Since the treaty signed in 843 A.D. Verdun has always been at the centre of the significant historic events and strategies that have helped to build Europe. Best known for the battle fought in 1916, Verdun has preserved and enhanced its architectural heritage.
Verdun and its heritage :
Take time to explore the centre of the town. Its variety always comes as a surprise to visitors.
Begin by tasting one of the mouthwatering specialities of the town of Verdun – Braquier sugared almonds, chocolate from Terra chocolata, Meuse macaroons from Cordel or any of the other countless other delights that tickle your tastebuds ! The “world capital of peace” has plenty of flavours to choose from and it will do you proud ! Whether you come with your partner, family or friends, choose one of the many restaurants just a stone’s throw from the cathedral and spoil yourself with the fresh produce and local specialities.
Then stroll along Quai de Londres on the banks of the Meuse and see some of the town’s best-known addresses where good food combines with elegant decor. The refined atmosphere here, in a place that is a central feature of life in Verdun and in the buildings beside the Chaussée Gate, reminds you that the town was once encircled by ramparts. Throughout the year, the town centre and quayside are lively, bustling places thanks to the major festivals and events held there e.g. Musique et Terrasse concerts in summer, the Feast of St. Nicholas and the Christmas market, the Venetian carnival etc.
Why not step aboard a boat for an unusual cruise on the River Meuse with commentary about the town of Verdun. As you glide along the waterway, see the delightful yellow ochre housefronts on the treelined quaysides, the pavement cafés in summer, the painted walls and the bridges large and small. Back on terra firma, follow our walk through the historic heart of the town. Take a stroll along the cobbled streets, along Rue Mazel, Verdun’s main shopping street, and up the 73 steps to the Victory monument where the visitors’ books kept in the crypt have been signed by ex-servicemen who fought in Verdun. From there, head for Rue de la belle Vierge and the museum La Princerie (musée de la Princerie) with its beautiful collections of Romanesque and Gothic sculptures, Argonne pottery and ancient ceramics etc.
Then it’s time for a gentle walk to the cathedral, Notre Dame de Verdun, a magnificent building blending the Romanesque and Gothic styles. At the foot of the cathedral is a delightfully bucolic promenade providing views full of unexpected features !
Another short stroll will take you to the courtyard of the 18th-century bishop’s palace (palais épiscopal), now home to the World Centre for Peace (Centre Mondial de la Paix). Throughout the year, it hosts numerous temporary exhibitions about history or the Arts. After that, you can rest for a while in the Peace Garden (jardins de la Paix), an elegant setting for the magnificent palace, with views downhill to the leisure complex in Pré l’évêque, and out over the surrounding countryside or the underground citadel.
Verdun and its battlefield :
After exploring the heritage sites in the town of Verdun, it’s time to see the battlefield and the main locations linked to the 1914-18 war.
Still in the town of Verdun, visit the underground citadel that played such a vital role during the battle in 1916. Ten thousand men lived and worked here permanently, in the kitchens, hospital, bakery, telephone exchange, food warehouse and munitions store. An AGV takes you on a tour that reveals the everyday life of French soldiers during the Battle of Verdun.
Then it’s back to your car for a drive to Etain and the battlefield, on the highest hill surrounding Verdun.
It was here, during 300 days and 300 nights of ceaseless fighting, that one of the bloodiest battles in the First World War took place. It was a struggle for total annihilation making unprecedented use of firepower, and it symbolised and summarised the entire war. To understand the conflict fully, visit historic locations such as Fort Vaux, Fort Douaumont, the Verdun Memorial, the Douaumont ossuary, the Bayonet Trench etc. These places have remained unchanged for a hundred years. You can also join a forest ranger in an unusual walk through the woods in the heart of the Red Zone and see memorials whose existence you would not even have suspected. The woods also provide a habitat for some protected wildlife species little known to the general public.
On Friday and Saturday evenings from June to the end of July, don’t miss the spectacular entitled "From Flames… to Light" in Verdun. It is one of the best-known sound and light shows in France and it involves 600 volunteers from the "Connaissance de la Meuse" Association. Together they depict one of the most significant conflicts Man has ever known – the Battle of Verdun.
The Great War told to children :
Enjoy a fabulous epic journey across the Verdun battlefield with your family. There are game books for your children, “Og the Frog in Search of the Lost Bayonet”, the “Story of Fort Douaumont with Gaspard the Rat” and the “Story of Fort Vaux with Gaston the Pigeon”.