(Last updated on: 16/11/2020)
Oradour-Sur-Glane is one of the most memorable tourist attractions that I have ever visited, like EVER. Those of you who follow me on Instagram will know that I have travelled a lot, but never have I visited somewhere that has invoked such strong evocative emotions.
I visited the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane whilst doing a road trip through France and Spain. The area had been recommended to me by a friend.
During our visit I was taken back by how remarkably well preserved it was. And I learnt A LOT. This place was incredible, why had I never heard of it before? In fact, I still don’t understand why this place does not feature on more tourist maps and itineraries.
If you have come through to this article, however, I am guessing that you have heard of Oradour-sur-Glane and that you want to know a bit more about it? Well, in this article I will tell you all you need to know for an enjoyable and educational visit.
- A brief history of Oradour-sur-Glane
- Where is Oradour-sur-Glane?
- Why you should visit Oradour-sur-Glane
- How to visit the village
- What you can see at Oradour-sur-Glane
- Where to stay in Limoges
- Other things to do when visiting Oradour-sur-Glane
- Further reading
A brief history of Oradour-sur-Glane
OK, so I have told you that Oradour-sur-Glane is worth visiting. But what actually is it?
In summary, Oradour-sur-Glane is a French village that was preserved in a ruined state after a brutal massacre occurred during World War 2.
The incident occurred on 10th June 1944. Just a few days after the Allied Normany Landings, the Nazi Germany 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich was ordered to leave their station in Southern France and head north to help stop the Allied Advance. Word was received that an officer was being held prisoner by the resistance in Oradour-our-Vayres, a nearby village. In response, the battalion sealed off Oradour-sur-Glane and ordered every person present, including those who did not actually live in the village, to take their identity papers to the village square.
This was when the atrocities occurred.
Women and children were locked in the church, where an incendiary device was placed. It was ignited and those inside attempted to escape through the doors and windows. However, as they did so they were shot dead with machine guns. A total of 247 women and 205 children were killed.
Meanwhile, the men were led to barns and sheds. Here they were greeted with machine guns and shot in the legs so that they couldn’t walk. The men were then covered with fuel and burnt alive. 185 men were killed.
During this time the village was looted and numerous fires raged. The the SS troops desecrated the church. In just a few hours, 642 innocent civilians were brutally murdered.
There was only one survivor of the attack. Marguerite Rouffanche, a 47 year old women escaped through a rear window. She hid in some bushes overnight and was rescued the following morning.
Where is Oradour-sur-Glane?
Oradour-sur-Glane is located in France.
It is a commune in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in the west-central part of the country.
The closest city is Limoges, which is around 20 km from the commune area. You can reach Oradour-sur-Glane from Limoges in just under 25 minutes via bus, which costs €2. The bus is Ligne 12, but it only runs 2-3 times per day.
You can also hire a car and drive to the area, or pay for a taxi.
Whilst the village may not be especially close to many other tourist attractions, it is definitely worth making the trip.
Why you should visit Oradour-sur-Glane
If you are reading this article then you are probably considering a visit to Oradour-our-Glane. This tourist attraction is perfect for lots of different types of tourists, but is especially appealing to those who are interested in learning more about this important historical event, such as student groups or educational tourists.
If you are interested in history, the village is definitley worth visiting. Four days after D-Day, this attack was the worst civilian atrocity to happen in France during World War II.
What makes this tourist attraction so special is that is has been left almost entirely untouched since the day of the event. You can see the holes in the walls from the gun shots, cars that have sunken into the ground and even baby prams left in the street. It is the only untouched ruin of this type from WWII.
Sometimes we need to feel to feel the pain of history’s markets moments, to make sure that we never forget…
After the war a new village was built, but the original site has been kept as a permanent memorial. This was done on the orders of then-president, Charles de Gaulle. You can also visit the Centre de la mémoire d’Oradour, a museum located next to the historic memorial site.
This ruined village is an excellent example of dark tourism. This is tourism that is associated with death and/or tragedy: visiting concentration camps or the sites of major disasters, for example. While controversial to some, dark tourism is popular with many. It is often educational, and allows visitors to reflect on history which is something that is incredibly important to society.
Yes, visiting Oradour-sur-Glane will make you feel sad. It really brings this harrowing event to life. But it is also one of the best ways to learn about the atrocities that occurred during this time. Should you visit Oradour-sur-Glane? Yes, you absolutely should! Just don’t forget to pack the tissues…
How to visit the village
OK, so now that I have convinced you to visit, lets look at the logistics….
As mentioned above, you can reach Oradour-sur-Glane by bus or car from Limoges.
It is open year round, except for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.The village is open from 9am daily, closing between 5 and 7pm depending on the time of year.
The visitor centre, Centre de la mémoire d’Oradour, is open between February 1st and December 15th. When the centre is open, this is how you access the village itself.
It is free to visit both the village and the Centre de la mémoire d’Oradour, though there is a separate exhibition and video part of the museum which you can pay to access.
There is free on-site parking, too.
What you can see at Oradour-sur-Glane
The village of Oradour-our-Glane is small (but powerful!). I recommend that you spend a couple of hours here. Below is a map of the village. You can easily walk from one side to the other in a few minutes..
This preserved village was once a thriving place to live and work.
Before the massacre, it was a village like any other in this part of France – and as you walk the streets, you’ll see homes and workplaces, labelled with who lived there or what the purpose of the building was.
Oradour-sur-Glane had a tram line running through the middle, and side streets full of houses. There were cafes and a hair salon, a school and a butchers… it wasn’t like a concentration camp where people were taken to die. This was their home, and as such walking around Oradour-sur-Glane gives an eerie sense of the heart wrenching destruction that took place here.
A visit to Oradour-sur-Glane is perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about World War II, including student groups and educational tourists.
You can’t enter any of the buildings at Oradour-sur-Glane – with the exception of one. This is the church at the end of the village street, where most of the actual massacre took place. All of the women and children from the village were directed into the church and brutally murdered. They were gassed, shot and the burned.To this day you can still see bullet holes in the church walls and in the altar.
Nearby is a cemetery, where all of the victims of the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre are buried; there is a wall which lists the names of the victims, and a memorial with stories and personal artefacts of those who were murdered. The memorial is beautiful, and walking around the village itself is a sobering experience.
Where to stay in Limoges
The best place to say when planning a visit to Oradour-sur-Glane is the nearby city of Limoges. There is a huge variety of accommodation here, from cool apartments to plush hotels to budget options…
The Originals City, Hôtel le Saint-Martial, Limoges (Inter-Hotel)
With its bright and busy decor, spacious rooms and free WiFi, this is a great no-nonsense choice for accommodation in Limoges. Parking is available on site, and there is a daily breakfast buffet; should you prefer, you can have breakfast delivered to your room instead. The hotel offers value for money and a fairly central location; the city centre is a 10 minute walk away, and the Limoges-Bénédictins train station is just 5 minutes away. Reviews praise the friendly staff, general cleanliness and excellent breakfast at The Originals City, Hôtel le Saint-Martial.
La Maison Blanche
For a classy and modern hotel, La Maison Blanche is a fantastic option. It boasts free WiFi, air conditioning, a gorgeous shared lounge area and outdoor space. All of the rooms have kitchenettes, so the hotel is a great option for those looking to visit Limoges on a self-catering basis. From standard studios to family rooms to deluxe apartments, there is room for everyone at this hotel. Again this is around a 10 minute walk from the city centre, with a supermarket and eateries right nearby. Previous guests say the decor is absolutely stunning, with brilliant contactless check-in and really comfortable beds. Parking is available on site, too!
Ibis Budget Limoges Nord
You can’t go wrong with an Ibis Budget, so if you’re trying to cut costs on your trip to France this is a great option. It is around 3 miles away from Limoges city centre, but if you have hired a car and are driving around France then this is the sort of place that is ideal for you. The hotel has free WiFi, and all rooms come with air-conditioning and soundproofing. There is free private and secure parking on-site, and you can reach the city centre by car in just a few minutes. Pets are allowed here, and the room options include twin and triple rooms as well as family rooms. According to reviews the location is quiet, the staff are friendly and there is a great breakfast buffet too.
Other things to do when visiting Oradour-sur-Glane
When paying a visit to the ruined village of Oradour-sur-Glane, there are other things to do in the nearby area as well as in Limoges itself. Here are some ideas for when you’re planning your trip itinerary!
Visit the new town
Not far from the old preserved massacre site, you’ll find the new town of Oradour-sur-Glane.
It is a place full of life, a normal town that wouldn’t exist were it not for the tragedy that occurred nearby in 1944.
Pop here for refreshments and shopping before or after your visit to the ruined village.
This theme park is great if you’re travelling with children.
From the aquatic botanical garden to the giant inflatables, there is plenty to see and do here. It is known as the world of miniatures, with 7 different model areas.
At just €7.60 for adults and €5.50 for under 12s (under 3s go free), it’s an affordable way to spend the afternoon and just 20 minutes away from Limoges by car.
The city itself has plenty to explore. From the stunning gothic Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Limoges (which took 6 centuries to build) to the stunning Jardin Botanique de l’Evêché, with its wealth of exotic plants, the city has a lot to offer.
Like many French cities, Limoges is beautiful. It has its fair share of quaint cafés, open green spaces and adorable buildings.
Discover a 17th-century courtyard (only accessible through a tiny dim passageway) or wander down Rue de la Boucherie, a street with a truly medieval vibe that will feel like something out of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast…
Discover the nearby lakes
Limoges (and Oradour-sur-Glane) is in the Haute-Vienne district; here you’ll find various lakes.
One of these is Lake Vassivière, one of the largest artificial lakes in the whole of France. Around 10 km squared, the lake has various sandy beaches to enjoy and there are water sports on offer too.
You can go fishing, try water-skiing or head to the sculpture park and see some of the art on display at the Centre International d’Art et du Paysage.
Oradour-sur-Glane is a fascinating place that really brings history to life. If you want to learn more, you can take a look at my article on dark tourism. You can also consult some of the texts below: