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Cherbourg, France

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Cherbourg, France

"Cherbourg" redirects here. For the Australian town and Aboriginal Mission, see Cherbourg, Queensland.


Coordinates: 49°37′59″N 1°37′00″W / 49.633°N 1.6167°W / 49.633; -1.6167Coordinates: 49°37′59″N 1°37′00″W / 49.633°N 1.6167°W / 49.633; -1.6167

Country France
Region Lower Normandy
Department Manche
Arrondissement Cherbourg
Intercommunality Cherbourg
 • Mayor Bernard Cazeneuve
 • Land1 14.26 km2 (5.51 sq mi)
Population (1999)
 • Population2 42,318
 • Population2 density 3,000/km2 (7,700/sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 50129 / 50100, 50130

1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Cherbourg-Octeville (French pronunciation: ​[ʃɛʁ.buʁ ɔk.tə.vil]) is a city and commune, situated on the Cotentin peninsula in the Manche department of Lower Normandy in north-western France. It is a subprefecture of its department, and was officially formed when the commune of Cherbourg absorbed Octeville on 28 February 2000. Due to its union, it is the most populated city in its department and the second-most in the region after the prefecture, Caen.

Cherbourg holds an arsenal of the French Navy. It is also a ferryport, with lines to the English ports of Poole and Portsmouth, the Irish port of Rosslare Harbour and St Helier on Jersey.


Cherbourg-Octeville is situated at the north of the Cotentin Peninsula. It is in the Manche département (of which it is a sous-préfecture) in the Basse-Normandie région. At the time of the 1999 census the city of Cherbourg had an area of 6.91 square kilometres (2.668 sq mi), while the city of Octeville had an area of 7.35 km2 (2.838 sq mi). The amalgamated city today has an area of 14.26 km2 (5.506 sq mi).


The combined population of Cherbourg and Octeville at the 1999 census was 42,318 inhabitants. (Separately, the official numbers were 25,370 for Cherbourg and 16,948 for Octeville.) The population of Cherbourg metropolitan area (the aire urbaine de Cherbourg) at the 1999 census was 117,855 inhabitants. The city is now the second largest in the Basse-Normandie region (after Caen), surpassing Alençon, which had been second before the amalgamation. Also, the city is the largest in the Manche département, although Saint-Lô is the préfecture (capital).



The Cotentin Peninsula was the first territory conquered by the Vikings in their 9th-century invasion. They developed Cherbourg as a port. The Germanic-sounding name of the city comes from Old English Ċiriċeburh ("village of the church") and was coined during the Migration Period.[1]

During the Seven Years' War, the British briefly occupied the town after the Raid on Cherbourg in 1758. The British destroyed military buildings and warehouses before departing.

In the Napoleonic era, the harbour was fortified to prevent British naval incursions. Underwater obstructions were sunk at intervals across the harbour entrance, and progressively replaced with piles of masonried rubble. The works were begun in 1784 and were not concluded until 1850, long after Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo.

On 19 June 1864, the Battle of Cherbourg, a naval engagement between USS Kearsarge and CSS Alabama that was part of the American Civil War, took place in international waters off Cherbourg. The Alabama was hit and sank. In November 1984, the French Navy mine hunter Circé discovered a wreck under nearly 60 m (200 ft) of water off Cherbourg. The location of the wreck (WGS84) was 49°45'147N / 001°41'708W. Captain Max Guerout later confirmed the wreck to be of the Alabama.

On 31 July1909, tsar Nicholas II and French president Armand Fallières met officially in Cherbourg to reinforce the Franco-Russian Alliance. Cherbourg was the first stop of RMS Titanic after it left Southampton, England.

During World War II, the Germans occupied the north of France and fortified the coastline against invasion. The Battle of Cherbourg, fought by the Allies in June 1944 against the Germans following the Normandy Invasion, ended with the Allies capturing the city on 30 June. The French celebrated their liberation from the German occupation.

The Norman language writer Alfred Rossel, a native of Cherbourg, composed many songs which form part of the heritage of the region. Rossel's song "Sus la mér" ("on the sea") is often sung as a regional patriotic song. The local dialect is known as Cotentinais.


La Glacerie was named for glass factory. In 1655, Louis Lucas de Néhou built a glass factory which produced windows and mirrors for such buildings as the Galerie des Glaces and Château de Versailles. The factory in La Glacerie was destroyed by Allied bombardments in 1944 during the Normandy invasion.


The arms of Cherbourg-Octeville are blazoned :
Azure, on a fess argent between 3 bezants (Or), 3 mullets of 6 points sable.

Main sights

  • The Cité de la Mer is a large museum devoted to scientific and historical aspects of maritime subjects.
  • Cherbourg Basilica[1]
  • La Glacerie has a race track.
  • Jardin botanique de la Roche Fauconnière, a private botanical garden.
  • The Musée de la Libération is dedicated to Second World War History.
  • The Musée des beaux-arts Thomas Henry has a collection of over 300 paintings, founded on the original collection of Cherbourg native, Thomas Henry.
  • The Museum Emmanuel-Liais is a museum devoted to natural history, archaeology and ethnography.
  • Le Trident theatre

Representation in other media

Public transport and infrastructure


Cherbourg is at the end of the N13 road from Paris and Caen.


City buses are run by Zephir.


The city's station is at the end of a railway line built by the Chemins de Fer de l'Ouest from Paris. Regular services operate to Paris-Saint-Lazare via Caen using Corail Intercites stock, local TER services operate from the station to Lisieux via Caen and to Rennes via Saint-Lô. As well as a main line station there was also the Gare Maritime Transatlantique station. This now forms part of the Cité de la mer.


Cherbourg-Octeville is a port on the English Channel with a number of regular passenger and freight ferry services operating from the large modern ferry terminal and has a major artificial harbour. The following operators currently run services from the port:

Cherbourg-Octeville has previously had services operated by the following operators:

  • Stena Line to Southampton (up to 2 sailings daily). Withdrawn in 1996.
  • P&O Ferries to Portsmouth (up to 2 sailings daily by conventional ferry and up to 3 by fast ferry during the summer). Withdrawn in 2005 following a business review.
  • P&O Irish Sea to Rosslare (up to 3 sailings weekly) and Dublin (weekends only during the summer). Dublin service withdrawn in 2004 and Rosslare service sold top Celtic Link.
  • HD Ferries to Guernsey and Jersey. Operated in 2007 but cancelled in 2008 due to lack of customers.

It should be mentioned that Brittany Ferries to Poole briefly stopped their conventional ferry service in early 2010 but resumed it in February 2011; the seasonal catermaran service continues to run, as does the freight service to the Dorset port. Brittany Ferries have introduced more frequent services from Portsmouth to Cherbourg-Octeville with their latest acquisition, "Cap Finistère" (ex- "Superfast V").

In addition to ferry services, the port also handles cruise ships at the Gare Maritime Transatlantique on the Quai de France next to the Cité de la mer and conventional cargo ships in the eastern area of the docks on the Quai des Flamands and Quai des Mielles.


The nearest airport is in Maupertus-sur-Mer which is named Cherbourg Maupertus.

International relations

Twin towns – Sister cities

Cherbourg is twinned with:


See also

Normandy portal



Further reading

Published in the 19th century
Published in the 20th century

External links

  • Cherbourg on
  • (English/French/German)

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