Le Havre, France
Get to know what it’s like to visit this destination.
Getting To Know Le Havre – Cruise Port Guide
Le Havre, meaning ‘the harbour’, is an important seaport on the Normandy coast located on the right bank of the estuary of the River Seine. It was created during the reign of King Francis I of France to replace the ancient harbours of Honfleur and Harfleur whose ports were subject to silting within the wider Seine estuary. Welcome to our Le Havre cruise port guide.
The port has defined the city throughout its history, from being a focal trading port in the 18th Century to industrialisation in the 19th Century. Its significance also resulted in its devastation, as it was heavily bombed by the British during the Battle of Normandy at the end of the Second World War. Operation Astonia was the codename for the Allied attack to reclaim the city from German forces, but it resulted in the death of 2,000 French civilians and over 12,000 buildings destroyed. As a strategic port of entry to Europe to provide supplies to Allied forces, Hitler had declared the city a Festung (fortress), so the fighting was fierce and led to this destruction.
Post the Second World War, the city was rebuilt in modernist style under the watchful eye of French architect Auguste Perret, and in 2005 UNESCO declared the city centre a World Heritage Site. Maritime traditions still remain, and it is the second largest port in France after Marseille. For cruise ships, it is also known as the ‘Ocean Port to Paris’, as the capital of France is easily accessible for day excursions from the coast.
Port Location and Facilities
The Roger Meunier and Pierre Callet Piers on Pointe de Florida are where cruise ships dock and is the location of the main cruise terminals. These terminals contain tourist information, some souvenir shopping and taxi services to hire. The city operates a complimentary shuttle service to transport you into the centre
What not to miss
To appreciate the new modernist cityscape, you should consider visiting the city hall and particularly heading up to the 17th floor, where you will be treated to a complete panorama of the city. On clear days you can truly appreciate the city’s position on the Seine Estuary, with views down the coast towards Honfleur, taking in the Normandy Bridge, and the variations in city architecture.
Le Havre has spectacular modern architecture which is epitomised in the cultural centre designed by famed architect Oscar Niemeyer. Art exhibitions, a national stage and an expansive multimedia library are found within whitewashed buildings anchored by Le Grand Volcan, shaped as the name suggests like the cone of a volcano.
Le Havre Cathedral
The Roman Catholic cathedral was previously a parish church constructed between the 16th and 17th centuries. It is the oldest building in the centre of the city to survive the devastation of the Second World War.
Church of St. Joseph
St. Joseph’s was built as part of major rebuilding works in the city in the 1950s and was completed in 1958. It is partly a memorial to over 5,000 civilians who lost their lives in the city during the Second World War. The tower of the church is 107 metres tall, and is a symbol of the city, commonly referred to as the ‘lantern’ or ‘lighthouse’.
MuMa (Musée d’art modern André Malraux)
Containing the second most extensive impressionist collection in France after the Orsay Museum in Paris, MuMa has a collection covering five centuries of works. Works of art are contained in a flexible space that allows lots of natural light in and is situated right at the entrance to the port. Artists displayed in the collection include Monet, Degas, Manet, Renoir and Gauguin.
On the outskirts of the city stands the abbey of Graville-Sainte-Honorine, it started life out as a 6th Century hermitage before the Romanesque church was constructed in the 11th Century. The abbey is home to the Black Madonna, made in 1875 at the behest of the Association of Christian Mothers.
Originally built as wharf buildings in the 19th Century, these have now been renovated into the premier shopping destination in Le Havre.
Prior to Le Havre coming into existence, the principal port for north west France was Harfleur, but due to silting up in the Seine Estuary it was eventually replaced and now forms part of the urban sprawl of its replacement. The commune is steeped in history, including being captured by Henry V of England in 1415 before the famous Battle of Agincourt as part of the Hundred Years’ War. Today you can visit the medieval streets complete with timber framed buildings, churches, ramparts and museums.
Around 20 miles northeast of Le Havre you will find the touristic farming coastal commune of Étretat, famous for its chalk cliffs and other coastal features such as arches and the Needle, a 70 metre tall-pointed chalk formation.
NoFlyCruises recommends https://www.lehavre-etretat-tourisme.com/en/ the official tourism website for the region.
The currency in France is the Euro.
Due to its location on the English Channel, Le Havre has variable weather throughout the year, but one common feature is that it tends to be windy regardless of the season. July and August can experience average high temperatures of 21 degrees Celsius, which increase the further inland you travel.
Le Havre and its surrounding areas have an extensive public transport network, called Lia, and consists of a bus and tramway system. For more information on public transport, including prices, routes and schedules check out https://www.transports-lia.fr/en
Safety whilst ashore
Le Havre is generally a safe city, although it is always advisable to practice caution and keep a close eye on personal belongings.
Where to Eat
NoFlyCruises recommends the following eateries:
Key highlights of Le Havre
- City Hall
- Le Volcan
- Le Havre Cathedral
- Church of St. Joseph
- Graville Abbey
- Docks Vauban
Regular cruise line visitors
- Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
- P&O Cruises
- SAGA Cruises
- Princess Cruises
- Celebrity Cruises
- Viking Ocean
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