Cherbourg-Octeville (French pronunciation: ) 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. On 1 January 2016, it was merged into the new commune of Cherbourg-en-Cotentin. 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 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.
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 and at the south of the bay between Cap Lévi 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" 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 and the Saint-Clement Church were built. Thus, Cherbourg-Octeville lies both in La Hague and in the Val de Saire.
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 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.