Visiting the WW1 Western Front Battlefields

Tour group at Hill 60 memorial, Ypres Salient, Belgium.
One of the very few sites where original trenches dating from 1914-1918 have been preserved at the Hill 62 Sanctuary Wood museum, Ypres Salient, Belgium.
Preserved trench at the Hill 62 Sanctuary Wood museum, Belgium.

The 1WW battlefields of the Western Front are located in a long line of approximately 450 miles from the Belgian coast, through the southern Belgian province of West Flanders and regions of northern and eastern France.

Throughout the areas where the major battles were fought there are numerous 1914-1918 battle memorials, museums, military cemeteries and battlefield remains. Many of these are public sites and, therefore, usually accessible to visitors at all times. Depending on the location of a memorial site or cemetery, there may occasionally be difficulty in access for vehicles or wheelchairs where there is a narrow path or farm track. Some privately managed museums or battlefield sites have restricted opening hours and may charge an entrance fee.

Some battlefield areas are frequently visited by pilgrims and tourists, such as the Ypres Salient in Belgium, and the Somme and Verdun battlefields in France. These areas are well-served with information for battlefield visitors from the local Tourist Offices. There are public museums, overnight accommodation to suit all budgets, restaurants and signposted battlefield routes.

Visit a WW1 Grave or Memorial

Visiting a grave at Guillemont Military Cemetery on the 1916 Somme battlefield.
Visiting a grave on the 1916 Somme battlefield.

An interest for many people wanting to visit the battlefields is the discovery of a relative who fought on the Western Front. In many cases tracing the war service of a relative leads to the knowledge that that the person was killed in action or died of wounds.

Following in the footsteps of a serviceman or woman in the First World War is a fascinating way to explore the battlefields and can be a deeply moving experience. Nowadays there are records available online to find the name of an idividual and where he or she is buried. Once you have found out the location of a grave or name inscribed on a memorial you can then make plans to visit.

If you want to join an organized battlefield tour be sure to check before you book and travel with the tour that you can be taken to the location of the grave. Most tours will be able to arrange a visit to a cemetery or memorial within a reasonable distance of the tour itinerary. However, if the place you want to visit is remote or inaccessible for a coach it may be necessary for the tour organizer to help you make arrangements to make the visit by taxi or other means. Either way, it is essential that you discuss any special requirements with the tour organizer in advance of your trip.

Find a War Grave

Cross of Sacrifice at Bedford House Cemetery on the Ypres Salient battlefields.
Cross of Sacrifice at Bedford House Cemetery on the Ypres Salient battlefields.

To find out the names of the national war grave agencies responsible for the care and maintenance of First World War military graves see our list of these organizations. The relevant agency will be able to offer help or in most cases there is now an online register available to search for an individual. See our page at:

War Graves Agencies

Tracing First World War Family History

To help get you started on what records are available to trace people who were in the First World War have a look at our page:

Tracing First World War Family History

Attend a Ceremony or Anniversary Event

An annual 11 November Armistice Day ceremony is held at the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypre.
Annual Armistice Day ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres.

Each year there are ceremonies held on the battlefields, for example, a daily act of Remembrance, a ceremony to commemorate a particular battle action, the dedication of a new memorial, an annual anniversary event or the reburial of the discovered remains of a First World War casualty. Often a local museum will also have a themed exhibition to coincide with a special anniversary. Depending on the event the numbers attending will vary from just a few people to crowds of hundreds of people.

For events and ceremonies see our pages at:

Exhibitions, Conferences, Lectures & Commemorative Events

Tours & Travel to the Battlefields

Listening to a guide explaining the British attack on Mametz Wood on 7 July 1916 at the 38th (Welsh) Division dragon memorial.
Guide at Mametz Wood on the July 1916 Somme battlefield.

Visitors to the Western Front battlefields of the Great War began arriving in Flanders and France not long after the guns fell silent in November 1918. Those who could afford it made the difficult and costly journey to see where their sons, brothers, fathers and friends had fallen. Ex-Servicemen returned to see the places they had fought in. Many felt a desire to return and join with the work of the war grave agencies carrying out the huge task of searching the devastated battlefields for the remains of thousands of soldiers believed to be buried there. Some undertook this difficult and grisly work in the hope of finding a missing relative or friend.

In the past ten years or so visitors to the battlefields, especially to the Ypres Salient and the Somme, have increased significantly in number. With this steady growth in interest from the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the men and women who participated in the Great War, the number of guides, tour operators and self-drive itineraries for visiting the battlefields has likewise increased.

For information about travel to the battlefields of the Western Front, a list of tour operators for adults and school groups, guides, self-drive guided visits, cycling routes and guided cycling tours see our page at:

Tours & Travel to the 1914-1918 Battlefields

Location Map for the Western Front Battlefields

Our map showing the location of the Western Front battlefields in Belgium and France.
Western Front map.

See our map for an illustration of where the battlefields are located by area. Links take you either to a summary of each area or to a detailed section listing the battles that took place, the places to visit and useful tourist information for visitors.

Western Front Battlefield Map