La Cité de la Mer opened in the former Gare Maritime Transatlantique in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin on April 29th 2002. 20 years later, La Cité de la Mer and its Le Redoutable submarine won the 2022 season of “Le Monument préféré des Français” (France’s favourite monument TV show) presented by Stéphane Bern.

Let’s answer all your questions about an iconic Normandy landmark that has already played host to over 4 million visitors.

méduses cite de la mer cherbourg

WHAT IS LA CITÉ DE LA MER?

La Cité de la Mer covers every base: first and foremost, it’s an adventure park for all ages devoted to the underwater world and sea exploration. Visitors of all ages need at least half a day to soak up everything the sealife centre has to offer: diver vehicles, Le Redoutable submarine tours, exhibitions, aquariums etc.

WHERE IS IT?

In Cherbourg in the former Gare Maritime Transatlantique which opened in 1933 – the biggest ferry terminal in the world and the biggest building site in France after the Château de Versailles. The Art Déco building was at its peak in the 1930s.

exterieur redoutable cite de la mer

WHAT’S INSIDE?

Lots of things! Don’t miss the Abyssal Aquarium: the deepest in Europe and home to up to a thousand colourful fish. The site houses the first French nuclear submarine that is now disarmed and dry docked. La Cité de la Mer is also an exciting and immersive exhibition exploring The Ocean of the Future, where you can learn why it’s so important to protect our underwater world and maintain the Earth’s balance.

WHAT IS LE REDOUTABLE?

Le Redoutable is the first submarine in a series of 6 vessels: Le Redoutable, Le Terrible, Le Foudroyant, L’Indomptable, Le Tonnant and L’Inflexible. The intimidating names (meaning redoubtable, terrible, deadly, indomitable, thunderous and inflexible) capture the power of the French army. It is the first in a series of submarines forming the FOST (Strategic Oceanic Force) which officially launched 50 years ago. It conducted 51 patrols with 3649 days at sea and 83,500 hours underwater during its 20 years of service. The submarine was launched by General de Gaulle himself on March 29th 1967 and it embodies French prowess in technology and industry at the time.

Interview with Michel Le Gall, former submariner on Le Redoutable

French content

I WOULD LIKE TO CONGRATULATE THE ENTIRE CHERBOURG ARSENAL. IT'S A GREAT DAY. GREAT FOR OUR NAVY, WHICH MEANS GREAT FOR OUR DEFENCE, WHICH MEANS GREAT FOR OUR INDEPENDENCE

WHY IS IT IN CHERBOURG?

Le Redoutable is a deterrent and the first nuclear submarine to be built by France. Construction began in 1964 and General de Gaulle officially launched it at Cherbourg port in 1971. It has been disarmed since 1991. It took 14,000 hours to build, 6000 building plans, 7000 tons of steel and 6km of hull welding. It also took 18 months and 60,000 hours of work to turn Le Redoutable into a museum.

WHAT MAKES LA CITÉ DE LA MER SO ICONIC?

Whether you’re a local, visitor or looking for something to do with friends or family in Normandy, La Cité de la Mer is a must whilst in Normandy. Get to grips with what lies beneath, why it’s so important to protect the ocean and the Gare Transatlantique’s human and maritime history

The Titanic made its last stop here in 1912, a few days before it sank… La Cité de la Mer plays host to an exhibition area where you can dive into the history of the famous ocean liner sailing to America.

Then there’s the aquarium, the deepest in Europe. It’s 10.7m tall with over 1000 colourful fish dazzling visitors.

Last but not least, when was the last time you got the chance to visit a deterrent treasure in the French military arsenal?

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