London, White Cliffs of Dover, Ypres, Normandy Coast, Paris
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departure.
Southern England and Northern France are covered in the poignant reminders of the two world wars, from historic beaches to shell-battered bunkers, resonant memorials to legendary aircraft. On this guided itinerary, an expert historian unveils all the history, taking you on an illuminating journey that's away from any tourist trail. Part tribute and part celebration, these ten days uncover the legends from the Allied story and the locations that will always honor their memory.
London – Gentle Welcomes to the Capital City
Land in London and a famous cityscape spills out before your eyes. So many wondrous sights overlook the River Thames: the chiming tones of Big Ben, Westminster's parliamentary grandeur, a revolving eye, and many iconic buildings from across the era. After the international flight, today is designed as a leisure day, allowing you to wander along the river and get a sense of London's splendor. An airport transfer brings you to a five-star hotel in the heart of the city, making many iconic attractions within a comfortable walking distance. Your historical guide meets you for a welcome dinner in the evening, a chance to swap stories and go through the complete itinerary before tomorrow. This itinerary can be fully customized to any of your interests. In particular, the guide specializes in helping piece together a historical tale of any of your family members who might have served in the two world wars. Consider reading some of our England tour reviews to get a sneak peek of some of the adventures you could encounter on your own England vacation.
London – A Warren of War Rooms and World War II Exhibits
The Cenotaph: a poignant start to any world war tour, the timeless monument that plays English homage to those that died. It's a place of silence, one that connects with the past. But this tour isn't just a memorial; it's also a celebration. Enter the corridor of the Cabinet War Rooms and journey through the maze, into the underground lair where Churchill strategized each day. Scratches cover his chair and the inside of the desk, indications of the pressure and tension that still seem to hang mysteriously in the room. Breathing in the air, you immediately know that this was a room where very critical decisions were made, decisions that affected millions.
After lunch in the capital, you're driven out to the Imperial War Museum, home to Europe's finest collection of war exhibits. Tanks stand and point, bombshells line the walls, aircraft propellers seem ready to twirl again, and the complete range of World War weaponry is on display. A series of moving exhibits evoke life in London during the war, and your guide is on hand to enhance the narrative. The final of today's stops is wonderfully inspiring; rustic HMS Belfast moored proudly along the River Thames. Few boats came back from the D-day landings; this one survived, and the floating museum expertly chronicles a monumental day in the direction of World War II. The evening is at your leisure, and there are countless outstanding restaurants within walking distance of your hotel.
London – Legendary Aircraft and Inside the War Bunkers
Before Apple and Microsoft came Enigma, the WWII code-cracking machine that unraveled the secrets of German military intelligence. Spreading out across an entire room, Enigma has been preserved exactly as it used to look, filled with mysterious dials, lights, and switches. This stop at Bletchley Park is followed by a captivating command post, the WWII Operations Bunker of Uxbridge Barracks, military hub throughout the aerial war between England and Germany during the early stages of WWII. Nearby, there's a touching monument dedicated to the pilots and civilians who died during this Battle of Britain.
It was the British Spitfire that eventually ruled the air in 1940 and RAF Hendon has an incredible hangar filled with these iconic aircraft. Remarkably, despite being England's national air museum, this attraction sees just a handful of daily visitors. There's over 100 historic aircraft, from the only Vickers Wellingtons left in the world to the bulky Avro Lancasters, and then the Lancaster Bombers that stand in a seductive state of ruin, a wing missing, a propeller jammed. Follow the historic trail, and you can trace the development of the RAF's aircraft, admiring how each was customized to the challenge. Also dangling from the ceiling are some of the world's first ever planes, tiny fragile-looking gliders with a century of history. Return to your Central London hotel and the evening is at your leisure.
Dover – Secret Wartime Tunnels and Churchill's Home
Today is a day of two different eras and two tactical commanders. Sir Winston Churchill's home stands amongst the green gardens of England, surrounded by manicured hedges and lawns. Stepping into his house, you get a real sense of the man's private life and character, the shelves dotted with unusual ornaments and the walls dappled with a huge art collection. Then, scroll back to the 11th century and you will discover that William the Conquerer didn't have the same poetic tastes. But his Secret Wartime Tunnels are the work of genius, a labyrinthine stretch of gloomy corridors that were used as a command center by Admiral Ramsay and Churchill. Exploring the tunnels imbues a sense of awe; the miracle landings of Dunkirk were orchestrated from a maze that had been built over 900 years before. Alighting from the darkened interior, you stand on the iconic White Cliffs of Dover; on a clear day, you'll be able to see France from across the channel. Spend the night at a countryside five-star hotel close to the cliffs, with impressive views onto the towering Dover Castle.
Northern France to Ypres, Belgium – World War I and The Last Post
Journeying through the war sights of Northern France brings an atmosphere of moving melancholy. It's here that you find the great battlefields of World War I, the places where men perished in the hundreds of thousands. After the Memorial Ceremony in Vallee de la Somme, you visit the Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge. Trenches stand in absolute preservation, radiating the stark brutality of trench warfare. Although it's not always pleasant, there's an inspiration that accompanies any war visit to Northern France. Witnessing and experiencing the sites only enhances the admiration for those who fought in WWI.
As the war enters its centenary, one moving tradition lives on unbowed in the Belgium town of Ypres. At 8 pm, every day since 1918, buglers march to the Menin Gate Memorial to sound the Last Post. Brass notes cut through the air for a brief moment before the memorial sees a breathtaking minute's silence. During the extended ceremony, wreaths are laid, and it's possible for the public to participate in the parade. Your guide can arrange this in advance if you wish. The Last Post is always moving, a fitting salute observed by hundreds or thousands of gatherers every evening. Spend the night in a cute boutique hotel near the village of Ypres with a sumptuous dinner included.
Normandy – Poignant Memoirs to American Soldiers in World War II
On a day dedicated to the American sites of World War II, you start at Iron Mike, a tribute to the soldiers of 82nd Airborne. Then St. Mere Eglise, the church that John Steele landed on during D-Day. History rises from the dunes of Utah Beach. Weaponry lies like lost sandcastles, peeking above the ground with an air of stoic pride. Assault weapons dot the beach while concrete bunkers have crumbled, and yet remain unbowed. An hour on Utah brings home the scale of the World War II landings, with the bunkers extending far down the beach and weapons randomly propped up in remote parts of sand. On the highest dunes, you find a complete set of German bunkers, domineering ramparts that were breached by the 4th Division's unstoppable push northwards. You should arrive at your boutique Normandy hotel around mid-afternoon, where there are some leisurely hours to admire the postcard French countryside.
Normandy – American Cemetery and Stories from D-Day
Morning smells of fresh baguettes and coffee mingle on the streets of your Normandy village. A bell twinkles briefly, emitted by a cyclist slowly peddling across the stone. Rural village France is as enchanting as it gets, the slow rhythm of life and quaint tradition meaning that today is ideal for a leisurely morning. Enjoy breakfast on a terrace, wander through the town, and try to resist the alluring smell from the bakeries. Today's loop of destinations takes you out to the Normandy Coast and the important memories from the American involvement in Europe. As always, your guide provides a captivating narrative, unveiling the stories that hide beneath the sand. Some destinations don't need words, such as Omaha, where Sherman tanks stand proudly and the cliffs of German bunkers are rippled with shell holes. Visit the American Cemetery, the simple and elegant resting place of almost 10,000 U. S. soldiers. Then hear the dramatic stories that surround Pegasus Bridge and the D-Day glider assault.
Paris – Evocative War History in the French Capital
With a bullet hole in its door crest and an overwhelming sense of mystique, Hotel Meurice provides a fitting introduction to the World War sites of Paris. This former Nazi headquarters has an air of menace yet also symbolizes the complexities of the war in Europe. Prefecture de Police is equally filled with paradox; part French history, part Nazi occupation, and the scene of a mass uprising against the Nazis. Touching and claustrophobic, the Deportation Memorial runs underground behind Notre Dame, impressively conveying the journey of some 200,000 who were sent to concentration camps here. It's spooky and at times scary, a message that powerfully evokes the times. Spend the evening in Paris, at a five-star hotel just a stone's throw away from the River Seine, and enjoy a farewell dinner with your private guide.
Paris – Free Day to Explore Paris
Much like London on the Thames, so much of Paris wraps itself around the meandering River Seine. A stroll along the riverfront connects the luxuriant dots of French architecture, revealing a succession of elaborate styles that came long before the Eiffel Tower. This final day of the itinerary is at your leisure, enabling you to explore your own story of Paris. A walk along the Seine is always a good place to start. But then there's the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Champs-Elysees – the French capital is adorned with iconic sights and attractions, so a driver is made available for the day, ensuring you can effortlessly connect the city's monuments.
Paris – Departure
After a leisurely breakfast, you depart Paris, heading home across the Atlantic with hundreds of memories from two wars that will never be forgotten.
- Explore the hidden history of the world wars by touring bunkers, Churchill's rooms, and a labyrinth of inspiring tunnels
- Visit various museums that collectively present the greatest collection of World War exhibits, including legendary aircraft, century-old tanks, and code-cracking machines
- Wander across the beaches of Normandy and Northern Belgium and recreate key moments in the history of both world wars
- Visit the touching memorials and cemeteries from the two world wars, including the American Cemetery and the wonderfully resonant Menin Gate, where the Last Post continues to be played every evening
- Discover the personal tales behind the history of Europe, from visits to Churchill's home to the shell holes in German bunkers
- Spend three nights in London and two nights in Paris, enabling you to admire the famous architecture and unforgettable cityscapes
- You are guided on some of the finest tours of England and Northern France by an expert historical guide with a speciality in world war knowledge, ensuring that the sights are always accompanied by poignant narratives
The scars of war are embedded on the landscapes of Southern England and Northern France. They're not places that dwell on the past. Sites and memorials expertly evoke and remember, while also looking forward and providing a tribute to the world as we know it. This handcrafted ten-day itinerary connects the most important battlefields and world war sites in Western Europe, piecing together the narrative of WWI and WWII. While certain places on this itinerary are not always easy viewing, they're also an ode to a celebration. Without these sites, and the sacrifice of those who came before us, the world wouldn't be as it is today. And it's this tribute that stands proudly at the heart of the itinerary.
Traveling from London to Paris, you're accompanied by a specialist historian guide. Hidden stories are unraveled, tales from the bunkers are remembered, and the atmosphere of the times is effortlessly evoked. Some of the destinations are memorial sites, and there's an opportunity to take part in the incredibly moving Last Post ceremony in Ypres. Others remain perfectly preserved since the 1940s. Sherman tanks point at crumbling bunkers; Spitfire jets stand proudly beside Lancaster Bombers, labyrinthine bunkers take you to command rooms, and code-cracking machines provide a baffling sight.
During the first three days in London, there's a chance to take in the iconic city landmarks, as well as Europe's finest collection of war exhibits. In particular, the Imperial War Museum and aircraft of RAF Hendon provide an immersive journey into another time. Discover the character behind the legend of Winston Churchill with a visit to Churchill's private home, followed by the surreal 900-year old war tunnels that were used to orchestrate the Dunkirk landings. Throughout the itinerary, you stay in five-star hotels or boutique guesthouses doused in centuries of tradition. Each has a premier location, enabling you to find many restaurants and attractions within easy walking distance.
Then, you cross to France and the moving tributes of World War I and trench warfare. A few days are dedicated to the U. S. involvement in the war in Europe; memorial and cemeteries are visited, but also beaches dotted with tanks and weaponry, tunnels and bunkers, and various evocative memoirs to the D-Day landings. Next, you move to Paris and a five-star hotel in the exquisite French capital. A day is dedicated to the war history of the occupied city, including Nazi headquarters and the spooky tunnels used during the Holocaust. Like always, there's a positive slant, a touching reminder of how integral these sites have been to today's world. Finish with a free day in Paris, a chance to discover the iconic attractions that can be found throughout the city.
$3,115 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
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Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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