Since moving to France more than six years ago, I’ve traveled all over the country. And there’s nothing I’ve found more fascinating than its historic landmarks.
From the Fort des Dunes in Dunkirk to the Musée de la Reddition in Reims, I’ve explored some of the most remarkable sites this country has to offer.
One of the most significant places I’ve visited was the Battlefield of Verdun.
Located in northeastern France, this was the site of the longest and bloodiest battle of World War I. It lasted an agonizing ten months, from February to December 1916, and saw more than 700,000 casualties.
In this post, I’ll help you plan your Verdun Battlefield visit and share the best tips for a successful trip.
Verdun Battlefield Visit Overview
If you’re short on time, here is an overview of the sites you’ll visit on your trip.
- Verdun Memorial Museum
- Douaumont Ossuary
- Le Soldat du Droit
- Fort Douaumont
- Trench of Bayonets
- Fort de Vaux
- Monument aux Morts de Vaux
Visiting the Verdun Battlefield – 8 Things to Do
The Battle of Verdun was one of the most significant battles of the Great War.
So, there are a lot of sites to visit at this memorial.
Below I’ve put together a list of the best monuments, battlefields, and museums to visit.
1. Verdun Memorial Museum
There’s no better place to begin your visit than the Verdun Memorial Museum.
It offers an in-depth look at the battle with artifacts, personal stories, and interactive exhibits. It lays the groundwork for understanding the scale of combat and the human stories within it.
It’s also where you’ll get your tickets for the other sites.
There are three floors that each highlight a different aspect of the war.
You’ll enter the museum on the ground floor, where you’ll get an overview of the Battle of Verdun. It starts with a large map showing just how big it was.
For me, this was one of the most helpful parts of the museum. It gave me a visual understanding of the battle and its impact on the surrounding area.
There were photos, videos, uniforms, and military equipment to illustrate life on the front lines.
Then, the second floor showed what happened on Germany’s side and how airplanes played a role in the war.
But the top floor was my favorite.
There was a terrace that led to a stunning panoramic view of the battlefields. And it put the entire war into perspective. It reminded me of my visit to the Musée Dunkerque 1940 – Opération Dynamo in Dunkirk.
Fleury-Devant-Douaumont was once a small village of about 400 people.
When the Battle of Verdun began it was shuffled from one side to the other before being destroyed.
Today, all that remains is a small church, Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-l’Europe, which serves as a memorial to those who lost their lives fighting in this area.
It doesn’t compare to some of the other churches I’ve been to in France, but it was still worth a visit.
But the most somber part of my visit to Fleury-Devant-Douaumont was the huge holes in the ground.
The village was heavily shelled, and the craters left behind showed just how destructive the war was, at least for me.
3. Douaumont Ossuary
The Battle of Verdun was one of the longest and bloodiest battles of World War I.
For ten months, starting in February 1916, it’s estimated that some 700,000 soldiers lost their lives.
The Douaumont Ossuary is a memorial that contains the remains of more than 130,000 unidentified soldiers.
The ossuary also has a viewing platform where you can see the surrounding countryside, including Fort Douaumont.
But, for me, the most powerful part of this memorial was the list of names inscribed on the walls. These were the soldiers who never returned home.
It’s one of the harsh realities of France’s history and it’s one of the reasons I love this country so much.
4. Le Soldat du Droit
Le Soldat du Droit is a statue not far from the Douaumont Ossuary.
It’s dedicated to a lieutenant in the French army, André Thome, who fought and died in the Battle of Verdun. And it shows him at rest in his military uniform.
Then, there’s a small inscription that reads, “He understood that the People are represented by deeds, not words.”
It’s not the most well-known monument here, but since it was on the way to Fort Douaumont, I decided to stop and pay my respects.
5. Fort Douaumont
During the Battle of Verdun, it was captured by the Germans and played a crucial role in their advance.
After a failed attempt to recapture the fort in May, it was successfully retaken by the French in October 1916.
Today, you can tour the fort and see the remnants of the fighting that took place here.
Like the Fleury-Devant-Douaumont village, I was struck by the eerie atmosphere. The craters from the bombs were massive, and walking around them was a humbling experience.
6. Trench of Bayonets
One of the most iconic and haunting images from the Battle of Verdun is the Trench of Bayonets.
This was a French trench where soldiers were buried alive when it collapsed under heavy bombardment.
When their bodies were found, their bayonets were sticking straight out of the ground, hence the name, Trench of Bayonets.
Today, the trench looks as it did during the war. But instead of bayonets, there are crosses to mark the fallen soldiers.
When I was walking up to the site, I hadn’t realized how emotionally intense it would be. It was easily one of the most moving places I saw.
7. Fort de Vaux
Another important fort during the Battle of Verdun was Fort de Vaux.
It was strategically located on high ground to provide a clear view of the surrounding area.
But personnel and equipment were needed elsewhere, so it was left unmanned. The Germans took it over in July 1916 and held on to it until the French recaptured it in November of the same year.
Today, you can still see where the bombs fell and the damage they caused to the fort’s structure.
But the most impressive part for me was the forest in the distance. It was once a red zone that has since been transformed into a thriving area filled with trees and wildlife.
8. Monument aux Morts de Vaux
Vaux was another village that was destroyed in the Battle of Verdun.
It was here that a fierce battle took place, and the French were able to stop the Germans.
The Monument aux Morts de Vaux stands as a tribute to the soldiers who fought and died in this area.
The monument is a simple stone obelisk with the inscription “Vaux. On ne passe pas,” which translates to “Vaux. No passing.”
It’s a reminder of the bravery and sacrifice made by those who defended this village.
After I stopped by the monument, I explored the town and the nearby walking paths.
And, since so few tourists make it out this far, I had the area to myself. It was a serene and peaceful experience.
Practical Tips for Your Visit
If you’re planning a self-guided tour of the battlefields, here are some practical tips to help you organize your trip.
Helpful Tip: The battlefields are about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from downtown Verdun.
Get In and Around
The best way to get to Verdun is from Paris. It’s even possible to visit as a day trip.
You can take a train from Gare de l’Est to Meuse TGV station and then transfer to Verdun via a shuttle.
From there, you’ll have to take a taxi to the Verdun Memorial and explore the site on foot. The journey takes about two hours.
It’s an affordable option, but you’ll be limited to the sites accessible on foot.
Helpful Tip: I explored all the sites listed above on foot, and it took me about eight hours.
Another option is to rent a car and drive from Paris.
This is my preferred option because you’ll have more flexibility and not be limited by public transport.
It takes about three hours on a direct highway (A4), and there are plenty of rental options in Paris.
Plus, you’ll be able to see everything I mentioned above without having to rush or skip sites.
Helpful Tip: There are no shuttle services for touring the battlefields.
Best Time to Visit
The battlefields and the museum are open most of the year (except from the beginning of January to the beginning of February).
But the best time to visit is between April and October when the weather is milder.
Helpful Tip: Keep in mind that summer months can be scorching, so make sure to bring sunscreen and plenty of water.
If you plan to visit during peak tourist season (July and August), try to schedule your trip for the week instead of the weekend to avoid large crowds.
What to Wear
Depending on the time of year you visit, make sure to dress appropriately.
During colder months, bundle up in warm layers as temperatures can drop significantly.
In warmer months, comfortable walking shoes, a hat, and sunglasses are recommended.
And don’t forget to bring a rain jacket in case of unexpected showers.
Where to Stay
There are no accommodation options near the battlefields. But there are plenty of hotels in Verdun.
Below is a list of hotels that I recommend:
✓ Chambres D’Hôtes Des 3 Rois – A beautiful hotel with a cozy interior. Their breakfast is incredible and they have free parking. It’s also the closest hotel to the Verdun Memorial
✓ Les Jardins du Mess – Located in downtown Verdun, this hotel is luxurious and modern. The views from the rooms are incredible and there’s even a bar on site.
✓ Savy Hôtel – This is one of the most unique hotels in Verdun. It’s on a river barrage and the views are incredible. The breakfast was delicious and the rooms were very comfortable.
Where to Eat
Verdun Memorial Museum is the only place on site that has food. There’s a small cafeteria that sells drinks, snacks, sandwiches, and pastries.
So, if you plan on spending the whole day exploring, make sure to pack a lunch or grab something at the museum.
There are also plenty of options in Verdun, ranging from small cafes to restaurants serving traditional French food.
Below are a few restaurants that I recommend:
✓ La Capsule – The most delicious galettes in town. Everything is homemade and the staff are beyond friendly.
✓ Le Clapier – If you’re looking to try cuisine from Lorraine, this is the place to do it. The menu is incredible and affordable.
✓ Restaurant Le 29 – Located on the Meuse River, this is your classic burger and pizza joint. It’s a great place to hang out and relax after a day of exploring.
Conclusion: Visit Verdun Battlefield
Even though visiting the Battlefield of Verdun can be a somber experience, it stands as one of the best historical sites I’ve been to in France.
From the beautiful landscapes to the moving memorials, it’s a chance to honor and remember those who sacrificed their lives in World War I.
Now that you know how to plan your visit, it’s time to book your trip. I recommend reserving your rental car and booking your hotel with the same websites I use.
Read More Articles About France
I hope you enjoyed my post and found it helpful. Here are some other articles that I think you might find interesting.
- Is Reims Worth Visiting? 19 Reasons Why You Should!
- Is Metz Worth Visiting? Things to Do and Reasons to Visit
- What to Do in Metz in One Day: 15 Amazing Activities