Verdun is a battlefield well worth a visit; because the area was so devastated after the battles of 1916 it was declared a Zone Rouge after the War - so destroyed and wit so many munitions still around that unlike the Somme and Flanders, the villages that had been destroyed were not rebuilt. Hence there are a lot of features still to see, and the sites of the destroyed villages themselvs are particularly moving. Verdun was of course the scene of one of the bloodiest and intense battles of he Great War. One infantry soldier wrote "If you haven't seen Verdun, you haven't seen anything of war".
The Section content links on the left hand side lead to pages covering several areas of the battlefield, with more to be added shortly.
Please also enjoy some of the images from my trip to Verdun shown in the mini-gallery below, and check back over the coming weeks as this section is updated. Beneath the gallery is some information on visiting the battlefields of Verdun
General Verdun Image Gallery
Verdun can be reached from either the Channel Tunnel and ferry ports at Calais, or from Le Havre, meaning that it is easily accessible for those in the south of England. Living in Wiltshire, I used the LD Lines ferry from Portsmouth to Le Havre, meaning I had the main part of my drive in France rather than England. It is nearly 300 miles from Le Havre to Verdun, but I would rather drive on French motorways than the M25!
From Calais, the journey is a little shorter, around 250 miles. In both cases, you can make the vast majority of the trip on motorways, and although you will pay about 25 - 30 Euros in tolls, the drive is not too difficult. The A4 Motorway runs to the south of Verdun, and you can exit to the west and then drive on the Voie Sacrée towards the town itself.
Verdun itself has quite a large number of hotels to choose from. There is a town tourism website which gives some information and links to several of them. Use the 'Hebergements' link. In the centre of the town is the upmarket Coq Hardi, which also has a good restaraunt, and there are other hotels as well as places to eat out in the town centre.However, you will probably have to pay extra for parking, and in fact parking in the centre of Verdun can be a problem when staying in the town centre.
On the southern outskirts, about a mile and a half from the town centre, are more inexpensive hotels; the low-cost Formule One, where the rooms are not en-suite, and right next door the slightly more expensive Prunellia, which does offer en-suite. I stayed at the Prunellia, and it is a good base. The restaraunt is accepetable, but located not far away is an excellent Italian restaraunt called the Beausejour, which I would reccomend.
Verdun Books and Guides
There are fewer books (in English) dealing with Verdun than the Somme or Flanders - as you might expect. Two good accounts of the battles are Alistair Horne's The Price of Glory, and the more recent book by Ian Ousby The Road to Verdun. In terms of guidebooks, Rose Coombes covers the area in her Before Endeavours Fade, and the Holts cover it in their Battlefield Guide to the Western Front South. This, as is the norm with their guides, is in the form of a car trip around the battlefields, with many sites of interest. If you only have one day then this would be a good option.
However, it is a long trip to Verdun, and I would guess most people interested enough to visit will spend a few days there. A guidebook I found invaluable was the fairly recent Fort Douaumont by Christina Holstein, one of the Battleground Europe series published by Pen & Sword. This covers Douaumont in detail, but also has a suggested itinerary for the northern part of the battlefield, including the fascinating Camp Marguerre . I would highly reccomend this book to anyone visitng Verdun. There is also a volume in the Michelin Guides to the battlefields, published very soon after the War, which covers Verdun.
In terms of maps there is an excellent 1:25,000 special map published by IGN which covers the major part of the Verdun battlefields. This is sheet 3112ET , Forets de Verdun et du Mort-Homme. The area is also covered by the ordinary IGN Serie Bleue maps 3212O, which covers an area slightly further east than the special map. The special map is worth purchasing, as it is marked with areas and sites of interest to the battlefield visitor. It is worth noting that the area to the north of Douaumont is closed to the public on Mondays and Tuesdays, as it is a military firing range. However, it is still possible on those days to access Douamont village, which is very near to the restricted area.
The area is great to walk around, and there are a series of marked walks in the forested area of the battlefields, and these can be easily followed. They are marked on the special IGN map listed above. There are route plans for the walks available at the Memorial, and these mark points of interest on the way round. It can be very muddy, so good walking boots are essential. It is also a popular area for mountain biking, and I planned to hire a bike in Verdun and ride up to the battlefields. Whilst from my maps I realised the climb would be fauiirly steep, once I saw it I changed my mind about hiring a bike! However, if you took your own, or could transport it up to the battlefields by car (or are very fit!) then cycling round the battlfields would be a good way to see a lot.