Updated on 6 May 2021
Reading time: 3 minutes
The Mémorial de Caen is the largest museum in France dedicated to 20th-century history, commemorating in particular World War II, D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. If you’re visiting Normandy and find yourself near Caen, this museum is a must-see, and a fascinating way to spend an afternoon.
WORLD HISTORY WRIT LARGE At THE MéMORIAL DE CAEN
We step up to the Esplanade Eisenhower named after the Supreme Commander in 1944. Before us is the smooth stone cliff face of the Memorial. A jagged gash splits it apart, and either side a huge inscription in capital letters spells out the solemn words across the ripped facade: ‘Suffering shattered me, brotherhood raised me up, and from my wound spurted forth a flood of freedom’. Now we are invited to step into that wound of history – and it will be bloody.
Just as the architecture symbolises the irruption of war into peace, so the site of the Memorial was chosen as a symbol: bang on top of the German General Richter’s underground headquarters in a former Caen stone quarry. He commanded the principal defending division of the D-Day Landing Beaches – which would be almost wiped out that day.
Two to three hours is the minimum time it takes to visit the Mémorial. We advise getting there as early as possible so you have time to see everything.
Suffering shattered me, brotherhood raised me up, and from my wounds spurted forth a flood of freedom
Beyond the Mémorial de Caen
After an instructive morning topped by an impressionistic film, many major sites await you nearby: Pegasus Bridge is only 15’ away, the Arromanches harbour 30’, the US Cemetery 35’, the Pointe du Hoc 45’.
The Memorial also runs its own tours and offers thought-provoking insights into the Cold War period in a separate section. Its narrative begins in 1919 in its ‘Time Tunnel’. A ‘D-Day Tour’ package covering the museum, a restaurant lunch followed by five hours travelling to four iconic remembrance sites with your own bilingual guide costs €139 per person.
The Mémorial de Caen with the kids
Some images inside can be harrowing. If you visit the Mémorial with children you feel might be too young to take it in yet, there is an excellent playroom and creche provided free of charge. However, there are lots of interactive tasks and films that cater to children, and the museum is usually bursting with youngsters. The museum staff can advise on the best approach for your child.
Mémorial de Caen
Esplanade Général Eisenhower, 14050 Caen
10-18 years: €17.50
Under 10s: Free
Family ticket (2 adults + 1 child min): €51
Multi-site tickets to the Mémorial of Caen, the Mémorial of Falaise, the Cité de la Mer (Cherbourg) and the Arromanches 360° cinema can be purchased on-site
Parking: Free of charge
The Mémorial de Caen reopens to the public on 19 May 2021