Why should you visit the Vimy Ridge Memorial in France? I will admit, it was a last minute (and nervous) choice for us, but it turned out SO AWESOME that I cannot recommend it enough.
One of the reasons why I started this blog was because when I was smack dab in the middle of the Seine River on spotty Wifi, I wished that there was information out there to help us navigate this kind of thing. (If you are interested in my other reasons, check out my About Me page here.)
So back to the original question – why would you take such a long day trip out of Paris? Well for starters, if you have lived through a part of the last century, this historic spot is not to miss.
Facts about Vimy Ridge:
- The Battle of Vimy Ridge is one of the most recognized battles of the First World War, from April 9-12th, 1917.
- The names of 11 000 Canadian soldiers, whose bodies were never located after the war, are engraved in the limestone.
- This monument is located on lands granted by France to the Canadian people!
They have completely outdone themselves in the preservation of Vimy Ridge site. While the monument was first unveiled in 1936, the museum not opened until 1917 for the 100th anniversary, and you can even find the original wooden cross inside the museum. The paths are carefully marked out and there are even concrete sandbags to replicate the original trenches.
Vimy Ridge is free to enter and they offer tours for free as well. The tours are offered every 45 minutes or so, so we just hopped onto the next available one. Tours are available in both French and English, but the language offered will depend on the preference of the majority of the people in that tour.
They will take you down into the tunnels underneath the site, which really opens your eyes to the conditions that the soldiers had to endure. All tour guides we encountered were friendly and helpful.
HOW TO GET THERE
It is wayyyyy easier to get to Vimy Ridge if you are already in Paris, so please save yourself some trouble and make Gare du Nord your starting point.
The ticket office for the suburbs (and international destinations) is on the main level concourse. You will probably see Eurostar and SNCF trains as the platforms are right there.
You want a train to Arras. You can book tickets ahead of time online, but you may still have to wait in the line to pick up your tickets. It is actually cheaper to buy tickets online in advance, so keep in mind that the closer to the travel date you are, the more expensive the train tickets will be.
We took the high-speed train (TGV…very cool) and it was only 50 minutes from Paris to Arras.
IF YOU DON’T SPEAK FRENCH, you will need to remember this: when traveling by train to Arras, be sure to validate your train ticket on the platform in Gare du Nord. There is a waist-height scanner where you will need to scan your ticket.
This step is easy to miss! If I wasn’t able to read what it said on the turnstile, I would have easily missed this step.
You must validate your ticket before you get on the train as the conductors WILL come around to check to see if you’ve scanned it (i.e. activated it) after the train is in motion. The conductors were friendly on the train (we were obviously tourists) and smiled at us, checked our tickets, and continued on their way.
OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION
- It is easy to grab a taxi from the train station in Arras. The taxi drivers are used to taking tourists to the Vimy Ridge Memorial site, and even though ours didn’t speak English, he knew what Vimy Ridge was and even said “Bienvenue au Canada” (Welcome to Canada) upon arrival.
- I would budget 40-50 euros for the taxi round trip.
- Arrange with your driver to come back at a predetermined time that afternoon. Unlike the train station, there will not be taxis hovering around waiting to take you back. The Vimy Ridge site is not busy and there will not be very many people there at one time.
WHAT I WOULD SUGGEST
I would tip your taxi driver well on the way there. Then there is a higher chance of him coming back at the arranged time that afternoon.
If you have ever taken a cruise, you know that the motto is…..DON’T MISS THE BOAT. I would say this also applies to the high-speed train.
AND DON’T FORGET THIS
- Vimy Ridge is free to enter and there are even organized tours that you can take for free as well.
- Vimy Ridge is huge. You could spend the whole day there. There is a museum to visit, trenches to explore, monuments to see and cemeteries to ponder in. There is quite a bit of walking involved, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
- There are no food/drink stations on site, so come prepared with your own food and drink. Lots of beautiful sights to see – you could have your own picnic on the lawn…just be sure to stay on the path and watch out for those undetonated landmines!
I traveled here in 2017. As always, be sure to check your country’s travel advisories before booking any trips or excursions. You can check out the Canadian opinion here.