48 hours in Verdun: in the footsteps of World War I soldiers

February 1916, in Verdun: French and German troops get involved in the longest battle during World War I. Now, museums, sites, and memorials punctuate the region, which is indissociable from this historical epoch. Let's experience the trenches through the eyes of the "poilus"—the infantry soldiers of the French army.

Tread the battlefield

There is hardly time to dump your suitcases in Verdun before going to the national forest, located at the gates of the city. Created after the war on the old battlefield, it had the difficult task of healing this wounded land. Covering almost 10,000 km2 (25,000 acres), this forest is an authentic open-air museum with no less than 80 historical monuments from the Great War, or built in memory of the combatants.

Wear the uniform

If you only can visit one site, it should definitely be this one. Desired by the Verdun veterans, entirely renovated and expanded in 2016, the memorial puts visitors in the soldiers' shoes. You can feel and understand this battle, in the exact same place where it took place a century ago. On the last floor, you cannot miss the spectacular view of the forest.

Mémorial de Verdun (External link)

Mourn in Douaumont

The visit of the forest continues at the fort of Douaumont. The most powerful building of the stronghold, the fort is the symbol of Verdun, taken by the Germans only few days after the beginning of the battle. Not far from there, the Ossuary of Douaumont pays tribute to the French and German soldiers who gave their lives on the battlefield.

Fort of Douaumont (External link)
Ossuary of Douaumont (External link)

Dine at the canteen

The immersion continues in Verdun, where you can spend the night in the former officers' mess. Located on the banks of the Meuse river in a 19th century building, this older military canteen is now a 4-star hotel called "les Jardins du Mess." You can enjoy the wellness space and its table, the Mess' Circle, in order to build up strength after a trying first day of discovery.

Hotel Les Jardins du Mess (External link)

Go underground

The day begins below the land's surface at the underground Citadel of Verdun. Let's embark in the pod with an audio guide to experience the activity of the logitics base, where the Poilus coming back from the battle line crossed paths with those who were about to fight.

Citadelle souterraine de Verdun (External link)

Broaden your horizons

Back to fresh air! Let's go to the Centre mondial de la Paix, where the exhibition “Que reste-t-il de la Grande Guerre ?” ("What is left of WWI?") takes place until the end of the year, in the Verdun city center. There is an opening to the 20th century to understand the aftermath of this worldwide conflict better.

Centre mondial de la Paix (External link)

Storm the fortress

A few kilometers from Verdun, the Ouvrage de la Falouse stood against the bombings. You can still find the towers that hosted the machine guns, some canons, as well as an infantry section. The life behind the battle line is also rebuilt in a 150-meter (500-foot) long trench.

Ouvrage de la Falouse (External link)

End on a sweet note

You can't leave this region without visiting the boutique La Dragée de Verdun. The Braquier House, the factory which was destroyed during the battle of Verdun, has produced the dragée candies since 1783. Between the Jordan almonds, the chocolate ones, or the ones that change colors in your mouth, it's hard to choose what to sample first!

Dragées Braquier (External link)

Verdun in Lorraine