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"Cherbourg" redirects here. For the Australian town and Aboriginal Mission, see Cherbourg, Queensland.
An aerial view of the Cherbourg agglomeration in May 2006
An aerial view of the Cherbourg agglomeration in May 2006
Coat of arms of Cherbourg-Octeville
Coat of arms
Cherbourg-Octeville is located in France
Coordinates: 49°38′N 1°37′W / 49.63°N 1.62°W / 49.63; -1.62Coordinates: 49°38′N 1°37′W / 49.63°N 1.62°W / 49.63; -1.62
Country France
Region Lower Normandy
Department Manche
Arrondissement Cherbourg
Intercommunality Cherbourg
 • Mayor Bernard Cazeneuve
Area1 14.26 km2 (5.51 sq mi)
Population (2012)2 37,121
 • Density 2,600/km2 (6,700/sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 50129 / 50100

1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Cherbourg-Octeville (French pronunciation: ​[ʃɛʁ.buʁ ɔk.tə.vil]) is a city and commune, situated at the northern end of the Cotentin peninsula in the Manche department of Lower Normandy in north-western France. It is a subprefecture of its department, and was officially formed when the commune of Cherbourg absorbed Octeville on 28 February 2000. The city is a Maritime prefecture and sub-prefecture of la Manche. Due to its union, it is the most populated city in its department with 37,121 inhabitants[note 1] (over 85,000[1] with its suburbs)[note 2] making it the first city of the department before the Saint-Lô prefecture and the second in the region after Caen.

Cherbourg-Octeville is protected by Cherbourg Harbour, between La Hague and Val de Saire, and the city has been a strategic position over the centuries, disputed between the English and French. Cited as one of the "keys to the kingdom" by Vauban, it became, by colossal maritime development work, a first-rate military port under the leadership of Louis XVI and Napoleon, and holds an arsenal of the French Navy. A stopping point for prestigious transatlantic liners in the first half of the twentieth century, Cherbourg was the primary goal of US troops during the invasion of Normandy in 1944.

Along with its use as a military, fishing and yachting port, it is also a cross-Channel ferry port, with routes to the English ports of Poole and Portsmouth, the Irish port of Rosslare Harbour and St Helier on Jersey. Limited by its geographical isolation from being a great commercial port, it is nonetheless an important shipbuilding centre, and a working-class city with a rural hinterland.


Neighbouring communes[edit]


A map of the Cotentin peninsula, with Cherbourg to the north

Cherbourg-Octeville is located at the northern tip of the Cotentin Peninsula, in the department of Manche, of which it is a subprefecture. At the time of the 1999 census the city of Cherbourg had an area of 6.91 square kilometres (2.668 sq mi), while the city of Octeville had an area of 7.35 km2 (2.838 sq mi). The largest city in the Department of Manche, it is the result of the merger of the communes of Cherbourg and Octeville. The amalgamated city today has an area of 14.26 km2 (5.506 sq mi). Cherbourg is situated at the mouth of the Divette (fr) and at the south of the bay between Cap Lévi (fr) to the east and Cap de La Hague to the west, Cherbourg-Octeville is 120 km (75 mi) from the English coast.

Cherbourg and Octeville-sur-Cherbourg once belonged to the deanery of La Hague, delimited by the the Divette. In 1786, a part of Equeurdreville joined Cherbourg, during the construction of the port, and then in 1802, a portion of Octeville. Since 1811, the "mielles" [dunes] of Tourlaville, commune of the deanery of Saire, are integrated into the Cherbourg territory known as the quarter of Val-de-Saire where the Pasteur Hospital (fr) and the Saint-Clement Church[2] were built. Thus, Cherbourg-Octeville lies both in La Hague and in the Val de Saire.[3]

Like all Chantereyne and the area of the Mielles, the Cherbourg territory was reclaimed from the sea. Built at the level of the sea, the town developed at the foot of the Roule mountain (highest point of the old town) and la Fauconnière. Octeville is a former rural municipality, composed of hamlets, whose settlement extended from the 19th century and whose territory is highly urbanised since 1950, especially around the ZUP (fr) of the Provinces and the University campus.

The bordering communes are Tourlaville to the east, Équeurdreville-Hainneville to the west, La Glacerie to the south and southeast, Martinvast to the south, and Nouainville and Sideville to the south-west.



Cherbourg-Octeville is bordered by the sea. The construction of the port of trade, from 1769, accompanied by the diversion of the Divette (fr) (the mouth of which was located at the current exit of Port Chantereyne) and the Trottebec (from the territory of Tourlaville) gathered in the canal de retenue, along the Avenue de Paris and Rue du Val-de-Saire.

The streams of the Bucaille and the Fay, which watered the Croûte du Homet, disappeared in the 18th century[4] during the construction of the military port.


Cherbourg-Octeville has a temperate oceanic climate. Its maritime character causes high humidity (84%) and a strong sea wind, commonly stormy but also low seasonal variations of temperature and few days of frost (7.3).[5] The combined effect of the wind and the tides can generate a rapid change of weather in a single day, with sun and rain which can be a few hours apart.[6]

The influence of the Gulf Stream and the mildness of the winter allow the naturalisation of many Mediterranean and exotic plants (mimosas, palms, agaves, etc.) which are present in the public and private gardens of the city, despite average insolation.[6]

Climate data for Cherbourg (Gonneville)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 7.8
Average low °C (°F) 3.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 100.8
Source: Météo-France
Comparison of weather conditions
City Sunshine (hrs/yr) Rain (mm/yr) Snow (days/yr) Storm (days/yr) Fog (days/yr)
Cherbourg-Octeville[5][7] 1538 692.3 5.1 5.3 26.6
National Average 1973 770 14 22 40
Paris 1661 637 12 18 10
Nice 2724 733 1 29 1
Strasbourg 1693 665 29 29 53
Brest 1605 1211 7 12 75

Routes of communication and transport[edit]


Cherbourg is at the end of the N13 road from Paris and Caen.


Cherbourg-Octeville is a port on the English Channel with a number of regular passenger and freight ferry services operating from the large modern ferry terminal and has a major artificial harbour. The following operators currently run services from the port:

Cherbourg-Octeville has previously had services operated by the following operators:

It should be mentioned that Brittany Ferries to Poole briefly stopped their conventional ferry service in early 2010 but resumed it in February 2011.

In addition to ferry services, the port also handles cruise ships at the Gare Maritime Transatlantique on the Quai de France next to the Cité de la mer and conventional cargo ships in the eastern area of the docks on the Quai des Flamands and Quai des Mielles.


The city's station is at the end of a railway line built by the Chemins de Fer de l'Ouest from Paris. Regular services operate to Paris-Saint-Lazare via Caen using Corail Intercites stock, local TER services operate from the station to Lisieux via Caen and to Rennes via Saint-Lô. As well as a main line station there was also the Gare Maritime Transatlantique station. This now forms part of the Cité de la mer.


City buses are run by Zephir.


The nearest airport is in Maupertus-sur-Mer which is named Cherbourg Maupertus.


The combined population of Cherbourg and Octeville at the 1999 census was 42,318 inhabitants. (Separately, the official numbers were 25,370 for Cherbourg and 16,948 for Octeville.) The population of Cherbourg metropolitan area (the aire urbaine de Cherbourg) at the 1999 census was 117,855 inhabitants. The city is now the second largest in the Basse-Normandie region (after Caen), surpassing Alençon, which had been second before the amalgamation. Also, the city is the largest in the Manche département, although Saint-Lô is the préfecture (capital).

Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1793 10,081 —    
1800 11,389 +13.0%
1806 14,316 +25.7%
1821 15,655 +9.4%
1831 18,043 +15.3%
1836 19,315 +7.0%
1841 23,408 +21.2%
1846 26,949 +15.1%
1851 28,012 +3.9%
Year Pop. ±%
1856 38,309 +36.8%
1861 41,812 +9.1%
1866 37,215 −11.0%
1872 35,580 −4.4%
1876 37,186 +4.5%
1881 35,691 −4.0%
1886 37,013 +3.7%
1891 38,554 +4.2%
1896 40,783 +5.8%
Year Pop. ±%
1901 42,938 +5.3%
1906 43,837 +2.1%
1911 43,731 −0.2%
1921 38,281 −12.5%
1926 38,054 −0.6%
1931 37,461 −1.6%
1936 39,105 +4.4%
1946 40,042 +2.4%
1954 38,262 −4.4%
Year Pop. ±%
1962 37,486 −2.0%
1968 38,243 +2.0%
1975 32,536 −14.9%
1982 28,442 −12.6%
1990 27,121 −4.6%
1999 25,370 −6.5%
2006 40,838 +61.0%
2011 37,754 −7.6%
2012 37,121 −1.7%
From 1962 to 1999: Population without double counting; for the years following: municipal population.
Source: Ldh/EHESS/Cassini until 1999[8] then INSEE from 2004[9]



The Cotentin Peninsula was the first territory conquered by the Vikings in their 9th-century invasion. They developed Cherbourg as a port. The Germanic-sounding name of the city comes from Old English Ċiriċeburh ("village of the church") and was coined during the Migration Period.[10]

During the Seven Years' War, the British briefly occupied the town after the Raid on Cherbourg in 1758. The British destroyed military buildings and warehouses before departing.

In the Napoleonic era, the harbour was fortified to prevent British naval incursions. Underwater obstructions were sunk at intervals across the harbour entrance, and progressively replaced with piles of masonried rubble. The works were begun in 1784 and were not concluded until 1850, long after Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo.

On 19 June 1864, the Battle of Cherbourg, a naval engagement between USS Kearsarge and CSS Alabama that was part of the American Civil War, took place in international waters off Cherbourg. The Alabama was hit and sank. In November 1984, the French Navy mine hunter Circé discovered a wreck under nearly 60 m (200 ft) of water off Cherbourg. The location of the wreck (WGS84) was 49°45'147N / 001°41'708W. Captain Max Guerout later confirmed the wreck to be of the Alabama.

On 31 July 1909, tsar Nicholas II and French president Armand Fallières met officially in Cherbourg to reinforce the Franco-Russian Alliance.

On 10 April 1912, the doomed ocean liner RMS Titanic made its first stop in Cherbourg after it left Southampton, England.[11]

During World War II, the Germans occupied the north of France and fortified the coastline against invasion. As a deep-water port, Cherbourg was of strategic importance, very heavily protected against seaborne assault. The Battle of Cherbourg, fought by the Allies in June 1944 against the Germans following the Normandy Invasion, ended with the Allies capturing the city and its vital port on 30 June.

The Norman language writer Alfred Rossel, a native of Cherbourg, composed many songs which form part of the heritage of the region. Rossel's song "Sus la mér" ("on the sea") is often sung as a regional patriotic song. The local dialect is known as Cotentinais.


La Glacerie was named for glass factory. In 1655, Louis Lucas de Néhou built a glass factory which produced windows and mirrors for such buildings as the Galerie des Glaces and Château de Versailles. The factory in La Glacerie was destroyed by Allied bombardments in 1944 during the Normandy invasion.


Arms of Cherbourg-Octeville
The arms of Cherbourg-Octeville are blazoned :
Azure, on a fess argent between 3 bezants (Or), 3 mullets of 6 points sable.

Main sights[edit]

  • The Cité de la Mer is a large museum devoted to scientific and historical aspects of maritime subjects.
  • Cherbourg Basilica[1]
  • La Glacerie has a race track.
  • Jardin botanique de la Roche Fauconnière, a private botanical garden.
  • The Musée de la Libération is dedicated to Second World War History.
  • The Musée des beaux-arts Thomas Henry has a collection of over 300 paintings, founded on the original collection of Cherbourg native, Thomas Henry.
  • The Museum Emmanuel-Liais is a museum devoted to natural history, archaeology and ethnography.
  • Le Trident theatre

Representation in other media[edit]

International relations[edit]

Twin towns – Sister cities[edit]

Cherbourg is twinned with:[12]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Municipal population, 2012.
  2. ^ The Urban unit of Cherbourg-Octeville (fr) is composed of seven municipalities; the city-centre and six city-suburbs.


  1. ^ "Unité urbaine 2010 de Cherbourg-Octeville (50501)" [Urban unit of Cherbourg-Octeville, 2010]. INSEE (in French). Retrieved 3 September 2015. 
  2. ^ Histoire de la ville de Cherbourg de Voisin La Hougue (fr), continuée depuis 1728 jusqu'à 1835, par Vérusmor [History of the city of Cherbourg from Voisin-La-Hougue, continued from 1728 until 1835, by Verusmor] (in French). Cherbourg: Boulanger. 1855. p. 272. 
  3. ^ Fleury, Jean (1886). Essai sur le patois normand de la Hague [Essay on the Norman dialect of la Hague] (in French). Maisonneuve frères et C. Leclerc. p. 363-64. 
  4. ^ "Cherbourg en 1700" [Cherbourg in 1700] (in French). Retrieved 3 September 2015. 
  5. ^ a b "Cap de la Hague, 1961-1990" [Cap de la Hague, 1961-1990]. Infoclimat (in French). Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  6. ^ a b "Caractéristique du département de la Manche" [Characteristic of the Manche Department]. Météo France (in French). 
  7. ^ "Carte de l'ensoleillement annuel en France" [Map of the annual sunshine in France]. Météo Passion (in French). Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  8. ^ "Cherbourg-Octeville" [Cherbourg-Octeville] (in French). Retrieved 3 September 2015. 
  9. ^ "50129-Cherbourg-Octeville 2006" [50129-Cherbourg-Octeville 2006] (in French). Retrieved 3 September 2015. , "50129-Cherbourg-Octeville 2011" [50129-Cherbourg-Octeville 2011] (in French). Retrieved 3 September 2015.  and "50129-Cherbourg-Octeville 2012" [50129-Cherbourg-Octeville 2012] (in French). Retrieved 3 September 2015. 
  10. ^ François de Beaurepaire, Les noms des communes et anciennes paroisses de la Manche, éditions Picard 1986.
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b c d e "National Commission for Decentralised cooperation". Délégation pour l’Action Extérieure des Collectivités Territoriales (Ministère des Affaires étrangères) (in French). Retrieved 2013-12-26. 
  13. ^ "British towns twinned with French towns". Archant Community Media Ltd. Retrieved 2013-07-11. 
  14. ^ "Twinning". Borough of Poole. 2008. Retrieved 2012-12-05. 

Further reading[edit]

Published in the 19th century
  • C.B. Black (1876), "Cherbourg", Guide to the North of France, Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black 
Published in the 20th century

External links[edit]