Le Havre was badly damaged during World War II but has since been rebuilt into a very nice town that boasts buildings that span the period from the founding of the city, a flourishing yacht harbour and the 2nd largest port in France. The Port of Le Havre is Europe's fifth biggest port with facilities for almost every type of sea traffic including freight and container vessels, cross channel ferries, luxury cruise ships, etc.
Le Havre beach, was awarded the Pavillon bleu label in 1998. Le Havre was also awarded the very much-prized label of Seaside resort in 1999. Le Havre has a new promenade, relaxation and recreation areas and all the facilities you would expect at a large seaside resort including playgrounds; a few especially equipped for young kids, large lawns and seasonal hot showers, hire of scuba diving and dinghies, cultural and leisure activities, etc. Some beach areas are reserved for playing ball games or other beach activities. Pointe de la Hèvre is a paradise for windsurfing.
The warmth and hospitality of Le Havre's inhabitants is well known. Le Havre is home to variety of different communities and cultural traditions and is classed as the third most highly thought of city in France (Franchise magazine survey 1999). Driver friendly, only 5% of parking spaces are metered.
Le Havre History Le Havre was founded in 1517 by François I at the mouth of the River Seine to solve the silting up at Honfleur and to compensate for the partial destruction of the port of Harfleur (now a suburb of the town). It only became known as Le Hâvre in 1795. Having started out as a military, fishing and trade port, Le Havre was converted into a war port by Richelieu and Vauban in the 17th century. The city and port were linked to Paris by rail as early as 1847. The period between 1852 and 1914 saw major economic and urban expansion of Le Havre including four-fold expansion of the port area and, for the first time in France, the creation of English-style docks. Le Havre was of strategic importance during WWII and the city was occupied by the Germans from June 13th 1940 until liberated on September 12, 1944 after heavy fighting.
Le Havre Attractions. Le Havre has many attractions, historic buildings and museums to visit plus many parks in which to walk and relax. Consider Graville Priory dating from the 11th century with its 17th century altarpiece in 23 carat gold; Notre-Dame Cathedral 16th century with organ presented by Cardinal Richelieu (internationally renowned acoustics); the Natural History Museum, a former 18th century Tribunal; Malraux Art Gallery has many impressionist paintings; the Circuit des Escaliers take the funicular to above the town, admire the magnificent views then follow a sequence of staircases down the hill - or vice versa; the Museum of Ancient Havre and the Shipowner's House . Consider also visiting Honfleur a traditional picturesque fishing village just minutes away across the River Seine and Rouen the capital of Normandy, 55 miles south with its excellent museums and churches plus a Sunday flea market.
Le Havre Shopping and Dining. A good choice of shopping is offered in Le Havre in shopping centres and street markets. Quartier Grand Centre is the main shopping centre, with a covered market and pedestrianised streets. Quartier St Francois shopping centre, situated near the P&O terminal, has a fish market every afternoon and charming bars and restaurants. Quartier Notre-Dame-Southampton is very near and has restaurants, boutiques and hotels. Quartier St Vincent is five minutes walk from the town hall and has traditional boutiques open in the mornings on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Quartier Thiers-Coty has a market on the same days, plus boutiques, department stores and shops. Quartier Rond-Point, close to the railway station, is open Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday mornings. There are two hypermarkets near Le Havre, Auchan and Leclerc in Gonfreville. Le Havre has some lovely restaurants with a brilliant selection of cuisine ranging from seafood to creperies to brasseries to saladeries and pizzerias, mostly within a walk of the waterfront.
Le Havre Access. Le Havre is 200km from Paris on the A131 and has good motorway connections to the rest of France. If travelling between south-west England or south Wales to the North and East of France, Belgium, Holland or Germany, the Portsmouth to Le Havre ferry service offers a good alternative to driving in England to and from the eastern channel or southern north sea ports.