Our city visit to Albert is the perfect Northern France base to seek out many memorable and historic locations of World War One. Such as the Lochnagar Crater, Somme Museum and the Thiepval Memorial. You can also explore the graveyards, other museums and many memorials surrounding the small French city of Albert. Located close to Amiens, this village was the key location of the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
WW1 History of Albert
Located in the province of Somme in France, this little french town was once involved in the heavy bombings of the Battle of Somme between the British and the Germans.
In 1915, the British were subjected to shells that were falling onto the city, bombing the houses and the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Brebières church. In 1918 further bombing destroyed the whole tower, with the city left in ruins. Albert was severely damaged due to it being only 3 miles from the WW1 front lines. The Germans had captured the city in March 1918 but by August 1918 the British had recaptured it, resulting in the British occupying the city of Albert until the end of WW1.
After the war, the city of Albert was completely reconstructed such as widening the roads and new housing. However the beautiful cathedral Basilique Notre-Dame de Brebières was rebuilt in the original design of Edmond Duthoit.
Our City Visit To Albert
We had chosen to explore the WW1 locations close to the city of Albert after the hottest heatwave that August was experiencing in central Europe. After our weekend in Ypres we were pleased that the weather had cooled off to maximum 18-19°c.
This self drive itinerary for a city trip is something we really enjoyed. We initially booked a Weekend in Ypres after seeing what we would like to do in the city and surrounding areas. However we added this city visit to Albert, France as an extension of our weekend for the WW1 historic sites. It was only 1 hour away driving so we couldn’t resist visiting some extra WW1 locations along the front line.
We didn’t spend much time in the city, but did have a small walk when all shops were closed. This was pretty nice and peaceful to do, since we were not visiting for shopping anyway.
The street art below shows the Basilique Notre-Dame de Brebières gold leaf spire and sides damaged, which happened during the war.
The British who were defending this area had apparently said that whoever knocked the golden statue off would lose the war. The statue did nearly fall off, but by the bombings of British air attacks.
Top Things To Do In The City
Arriving in the evening after our Weekend in Ypres we decided to take it easy for the first night and make ourselves dinner in our kitchenette area of the apartment. Waking up at the Coquelicotel was peaceful and we were hungry for some fresh pancakes that we had made. First on the list was the top museum to visit, Museum Somme 1916.
Museum Somme 1916
During our city visit to Albert we couldn’t wait to visit the Museum Somme 1916. They had some great reviews and we were curious to see how the museum was underground. Built within the original air raid tunnels, you follow through under the church to first watch a 3D movie. From here you can freely walk along the tunnels, where many items are really nicely displayed in the units. You end in some pretty public gardens in Albert. We really enjoyed this visit.
Basilique Notre-Dame de Brebières
We didn’t get a chance to go inside the church during our city visit to Albert, however from outside you can see the beautiful golden spire with a virgin statue located at the top.
As mentioned above, this beautiful cathedral Basilique Notre-Dame de Brebières was rebuilt in the original design of Edmond Duthoit. His style used white brick and stone with a neo-Byzantine-style. The tower in height is 70m.
Top Things To Do In The Surrounding Area
This unbelievable 91 metres across by 21 metres deep crater can be found just 8 minutes away from the city center of Albert. The Lochnagar Crater was formed by a series of explosions in the mine on July 1st 1916, planted secretly by the British. Under the front German lines, the explosion placed in the chambers below caused the German trenches and tunnels to collapse. You can walk around the whole site, allowing you to experience the full width of the crater.
These explosions of Lochnagar Crater was the signal of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, at 7:28 a.m.
Thiepval Memorial and Visitor Center
Arriving at Thiepval memorial, you will be able to see it way before you arrive at the entrance. This tall 45 meter memorial shows all the names of the missing allied soldiers of the Battle of Somme. There is a visitor center you can explore and a museum you can visit too.
The memorial commemorates more than 72,000 men of British and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave.
Walking closer to the memorial, you start seeing all the names written in the marble walls of missing in action soldiers. Behind the memorial is a square area of land with graves.
Ulster Memorial Tower
The Ulster Memorial Tower was built on the German front line, once where the Germans looked down into the valley. Just under 22 meters tall, it’s a memorial to the soldiers of the 36th (Ulster) Division.
There are private tours you can join where you explore the WW1 trenches behind the memorial. Unfortunately for us this was closed on the day we were visiting the area and could not reschedule.
The Ulster Memorial Tower was the first official memorial to be erected on the Western Front and was dedicated on 19th November 1921.
Check their website for the guided tours, as it is not open to the public to walk around freely.
Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial
When you arrive at this memorial, go straight to the visitor center and ask for the tour. Highly recommended! It is free 45 minute tour where you are guided by one of the many guides who are all students from Newfoundland, Canada. The tour takes you through the original preserved trenches of the allies, explanations of the memorials and the story of how the Newfoundland Regiment fought in the war. Our guide pointed out the exact trenches of where both allied and enemy trenches were in the landscape, allowing you to truly understand the distance of no mans land in the middle.
There is a dead tree (no longer the original) situated in no man’s land where many Newfoundland Regiment sheltered from the oncoming fire of the machine guns. Between this tree and their trench line further back, more than 80% of the men died. Leaving the 1000 strong regiment down to less than 200 in a matter of only 30 minutes.
Here you can also find the crater of the Hawthorn Mine explosion. This memorial is actually only one of only two National Historic Sites of Canada located outside of Canada.
Fricourt German Cemetery Somme
There are always two sides to a story, with visiting the Fricourt German Cemetery as one of them during our weekend city trip to Albert. The cemetery is the resting place of 17,000 German soldiers, with at least 10,000 of them passing during the Battle of Somme. Many graves include 4 soldiers in one.
Here is a list of extra things you can do during your historic city visit to Albert:
- Take the 17km / 10.5mile hike through Thiepval that starts at Albert. Click here to find the route!
- Rent bicycles (or walk) along the gorgeous River Somme
- Visit a private collection of vehicles, cars and belongings at this Museum of Aeronautical Industry
- Take a steam train journey “Petit train de la Haute Somme” from Froissy to Dompierre, which was constructed in 1916 for the Battle of the Somme.
Where To Stay For City Visit To Albert
We stayed at Coquelicotel for two nights in August. It was a lovely apartment with kitchenette for us to make our own meals to keep costs down. The apartment had all the toiletries and kitchen supplies needed. The bedroom was very clean with plenty of storage. The British owner has done a lovely job creating 5 apartments in this building. The very warm welcome and he was happy to help out!
Other places you can consider staying at are:
- Hôtel Royal Picardie – located in Albert, within 10mins of the city center.
- Hotel De La Paix – located in the center of Albert and only 500m from the 1916 Somme Museum.
- The Silent Picket – located in Martinpuich not far from Albert, in the heart of the Somme Battlefields.
- Le Corner’s Pub – located in the city center of Albert with a 2-minute walk from 1916 Somme Museum.
Combine Your City Visit To Albert with A WW1 Weekend in Ypres!
Want to extend your WW1 exploration for a few more days? We did too and stayed for a weekend in Ypres, Belgium which is at the center of many more WW1 historic locations. Between Albert and Ypres you are basically following the WW1 front lines. This location is only 1 hour north from Albert, so we could have stayed in Albert longer and drove up without a new hotel to stay at. However decided to sleep closer to the WW1 site locations so we would have more time.
Close to Ypres we stayed at B&B Laurus where we had booked a cute bed and breakfast location perfect for couples. This was ideal to have breakfast before we left exploring. We had chosen to get our evening dinners within the beautiful historic city of Ypres. Our sleeping area had it’s own front entrance and cosy bedroom with ensuite.
You can read more about our Weekend in Ypres here!
Summary Of Our City Trip To Albert
Just like our Weekend in Ypres, we found it very moving to walk in the locations of the front line of World War One. It was somewhat eerie to walk through the original trenches, knowing thousands of men were killed in no man’s land. The weekend was a good combination to visit the museums and memorials with the original trenches. Furthermore it gave us a good indication of how it all happened and where. The small village of Albert was small but very welcoming with the Somme Museum 1916 as one of our top highlights.
Our city visit to Albert is one we Highly recommended to visit. All these locations and things to do are perfect for those who wish to learn more about World War One, an unforgettable experience.
Tips for later:
- Plan ahead and check opening times to be sure you can fit it in your schedule
- Remember that sites are memorials to those who fell so act in a dignified way
- Leave the site as you find it, no littering.
- All locations are within easy driving from a city visit to Albert
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Have you been to the city of Albert before? Or any of the First World War memorial sites? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!