The Port of Cherbourg
(a photo by tordouetspirit)
Situated in the Contentin Penisula, the city of Cherbourg is its major port and an attractive tourist destination. For visitors coming from Great Britain or Ireland this is one of the main arrival points in France. Most of the travelers straight out and on without paying enough attention to this handsome city with its romantic pedestrian streets, lined with beautiful stone buildings, the labyrinth of narrow alleys (boëls), intense night life and the interesting maritime museum, housed in the former Transatlantic ferry station, an impressive example of the Art Deco architectural style. There also many worth-visiting destinations in the close surroundings of Cherbourg, including the amazing landscape of La Hague.
Cherbourg was a pour and small port town before the time of Napoleon, who noticed the strategic position of its natural harbour and ordered its transformation to a major transatlantic seaport, achieved by the construction of huge breakwaters. An inscription on his equestrian statue in the town tells us that the emperor intended to recreate the wonders of Egypt here. Although Napoleon didn’t manage to accomplish these plans he gave to the city one of the largest and most strongly fortified ports in the world.
Basilique de La Trinité
(a photo by Greg 50)
The newest and most popular attraction of Cherbourg is its maritime museum La Cite de la Mer. The exhibition includes all aspects of the sea - from the myth and legends to the contemporary major climatic changes and human activities. The accent is on the investigations of the seabed, shown in huge aquariums. Among the most interesting exponents is a real nuclear submarine. The entrance to the museum is through the building of the former Grand Transatlantic Ferry Terminal, an architectural jewel in Art Deco style. It houses the ticket office, a pleasant café, a fine restaurant serving tempting seafood specialties, a mediatheque and various temporary exhibitions. In the new building of the museum interactive displays of underwater explorations, fish tanks with sharks, giant craps, seahorses, jellyfish, eels etc.
If you want to do some last-minute shopping before getting on the boat, the best place is the market on rue des Halles, near the magnificent theatre building with its graceful belle-epoque façade. Although the large market is held only on Thursdays, there are a variety of fashion boutiques and shops at the lively place Centrale. Here you can buy the famous Cherbourg umbrella too.
Another interesting sight in Cherbourg is the Basilique de La Trinité, which interior boats a rich decoration with English alabaster, dating back to the time of the Hundred Years War.
For a scenic panoramic view over the port and the town you may climb the old fortress Roule Fort, situated south of the central area.