May 2006 aerial view of Cherbourg
May 2006 aerial view of Cherbourg
Coat of arms of Cherbourg-Octeville
Coat of arms
Location of Cherbourg-Octeville
Cherbourg-Octeville is located in France
Cherbourg-Octeville is located in Normandy
Coordinates: 49°38′N 1°37′W / 49°38′N 1°37′W / 49.63; -1.62UTC+02:00 (CEST)
Postal code
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

Cherbourg-Octeville (ɡ/, also UK: ɡ/,[2][3] US: ʊər/,[4][5] French: [ʃɛʁbuʁ ɔkt(ə)vil] (About this soundlisten)) is a city and former commune situated at the northern end of the Cotentin peninsula in the northwestern French department of Manche. It is a subprefecture of its department, and was officially formed when the commune of Cherbourg absorbed Octeville on 28 February 2000.[6] On 1 January 2016, it was merged into the new commune of Cherbourg-en-Cotentin.[7] 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[8] 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-en-Cotentin 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 20th 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. On Wednesday, 10 April 1912 the RMS Titanic crossed the English Channel and docked here at 7:00pm local time before raising anchor at 9:10pm local time and sailing to her final stop Queenstown, Ireland.


Neighbouring communes


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

Cherbourg-en-Cotentin 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 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[9] were built. Thus, Cherbourg-Octeville lies both in La Hague and in the Val de Saire.[10]

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.


The Montagne du Roule seen from the commercial harbour.

Located at the end of the Armorican Massif, Cherbourg-en-Cotentin retains traces of the geologic formation, deformed granites and metamorphic schists of the Precambrian of Hercynian orogeny by the folding of the arkoses of the Cambrian and Armorican sandstone and shale of the Ordovician. These folds result in layers of sandstone tilted 45° towards the north-east on la Fauconniere (including " La Roche qui pend" ['the hanging rock']) and the Montagne du Roule [fr].[11] These two cliffs are due to sea erosion in the Quaternary. The retreat of the sea then gave way to sand dunes and tidal marshes, destroyed by the urbanisation of the 17th and 19th centuries, identical to those of Collignon in Tourlaville.[12]

These rocks in the soil have been used for centuries in several ways: Crushed granite extracted in Querqueville and arkoses of Becquet, have been used for the manufacture of rubble ( moellon [fr]) and blocks squared for lintels. The greenschist, whose colour comes from chlorite and sericite, are used mainly for roofing in Nord-Cotentin, but also masonry in Cherbourg. The Armorican sandstone of the Montagne du Roule is used for rubble and rockfill. Most of the many quarries, which opened in the metropolitan area for building the harbour wall, are now closed.[12]


Cherbourg-en-Cotentin 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[13] during the construction of the military port.


Cherbourg-en-Cotentin 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).[14] 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.[15]

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.[15] The climate is similar to areas much further north in Great Britain and Ireland due to the moderation. Summers are far cooler than expected by French standards.

Climate data for Cherbourg (Gonneville) 1981–2010 averages, extremes 1959–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 14.9
Average high °C (°F) 7.8
Daily mean °C (°F) 5.7
Average low °C (°F) 3.5
Record low °C (°F) −12.3
Average precipitation mm (inches) 100.8
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 14.5 11.4 11.6 10.1 9.4 7.9 7.9 8.2 10.1 14.7 15.9 15.1 136.8
Source: Meteo France[16]
Comparison of weather conditions
City Sunshine (hrs/yr) Rain (mm/yr) Snow (days/yr) Storm (days/yr) Fog (days/yr)
Cherbourg-Octeville[14][17] 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


Historically, Cherbourg-en-Cotentin is at the western end of Route nationale 13, which runs through the city by the "Rouges Terres" and the Avenue de Paris, from La Glacerie. In the 1990s, a deviation from the road, now European routes E03 and E46, referred traffic through La Glacerie and Tourlaville on a three-way axis from La Glacerie, to the Penesme roundabout at Tourlaville and then a dual carriageway to a roundabout located between Collignon Beach and the Port des Flamands. An extension to Cherbourg is in the works, with the doubling of the bridge over the Port des Flamands, to ensure a continuity of the dual carriageway to the commercial port in Cherbourg.

The old Route nationale 801 [fr] (reclassified as D901), which connects Cap de la Hague to Barfleur, crosses the city from east to west.

After the completion of the bypass east of the agglomeration, a western bypass project is under study, and a 'zone' corresponding to the future final route has been selected. Similarly, upgrading to a dual carriageway for access of Maupertus Airport is envisaged.

The D650 is used to connect Cherbourg to the west coast of the Cotentin peninsula. Departing from Cherbourg, the D650 takes a southwesterly direction to Les Pieux and then along to join the Côte des Isles (the Channel Islands coast) to Barneville-Carteret. In the approach to Cherbourg, this road has undergone development, in recent years, with amenities (roundabouts, traffic lights, urban development) by virtue of the peri-urbanisation of the communes in its path.

With the awarding of autoroute status to the RN13 in 2006, the work of upgrading to motorway standard between Cherbourg and Caen is being undertaken over a 10-year period.[18] The construction work of the RN13 at the entrance of the Cherbourg agglomeration (locality Virage des Chèvres) was completed in early 2009.


The Normandie Express catamaran ferry at Cherbourg

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-en-Cotentin has previously had services operated by the following operators:

The port welcomes some 30 cruise ships per year including the largest, thanks to a cruise terminal built in 2006 in the Gare Maritime de Cherbourg, which had opened in 1933 on the Quai de France next to the Cité de la Mer. Frequently, cruise ships which have planned for another destination have taken refuge in the port, for protection from the frequent storms.

Conventional cargo ships berth in the eastern area of the docks on the Quai des Flamands and Quai des Mielles. During the construction of the Concorde prototypes in the 1960s, some sections built in the United Kingdom passed by ferry through Cherbourg, for transfer to Toulouse.


The Paris - Cherbourg railway line, operated by Réseau Ferré de France, ends at Cherbourg railway station, which opened in 1858 and welcomes a million passengers every year.[19] This line continued, at the beginning of the 20th century, up to the resort of Urville-Nacqueville and was complemented by the  [fr] which served from Cherbourg to Val de Saire between 1911 and 1950. Today, the Intercités Paris-Caen-Cherbourg line is the most profitable in its class with profit over €10 million per year despite numerous incidents and delays.[20]

Regular services operate to Paris-Saint-Lazare via Caen using Intercités stock, local TER services operate from the station to Lisieux via Caen and to Rennes via Saint-Lô. Intercités services to Paris-Saint-Lazare take three hours on average.

From July 2009 to December 2010, a TGV Cherbourg – Dijon service operated, via Mantes and Roissy TGV. With one daily round-trip, it operated experimentally for three years and gave the people of Cherbourg direct access by rail to France's primary airport. The service ceased prematurely, as the minimum threshold of passenger traffic was not met.[21]

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.


A bus of the Zéphir Bus [fr] network of Cherbourg.

The Compagnie des transports de Cherbourg (CTC) was created in 1896, connecting the Place de Tourlaville and the Place du Château by a tramway [fr] in Cherbourg, then to Urville. After the German occupation and bombardment of the tram depot, the use of buses took over, and it was not until 1962 that the network had several lines. From 1976, the Communauté urbaine de Cherbourg supported the jurisdiction of public transit. Management of the public service is delegated to Zephir Bus in 1991.[22]

The network covers the whole of the metropolitan area. In recent years, a night bus service has also been created.

Cherbourg-Octeville and its suburbs are also served by the Manéo departmental bus service.


The Cherbourg – Maupertus Airport, located in Maupertus-sur-Mer, serves the city. Its 2,440 m (8,010 ft) runway hosts charter flights. After stopping the daily service to Paris by Twin Jet, in spring 2008, a new link with Caen and Paris started with Chalair on 27 October 2008.[23]

With 40,500 passengers in 2007, the airport had lost 30% of its commercial passengers, and 10% of its total traffic over a year.[24]