Built in the late 19th-century in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War, the hilltop Fort Douaumont was Verdun’s largest and highest fortress, looming 388-meters above the notorious Verdun battlefield. The heavily armed fortress was designed to be the most strategically important of Verdun’s mighty defenses, but instead it earned its notoriety during the bloody Battle of Verdun in 1916, when a shocking 300,000 soldiers were killed, and a further 400,000 were wounded. Suffering large destruction and manned by only a small garrison, Fort Douaumont quickly fell into German hands and became a key battle site throughout the 300-day standoff.
Today, the once mighty fort lies in ruins, but visitors can still tour the bunkers, barracks and command posts, designed to accommodate up to 600 soldiers; view the machine gun turrets and take in the views from the fort’s high vantage point. A memorial and graveyard is also located on-site, erected in honour of the 679 German soldiers killed when an accidental cooking fire triggered a massive explosion and firestorm in the fort – another tragedy resulting in heavy casualties.
Fort Douaumont is located around 10km northeast of Verdun, and is open from February to November, daily from 10am-6pm. Adult admission at the time of writing is €4.