The Battle of Verdun opened on the morning of February 21, 1916, with a German artillery barrage that lasted ten hours and expended two million shells. The battle concentrated on the forts of Vaux and Douaumont, which the French had built after the 1870 Franco–Prussian War. By the time the main battle ended ten months later, nine villages had been pounded into oblivion; not a single trace of them is detectable in aerial photos taken at the time.

The most visited part of the battlefield extends along the hills north of Verdun, but the fighting also spread to the west of the Meuse, to the hills of Mort-Homme and Hill 304, to Vauquois and the Argonne, and south along the Meuse to St-Mihiel, where the Germans held an important salient until dislodged by US forces in 1918. Unless you take an organized tour the only viable way to explore the area is with your own transport. The main sights are reached via two minor roads that snake through the battlefields, forming a crossroads northeast of Verdun: the D913 and D112.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

France features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in Paris

An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in Paris

All the clichés about Paris are true – stylish, romantic, glamorous and utterly compelling – yet it retains surprises that continue to delight even the mos…

26 Sep 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
7 reasons why Lyon should be your next European weekend break

7 reasons why Lyon should be your next European weekend break

The ingredients for a great European weekend break are simple. You’ll need a walkable city centre, a handful of excellent restaurants, some cool bars, afforda…

26 Aug 2016 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
22 incredible pictures of Corsica

22 incredible pictures of Corsica

Just off the south of France, and closer to the coast of Italy, the small, mountainous island of Corsica lies in wait for the three million tourists that visit …

14 Jul 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month