Caption: Bassin du Commerce Photo: F Goddard Normandy Tourist Board
Le Havre in Normandy is an ancient town with a contemporary footprint. It’s a UNESCO listed city, recognised for its extraordinary architecture.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Le Havre’s origins go back to 1517 when Francis 1 commissioned the construction of a port, it was known then as Francispolis. These days Le Havre is one of the biggest of French ports, a vast, vibrant and buzzing city.
Le Havre suffered enormous damage during World War II and afterwards needed almost complete rebuilding. Belgium born Auguste Perret was chosen to redesign the city and he persuaded the town planners to let him use reinforced concrete as his main medium. In those days, it was an unusual idea. Then, and even now, it’s not a commonly seen sight, or at least not in France. The result is an a very modern looking city with clean lines and light-coloured buildings.
What to see and do in Le Havre
Caption: Le Havre skyline Photo D. Dumas Normandy Tourist Board
Between 1945-1964, Perret created a template for modern living. Wide boulevards that let in light, sensibly laid out streets and buildings with all mod cons. His vision was for large bright living spaces as can be seen at the Perret show flat. It showcases Perret’s architectural innovation which led to the city becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 for urban planning. Those who have a penchant for modern architecture will love this city. Details: perretshowflat
Avenue Foch, designed to be a modern Champs-Elysées, is lined with smart shops and links the centre of the city to the sea.
The huge church of St Joseph stands 110m high and is a fitting concrete landmark for Le Havre and in fact can even be seen from the sea from the boats that arrive in port.
André Malraux Modern Art Museum (MuMa) build from metal and glass with huge windows facing the sea is idea for displaying paintings in any light. It contains many treasures from the 17th to the 20th century, including the second largest collection of impressionist works in France. Dufy, Monet, Bodin, Fantin-Latour and many others are represented here.
Le Volcan (The Volcano), Le Havre’s arts centre and theatre, designed by the architect Oscar Niemeyer, and built in 1982. The architecture represents a white veil of concrete, with curves and open shapes, and the state-of-the-art library inside is well worth a visit.
Le Havre Marina and Beach
Le Havre beach Photo: F. Lambert Normandy Tourist Board
Le Havre’s marina has 1,150 berths; many famous races and international sailing events set sail from here. A 2km beach with promenade is just 500m away from the city centre and you’ll find a wide range of bars and restaurants serving tasty local cuisine right on the beach.
You can also take boat tours of the port of Le Havre and discover the daily life of the port, tickets from the kiosk at the marina. Details: lehavreboattours
Food and Markets of Le Havre
Normandy is a food lover’s paradise with an abundance of lush farmland, and home to some of France’s most famous products. Le Havre is no exception, with all the classics from Norman cheeses, fresh seafood and apple products like Calvados, Pommeau and delicious pastries. The Place des Halles Centrales hosts a daily indoor market and an outdoor market on Sundays from 9am to 1pm. Fresh fish and shellfish straight off the boats can be found at the specialist fish market on the Place Saint-François.
For an authentic taste of Normandy try the Taverne Paillette 22, rue Georges Braque. Founded in 1596, it’s loved by the locals for its impressive seafood platters, Paris-style sauerkraut and home-brewed beer.
Revel in the hustle and bustle of Le Havre’s popular bar and restaurant district and head to Le Grignot, opposite Le Volcan. It’s one of the most famous brasseries in Le Havre and the menu specialises in seafood, seasonal and traditional recipes www.legrignot.fr
Find out more about Le Havre and Normandy: https://www.lehavretourisme.com/
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