The D-Day landings at Normandy on June 6, 1944 were the beginning of the end of World War II much due to the heroic action by Allied troops including US and British forces, to begin taking Europe back from the Nazis.
The 50-mile (80-km) stretch of beaches codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword are now one of the most visited sites in France, housing memorial museums (at Caen and Bayeaux), cemeteries (Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial) and a self-guided walk at Omaha Beach (Circuit de la Plage d’Omaha), the site of the worst fighting. The clifftop American cemetery above Omaha Beach is haunting with its rows of plain white crosses covering 170 acres (70ha) and containing nearly 10,000 US soldiers who were killed in action during WWII. A memorial nearby is inscribed with the names of the missing or unidentified dead.
You can visit the area in a day from Paris, although many people choose to stay overnight at nearby Bayeaux or Caen. A day trip leaving plenty of time to visit the American cemetery at Saint-Laurent, the Omaha Beach Visitor Center, Juno and Gold beaches, and the Caen Memorial will take around 14 hours from Paris and back.
The Caen Memorial – A Museum for Peace is particularly impressive with its high-tech displays which bring to vivid life the events of World War II and the D-Day Landings.
Bayeaux, south of the beaches, has the equally evocative Battle of Normandy Memorial Museum with artifacts, personal memoirs, photographs and dioramas. Nearby is the Bayeaux War Cemetery.