brits
Like the U.S. and Canada, Great Britain has its own Normandy landing beaches as well. If you’re visiting from England, chances are you’ll find Gold or Sword beach to be the best D-Day beach to visit.
So yes, there are two British D-Day beaches (just like there are two American beaches) and they are not next to each other (Juno Beach is in between). So you may have to choose just one, but which one is the best? Well…
Also check out: WWII Sites in Paris: 20+ Fascinating Museums, Memorials, and More (+Tips!)
Gold Beach is the best D-Day beach to visit if:
- You want to see the remains of the artificial harbors used to bring troops and transports ashore
- You want to see the only fully intact remaining German gun installation
- You want to visit the largest Commonwealth cemetery in France
- You want to visit museums like Arromanches 360° and the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy
However, Sword Beach is the best D-Day beach to visit if:
- You want to visit the Caen Museum, believed to be the best World War II museum in Europe
- You want to visit the Pegasus Memorial and Bridge (and have a drink at the Pegasus Café)
- You want to visit the Museum of the Atlantic Wall
- You want to learn about the D-Day landings from the angle of the Franco-British commandos at the French-British Museum
Where to stay near Gold Beach
If you’re looking to concentrate your time in and around Gold Beach, check out these popular places to stay:
- Hôtel De La Marine (in Arromanches-Les-Bains) – Right on the beach on a quiet street (pictured above), close to everything in town, ocean views.
- Le Petit Matin (in Bayeux) – Beautiful property with a little added luxury, short walk to Bayeux’s center, super friendly staff.
- See all Bayeux hotels here and all Arromanches-Les-Bains hotels here for all your options.
Where to stay near Sword Beach
If you’d prefer to spend your time in the Sword Beach sector, check out these popular places to stay:
- Hôtel La Fontaine Caen Centre (in Caen) – Right near the Caen Museum, super clean, excellent staff, a very popular hotel with reviewers!
- B&B HOTEL Ouistreham (in Ouistreham) – Simple and budget-friendly, good for a quick stay, but people love this place!
- See all Sword beach area hotels here to pick the perfect one.
If you’d like to check out both Gold and Sword Beach, you could always stay somewhere in the middle. In that case, check out the hotels near Juno Beach to be close to both.
Best D-Day beach to visit for aviation enthusiasts
If you’re an aviation enthusiast like myself, Utah Beach is the best D-Day beach to visit for you. Here in the Utah Beach sector, you’ll get to experience some of the best aviation-centered D-Day museums.
Utah Beach is the other American landing beach and here you’ll find:
The D-Day Experience where you’ll be able to take a trip on the C-47 flight simulator aboard a genuine C-47 from World War II that’ll make you feel like you’re actually there on June 6, 1944.
The Airborne Museum – fully dedicated to the U.S. paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. You’ll get to see actual WW2 aircraft and experience another C-47 simulator.
The Airship Hangar at Ecausseville that was actually used by the French Navy in 1917. Even though it was used for other purposes in WWII (by Germany), it’s still a neat structure with a lot of interesting history.
Where to stay near Utah Beach
If you’d like to explore D-Day’s top sites for aviation lovers at Utah Beach, check out these popular places to stay:
- Domaine Utah Beach – Le Grand Hard (in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont) – Gorgeous property where they serve meat from their own organic farms at their own restaurants, family-run hotel, close to Utah Beach, and lots of rave reviews.
- Ferme de Beauvais (in Sainte-Mère-Église) – An old farmhouse-turned-B&B, short walk to the Airborne Museum and Saint-Mère-Église church, excellent hospitality.
- See all Utah Beach area hotels here to open up your choices.
Also check out: 14 Must-Visit Normandy Museums for WWII History Buffs
Best D-Day beach to visit with kids
While I don’t have children myself, I have done my research on the D-Day beaches parents most recommend visiting. In this case, the most popular recommendations revolve around sites where kids can see and explore actual remains from the war. Ergo, the best D-Day beaches to visit with kids are:
- Gold Beach – to explore the remains of the artificial mulberry harbors still on the beach and to check out the intact German battery
- Omaha Beach – to explore the bunkers at Pointe du Hoc (there’s also a lot of sheep here!) and for a large beach on which to spend the day (yes, people spend their beach days here like any other beach)
For more on visiting World War II sites with kids, check out my full guide here.
Best D-Day beach to visit for movie lovers
If you simply want to concentrate your time in Normandy on visiting the D-Day sites you know the most from movies and TV shows, that’s fine too! (I’m a big fan of visiting the real-life filming locations of my favorite movies and shows too.) In that case, if you love the movie:
Saving Private Ryan
…(and who doesn’t?), you’ll want to visit Omaha Beach. You can check out the actual beach where the biggest and most famous amphibious landing in history took place.
Plus, you can visit nearby Normandy American Cemetery which appeared at the beginning and end of the film when old man Ryan visits Captain Miller’s grave. Watch Saving Private Ryan here if you haven’t in a while.
Band of Brothers
…you’ll want to visit Utah Beach. Band of Brothers follows the American paratrooper unit known as Easy Company. So, most of the series’ D-Day focus centers on events around these two landing sectors.
In the Utah Beach sector you can visit a number of Easy Company memorials, the “Dick” Winters memorial, and even pop by Brécourt Manor (highlighted in Ep.2). You can also visit the town of Carentan as seen in Ep.3. You can watch Band of Brothers here or with an HBO Max subscription.
The Longest Day
…you’ll want to head to… well… all the beaches. The greatest thing about The Longest Day is that it covers many aspects of the Normandy invasions.
Therefore, you’ll want to visit Sword Beach, the invasion of which by the British is highlighted in the movie. As is the bagpiper of Normandy, to whom there is now a memorial on the shores of Sword Beach. You can also visit the Pegasus Bridge here.
However, you’ll also want to stop by the Utah Beach sector where you can stop by the church of Sainte-Mère-Église. The Longest Day shows the harrowing scene when paratrooper John Steele gets stuck hanging from the church’s tower. Today, you can see a memorial to him on the church—a sculpture of a paratrooper suspended by a parachute.
However again, you can also visit Omaha Beach, the invasion of which was also featured in the movie, as well as nearby Pointe du Hoc. If you have to choose between those three, well, just start back at the top of this page. You can watch The Longest Day here. (The Movieland app also has it but only without subtitles. And half the movie is in French and German.)
Whichever beach you deem to be the best D-Day beach to visit, know that you’re going to learn a lot, feel a lot, and be endlessly glad you made the decision to visit such a historically charged location.
And even if you feel drawn to the beaches that represent your own country, consider expanding your gratitude and knowledge to those who fought on the other beaches as well if time allows. Enjoy your time at Normandy’s landing beaches!
More info for your trip to Normandy’s beaches
- Staying in Normandy? Find great places to stay here.
- Need a rental car? Check out the best local deals here.
- Don’t forget to pick up a Normandy guidebook.
- And this priceless France customs and culture guide.
- Looking for local tours? Start here with Viator and Get Your Guide.
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