Normandy beyond the beaches
As the region commemorates D-Day, there's plenty to see in Normandy
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings in France, when on June 6, 1944, Allied forces took part in the largest seaborne invasion in history. Code named Operation Neptune, the operation is better known as D-Day.
Three quarters of a century later, the landings and subsequent Battle of Normandy (code named Operation Overlord), which resulted in the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control, is being commemorated in a series of special events and remembrance services taking place in France, the UK, the United States, and Canada.
Normandy has served as a place of pilgrimage for Second World War veterans for many decades. Besides the five D-Day beaches—Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword—the region is dotted with numerous monuments, museums, and memorials dedicated to the fallen. And then of course, there are the military cemeteries.
By the end of June 6, the Americans alone had lost 3,000 men at Omaha Beach. In all, around 10,000 combatants were killed during the invasion. Many rest in the 30 or so war cemeteries located across the region, from all sides of the conflict.
While these D-Day visitor attractions make for fascinating and poignant exploration, discovering Normandy beyond its wartime past reveals a destination renowned for an extraordinary array of cultural treasures, natural wonders, unique gastronomy, and even a red carpet Hollywood-style film festival!
Normandy's regional capital is Rouen. Sitting on the River Seine, the city is an eye-popping tour de force, celebrated for its soaring Gothic cathedral, picture-book medieval quarter, and a bewildering choice of first-class museums.
With its engaging history and storied past, Rouen is a perfect introduction to this corner of France. Spend a few days here absorbing its rich cultural vibe before reaching out further afield and letting Normandy conquer your senses.