At the tip of the Cotentin peninsula, figurehead of Normandy, Cherbourg is both anchored in its land and turned towards the sea. Recently renamed "Cherbourg-en-Cotentin", it takes shape after market gardening from the Val de Saire, like a transition between bocage and Manche. Its facades in blue schist, the local stone, come in a whole range of colors, from gray to orange. In the boels of old Cherbourg still hover the melodies of the famous musical film The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The city is asserting itself more than ever on the cultural scene with museums, a theatrical program and artist residences conducive to experimentation. Head for a Normandy that is both maritime and art-loving.
Stroll in old Cherbourg
Stroll through the medieval streets of old Cherbourg promises beautiful architectural discoveries. Behind private mansions and beautiful mansions with blue schist facades hide a few havens of peace and other little corners of timeless paradise. We must engage in boels, these small medieval streets, to discover treasures of charm and serenity: passages and courtyards, turrets and corbels, spiral staircases and other charmingly flowered houses.
Like the city, old Cherbourg is haunted by the filming of the film The Umbrellas of Cherbourg by Jacques Demy (1964). Places like the hardware store at 13, rue du Port (a shop that has remained in its original state), the Cour Marie and the Basilica of the Trinity are indicated by movie claps attached to the facades, evoking the scenes that were filmed in these places.
It is raining ? Direction Manufacture of Umbrellas of Cherbourg. In a Haussmannian building, it presents the range (so to speak) of series, traces the history of the umbrella as a fashion accessory and communication medium for luxury brands. The manufacture allows to understand the stages of manufacture of a Genuine Cherbourg, its variations and the technicality of this know-how.
Cherbourg, city of culture
If Cherbourg figures, with its umbrellas, on the podium of French elegance, the city is also asserting itself on the cultural scene. Its exhibition and creation spaces develop their programs with the aim of democratizing culture and the arts. They enrich their posters with “off” programs, meetings and activities, particularly aimed at families.
Designed to be the spearhead of Cherbourg's cultural influence, the new Quasar cultural center brings together the actions of a fine arts museum and a library, but also of 3 theaters and an "art library".
Within the Quasar, the Thomas-Henry museum, one of the largest fine arts museums in Normandy, has just reopened. The historic heart of the fund comes from the donation of Thomas Henry, local patron and philanthropist. In a completely new setting of glass and wood, the museum preserves in felted rooms collections illustrating the major pictorial currents that emerged in Europe between the 15th and the 19th century: French paintings, Italian and Renaissance paintings, Northern schools, Spanish Golden Age ... There are portraits, genre scenes and still lifes signed by great names: Fra Angelico, Lippi, Poussin, David, Signac ... Among the notorious riches of the collections, the series of paintings of youth by Jean-François Millet is the second largest Millet collection in France after the Louvre.
As part of the Normandy Impressionist festival, the museum presents the exhibition “Félix Buhot, painter of atmospheres” (from June 24 to September 25, 2016).
In front of the entrance to the Quasar, as a preamble or as an extension of the visit, " The wall " is a space dedicated to street art on the facade of an apartment building. It is regularly reinvented by nationally renowned artists.
A little further on, amazement assured in front of the eternal decorations of the Italian theater, a room inaugurated in 1882 and listed as a Historic Monument. Its decorative repertoire makes it a rarity in France: crystal chandelier, painted dome, decorated balconies and bathtubs. The theater joins its programming to those of two other theaters (the Vox and the Théâtre de la Butte) to form an entity called " The Trident ».
Labeled "National scene", the Trident also works on times of conviviality and sharing between artists and the public. On the off-stage program: events, awareness and artistic practice workshops, ephemeral cafes and artist residencies. So many highlights that complete the programming on stage.
Another great artistic initiative, theArtothèque offers residents the loan of contemporary works, to bring unexposed paintings to life in private lounges.
As for the amateurs of balancing act and artistic experiments, they will rush into The breach. Labeled "National Pole of Circus Arts of Normandy", this place of creation positions Cherbourg as a stronghold of contemporary circus. La Brèche thus hosts around thirty artist residencies each year, and the artistic ferment is palpable. Under a delightful traditional wooden and canvas marquee, La Brèche presents models and extracts from shows, and organizes discussions with the public.
Cherbourg, facing the sea
Marina, trade, fishing, cruise port, military port ... so many activities that confirm the maritime and port character of Cherbourg. Harbor, one of the largest artificial roadsteads in the world, is closed by 6 km of dikes dating from the 18th century, when it was a question of making the city a defensive place.
Le Chantereyne marina is the first in France in terms of number of visitors. Cradled by the cries of seagulls and the jingling of masts, this deep-water port mainly accommodates sailboats. The Cherbourg marina also remains faithful to its tradition of welcoming cruise ships in stopover.
Cherbourg is therefore a city of “sailors”. Its harbor, a great spot for learning to sail sheltered from winds and currents, has seen the birth of great sailors and skippers. The harbor of Cherbourg, as well as the peninsula of La Hague and the coast of the Isles are suitable for a whole range ofnautical and wind-related activities : surfing (especially on the Hague swell), optimist, sand yachting, catamaran, rowing, paddle boarding, sea kayaking, but also sand yachting and kitesurfing.
A tangible sign of a city rooted in its maritime history and heritage, the City of the Sea took up residence in the former transatlantic ferry terminal, inaugurated in 1933. In this flagship of French Art Deco, the largest liners of prestigious companies have anchored.
This theme park dedicated to the adventure of man under the sea and oceanography is organized into several poles: the aquarium (largest water column in Europe, thematic pools and touch pool), the exploration of the seabed, the gallery of machines and men, and theattraction "We walked under the sea", a virtual adventure of 50 min.
After the moving luggage room, the space "Titanic, return to Cherbourg" evokes the last continental stopover of the liner and its sinking. An immersive film retracing the chronology of events is synchronized with the reconstituted spaces of the ship, cabins and passageways. We believe it as long as we shudder ...
Remember that Cherbourg is also a military port. The arsenal specializes in the construction and assembly of submarines. The major attraction of the City of the Sea remains the visit of the nuclear submarine Le Redoutable, the largest visitable submarine in the world.
And to catch the wind from the open sea (or almost), the star L'Adèle makes the tour of Cherbourg harbor (commented walk of about 1h-1h15 in sheltered waters).
And in the surroundings of Cherbourg ...
Cherbourg can also serve as a base for exploring the northern part of the Manche department, and discovering superb corners of Cotentin:
- Barfleur : one of the most beautiful villages in France and the most beautiful little port in La Manche. Paul Signac lived for a long time in this picturesque site, with its noble granite residences with slate roofs and its charming little church facing the sea.
- Saint-Vaast la Hougue et Tatihou Island, classified as World Heritage by Unesco for their Vauban fortifications.
- The tip of the Hague : sublime, an Ireland in miniature, a torn land surrounded by reefs, an end of the world falling steeply into the Raz Blanchard (the strongest current in the English Channel). As a bonus, postcard villages to discover along the wild customs paths… and the nose of Jobourg, with the highest cliffs in continental Europe.
- Barneville-Carteret and the Côte des Isles : beautiful walks to do along the beach or by bike through the countryside.
To prepare your stay, consult our Normandy destination.
Read on the coast of the Isles.
Cherbourg-Cotentin Tourist Office
Côte des Isles Tourist Office
How to get there ?
- By car: via the A13 then the N13 from Paris.
- By train Saint-Lazare - Cherbourg in 3 hours.
Or sleep ?
- Hôville by a footbridge inaugurated in October 2016.
- HôDunant. Phone. : 02 33 53 02 28. A few meters from the cycle path, a pleasant hotel labeled "Accueil Vélo": closed garage with water point, repair kit, folder with all the information useful for cyclists: maps of cycle routes, addresses of rental companies, repairers, carriers and other labeled structures (hotels, museums and tourist offices). Clean and pretty rooms, recently renovated.
Where to eat ?
- The Apple Garden Café: 60, rue Gambetta. Phone. : 09 81 86 21 09. Run by an Englishman just as affable as his British accent, this friendly café specializes in potatoes au gratin in a special oven, enhanced with local products: Val de Saire vegetables produced in sustainable agriculture ( sometimes organic), Camembert, Isigny cream, and, for the English touch, cheddar. For dessert, an English touch always with tasty cheesecakes. Tea room atmosphere. Regulars are not mistaken: word of mouth works and we come back to it.
- Restaurant La Régence: 42, quai de Caligny. Phone. : 02 33 43 05 16. A local institution, opposite the fishing port. Parisian brasserie spirit and cozy decor: soft benches, hangings and woodwork. Seafood (coastal fish and seafood) and local produce, all home-cooked.
- La Satrouille: 26, quai Caligny. Phone. : 02 33 43 13 76. Bistro by the sea facing the fishing port. Homemade cuisine based on market and seasonal products, fresh, organic and / or local, prepared and cooked on site in an open kitchen. The menu leaves plenty of room for seafood on offer depending on the arrivals.
Where to find good regional products?
- L & rsquoàbrac. Pastries of a very good culinary standard.
- At CaféFoch. Phone. : 02 33 53 08 75. Pastry shop, tea room and crêperie. An address renowned throughout the city, especially for its famous lemon cake, a Cherbourg specialty without coloring or preservatives, made from lemons not treated after harvest. A jealously preserved recipe, often imitated by the people of Cherbourg, never equaled!
- Foucher pastry shop: 12, rue au Fourdray. Phone. : 02 33 94 82 35. Pastry shop, chocolate maker and tea room. Innovative pastry, inspired by the travels of the pastry chef, the market or the orchard, reinvented over the seasons; creative dressings. Also chocolates, macaroons, nougats, jams and homemade ice cream. Foucher was elected among the 10 best pastry chefs by Gault & Millau.
With whom to go on an excursion in the harbor of Cherbourg?
- Hague à Part: tel. : 06 61 14 03 32. With the speedboat L'Adèle, sea trips departing from the Cité de la Mer or from the swing bridge located on the Commerce basin. From the beginning of April to the end of September, 1 to 4 departures per day. Price: € 14,50 (€ 9,90 for children from 4 to 12 years old). Booking is recommended.