Caen – The World War II Memorial
If there’s one thing to be seen in Caen, it’s the Memorial. No kidding, even if you’re not in the region, it’s worth a side trip. And for all of you visiting the D-Day debarkation beaches, you’ll need to pass through Caen anyway, so stop here.
Mind you, you’ll need to change your mindset first before coming here. Most people, like myself, think it’s a museum. It’s NOT. Don’t expect to see tanks, airplanes, canons, etc. Yes, there are one or two of them, but you can count them on one hand. It’s a memorial, not a museum. Built on a former German bunker, the whole building is designed, and it’s beautifully designed, to make us remember what happened. But not only what happened during the Second World War, but also what caused it to happen, and what the consequences were after the end of the war.
The Memorial was inaugurated in 1988 but has changed appearance since then.
But first, coming to the building from the outside (you can see the building in the top photo, with a statue based on the famous photo from New York when it was announced that the war was over), you’ll notice a long saying, in French:
The saying says, freely translated; “The pain has broken me, the brotherhood relieved me, from my wounds sprang a river of freedom“. It’s in fact a poem from a Caen-based French poet (Paul Dorey).
Once inside you are in the main lobby with the ticket offices, information stands and lecture hall (many authors come here to read from their books and talk about them). After buying your ticket, you head for the memorial:
There, they take you step by step through the events that led to the Second World War. This is done mostly with photos and films of those times, and explanations in three languages (French, English and German).
They explain quite well how humanity got to the stage where we started a world war.
Some part of the displays aren’t just walls with photos, but have been dressed up. You’ll see in the photo above, on the right, one of the many small theatres showing continuously movies/videos of the history. The videos aren’t long, and there are usually only somewhere around 8 seats.
It’s only halfway through that they reach the actual world war.
The D-Day (operation Overlord) portion of the display……
… with scale models and maps to display the complexity of the invasion.
They also go into detail on the aftereffects of WWII, with the cold war and the nuclear deterrent.
And like every self-respecting museum, there’s a souvenir shop, but in fact it’s more a bookshop with many books about the war in different languages. Further more there is a restaurant and three gardens that can be visited, and an area for temporary exhibitions.
This is a MUST visit. Even if you’re not in the immediate vicinity, you should consider coming here. And obviously if you’re heading for the D-Day beaches, come here first. The Memorial is located next to the Caen ring road, which is reached directly from the A13 motorway (so it can be easily reached from Paris, Rouen, Le Havre, Dieppe, Calais and Cherbourg). There is also a train service and even an international airport. Ferries from the UK will bring you to Cherbourg, Calais, Dieppe, Le Havre and many others close by.
Price: The full rate is €19, but discounts are available for families.
Web site: Caen Memorial
- Transport Getting There By Ferry The closest ferry harbours to and from the UK are Cherbourg, Caen/Ouistreham and Le Havre. By Air The international airport for Caen (click here to access the airport's web site) is very close-by with regular flights to the UK. Within Bayeux There is no useable bus service, but…