Updated on 23 November 2020
Reading time: 3 minutes
During our recent stay in Cherbourg, we spent a fun-filled day at La Cité de la Mer, a must-see scientific, technological and cultural museum dedicated to the sea and its human exploration.
A museum steeped in history
The imposing building that houses La Cité de la Mer offers a rich insight in to the city’s maritime history. Inaugurated in the 1930s, this listed Art Deco structure was once the Transatlantic Terminal of Cherbourg, combining a maritime and railway station.
Partially demolished during the Second World War, it was rebuilt, keeping original features such as the rail tracks. A wonderful building so evocative of the past that you can easily imagine luxury trains dropping off wealthy passengers embarking on a transatlantic cruise liner, such as the famous Titanic.
Visit Le Redoutable submarine
La Cité de la Mer is a fantastic place for families with children and it features great attractions for all ages. Sitting in a dry dock, Le Redoutable is the only ballistic missile nuclear submarine in the world that is open to the general public and, at 128m long, it is also the largest. Taking a self-led audio tour of this enormous vessel provides a unique opportunity to experience the day-to-day life of its crew, packed into small spaces as they fulfilled challenging missions. Guided tours led by ex-submariners and dinners onboard can also be arranged on request. Plan your visit
return to Titanic
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic in 2012, an exhibition dedicated to the dramatic crossing and demise of the this transatlantic liner opened at La Cité de la Mer, recreating various scenes onboard in partnership with 15 emigration museums around the world. Cherbourg has a deep connection with the Titanic as it was her second-to-last stop before she headed out to sea on her fateful journey.
This tribute by La Cité de la Mer to commemorate Titanic has since become a permanent exhibit dedicated to the tragedy, and was one of our favourite parts of the museum. Narrated by three characters, a child, a wealthy woman and a poor man, the exhibit include a display of specially curated artifacts from the wreck of Titanic including cabin furniture that take us back to 1912. A moving film brings emotional visitors through the different stages of the history of the Titanic, from its departure from Southampton to its sinking in the Atlantic, featuring people shouting and lights blinking. An educational experience both onboard the transatlantic liner but also in the departure hall beforehand, where we learnt about the immigration of people from Cherbourg during this time.
A close encounter with sea life
Last but not least, we ended our visit to La Cité de la Mer in the aquarium, for a glimpse of what life looks like under the sea. Teeming with marine life, the museum’s impressive 11m-deep tank showcases a dazzling array of fish, aquatic creatures, plants, corals and organisms that shape our underwater world. For kids, there’s a petting area where they can dip their hands into a shallow pool to stroke rays. Watching all the colourful sea creatures swimming around in the aquarium’s large tanks is pretty magical, especially for young children.
A virtual adventure
Before finishing up in the Grand Gallery of Machines and Men, we embarked on the virtual deep-sea dive, ‘Walking into the depths’. For thrill-seekers, it’s an exhilarating 50-minute mission onboard a moving simulator into the depths of the ocean to experience the unexplored underwater world. We recommend you arrive early for a chance to experience this unique exhibit.
Cité de la Mer
Gare Maritime Transatlantique, 50100 Cherbourg
Multi-site tickets to La Cité de la Mer, Mémorial de Caen and Arromanches 360° Cinema can be purchased on-site
Parking is free
Opening times may vary according to the time of year. La Cité de la Mer is closed for most of January. Check La Cité de la Mer’s website before you travel