For many people, World War 1 and World War 2 is a fascinating period that they want to learn more about or even follow the footsteps of their ancestors. Numerous battlefield sites around Northern France and Belgium have memorials to explore. So, soak in some history from the first half of the last century. If you’re looking for a historic trip, we’ve got all the details you need.
You might think that seeking significant WW1 and WW2 sites will be a challenge and mean heading way out but you’d be wrong. There are plenty that are easily accessible that you can head to, whether you’re planning on seeing a few of the most notable sights while you’re on holiday or you’re making it the focal point of your trip.
When it comes to exploring the history of the 20th century, you have two options:
Self-driving is a great idea if you want complete freedom. You just need to grab a map, plan your route and hit the road. Local tourism offices have written guides and information to help you out too. If you’ve got specific places you want to head to, self-driving is ideal.
Guided tours are perfect if you want to leave the planning in someone else’s capable hands, once you’ve booked you won’t have to do a thing. You’ll know where you’re heading in advance and have someone on hand to tell you all about the intricacies of the area and reveal hidden gems only locals know.
When you’re planning a trip that focuses on WW1 and WW2 sites, you’ll quickly realise that there’s a huge number of places that you can visit. You’re sure to have some in mind already but these significant sites are worth considering too if they’re not already on your list.
One of the most well-known sites of the First World War is the Battle of the Somme, when the Allies committed themselves to an assault. This memorial is dedicated to the 72,246 missing British and South African servicemen that gave their lives and have no known grave. The memorial was inaugurated in 1932 and a visitor centre was opened in 2014. The inscription of names and graves are a sobering reminder of what the war cost.
Designed by architect Frank Higginson, the Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery is one of the largest in the region. The site contains a staggering 7,655 burials from the First World War – more than half of which are unidentified. If you want to explore more of the area surrounding this cemetery, which bears the scars of two world wars, there are hiking and cycling routes that will take you through cemeteries, villages, and strategic points that played a key role.
On the first day of the Somme in 1916, the British secretly planted an underground explosive charge. It left a crater that’s 98ft deep and 330ft wide when it went off which helped the allied troops advance. Today, it’s a memorial to the colossal size and power of the weaponry from the First World War.
The trenches are one of the most recognised and terrifying memories of the war. It’s hard to imagine what life would have been like to the troops occupying them. The Vimy Memorial Park gives you a glimpse of the confined spaces that they endured. Dedicated to Canadian soldiers that successfully push the Germans out of their heavily entrenched position, you can take a guided tour around the area or explore it yourself.
One of the most recognised military operations ever is the Battle of Dunkirk in the Second World War. Noted for the famous evacuation, later dubbed the Miracle of Dunkirk, which rescued over 338,000 soldiers in a hastily assembled fleet, the events have even inspired a blockbuster movie. Located in the town cemetery of Dunkirk, the memorial is to the 4,505 missing dead of the British Expeditionary Force.
Finally, Louvre Hotels are near the most significant sites of both world wars in Arras, Dunkirk, and Ypres. Book now for the ideal base to learn more about the events that have shaped history and modern life.