Cherbourg sits on the tip of a peninsula in Lower Normandy. It’s the region’s second largest centre of population after Caen and was first colonised by the Vikings in the 9th Century. As one of the deepest water ports on the coastline it’s always been strategically important and is a major naval port to this day.
While we don’t offer a direct ferry to Cherbourg, the journey from Calais takes about 4.5 hours by road so you could choose or our Dover-Calais crossing but perhaps your best option would be to take our Newhaven-Dieppe route as this would cut the drive down to just 3 hours.
Both routes take in some stunning coastal scenery which helps to make any journey pass more quickly.
WHY VISIT CHERBOURG?
Cherbourg is one of the great Channel ports which is both rich in history and offers so much for the visitor to see and do. It’s a city where Napoleon is still highly regarded – maybe it’s because this is where his ashes were returned after he died in exile - and there’s a huge statue of him on horseback in the middle of the city.
Any visitor will also see that Cherbourg’s location is stunning. Steep, wooded hillsides lead down to the deep harbour – one of the reasons that it was chosen to be a military base by so many navies over the centuries.
Cherbourg was also once France’s key port for the huge ocean liners that crossed the Atlantic and it was even the Titanic’s very last port of call before it started the next leg of its fateful voyage.
Plus there’s a wide choice of museums and gardens to visit in the area and the cities of Caen and Rouen are also within easy reach. Finally, in common with all the Channel ports, there are plenty of supermarkets and hypermarkets that are perfect for stocking up on great value French wines, beers and foods.
WHAT TO SEE IN CHERBOURG
Visit Cherbourg and you’ll find that there’s plenty to fill your day. There are also lots of places to visit near Cherbourg so it may well be worth extending that day trip to a long weekend or more.
Cité de la Mer is a fantastic exhibition centre that is based in and around the huge ocean terminal where the liners of yesteryear used to dock. It’s an impressive art deco style building which was first constructed in 1933 and there are four main areas to visit. The centrepiece is the decommissioned nuclear submarine Redoubtable which is now a museum and the largest underwater craft in the world that’s open to the public.
Nearby is the cylindrical aquarium measuring 8m wide by 10m high containing sea creatures living at the relative depths they would in the ocean. As a companion attraction there is also an underwater expedition experience using virtual reality and digitised displays. The fourth area incorporates permanent and temporary exhibitions about the city’s maritime history.
The Musée Thomas Henry was established by a local resident who was and art expert at the Louvre in Paris and features a great deal of work by local artists while the Museum Emmanuel Liais covers archaeology and ethnography including many fine pieces from ancient Egypt.
Take the winding road up into the hills behind Cherbourg and you’ll reach the Musée del la Liberation. Set in an old fort it tells the military history of Cherbourg – and offers some spectacular views along the rugged coastline.
Two outdoor activities for fine days are an hour-long cruise around the harbour visiting a number of the abandoned fortifications that surround it and a visit to the Chateau de Ravelet Gardens – stunning formal gardens to the 16th Century castle at Tourlaville, just outside Cherbourg.
WHERE TO STAY IN CHERBOURG
Cherbourg hotels offer you a very wide choice of options from the large and luxurious to the small and friendly. You'll find many places to stay in Cherbourg, when you visit our partner, booking.com.
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