One of the main reasons people visit Cherbourg is to raid the hypermarkets for cheap booze and cigarettes, and to take their plunder back to the high-tax island of Britain. Cherbourg, as you might expect, is well catered for in this aspect, and there are plenty of hypermarkets vying for your custom. Probably the most convenient is Carrefour, slap bang in the centre of the town, although you might find better prices at the ones on the outskirts, where real estate is cheaper. A list of all the hypermarkets, along with useful maps, can be found here.
Just behind the harbour front is the market in the old town, called La Vielle Ville. This is where that strong smell of fresh fish emanates from as you walk about the town. You can, of course, buy fish straight from the Atlantic here, along with the usual tat that they sell at markets all over the world.
Hypermarkets are huge and wonderful places. Each one is of course different to the other, but most resemble a cash 'n' carry type store, selling bulk loads of many varieties of food, drink and other items.
What to buy: For me, the biggest money saver was undoubtedly on the beer! The prices when you buy in bulk (well a crate of 24) is crazily cheap. You can get hold of all the main brands at a fraction of the cost, or even go with the local beers as I have done a couple of times, and get a crate of 24 small, but strong bottles for as cheap as two and a half euros!!!
I was however a little dissapointed with the spirits prices. My brother had asked me to bring him back a bottle of Jack Daniels, and I was slightly agrieved to learn that it was only marginally cheaper than back home. Ho hum.
The wine is the other big saver. There tends to be a huge selection of both colours, sweet and dry, and of varying quality. The prices of course vary, but at each quality level you are still looking at about half the price that you would normally expect to pay.
There are numerous hypermarkets and mega-wine stores dotted around Cherbourg if that is your kind of thing. We like to look in the small streets where local people do their shopping.
Right behind the Hotel Regence there is a maze of little streets with small shops - basic and smart.
Also several areas where some of the towns many markets are held - in the large square in front of the grand theatre and in the area around the Church of Ste. Trinite.
A Christmas Market takes place in the former throughout most of December.
On the Saturday morning we visited there was a slightly down at heel flea market around the Church which attracted lots of buyers.
What to buy: Biscuits, cakes and cheeses and of course calvados.
This large shop would be the equivalent of the Forbidden Planet chain in the UK. Full of science fiction and fantasy toys, books and games, weapons and costumes. Figurines, painball and manga a specialty.
This small shop, one of a chain of many in Cherbourg and into Normandy will be one of the only places that open on Sunday. A good selection of cakes, buns and fllled rolls. Although English will find the food a little bland compared with home, ie a ham roll with just one thin slice of ham!
Carrefour, the biggest shop in Cherbourg. The place everyone went once, but a little quieter now. A vast store where you can buy most things of any kind. It has attendant restaurants and fast food outlets but be aware that the main store is closed on Sundays.
Stamps, collections, bank notes, medals, collectables. They are all here in great quantities and in many guises.