Ouistreham is a small town in Normandy, along the north coast of France. It lies at the mouth of the Canal de Caen à la Mer, with a population of just under 10,000 inhabitants. The town has a small harbour full of fishing boats, leisure craft, and a ferry-port for the city of Caen.

A brief history of Ouistreham

The name Ouistreham derives from the word ouistre, meaning 'oyster' and Saxon word ham, meaning 'village'. The town has been a trading port since the Middle Ages and is now part of the harbour authority for the nearby city of Caen. 'The Port of Caen' is composed of a series of basins on the Canal de Caen à la Mer, linking Caen to Ouistreham, 15 km downstream, on the English Channel. Since the beginning of the 20th century, it has been a bathing beach on the Riva Bella.

Ouistreham is most famous for the events that took place there in the Second World War. On 6 June 1944, No. 4 Commando landed at Ouistreham, codenamed Sword and now commonly known as Sword Beach, one of the five main landing areas along the Normandy coast during the initial assault phase of what has come to be known as the Normandy Landings. The allies fought their way to nearby Pegasus Bridge, alongside the Free French Forces, which were the government-in-exile led by Charles de Gaulle. The assault on Ouistreham was featured in the movie The Longest Day, although the film location for Ouistreham was the nearby village of Port-en-Bessin.

Things to do in Ouistreham

Visiting Sword Beach is a must, it's a beautiful sandy beach these days full of memories of those who lost their lives. You can also visit the Pegasus Bridge site, as it is a road crossing over the Caen Canal, between Caen and Ouistreham. The original bridge,  built in 1934, is now a war memorial and the centrepiece of the Memorial Pegasus Museum in nearby Ranville and is also well worth a visit, its full of informative exhibits and the human stories behind the events that took place in 1944. The whole museum is in both French and English, and there is a short film about the mission on Pegasus Bridge.  Finally, Le Grand Bunker is full of WWII equipment and memorabilia preserved in an imposing Nazi bunker near the D-Day landing beach. If you have children with you and need a break from World War history, there is an indoor soft play centre called Girafou, and it also has a café. There is also the Château de Bénouville to visit, an elegant chateau designed by architect Claude Nicolas Ledoux and built around 1770. If you feel like stepping even further back in history, from 2021, you can visit the Viking Interpretation centre in Ornavik, a unique project with a mission to bring the Vikings to life through an interactive living village, where you can try on Viking clothes, go on a Viking ship and even speak with Vikings! This immersive experience will be a fun day out for both adults and children. 

Beaches around Ouistreham

There are some lovely beaches around Ouistreham, and one of the best is the Riva Bella Beach, it is a clean sandy beach that doesn't get too crowded. There is also a good and cheap takeaway food stall, toilet facilities and easy parking. Very close to the town centre is the ever-popular Plage De Ouistreham, a beautiful beach, popular with excellent facilities and parking. A little further down the coast is Plage de Cabour, backed by traditional 19-century seafront villas and hotels and equipped with traditional, stripy changing tents, water sports are also available. 

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