France played a very significant role in World War II. The numerous war memorials and monuments in the country are a testament to the bravery and sacrifice of those who fought and died on her shores.
From iconic landmarks like the Normandy Cemetery to the bunkers of La Coupole, you can immerse yourself in the rich history of this country by taking a look into its past.
History buffs and wartime enthusiasts will enjoy these 9 WWII memorials and monuments in France.
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial (Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy)
The greatest atrocity of war is the loss of life, and during WWII so many young lives were lost.
This tragedy is driven home with a visit to the Normandy American Cemetery. This cemetery is the final resting place for 9,387 American soldiers. Most of these brave men gave their lives during the D-Day invasion of Normandy landing operations, and the establishment of the beachhead.
Even more sad is the many soldiers from all over America who went missing in action whose bodies were never found. The names of 1,557 of these unfortunate soldiers are inscribed on tablets in the aptly named Garden of the Missing.
Normandy American Cemetery is situated on the cliffs overlooking Omaha Beach. This site is one of the many highlights of WWII-centered tours, including a multi-day Band of Brothers Tour.
Photography is permitted but please be respectful and mindful of the location you are visiting. It’s open to the public throughout the year but be sure to keep an eye out for any commemorative ceremonies that may be hosted here.
Caen Memorial (Caen, Normandy)
The Mémorial de Caen is a museum that chronicles World War II history and the battle for Caen.
It preserves all military history from 1918 to the present day but focuses largely on the Normandy D-Day landings and the ensuing battle. The interactive displays, exhibits, and authentic artifacts give visitors a comprehensive glimpse into the terrible impact of global war.
The museum holds permanent and temporary exhibitions, and you’ll be able to explore the Peace Garden and Museum which hold memorials and sculptures dedicated to peace. Film screenings are held at specific times so check the schedule in advance if that’s of interest to you.
Oradour-sur-Glane Martyr Village (Oradour-sur-Glane, Haute-Vienne)
Preserved as a historical site and museum, Oradour-sur-Glane is a memorial to those affected by the massacre that took place here in 1944.
This village in central France was a quiet and rural community before the war. The Nazis all but destroyed it during the final days of the war. But the ruins of this village have been left untouched as a powerful reminder of the tragedy of war.
The village has specific opening times, so make sure to plan accordingly. Be sure to look out for any remembrance ceremonies too, these are worth attending.
This site can elicit some intense emotions, keep that in mind when visiting and be mindful while paying your respects. It’s intended as a place of silent reflection.
Mémorial de la Shoah (Paris)
Paris is widely considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The beautiful scenery and rich culture are major draw cards for tourists. There’s no shortage of magnificent landmarks, either. There’s the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, and of course, the Arc de Triomphe, to name just a few.
But there’s another site you’ll want to visit while in Paris – the Mémorial de la Shoah. It’s a museum and memorial, dedicated to the memory of the Second World War’s Holocaust victims. The exhibits and testimonies to the horrors of the Holocaust paint a full picture of the persecution of the Jewish people.
The museum houses a documentation center that contains a vast collection of books, photographs and other materials recovered from the Holocaust. The Wall of Names is a sight to see, over 76,000 Jewish names of those who were deported from France during the time. It serves as a powerful reminder of the magnitude of this tragedy.
The official website will provide information on ceremonies and events, their research and educational programs, and admission times and fees. Please, be respectful of this place of remembrance and refrain from photography.
Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument (Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy)
Between Utah Beach and Omaha Beach, you’ll find another poignant memorial.
Here, U.S. Army Rangers of the American Second Ranger Battalion under the command of Lt. Col. James E. Rudder valiantly scaled the cliffs. Their mission? The capture of German artillery positions during the D-Day invasion. Their bravery and sacrifice are commemorated with this monument.
The site still bears the scars of the intense bombardment, and you can explore concrete bunkers that housed artillery batteries. In contrast, the surrounding coastline and the English Channel offer spectacular views. Stop and take a moment to appreciate where you are standing and the challenges of the time. Because of this open location, it gets windy, so be sure to dress for all weather conditions. Comfortable shoes are a must to explore its uneven terrain.
Musée de l’Armée (Paris)
Whatever your motivations to visit Paris, be it the food, the climate, or the amazing attractions, be sure to stop by the Musée de l’Armée. You’ll find a section dedicated to WWII memorabilia in the depths of this national military museum.
Located in the Les Invalides complex, it houses a wide selection of artifacts, as well as uniforms and weapons depicting France’s military past.
The Musée de l’Armée’s new scientific and cultural Project, the Minerve extension, is set for completion by 2030. Minerve will entail improved visitor reception areas and the installation of new, permanent exhibits detailing the history of war and military life.
This is a popular spot for tourists so be sure to plan ahead. Audio or guided tours are available and recommended.
La Coupole (Saint-Omer, Nord-Pas-de-Calais)
If you’re interested in the more technical aspects of the war, this one’s for you. It encapsulates the hopes the Germans pinned on one particular development in their military arsenal.
The German V-2 rocket was an innovative long-range weapon developed in response to the failure of the Luftwaffe to overpower Britain. This WWII bunker complex in the Pas-de-Calais department of northern France was originally built by the Nazis, to launch these V-2 rockets.
La Coupole now serves as a museum showcasing WWII technology. The development of Hitler’s V-2 rocket program and its impact on the war and the Allied bombing campaign is explored in detail.
The museum offers film and projection shows that provide a visual representation of the construction of the operation of this site. Check their official website for information on their opening hours and admission fees, and plan your visit in advance, it gets very busy over peak tourist seasons.
Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation (Paris)
The 200,000 victims of French wartime deportation are remembered at this memorial on the Île de la Cité, inaugurated by Charles de Gaulle in 1962,
Quite appropriately situated on the site of a former morgue in Paris, this memorial was designed by French modernist architect Georges-Henri Pingusson.
France considers the duty of Holocaust remembrance a vital part of its foreign policy. And this is a constant reminder of the despair and hopelessness felt by these people, whose final destination was the horror of the Nazi regime’s concentration camp.
Admission is free, but this memorial is considered a place of quiet reflection so please be respectful when inside the memorial space. Within walking distance is the Notre Dam Cathedral and Sainte-Chapelle which are worth a visit too.
Memorial Pegasus (Ranville, Normandy)
Because of the vital role Normandy played in WWII, most of France’s war memorials and monuments are centered here. This one is a little different from the rest, dedicated to the British 6th Airborne Division. The Airborne Forces Museum was opened by the D-Day Commemoration Committee in 1974.
The memorial and museum commemorate the British role in the D-Day landings. A guided tour takes about an hour and a half. You’ll see various displays, artifacts, and even military vehicles that highlight British military accomplishments and sacrifices.
Admission fees and opening hours differ according to the season so be sure to check their official website before you arrive. Various commemorative events are organized throughout the year as well. It’s close to other D-Day sites, so you can spend the day in the area exploring the history of Normandy.