Le Havre is the original transatlantic port between Europe and North America, with luxury cruises and immigrants departing for New York from this historic port for over 200 years. Le Havre Port is also known as the “Gateway to Paris” with a three-hour trip by bus or train to the French capital or transfer to Charles de Gaulle International Airport.
The industrialization of Le Havre in the 20s made it famous throughout the world with the trade of coffee and cotton. The town was largely destroyed during the Second World War and rebuilt by the “poet of concrete,” architect Auguste Perret in a dazzling array of modernist post-war architecture.
The beaches of Normandy offer a trip into the wartime past; the Albâtre coast is known for its dramatic cliffs and the Benedictine liquor made at Fécamp’s distillery; while the Impressionist movement was born in Le Havre, as artists became mesmerised by the special light of the estuary.
How to Get to Le Havre
Cruise ships dock at Roger Meunier Pier and Pierre Callet Pier, and a visit to the Le Havre Tourist Office will provide information, maps and services including car hire, bike rental, taxi, internet, souvenirs and food. The town centre is a 20-minute walk (2.5km), likewise the train and coach station (1.5 miles).
The city offers a complimentary shuttle service into the centre every 45 minutes, with stops on Rue de Paris, the Place de Hôtel de Ville and near the seafront. Taxis cost around €8 into the centre, and the tourist train is a great introduction (€5, only in French). Driving off the ferry, take the road to Paris or Rouen, or stop in the pretty village of Honfleur to admire charming houses and cobbled streets.
The walk into town takes you around the harbor past the Semaphore and Malraux Art Gallery, the Tourist Office, and along Avenue Foch to the Saint Roch Garden and the Town Hall (Hotel de Ville), then to the old shopping street Rue de Paris, which eventually also brings you back to the Cruise Terminal.
One Day in Le Havre
Start your day with the Town Hall and Les Halles covered market, for a glimpse of everyday life in town. Shopping districts include the Coty, Halles Centrales, Quartier Saint-Vincent and the Cruise Centre.
Close to the Place de Hôtel de Ville is the Historic Show Flat, a typical French apartment from post-war reconstruction, with tours on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm. The Shipowner's House is another fascinating visit, one of the last remaining 18th century mansions with period furnishing and a maritime collection.
The Malraux Museum's Impressionist collection is only surpassed by the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, and the building itself reflects the seascape through its 1960s architecture of metal and glass, allowing you to see the paintings in the same light in which they were painted. You can also visit the garden where Claude Monet painted.
Enjoy the medieval taste of Normandy, with distilleries making cider and calvados, local cheese makers and lovely manors, castles and farms in the Pays d’Auge region. Mont Saint-Michel Abbey was built on the mountains in the 11th century, dramatically framed by the sea. The memory of World War II is ever present in the museums and memorials commemorating the war and Allied Forces landing beaches.
The white cliffs of Albâtre offer spectacular coastal views and winding paths through the valleys.
Le Havre Cruise Terminal is located at Florida Tip, situated in Normandy at the entrance to the English Channel and the Seine. Le Havre port is open to ocean and river cruises, cargo cruises, yachts and ferries. The second largest commercial port in France, it also deals with cargo and oil. Water sports and beach activities are available in the seaside resort, and skate boarding on the beach in the skate park.
The transatlantic race to Brazil and other sailing regattas depart from Le Havre, and the tourist office provides a friendly welcome and services at the Cruise Terminal, with parking, taxis, and car rental. Cruises calling at Le Havre include Costa Cruises, Cunard, Oceania Cruises and Royal Caribbean.
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