Here the French military architect Vauban recognised an "audacious" maritime location. From that beginning grew a site that is in complete harmony with the sea.
With its privileged position facing the Channel on the end of the Cotentin Peninsula, the former Coriovallum, Carisborc or Chierebourg grew on the banks of the Yvette river. In a verdant setting, bathing in the mildness of the Gulf Stream, Cherbourg is very much a town open to the sea. A transatlantic port of call for the world's biggest and finest liners (such as the Queen Mary II), fishing, merchant, naval and yachting port, Cherbourg is often the centre for major maritime events such as the Figaro Single-Handed Race.
From its viewpoint on the green slopes of the Cotentin peninsula, Cherbourg can admire a colossal 19th century engineering feat : the biggest artificial harbour in the world.
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Cherbourg is a lively town with numerous quayside restaurants, hotels and markets.
Culture is given full rein, with the Italian theatre, art and history museums, the basilica, the château des Ravalet and of course, the Cité de la Mer, a hi-tech oceanographic centre.
For art lovers, the Thomas Henry Fine Arts Museum boasts a good collection of works by local artist Millet, and for visitors on the Second World War trail, there is a museum dedicated to the Liberation.
Worth a visit
- The harbour : these two-mile long ramparts are one of the most impressive projects of the 18th and 19th centuries, constructed in the sea with no connection with the coast. Its construction was interrupted during the Revolution and continued under Napoleon, who ordered a military harbour to be built. The central wall was not finished until 1853.
- Holy Trinity Basilica
- Museum of Natural history and Ethnography : the five continents, fascinating and unexpected, reveal themselves to visitors in magnificent botanical gardens.
- Cité de la Mer: The Sub-marine and Ocean sections plunge visitors into the depths of the sea, in a veritable palace of science and distractions. New exhibition 'Titanic, Return to Cherbourg' in 2012.
- Fort du Roule: Museum of the Liberation which retraces the different stages of the 2nd World War.
- Château des Ravalet : built in 1575, the château was classified as a historical monument in 1935. Its 42 acre park has had the "exceptional Garden" label since 2004.
Not to be missed