The Port of Cherbourg sits on the English Channel on the Contentin peninsula in the Basse-Normandie region of northwest France. On the mouth of the Divette River, it is some 300 kilometers west-northwest of Paris. Near the busy maritime routes through the English Channel, it has a well-sheltered natural harbor. In 2005, over 40 thousand people lived in the Port of Cherbourg.
The Port of Cherbourg is a major passenger gateway for cross-channel traffic. In addition to shipyards, the government’s naval dockyards at the Port of Cherbourg build nuclear submarines. The town contains an important nuclear-based industry as well as manufacturing of clothing, equipment, machinery, and electronics.
The Contenin peninsula was the first continental territory conquered by the Vikings, and they quickly made a seaport at Cherbourg.
In the early 19th Century, Napoleon fortified the harbor to prevent British invasions. He sunk obstructions across the harbor entrance. Work began in 1784 and was not completed until 1850, long after his defeat at Waterloo.
In 1864, a battle of the American Civil War took place just outside of the Port of Cherbourg when the Union’s USS Kearsarge sunk the CSS Alabama.
The RMS Titanic first stopped at the Port of Cherbourg after departing Southampton, England, making it the last place the Titanic moored before it sank.
The World War II Battle of Cherbourg was part of the Normandy Invasion, and the Port of Cherbourg was one of the first towns to be liberated by the Allies.
The Port of Cherbourg is operated by the Cherbourg-Cotentin Chamber of Commerce and Industry with supervision by the French government. This deep-water port (minimum of 13 meters) is open 24 hours a day throughout the year.
The Port of Cherbourg is equipped with modern equipment and generous storage and cargo-handling space. The shipyards in the Port of Cherbourg construct and repair warships, yachts, and civil ships.
The Quay of France is 600 meters long with alongside depth of 13 meters. In contains two covered footbridges for cruise passenger and one covered footbridge for ferry passengers. Hosting the port’s car-ferry, the Quay of Normandie is 500 meters long with alongside depth of 11 meters. The Quay of Flamands is 360 meters long with alongside depth of 13 meters, and the Quay of Mielles is 300 meters log with alongside depth of four meters. the Marina at the Port of Cherbourg has 1350 mooring points and is open 24 hours a day.
In 2007, the Port of Cherbourg served 781.3 thousand passengers, 702.4 thousand vehicles, 93.5 thousand commercial vehicles, and a total of 3.0 million tons of freight.
Cruising and Travel
Visitors to the Port of Cherbourg will find many interesting and entertaining things to do. The city’s architecture includes buildings commissioned by William the Conqueror’s wife, Queen Mathilde, the famous military architect for Louis XIV, Marshal Vauban, and Napoleon. The city is France’s gateway to America, and it has welcomed the biggest and best luxury liners.
At the old Art Deco transatlantic harbor station, you will find the City of the Sea, a large tourist and cultural center dedicated to the human adventure under the sea. It contains the Redoutable, the biggest nuclear submarine open to the public, and the abyssal aquarium.
The 19th Century Theatre of Cherbourg is one of the last traditional Italian theaters in the world. Recognized as a Historical Monument, the theater hosts artistic and cultural events.
The Ravalet’s Castle is a grand Renaissance building in a huge green park that also contains many ponds and a 19th-Century greenhouse. Also a Historical Monument, the park offers many beautiful areas for quiet walks and meditation.
In the center of town, the Liais’park contains a wonderful variety of exotic plants and trees as well as greenhouses holding over 400 types of rare plants. The park was created in the late 1800s by the Viscount Rene de Tocqueville. The Liais’museum contains a fascinating collection of archaeological artifacts and ethnological objects collected from around the world.
Other places to see include the Liberation Museum atop the Roule Mountain, the Abbey of the Vow established by Queen Mathilde, the Montebello Garden with a wonderful 19th Century chalet, the 1.7 hectare public gardens that contain a small zoological section and a sea lion, and the 12th Century Saint-Martin Church with many amazing sculptures.
Travelers who want to visit the Port of Cherbourg by sea can find a list of scheduled cruises on the port’s website.