For the historian as well as the curious traveler, the WWII battle sites along the coast of Normandy can be a powerful draw. However, in the interest of time, many choose to stick to the more popular memorials and museums of Omaha and Utah Beaches. But by heading east from Bayeux instead of west, one hits a veritable jackpot of sites, memorials and museums dedicated to D-Day, but are blessedly under-visited.
It can be easy to pass through the sleepy coastal towns of Ouistreham and Lion-sur-Mer and forget that anything as monumental as the D-Day landings happened here. But the pristine beaches you see were filled with British soldiers on that fateful day, sent in to shore up this flank and take care of some German bunkers as well. And in just these few miles, there are roughly ten points of interest to discover. Here are the highlights of what not to miss when visiting the area from Bayeux.
First, there is the Grand Bunker Atlantic Wall Museum in Ouistreham. It's located inside the German headquarters that took three days to be secured by the British. The museum has taken great pains to recreate the bunker as it was at the time, down to the smallest detail, and within it is incorporated various exhibits and presentations about the Atlantic Wall and its importance in the Allies' victory.
To gain perspective on how the events at Sword Beach played into the overall D-Day landings, visit the Musée No. 4 Commando, also in Ouistreham. Here you will find a well laid-out story that takes you through the day and what followed as well. This is especially popular with British visitors, and is a powerful reminder to Americans that it was indeed Allied forces participating in D-Day. The town of Ouistreham also has several monuments in honor of the fallen.
There are monuments, museums, and remnants from the war in Lion-sur-Mer, Hermanville-sur-Mer, and Douvres la Délivrande, as well as the Pegasus Bridge in Ranville. WWII buffs will know these places by heart; if you're not as knowledgeable, it really is best to take a guided tour, as many important sites can be easily overlooked by the untrained eye.