As Omaha Beach is arguably the most famous of the five Normandy landing beaches, you’ll find that what to see at Omaha Beach is altogether interesting, inspiring, and incredibly moving.
Along with neighboring Utah Beach, Omaha Beach was the landing site of American troops on D-Day. But while Utah Beach was an overwhelming success with relatively few casualties, Omaha Beach was a much harder-fought battle.
Here on Omaha Beach you can find meaningful monuments and memorials, eye-opening museums, and many more interesting ways to learn about what happened here on D-Day (and beyond).
What happened at Omaha Beach?
On June 6th, 1944 more than 34,000 American troops landed on Omaha Beach, the largest of all the D-Day landing zones. Here are some Omaha Beach fast facts:
Omaha Beach objective: The main objective of troops landing on Omaha Beach was to establish a 5-mile deep (8 km) beachhead that stretched from the Vire River in the west to Port-en-Bessin in the east. At these points they would then link up with the other American troops at Utah and the British troops at Gold Beach.
Omaha Beach casualties: Of all the D-Day beaches, Omaha Beach saw the greatest loss of life with more than 2,000 troops killed, wounded, or missing.
Which units landed on Omaha Beach? Troops from the U.S. 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions landed on Omaha Beach.
Omaha Beach outcome: A hard-won Allied victory
11 things to see at Omaha Beach, Normandy
If you’ve got a World War II-centric trip to Normandy planned and are looking for what to do at Omaha Beach, you’re in luck. Because of the pivotal role this beach played in the D-Day landings, you can find many places to visit here at which to learn more about its history.
Check out this list of things to do at Omaha Beach that includes museums, memorials, battle sites, and more.
1. The beach itself
While there’s a lot to see in the entire Omaha Beach sector, I recommend starting your visit at Omaha Beach itself. The five Normandy landing beaches remain greatly undeveloped so you won’t have a difficult time getting a sense of how they must’ve looked in 1944.
You may be surprised how incredibly vast Omaha Beach is. Spend some time walking the beach imagining what happened here on D-Day. If you’ve seen Saving Private Ryan (which I really hope you have!), it may be damn near impossible to believe that what happened on this beach is the same thing you’re looking at today.
In short, it’s chilling and almost unbelievable. It’s without a doubt an experience you won’t soon forget.
2. Omaha Beach memorials
Smack in the center of the Omaha Beach landing zone you’ll find some beautiful memorials to those who fought here on D-Day.
Les Braves memorial
The largest of the Omaha Beach memorials goes by the name of Les Braves. An artist named Anilore Banon created this memorial in 2004 and dedicated it to the Allied troops who landed on Omaha Beach.
Les Braves consists of three sections: (in Banon’s own words)
The Wings of Hope
So that the spirit which carried these men on June 6th 1944 continues to inspire us, reminding us that together it is always possible to change the future.
So that the example of those who rose against barbarity, helps us remain standing strong against all forms of inhumanity.
The Wings of Fraternity
So that this surge of brotherhood always reminds us of our responsibility towards others as well as ourselves.
On June 6th 1944 these men were more than soldiers, they were our brothers.
Signal monument Omaha Beach
Just behind the Les Braves memorial, up off the beach, is the Signal Monument, sometimes called the Liberation Monument. The country of France dedicated this imposing stone monument to the Allied forces who landed on Omaha Beach and helped liberate Europe. The artist intended it to resemble the prow of a boat coming out of the water.
It has subtle engravings on each side, one in tribute to the 1st Infantry Division, and another for the 29th.
5th Engineer Special Brigade Memorial
Toward the eastern end of Omaha Beach you’ll find the 5th Engineer Special Brigade Memorial. The 5th Engineer Special Brigade of the United States Army were a force of amphibious troops who landed on Omaha Beach, specifically on the eastern beaches of Easy Red, Fox Red, and Fox Green.
The 5th Engineer Special Brigade operated Omaha Beach from D-Day until its closing on November 19, 1944. This black stone monument pays tribute to the troops of the 5th Engineer Special Brigade and overlooks the eastern sector of Omaha Beach.
3. Omaha Beach Memorial Museum
Just up the road from the Les Braves and Signal monuments you’ll find the Memorial Museum of Omaha Beach. They’ve dedicated this museum to the memory of all the young men who died on D-Day and offer self-guided tours.
The Omaha Beach Memorial Museum leads you through all the phases from Occupation to D-Day and utilizes archival photographs, personal artifacts, veteran’s testimonies, and more to tell the stories. You can view tanks, weaponry, a Higgins boat, and many personal effects showcased in lifelike displays.
This museum is just a 5-minute walk from the beach monuments and is impossible to miss. (And if you don’t have time for a visit, you can still check out many of the artifacts in the parking lot.)
4. Museum D-Day Omaha
You can find the D-Day Omaha Museum between two of the most popular D-Day sites in this area: Normandy American Cemetery and Pointe du Hoc. This museum is brought to you by a massive private collection of thousands of artifacts.
The D-Day Omaha Museum focuses on the D-Day landings and showcases such artifacts as an Enigma machine, transportation, and a set of restored Mulberry footbridges. This museum is small but is a great stop for any D-Day enthusiast.
5. Normandy American Cemetery
A little bit inland and overlooking Omaha Beach is Normandy American Cemetery. This unbelievably beautiful cemetery serves as the final resting place for 9,387 U.S. soldiers, most of whom were victims of the D-Day landings and subsequent battles. Additionally, it features the Wall of Missing with the names of 1,557 soldiers missing in action.
The U.S. First Army established the Normandy American Cemetery on June 8, 1944 at the site of the temporary American St. Laurent Cemetery. The land was granted to the United States by France and is officially American soil.
What to see at Normandy American Cemetery
Normandy American Cemetery features:
- A $30 million visitors center with exhibits and three films
- A semi-circular colonnade with huge maps that explain the military operations of D-Day
- The bronze statue of “Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves”
- An orientation table overlooking the beach that depicts the landings
- A reflecting pool
- A chapel
- The Wall of the Missing
- The actual cemetery, beautiful tree-lined walking paths, and more
A visit to Normandy American Cemetery is a surreal and emotional experience. It’s both idyllic and overwhelming but absolutely worth a stop.
6. Le Pointe du Hoc
The site at Pointe du Hoc is one of the most impressive D-Day sites in Normandy (if you ask me). You can see well-preserved German batteries and bunkers, an unbelievable collection of remaining bomb craters, and get an unprecedented chance to see one of the most incredible D-Day battle sites with your own eyes. (I also saw a baby sheep be born on my visit, I kid you not.)
What happened at Pointe du Hoc?
Pointe du Hoc is a 100-foot cliff and the highest point between Omaha and Utah Beach. During World War II it was fortified by the Germans and believed to be impossible to breach.
However, on the morning of D-Day, the U.S. Army did indeed capture Pointe du Hoc by scaling the cliffs using grappling hooks and ladders fired from rocket launchers. Surprise!
At Pointe du Hoc there are a handful of memorials and the remainders of German gun casemates scattered around the area. The hilly landscape you see are actually hundreds of bomb craters – though today they’re covered with grazing sheep. (Check out what Pointe du Hoc’s bomb craters look like from above here.)
7. Overlord Museum
In the nearby town of Colleville-sur-Mer you’ll find the Overlord Museum. This museum focuses on the part of the World War II story from the D-Day landings (known as Operation Overlord) to the liberation of Paris. It was founded on the private collection of artifacts by Michel Leloup, a teenage local who personally witnessed the war.
The museum includes personal effects found on the battlefields, tanks and armored vehicles, a plane, documents, and more. Some visitors say this is the best collection of artifacts they saw at the Normandy museums.
8. La Cambe German Military Cemetery
Visiting a German cemetery while traveling around Normandy may seem a bit questionable or controversial. However, I do think it’s important and it’s one of the most interesting places to see near Omaha Beach.
La Cambe German Military Cemetery is vastly different from the American cemetery and I feel it’s worth a visit to see this stark contrast alone. Normandy American Cemetery is bright, beautiful, filled with white crosses and Stars of David, and overlooks a pristine beach. La Cambe is dark, heavy, and filled with imposing black stone crosses and nameless headstones and mass graves.
La Cambe German Cemetery is actually the largest cemetery in all of Normandy, France with a total grave count of 21,222 – all belonging to victims of the Battle of Normandy. In the center of the cemetery is a mound-shaped mass grave holding the never-identified remains of almost 300 German soldiers.
On top of that are the statues of a man and women meant to represent the mothers and fathers who lost their children to the war. It’s chilling.
9. Charles Shay Indian Memorial Park
Charles Shay is a decorated veteran of World War II and a Penobscot tribal elder from Maine. After being drafted into the war as a teenager he served as a combat medic. On D-Day he landed in Normandy during the first wave on Omaha Beach.
Charles Shay is one of the few surviving Native American combat veterans who had a hand in liberating France. This turtle-shaped memorial is dedicated to all the Native Americans who landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day (of which there are said to have been 175).
Why a turtle? From americanindianmagazine.com:
The turtle is a sacred animal representing wisdom and longevity. It also is the animal Shay chose as a little boy to be his personal Penobscot animal. Sculpted by his nephew Tim, the park’s turtle looks out over the Atlantic, with its head turned west towards Indian Island, Maine, home of the Penobscot Nation, where Shay lives.
10. Museum of Underwater Wrecks
Of all the interesting World War II museums in Normandy, this may be one of the most unique. The Museum of Underwater Wrecks (known in France as Musée des Epaves Sous-Marines) displays personal objects, tanks, and other artifacts brought up from D-Day’s sunken warships.
The private collection of the Museum of Underwater Wrecks includes:
- Amphibious tanks
- As well as personal items found aboard these sunken ships
This collection of items was gathered over a thirty-year period by a man named Jacques Lemonchois. The items are displayed exactly as they were found—rusted, barnacled, broken.
11. Miscellaneous German bunkers
What to see at Omaha Beach goes beyond museums and memorials. You can actually still see many uncovered German bunkers all around the area, just as they were left. Some examples include:
- Omaha Beach Widerstandsnest 65
- Widerstandsnest 62
- Widerstandsnest 60
All of these sites are marked on the map at the top of this post so you can find them easily!
But one of the largest and most complex German bunker sites in Normandy (and the one with the best visitor experience) is the Maisy Battery.
The Maisy Battery was one of the largest German fortifications along the Normandy beaches and was poised to target both the Omaha Beach and Utah Beach sectors. The site was completely buried after the war and was only uncovered as recently as 2006. Restoration on the site remains in progress.
Today, the Maisy Battery is open to visitors and you can tour the more than 2 miles of German trenches and even go inside the original bunkers. For more (really interesting) information on visiting the Maisy Battery, head to their official website.
Where to stay when visiting Omaha Beach
If it’s Omaha Beach you want, Omaha Beach is what you’re gonna get at La Sapinière. This adorable little hotel is right across the street from Omaha Beach, just a 1-minute walk to the sand.
The place is modest and budget-friendly, but has excellent reviews and a 9/10 rating. Past travelers love the hotel’s restaurant, its convenient location, and rave about the friendly staff.
La Ferme aux Chats
Located just a short drive from Omaha Beach in the town of Formigny is La ferme aux Chats, an adorable bed-and-breakfast.
With almost a 10/10 rating on Booking.com, this B&B is well-loved for its delicious homemade breakfast (it is located on a farm after all), its relaxing atmosphere, the size and cleanliness of the rooms, and the hospitality of its staff.
More info for your visit to Omaha Beach, Normandy
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