For those who have grown up watching the documentaries on the European history, and if your passion for history has no boundaries, then it’s probable that a trip to Europe will satisfy your inner history enthusiast very well. The historical details can be fascinating and witnessing it firsthand is a rare visual delight. Europe is a place full of carefully preserved ancient remains, whether it be an old church in the main town or a historic building with centuries-old significance.
There is always something to be observed from the past of each city in Europe, and some of the must-visit places are the World War 2 sites in Europe that are deeply buried in the dark ages.
Apart from their historical nature, these sites provide beautiful sights and breathtaking landscapes, which not only offer a historical motive to visit the place but also a scenic backdrop, cultured society, recreational facilities, and an overall pleasant atmosphere to learn about its history at our own convenience.
A large part of the Second World War movement was led and controlled by the Nazi Regiment under the leadership of Adolf Hitler. Therefore, the Holocaust period or the Jewish portion of Europe’s history holds great significance and has been preserved through these World War 2 sites in Europe to connect with its illustrious past.
1. Dunkirk, France
This is the location where the war took place on the beaches. Dunkirk is situated to the north of France and is renowned as it was here where the British and French troops fought against the German army during the World War 2. The Dunkirk evacuation eventually led to the defeat of the German troops. It was nothing less than a miracle when the British, Belgian, and French troops were trapped on the Dunkirk beach and harbor.
Today, a traveler has the option to take a ferry from Dover to Dunkirk and explore the battleground while visiting the famous beaches of Dunkirk. There is also a renowned Dunkirk 1940 museum that houses war artifacts to guide you through the beach battleground. Additionally, visitors must explore war sites like the Port Museum, three boats of Duchesse Anne, the barge guide, the lightship Sandettie, the Saint-Éloi church, and the town hall.
Furthermore, a boat trip to explore the port and understand its facilities is a great way to learn about the past and enjoy the beach tourist ambiance. There are other places of interest, providing tourists with ample time to immerse themselves in the history of the place while relaxing on the fine sandy beaches and admiring the beauty of the coastline.
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2. Berchtesgaden, Germany
Situated close to the border of Austria, Berchtesgaden is a town brimming with picturesque and mountainous magnificence. So much so that even Nazi officials like Adolf Hitler could not resist the allure of this place. As a result, the town became the covert meeting place for official and personal gatherings of the Nazi regime.
Renowned as Hitler’s secluded mountain retreat, Berchtesgaden is commonly known as the Eagle’s Nest, featuring a grand entrance that takes visitors through a tunnel and an elegant elevator made of brass, connecting to the Obersalzberg headquarters. There is plenty to explore and discover here regarding Hitler’s lavish accommodations and preferences. The Documentation Centre and the original Obersalzberg structure, including the living room and windows, are a must-see for history enthusiasts.
Beyond the solid walls, there is ample space for recreation and relaxation. The open-air café, surrounded by the stunning Bavarian mountain panorama, offers a picturesque and invigorating ambiance to soak in all the touristy vibes.
3. Jewish Cemetery, Prague
Located just beyond Prague’s Old Town is the Jewish Quarter. There is ample space to take a historical journey through Jewish history, including the Children’s Museum, four synagogues, and the infamous Jewish Cemetery. You can embark on a specialized historical tour starting from the Old Town, enjoying the scenic landscapes of Prague, and then heading to the Jewish Quarter to gain insight into the history of the Jewish community that suffered immense destruction under the Nazis, led by Adolf Hitler.
The initial sight of the Jewish Cemetery will leave you with a sense of awe and a glimpse into the events that occurred during Hitler’s regime, before and during World War 2. With layers upon layers of tombstones occupying a small area, it reflects the extent of war atrocities that deprived the Jews of sufficient space to bury or pay respects to their loved ones. As a result, over 12,000 tombstones were placed on top of each other in a makeshift arrangement. The overlapping tombstones create an image of death and human cruelty that further emphasizes the tragedy for visitors.
It is heartbreaking and thought-provoking to realize that the Jews were so helpless during this period that they did not even have a proper burial ground for their loved ones. On a positive note, the site tour provides a refreshing glimpse into how people lived during this time. The beautiful row of houses, stunning synagogues, and small specialty shops that sell Jewish attire and accessories are a must-visit.
4. Dachau Camp, Munich
Dachau is a well-liked medieval town as well as a residential area in the northwestern region of Munich that houses one of the memorable World War 2 sites in Europe of the Dachau Concentration Camp. It is a must-visit for those who are eager to catch a glimpse of how Nazi camps were organized to detain the political prisoners.
The Dachau Camp provides a clear picture of life at the camps, their accommodations, their work-life, the prisoner hierarchy, the gas chambers, the cremation ovens, and the memorial shrines. In short, anything and everything one may need to know about the inhumane acts committed in a Nazi Camp can be discovered here.
Much of the original construction and its layout has been preserved. It is a visual retreat for history enthusiasts. There is a documentary presentation and there is a museum, which provides ample information on the history from the camp period to the World War 2.
Apart from the camp history, the town of Dachau is a hidden treasure from the past. The complete exploration of the place is a pleasant walk, especially for individuals who seek tranquility and some time away from the crowd. With approximately 45,000 individuals residing here, Dachau has many outdoor cafés that offer a relaxing ambiance to relax with your loved ones. Additionally, it houses an 18th-century Renaissance castle with a delightful lookout garden that is situated on an elevation and serves as a prominent spot in the otherwise calm town streets.
5. Normandy, Paris
Normandy in Paris is often visited by travelers who enjoy beach destinations as this city serves as a home to various beaches where the World War 2 took place. The famous Omaha Beach contains preserved memories of the war and many things to learn through stories and historical facts. There is also a visitor center that will guide you through other World War 2 sites in Europe such as the American Cemetery, the Caen Memorial, and so on.
It is recommended to hire a guide and take a guided tour to learn more about the sacrifices made during the war, which ultimately led to the freedom of the French Citizens. Your visit to Normandy from the city center of Paris will be filled with exquisite countryside views. Also, make sure you make a stop on your way to the French northwest coast to explore the historical Caen Memorial, which is a site dedicated to the war memories.
Your next destination would be the German defense site of Pointe du Hoc that commemorates the battle between the German and American troops. After that, you can also visit the American Cemetery, which serves as the final resting place for US military members.
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Captivated much? Besides immersing yourself in the rich history of the location, savor the picturesque splendor of nature in the backdrop while exploring the allure of these historical sites and find solace in the small joys of life on your upcoming journey to Europe.