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Cherbourg France Normandy Cherbourg

Cherbourg France French Holidays

Cherbourg is in the Manche département, on the Contentin Peninsula that juts out into the Channel. To the west of the peninsula are the Channel Islands. Guernsey is 45km away, and Jersey 25km. They are accessible by ferry from St Malo in Brittany, or from the towns of Carteret, Granville and Portbail in Normandy during peak season.


Cherbourg, contrary to the romantic picture painted of it in Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, a 1964 Jacques Demy film, is of little interest to the tourist except as the entry point to France when taking the ferry from England (Poole or Portsmouth) or Ireland. Napoléon rather grandly claimed that he would "recreate the wonders of Egypt " in Cherbourg, but there is more evidence of large docks and naval bases in the town than pyramids (the nearest one to date is outside the Louvre).

The tourist office is situated at 2 quai Alexandre III (02 33 93 52 02) by the Bassin du Commerce. The gare SNCF and gare routière are south of the Bassin du Commerce, on either side of the Avenue Francis Millet, with regular connections to Bayeux, Paris and Caen. Local buses run to the hilltop town of Coutances (much more interesting than Cherbourg itself) and the attractive village of Barfleur, among other destinations.

If you do decide to make Cherbourg your base you will find that hotels are very reasonably priced, although finding one with parking or a restaurant can be tricky. One exception is the logis de France the Régence at 42 quai de Caligny (02 33 43 05 16) which has a restaurant with menus from €16 to €29 and neat rooms with a harbour view at €40 55 per night. More appealing is the Renaissance, 4 rue de l'Église (02 33 43 23 90) with a view of the port in a nicer part of town for the same price.

Like so many coastal towns, Cherbourg boasts a large aquarium (La Cité de la Mer, €13) and maritime museum but this one allows you to visit a real nuclear submarine. Other ways to pass the time in Cherbourg include a ramble along the Plage Vert (grassed over beach) or up to the Roule Fort where there is a view of the whole town. Otherwise shopping and watching the world go by from a café are failsafe formulas for an afternoon.

In the old town there are adventurous little restaurants including the Tunisian La Medina at 54 rue Tour Carrée (02 33 93 25 01) with dishes from €14, or along the quai de Caligny there are more expensive seafood restaurants such as the Café de Paris at number 40 (02 33 43 12 36) with assiettes de fruits de mer from €13 to €86 (for two people).