All aboard? Well no, we didn't have the pleasure of coming here by boat, nor hopped on a rental. And one doesn;t have to go on board to enjoy the wonderful yaughts, sailing boats and other ships that are in the many many harbours in the port of Cherbourg. Over twenty kilometers, the town suprised me in the amount of larger and smaller bassins for boats. In the center one can't miss the central docks and harbour piers. Thousands of ships lay here and they variete from small private yaughts to beautiful three mast barks. Do you want to go out to sea? There are possibilities in booking fishing trips on the English Channel. Highlight in Cherbourg is the museum ship "Belem" (see seperate Tip).
Cité de la Mer (City of the sea) is a really great museum for young and old. We all know of the great past of Marine exploration that France holds (think of Jacques Cousteau and you know enough). This museum tells about the submerged secrets of the seas and oceans, the colourful marine life and the history of sea exploration. Cité de la Mer is also very interesting for children, that get explicit attention throughout the various sections in the museum. The museum is situated in the magnificent building of what used to be the Transatlantic "Station"
Cherbourg used to have several small harbours along it's coastline, however, the architects of Napoleon saw possibilities to create a huge bassin. Large enough to house now-a-days a whole fleet of cruiseships or then a full armada of warships. On the seabed a half circle of submerged rocks, made it possible to make artificial islands with in between stone harbour walls. Few gateways secured a deep and safe entrance into the bassin, where ships could anchor safely from large waves, storm winds or enemy ships. In Cherbourg itself the enormousness of the harbour can be best seen from the olf fortress terraces, but from view points near Anse-du-Brick (Maupertus) in the East and the old church of Querqueville in the West, the seize of the harbour also can be witnessed.
La Basilique de la Ste. Trinite
Dating from the 11th Century the church is situated between the centre of the old town and the sea.
Construction took place between the 11th and 19th century which may explain the contrasting styles and materials that can be seen in the design and fabric of the building. The overall effect for me was of a rather dead but flamboyant gothic style.
It does however possess a rare 15th century Font, some fine alabaster relief work, a famous organ and some stained glass by the 20th Century artist Jean Gaudin.
So do not be put off by its gloomy exterior - it is well worth taking a look inside.
The oceanographic museum was created within the old Transatlantic Liner Terminal and will be of interest to boys and girls of all ages. It included the opportunity to experience the sensation of being inside a submarine and to view relics from a ship sunk off Cherbourg during the American war of Independence.
Admission for adults is about 14euros 50, about 9 euros for children . A full visit takes 3 hours so a good one for a rainy day.
We love to visit parks, gardens and castles but unfortunately did not have time on this short trip so here are a few we have earmarked for a future visit.
Seems you also get a bit of historic aristocratic scandal at the Chateau (above).
Perched on a cliff high up on the Point de Vue above the town, the Fort du Roule is an imposing building that offers great views of the town, the sea and the surrounding countryside. The fort itself is rather ugly, but has an impressive history, much of it documented in the Liberation Museum inside. The fort is a classic French 19th century "star fort" and was used by the Germans during World War 2. It was finally liberated by the Americans on June 26th 1944 in the battle of the Contentin.
Containing 500,000 litres of seawater, the aquarium at La Cite de la Mer is the largest in Europe. The visit includes wreckage from the CSS Alabama, an armed merchant cruiser from America that was sunk of the coast of Cherbourg during their civil war.
Cherbourg is probably the most important town in France's submarine construction industry. Direction des Constructions Navales impressive facilities produce France's new-generation nuclear ballistic submarines, nuclear attack submarines and diesel-electric submarines. It's no surprise to find, then, that the largest visitable submarine in the world, the decommissioned "Le Redoutable", should be in Cherbourg. The visit to the submarine forms part of the tour of La Cite de la Mer.
As befitting such an important naval port, the latest tourist development in Cherbourg is the "Cite de la Mer", or Sea City. Built on the site of the old railway station, it gives Cherbourg a significant attraction for tourists, that is was most lacking on my first visit in 1995, and was opened in 2002. The two main sites of interest within the complex are the submarine and the aquarium. It's open all year and costs 13 euros for adults in high season. The tour takes about three and a half hours.
MUSEUMS IN CHERBOURG: Make sure you pay a visit to the 'Musee Thomas-Henry', located behind the port. This interesting museum contains work by Fra Filippo Lippi and Fra Angelico. An eclectic collection in the 'Musee d'Ethnographie', set in tropical gardens, illustrates cultures and societies from around the world, including the life of the Inuit.
Above the town, Fort du Roule, the scene of fierce fighting in 1944, houses a museum about the war years.
Within the Casino of Cherbourg you will find:
49 slot Machines and Video Pokers
1 Roulette Table
Brewery the "Fifty's Dinner"
The dancing club "Admiralty"? The banquet room and the bar.
The bus station in Cherbourg is located behind Carrefore (if your on the marina) and opposite the main railway station.
The first French nuclear submarine - Le Redoutable - opens its doors to public. For fans of weapons, it will be a wonderful experience of going into a real nuclear submarine.
Don't forget to look around the historic quayside. You may well find some very interesting old ships.