Tours & Travel to the WW1 Battlefields
In recent years there has been a significant growth in the number of people wanting to visit the battlefield sites of the Western Front in Belgium and France. This increased interest stems from discoveries made in family history research and the desire to follow in the footsteps of a WW1 ancestor, students studying the First World War in the school curriculum, best-selling novels introducing the subject to a wider audience, and a range of popular plays, films and television documentaries on the subject. In response to the increased interest the variety of facilities available for visitors has also grown. Tours to the First World War battlefields, whether you choose to travel independently, with a guide or with a group, are carried out by thousands of visitors each year now. The information below is offered to help you plan a tour and is given in good faith.
- Organized Battlefield Tours
- Battlefield Tours for Students & School Groups
- Arranging your own Battlefield Visit
- Cycling Tours
- Self-Drive Tours
There is a wide choice for battlefield tour travellers these days, with numerous companies offering a variety of tours with regard to the number of days of the tour, the size of the tour vehicle - minibus or coach - and the subjects or places to be covered on the tour. Some tours start from the United Kingdom as an inclusive package tour, others can be joined once you are in the battlefield area.
List of Battlefield Tour Operators & Guides
A list of the main battlefield tour operators is provided on this website. As far as we know these companies comply with all tour operator and insurance regulations for taking travellers to the Belgian and French battlefield sites.
When making enquiries with them, you are strongly advised to discuss any special requirements you may have such as a visit to a particular cemetery, memorial or place of interest in advance of joining a tour. Also, ask for travellers' testimonials to get a feel for how their travellers have found previous tours.
You may like to know, too, if their company and/or their guides have any affiliation or accreditation with an organization such as The International Guild of Battlefield Guides, The Western Front Association or Blue Badge Guides.
See our list of tour companies and guides at:
International Guild of Battlefield Guides
greatwar.co.uk is proud to be a Supporter of the International Guild of Battlefield Guides. The aim of the Guild is to raise the understanding and promote best practice for guiding on the battlefields.
There are a number of battlefield tour companies which specialize in tours for students. It is the responsibility of the group organizer to ensure that these companies are legally covered, bonded and compliant with all the appropriate regulations for taking groups and young people.
Our list of companies offering battlefield tours for students and school groups is provided at:List of Battlefield Tour Companies for Students & School Groups
Even if the battlefield you wish to visit is near a town, it is likely that the sites of the battles, the memorials and cemeteries will be located in a rural landscape. The distance between each place of interest may be up to several miles and, therefore, getting around can be difficult and it is recommended to travel around the battlefields by car. Having said that, once in the battlefield area, many people choose to walk and cycle around the battle sites, taking the opportunity to spend time reflecting on the what happened there almost a hundred years ago and enjoying the now peaceful countryside.
For enquiries relating to car or bicycle hire, bus and train timetables contact the Tourist Office in the area you plan to visit. Some of the hotels, Bed & Breakfast and self-catering accommodation offer bicycles for hire.
Travel by Car
With regard to the types of location to be visited on the battlefields, the easiest way to travel between the memorials, museums, cemeteries and battlefield sites is to travel by car. If you travel to Belgium or France by rail or air, it is advisable to hire a car for the battlefield visits if possible.
Travel by Rail to the Battlefields
Travel by rail can be made by the Eurostar service from the United Kingdom.
Local trains or car hire can be arranged from the Eurostar stations at Brussels (Bruxelles) in Belgium and Lille, Arras or Amiens in France.
Travel by Air to the Battlefields
Travel by air can be made to Brussels (Bruxelles) in Belgium, or Lille and the recently opened Albert-Picardie airport in France.
Public Transport on the Battlefields
As the battlefield locations are generally in rural areas, it may be that travel by public transport is often not available or is available but with an infrequent service. If you arrive in the battlefield region independently and using public transport, it is recommended that you contact the local Tourist Office or the accommodation where you are staying to ask for information on the best way to make your way around the battlefield area you are wishing to visit.
Maps of the Western Front Battlefields
For a wide-ranging list of recommended maps at various scales for driving, walking and cycling, see our page:
Guides and Tours when you get to the Battlefields
There are a number of independent guides and organized tours available to travellers who make their own way to the battlefields and want to join a guide or a tour once there. Tourist Offices should have a list of recommended guides and in most cases will be able to arrange contact with the individual or tour organizer for you.
Our list of battlefield tour operators states which operators and guides are based in Belgium or France. By arrangement some of these guides will collect you from your accommodation or the railway station on your arrival.
Cycling on the Battlefields
On the more frequently visited battlefields, such as the Ypres Salient and the Somme, there are maps available from the local Tourist Offices for cycling routes. Some organized battlefield tours also offer guided battlefield walks or cycling tours. Some of the hotels, Bed & Breakfast or self-catering accommodation will provide bicyles free or for hire plus information about local cycling routes.
See our page for tour companies and online resources available to assist with the planning of a self-drive tour of the Western Front battlefields: