Normandy

Cherbourg

Located on the English Channel, Cherbourg boasts one of the largest commercial ports in the world and fascinates with its past linked to the great transatlantic epic.
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Overlooking the English Channel, on the northern tip of the Cotentin peninsula, Cherbourg, after the latest administrative unification officially Cherbourg en Cotentin, is one of the most important ports in France.

Once a strategic port of call for transatlantic liners and large cruise ships, then a port linked to fishing, a commercial and military hub, today Cherbourg is the second largest man-made port in the world, the departure point for ferries bound for Ireland and Great Britain.

Over time, the town has been able to renew itself by hosting major nautical events, such as the Course du Figaro, and by focusing on cultural ferment, local life and the enhancement of its historical heritage.

Things to do in Cherbourg

At the end of the Cotentin peninsula, north of the English Channel department, lies Cherbourg.

It is a city on a human scale that, like Brest, was intensely affected during the bombings of World War II. Despite the many wounds, Cherbourg has managed to renew itself, relying heavily on its commercial and maritime vocation.

Maritime Station

150100 Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, France

It is the largest French Art Deco building of the 1930s. In its heyday, Cherbourg’s Gare Maritime Transatlantique saw the transit of tens of thousands of passengers leaving for the Americas. Often up to four trains would arrive from Paris at the same time, carrying thousands of passengers waiting to fulfil their dream of a new and better life.

It was here that the Titanic made its only port call on French soil in 1912. It was the penultimate one, before it took to the open sea, meeting its tragic fate.

Unfortunately, the station was partly destroyed by the Germans in 1944. It was later used by the Allies for landing men and materials after the city was liberated. Only after the war did it resume its original purpose: the arrivals of the ships Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth revived the great transatlantic epic again, before giving way to the more recent, but equally prestigious, stages of modern navigation. In fact, today it welcomes cruise ships that set sail for the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean.

La Cité de la Mer

2All. du Président Menut, 50100 Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, France (Website)

Inside the maritime station is a wonderful museum, La Cité de la Mer. Here you can discover all the secrets of the variety of the oceans, through a visit full of interesting elements.

First of all, the Gallery of Engines: all the devices used for the discovery of the seabed are on display. On board these machines, some real and some reconstructed life-size, the world’s greatest oceanauts have been able to explore the depths of the sea, arriving at exceptional discoveries. Of particular interest, the Russian Mir, the American Alvin and the French Nautile have participated in all the dives near the wreck of the Titanic since 1987 .

Not to be missed is a visit to the Redoutable, a pioneering, unique military submarine: it was the first missile-launching nuclear submarine. Thanks to a 35-minute audio-guided tour, you can board the vessel and visit the different interior spaces: the engine room, command post, torpedo room, cafeteria, crew and officers’ cabins.

Finally, the museum takes you inside the Titanic, Retour à Cherbourg. You will take a journey into the tragic, yet fascinating world of the world’s most famous liner. It starts in the baggage room, which welcomed the departing travellers: here you will see the images and testimonies of the many emigrants who embarked on a great adventure, a voyage to the New World. The Titanic, which made its last stop precisely at Cherbourg, before sinking, is recreated through an immersive tour that, in 45 minutes, relives the last voyage of this giant of the seas.

Cherbourg Harbour

3Gare maritime transmanche, 50100 Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, France (Website)

The port of Cherbourg is an incredible feat of engineering, work on which began in 1783 under the aegis of the architect Vauban.

It is the second largest artificial harbour in the world, after that of Ras Laffan in Qatar, and consists of a vast semi-circle almost nine kilometres long, forming a kind of single great sea wall.

Conceived to be a defensive tool in the event of a British military attack, being right on the English Channel, today it represents a remarkably efficient breakwater to contain the wave motion within the port, both tourist and commercial.

With its three breakwaters, Cherbourg hosts five ports: pleasure boating, commercial, fishing, military and cruise.

It is possible to make a sea tour of the port: the most popular excursion allows you to discover this fantastic maritime heritage in 1 hour. You can admire the dykes and defensive forts, retracing the history of its construction, which began under Louis XVI and ended in the 20th century.

Musée de la Libération

4Mnt des Résistants, 50100 Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, France (Website)

Cherbourg-Octeville is home to the Musée de la Libération, housed inside a fortress dating from the second half of the 19th century, from which you can enjoy the best view of the city.

It is a good start to immerse yourself in the history of the Normandy landings, with a scenographic tour from the shadows of the occupation to the lights of the landing accompanied by numerous audiovisuals.

Ravalet Castle

5387 Av. du Château des Ravalet, 50110 Tourlaville, France (Website)

At the gates of Cherbourg, on the surrounding heights, hides a beautiful blue schist stone residence. In Renaissance style, the Château Ravalet dates back to the 16th century: the residence is private but you can access its immense 17-hectare park that harmoniously combines French and English gardens.

The castle is infamous in the area for the tragic fate of the Ravalet family’s children: Marguerite and Julien, guilty of adultery and incest, were executed in Paris in 1603.

Cherbourg Alleys

6Pass. Digard, 50100 Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, France

Although the town suffered considerable urban damage during World War II, Cherbourg still retains a few old alleys, small spaces now forgotten by tourist guides. If you have time to go and discover them, they will reveal the ancient past of this town, such as the picturesque Passage Digard.

You will notice that the facades of the buildings are not made of concrete but of stone: blue schist, a typical Cotentin rock. They are not easy to spot: they are small medieval streets, passages and courtyards that hold oases of peace and other small corners of timeless calm, turrets, spiral staircases and flowered houses.

Le Trident

7Pl. Général de Gaulle, 50100 Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, France (Website)

In the heart of the city, the Teatro Italiano, inaugurated in 1882 by architect Charles de Lalande, bears witness to the city’s heyday with its imposing façade adorned with columns and caryatids.

The interior is well worth a visit to admire the splendour of its 19th-century décor, from which it derives its nickname of the Golden Theatre, thanks to its refinement, its painted dome and its majestic chandelier.

Les Parapluies de Cherbourg

813 Rue du Port, 50100 Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, France

One of the symbols of Cherbourg are its umbrellas, made famous thanks to the 1963 film Les Parapluies de Cherbourg starring Catherine Deneuve.

Le Véritable, the company founded in 1986 by Jean-Pierre Yvon, who was fascinated by the film and the filming he witnessed as a child, has become an institution: Cherbourg umbrellas are a luxury and high-fashion product, exported all over the world, thanks to the nobility of the materials and the unique technicality used in its creation.

It is possible to visit the factory: on the first floor of the building, in addition to the exhibitions combining umbrellas and works of art, you can watch a short 15-minute film that tells the brand’s fascinating history.

Map

In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article

Where to stay in Cherbourg

Positioned at the northern end of the Cotentin, facing the English Channel, Cherbourg is a strategic city both for those planning to visit the peninsula and for those about to board a ferry bound for Ireland or Britain.

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The city centre

For those planning to visit Cherbourg, we recommend finding a hotel in the centre: the heart of the city is very lively, full of cafés and restaurants. The pedestrian streets and Place De Gaulle are the liveliest areas, where open-air events are organised in summer.

The city’s best hotels are located in this central area. In addition, you will be close to major tourist attractions such as the Cité de la Mer, or shoppers will be just a stone’s throw away from the large Les Eléis shopping centre, which houses more than 70 brands.

Octeville-Bourg

This is a very quiet residential area: you will find plenty of green spaces, parks and a pleasant, peaceful environment.

In any case, the city centre is easily accessible by public transport.

The Western District

Between the centre and the Octeville-Bourg district, you will find this very quiet district, where the universities of Cherbourg are established. Most students stay here and the area is young and lively.

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How to get to Cherbourg

Cherbourg, perched on the tip of the Cotentin peninsula, is 360 km from Paris. The nearest airports are Rennes or Paris Orly and Paris-Charles de Gaulle.

By car

Just as in Brittany, where the motorway stops at Rennes, in the Manche region the A84 stops before Villedieu-les-Poêles, south of Saint-Lô, while the A13 stops at Caen. So, to get to Cherbourg, there are several possibilities:

By train

There is only one train line connecting Cherbourg to Paris, with a change at the Caen, Paris or Lison station.

It takes between 3 hours and 4 hours to reach Paris from Cherbourg by train.

By bus

There are several companies offering bus trips to and from Cherbourg. Although much cheaper, this type of connection is much longer: in fact, it takes 6 to 12 hours to get to Cherbourg from Paris.

Ferries from Cherbourg

Protected from the winds by its gigantic harbour, Cherbourg welcomes sailing boats and yachts for a stop at the marina, Port Chantereyne.

But Cherbourg is especially important for travellers arriving in or going to England and Ireland via the English Channel.

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Cherbourg Weather

What's the weather at Cherbourg? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Cherbourg for the next few days.

Saturday 2
Sunday 3
Monday 4
Tuesday 5
11°
Wednesday 6
12°
Thursday 7
10°

Where is located Cherbourg

Cherbourg is located in the English Channel department, almost on the border with Brittany, on the extreme tip of the Cotentin peninsula.

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