Caen Memorial Museum – Discover WW2’s bigger picture in Normandy

Caen Memorial Museum in Normandy turns the way we learn history on its head. All too often with WW2 history we are programmed to see events through one nation’s eyes only – maybe in school lessons or through the letters of an Allied soldier.

The true picture of course is far more complex and the fact that the Caen Memorial Museum opens up a clear and emotive narrative from many perspectives – the Allies’, the civilians’, the persecutors’ and the persecuted is in itself a message of peace and hope for the future. It unravels the whole story of WW2, not just during the war years but in the context of the entire 20th century, from the events leading up to WW1 to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
And more than just retelling key WW2 facts, it relates the small and sobering human stories behind the big events. From the moment you arrive at Caen Memorial Museum, passing beneath the engraved words ‘La douleur m’a brisée, la fraternité m’a relevée, de ma blessure a jailli un fleuve de liberté’ [Grief broke me, brotherhood raised me up, from my wound has sprung a river of liberty], emotions run high.

How to plan your time at the Caen Memorial Museum in Normandy

You could spend anything from three hours to the whole day at Caen Memorial Museum and there’s a lot to see, so take our logical route through the museum to make sure you don’t miss a thing.

Starting from the main hall, journey down into the depths of WW2

Thankfully, the young people visiting the museum today will never know what it was like to experience the tension and hardships of Europe as it descended into the WW2 conflict, but the museum, in its first section ‘The Failure of Peace’, does an extraordinarily powerful job of plunging visitors into a creeping sense of darkness via a gently spiralling walkway, each chronological stage explaining a key event.

Without realising it, visitors now find themselves on the lower floor in an unsettling sense of Europe in Nazi grip. Then, thanks to a trail of thought-provoking WW2 photographs, artefacts, reference texts and film footage, visitors get to grips with every aspect of WW2 history: persecution and the horror of ghettos, deportations and extermination camps; bombings and the toll on civilian life; the role of women; soldiers’ lives; key events such as Germany invading the Soviet Union; Stalingrad; Pearl Harbor; the work of the Resistance and reprisals; liberation of both civilians and concentration camps; Germany’s defeat; Hiroshima. The list goes on.

In the way it clearly conveys WW2 facts, Caen Memorial museum answers questions you may not have known you had: Why did so many French people collaborate? Why did the Allies bomb towns and cities in a country that they were trying to protect? Why was Général de Gaulle based in England during WW2? Whatever level of knowledge you had when you first walked through the door – from those hearing WW2 facts for the very first time to those who are complete experts, the skill of Caen Memorial museum is that you will always find a new or illuminating dimension.

Now discover more detailed D-Day facts and Battle of Normandy facts back up the ground floor

Thousands of visitors come each year to this part of France to discover the events of D-Day, 6th June 1944, arguably the most pivotal day in WW2 history – in the very spot the events took place. The Caen Memorial Museum retells the story almost hour by hour, recounting details of how the Canadian, US and British forces landed on the beaches codenamed Utah beach, Omaha beach, Gold beach, Juno beach and Sword beach in their courageous bid to liberate Europe. The D-Day story is a moving one and once you hear a little more about the Normandy landings, you’ll inevitably want to get on to the nearby D-Day beaches nearby on the Calvados coast to explore one or more integral parts of the story in more detail. Caen Memorial Museum is within easy driving distance of all the Normandy D-Day Beaches:


Sword Beach around Merville-Franceville (14 miles from Caen Memorial)

Juno Beach around Courseulles-sur-Mer (11 miles from Caen Memorial)

Gold Beach around Arromanches les Bains (16 miles from Caen Memorial)

Omaha Beach around Colleville-sur-Mer (28 miles from Caen Memorial)

and Utah Beach around Sainte-Mère-Eglise (52 miles from Caen Memorial)

Now take the lift or steps down to General Richter’s bunker

If at first it seemed random to you that the Caen Memorial Museum is located on this spot just outside of town, down here in the bowels of the museum is your moment of clarity as you discover that it was on this very site that WW2 General Wilhelm Richter had an underground headquarters to direct the German 716th infantry division. Supervising operations in the event of an attack necessitated a sick bay, living quarters, transmission centre etc, and sound effects echo through the oppressive 70-metre-long and 3-metre-high tunnel.

Practical information – Frequently asked questions about Caen Memorial Museum

Though WW2 ended in the 1940s, the ramifications raged on for decades. If ever you wanted to learn more about the confrontations between Soviet ideologies and American ideologies in the post war years – epitomised by the Berlin Wall – you’re in the right place and there’s an engaging section of the museum dedicated to all the conflicts in the latter half of the 20th century.

Practical information – Frequently asked questions about Caen Memorial Museum

What else is there to see and do at Caen Memorial Museum?

Also on site you’ll find a temporary exhibition (on the subject of war, peace or human rights), the Jardins du Souvenir (remembrance gardens), a new 360˚ film about 20th century history, a café, restaurant and shop.

How much does it cost to visit Caen Memorial Museum?

Caen Memorial Museum is only 11 miles from the ferry port at Caen (Caen-Ouistreham) or 77 miles from the ferry port at Cherbourg. The museum is not in Caen city centre. If you have a car, it’s just a short drive (with plenty of free parking on site) or it is possible to reach the museum from the city centre or train station by bus.

How much does it cost to visit Caen Memorial Museum?

You’ll find all ticket pricing information here. Please book tickets on-line and in advance.

I can’t speak French. Is the visit available in English?

Information is displayed throughout the museum in English. You can also opt for an audio-guide in English to explain the displays as you walk through. There is a small fee for use of the audio-guide.


For further information, please visit Caen Memorial Museum’s website here. Start planning your trip to Calvados here.

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