Le Havre travel guide

About Le Havre

After serious devastation during the WW2 bombings, Le Havre has risen phoenix-like from the ashes to become a recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site for its post-war architecture.

Used as a war port during the 17th century, Le Havre became a trade port in the 18th century and was a popular choice for those emigrating to America in the 19th century. The city became known for its trade in coffee and cotton, and semi-traditionally roasted coffee with the label 'made in Le Havre' can still be bought in the city's shops today. However, in recent history, Le Havre is most known for the devastation wreaked by the events of WW2. With just 2% of the city left standing and the port completely destroyed, Le Havre underwent a huge renovation process designed by architect August Perret, known as the 'concrete poet'. Perret's unusual designs, using concrete to rebuild the city quickly, have made the city centre a World Heritage site recognised by UNESCO.

The most striking example of Perret's architecture is the concrete Eglise St Joseph, shaped like a lighthouse, with 12,768 pieces of coloured glass inside the 107m high octagonal lantern tower where the colours reflected differ throughout the day due to the placement of the sun. Built to commemorate the victims of the Allied bombings in 1944, it is an architectural masterpiece of the 20th century and is well worth visiting. The 16th century cathedral is one of the few buildings left of that era that survived the bombing although it did suffer damage. At the Appartement Témoin, a show apartment from the 1950s, you can discover what life was like in the 50s at the birth of consumerism and mass-production.

Le Havre also has some great museums with a Natural History Museum and the arts museum, MuMa, the Musée d'Art Moderne André Malraux, which contains some of the greatest French Impressionist paintings by artists such as Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Degas and many more. Why not enjoy the beauty that inspired the Impressionists by visiting the 2km beach of sand and pebbles where you can do lots of water sports from the beach including surfing, windsurfing, sea-fishing and swimming? Volleyball courts, a skatepark and other amenities are all near the beach. English languages are also available from the Tourist Office so you can take your own sightseeing tour of the city.

Food and shopping

Le Havre offers some great shopping opportunities including the Docks Vauban shopping complex (approximately 400m from the port, with parking), which includes a supermarket, shops and restaurants. Other shopping areas include the Coty shopping centre, the pedestrian Halles filled with delicatessens, restaurants and cafés, and clothes shops, and the village style shopping of the St Vincent district. There is also a thriving nightlife with lively bars, and the Le Volcan cultural centre with its cinema and theatre housed inside a remarkable volcano-shaped building that seems to emerge from the ground, which is currently being renovated. Try some traditional Norman seafood or sample some of Le Havre's multicultural restaurants that have been set up by emigrants who have come through the port over the centuries. With a huge variety of cuisines in one city - North African, Central American, Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean amongst others - you are certain to find some new and interesting dishes to try!

Why visit Le Havre?

  • World Heritage City Centre
  • Multicultural Cuisine
  • Water Sports
  • The Impressionists    


  • Country: France
  • Region: Normandy
  • Department: Seine-Maritime
  • Population: 246,000
  • Coordinates: 49.494835,0.108082

Coordinates shown are based on the WGS84 system, please check driving directions before departing.

Holidays in Le Havre

Sail & stay with us to save time and money! Pack your car with everything you need - even the family pet, and enjoy the fun of travelling on board.

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Getting to Le Havre

Sail direct to Le Havre from Portsmouth or choose from our other ferry routes to Normandy.

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Places to visit nearby

Honfleur is a charming seaside town immediately recognisable by its tall narrow buildings - which look as though they've been squeezed into the streets!

Trouville in Normandy is both a charming seaside resort and a picturesque fishing village all in one!

Deauville in Normandy is a glamorous town on the Côte Fleurie ('flowery coast'), famous for horse racing and its international cultural festivals.

Nearby attractions

A striking white building that appears to emerge almost naturally from the ground, Le Volcan is home to a theatre and cinema which is mostly underground.

An arts museum with a great collection of Impressionist paintings, the Muma (Musée d'Art Modern André Malraux) was the first major museum to built in France after WW2, when the original building was destroyed.

Perched on the cliffs high above the Seine Bay, the 19th century Fort de Sainte-Adresse has been granted a second life as the city's hanging gardens. The four bastions of the fortress are dedicated to displaying rare plants...