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The Lorraine city of Verdun is in the Northeastern part of France, very close to the border of Germany. Because of it’s location, it suffered greatly during WWI. While in Verdun, you will have the chance to get a first hand perspective of the devastation that war creates. From the hundreds of thousands of gravesites to the mounded landscape decimated from bombings, the WWI sites in Verdun capture the magnitude of loss.
While in Verdun, there are many things you will be able to experience. Be sure to wear good walking shoes, because a great deal of what you will see involves walking trails, hiking rocky surfaces and traversing uneven terrain. Wondering which WWI sites in Verdun you should prioritize?
Major WWI Sites in Verdun to See
- Mémorial de Verdun
- Village Fleury
- Fort de Douaumont & Fort de Vaux
- L’Ossuaire de Douaumont
Mémorial de Verdun
If you only have time to visit one WWI spot in Verdun, it must be Mémorial de Verdun. When you arrive, you will first do the interior museum that will give you insight into the perspecitves of both the French & German soldiers during WWI. You will be totally immersed in visuals and interactive exhibits where you will get to see what it was like for the soliders during trench warfare. The museum also goes into detail about how Verdun was effected by the war. Expect to spend about 2 hours inside the museum.
When you finish the museum, take the walk to the Village Fleury. This is one of the nine villages that were completely destroyed during the Battle of Verdun in 1918. As you walk the path, you can’t help but notice the expansive divoted landscape. Amongst the divots are markers that show you where certain buildings once stood; a bakery, a farm, a school~ all gone. What remains are newly grown trees and the craters of earth brought about from bombings.
While the village was never rebuilt, in the 1930s a small memorial chapel was built on the site of the old church. The chapel, later named Our Lady of Europe, pays tribute to all the soldiers who died.
Fort de Douaumont & Fort de Vaux
Once you have a good perspective on the lives of soldiers in WWI from your visit to Mémorial de Verdun, a good second (and third) stop is to Fort Vaux & Fort Douaumont. You can buy a combined ticket for Fort Vaux and Fort Douaumont if you will be visiting both, saving about 4 Euros for a family.
Both forts will give you a glimpse into what it was like to be a solider in these fortified structures as they haven’t changed at all since last occupied. You can use an audio guide or a laminated paper guide. The laminated guide will allow you move about at your leisure and perfect for those on limited time. Be prepared for colder temperatures and damp flooring inside no matter what the temperature is outside.
L’Ossuaire de Douaumont
L’Ossuaire de Douaumont is a tribute to the French soldiers that fought in WWI. Inside the monument, you will find the names of all those who died in service during WWWI etched into the walls. Through the windows of the ossuary, you will find the bones that were recovered after the war whose bodies went unidentified.
Take time to tour the grounds. You will find sections showing respect for the different groups of soldiers making up the French army: Muslims, Jewish, Christian. The enormity of the complex will give you a great perspective on the amount of lives lost.
You don’t have to be a war buff to enjoy a trip to see the WWI sites in Verdun, France. These sites will give you a glimpse into history that you won’t find any where else in the world. Not only will you be able to walk in the footsteps of the soldiers that fought here, but you will be able to step into the places where people were living and working before becoming victims of the devastating effects of war. I guarantee that it will effect the way you view your own military and the sacrifice they make you ensure the world around us remains safe.
If you in Paris and wondering how to see Lorraine, consider a Small-Group WWI Day Trip from Paris: Verdun and Meuse-Argonne Battlefields