World War II in Europe – Key Locations

Posted on 21. Oct, 2011 by in Destinations, Europe Travel, France, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Travel Tips, United Kingdom

When most people think of Europe, they think of its long, agitated history. Kings and queens, wars and battles. It consequently doesn’t come as a surprise that the continent would be pretty high on any history buff’s bucket list. However, very few events gathered as much attention as World War II did, and still does, especially considering it only happened a few decades ago. Here’s a quick guide to key locations of World War II in Europe:

Memorail to the Murdered Jews of Europe - photo by S.L.Bamon

Berlin, Germany

Berlin is without a doubt the first place people have in mind when they think of World War II, and rightfully so. It starts at the Reichstag, where Hitler used to give the most scary speeches in history. There is also the Topography of Terrors museum, where you will find exclusive photographs of the time and learn more about the propaganda methods the Nazis used - perhaps the most important part of the museum, however, is the fact that it is located where the SS headquarters once were. Another striking Berlin building is the Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church, whose bombed spire stands today as a reminder and memorial of the war time. Speaking of which, Berlin does have several important memorials but the two most popular ones are the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe near Brandenburg Gate and the Bebelplatz book burning memorial, both equally moving.

Block 11 in Auschwitz - photo by foreyesonly

Warsaw, Krakow and Oświęcim, Poland

Poland is not only the most obvious key locations of World War II in Europe, but also the most eloquent. Starting in Warsaw with the ghetto uprising, then in Krakow at the Schindler’s Factory and ending at the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Oświęcim, Poland is the only country that truly made me realize the enormity of the war. You can never quite picture its true impact. It’s one thing to read about it in history class, but standing in a Jew crematorium takes it to a whole other level.

American cemetery - photo by sigfus.sigmundsson

Normandy, France

While Paris has been occupied for several years and the seat of the French government was transferred to Vichy, the most important location of World War II in France is undoubtedly in Normandy, more precisely on the D-Day beaches of June 6th, 1944, where more than 135,000 men and 20,000 vehicles put their final effort in defeating Germany. The beaches of Omaha, Utah and Juno are the most popular, along with the British cemetery of Bayeux and the American cemetery in Omaha beach.

St.Paul’s Cathedral in smoke

London, United Kingdom

London suffered severe damage from the air raids, considering its key position within the Allies movement. From the underground shelters to the famous “Keep Calm and Carry On” variations, there are many reminders of the war time, especially on the museum scene: 3 London museums are dedicated to World War II. The Imperial War Museum holds a moving permanent exhibit on the Holocaust that is well-worth the detour for anyone intrigued by the art of war. If you want to have an insider’s look in the British intelligence, make sure to visit the Cabinet War Rooms, Churchill’s secret headquarters in Westminster. And last but not least, the new Britain at War museum in Southwark depicts what it was like to live in Britain during World War II.

Anne Frank Huis in Amsterdam

Amsterdam, Netherlands

While Amsterdam was not nearly as affected as other cities in Europe, I feel like a thorough exploration of key locations of World War II in Europe would not be complete without a visit to Anne Frank Huis, a museum dedicated to the young author of the most famous war journal. The museum takes the visitor through the house and to the narrow staircase that leads to the famous secret annex, so often portrayed by Anne Frank. Standing in that attic that was once the home of a whole family in hiding was a very singular experience that I recommend to anyone fascinated by that era.

Are you a history buff too? Have you visited any of the key locations of World War II in Europe? What was your favorite?


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9 Responses to “World War II in Europe – Key Locations”

  1. Melanie Taylor

    10. Nov, 2011

    I would love to visit all of these historic places, but top of my list would be to ‘storm the beach’ at Normandy! It’s a fascinating piece of our history. Great Post!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      29. Nov, 2011

      Me too! It must be almost surreal to stand there, thinking about the history!

      Reply to this comment
  2. Ross Corbett

    10. Nov, 2011

    I love all of these places. One of the reasons I love travelling around Europe and especially Berlin is because of the WW2 history.

    Great read :)

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      29. Nov, 2011

      I’m glad you could enjoy this piece then :-) Have you visited many of the places listed?

      Reply to this comment
  3. Julie P

    28. Nov, 2011

    The Jewish museum in Berlin was, and still is, one of my most intense museum experience. It’s wonderful architecturally speaking AND emotionnally (duh, of course!). I’ve spent hours there (which I never do) and bought a book about the museum itself (which, again, i NEVER do). I don’t really enjoy spending a big amount of time in museums, so this one is even more important to me.

    The D-day beach in Normandy is also great. There is a museum yes, but personnally, I think what’s really worth the trip is to walk around and remember everything that happened really not that long ago. Quite moving.

    In France, as a fellow Canadian, I recommend the Monument Canadien at Vimy in the north of France (would you PLEASE make a post about north of France, please!?:) is also great (it’s a WWI memorial tho), but it’s still impressive.

    Great post, as always!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      29. Nov, 2011

      Thanks for your comment!
      Like I said, it must be quite surreal to stand on those beaches knowing what happened!

      Reply to this comment
  4. matt

    27. Feb, 2012

    does anyone know the memorial city abudule or something like that

    Reply to this comment
  5. Andy

    18. May, 2012

    That’s a good list, but you should also visit Prora, it’s mind-blowing and relatively unknown to non-Germans:

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