Le Havre’s five sights
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Le Havre sights, city tour itinerary
The sights of Le Havre are concentrated in the corner formed by the port and Bassin de la Manche. You can start walking around the city from the Le Havre Tourist Office and see its center in 2 hours (not including a visit to the museum). A map of Le Havre with the indicated route can be found on this page under the description of the sights of the city.
Le Havre’s main sights
The oldest surviving building in Le Havre is the Abbaye de Graville. Another medieval building in the city is the chapelle Saint-Michel d’Ingouville. Because of the bombing of 1944, the pre-modern heritage is rare: Notre-Dame du Havre cathedral (cathédrale Notre-Dame du Havre), Saint-François church (église Saint-François), Immaculate Conception church (église de l’Immaculée-Conception , stained glass windows by Nicolas Carrega), hôtel Dubocage de Bléville, the shipowner’s house (maison de l’armateur) and the former court building (ancien palais de justice) are concentrated in Notre-Dame and Saint-François districts.
The buildings of the 19th century testify to the maritime and military vocation of the city: the Hanging Gardens, the Fort de Tourneville, the Vauban docks, the Villa de la Marine.
The heritage of the 1950s and 1960s, the work of the studio of Auguste Perret, forms the most coherent architectural ensemble: the Saint-Joseph church (église Saint-Joseph) and the town hall are central elements, as is the church of Saint-Michel by the architect Henri Colbocq of Le Havre. The opulent architecture designed by Oscar Niemeyer contrasts with the buildings of the reconstructed center.
Finally, the reconstruction of many areas of Le Havre makes the city an example of twenty-first century architecture. Among the achievements of renowned architects are the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie (Chamber of Commerce and Industry) and the University Library by René and Finet Wick Dottelonde, Les Bains des Docks (Jean Nouvel) 263 and the University Residence in containers.
St. Joseph’s Church
The construction of this church, designed by Auguste Perret, began in 1951 and was completed after his death by his working party in 1957, becoming the final point in the reconstruction of the city. Its 107-meter tower with 1,768 panels of colored glass is a spiritual beacon and landmark of the city. Dedicated to the memory of the victims of the bombings, St. Joseph’s Church is a symbol of this period of reconstruction in Europe and stands out as one of the architectural masterpieces of the 20th century. Visible from afar, its distinctive outline evokes the image of the skyscraper of the new world.
St. Joseph’s Church can be compared to a lighthouse, as its octagonal lantern tower reaches a height of 110 meters. It is connected to the square base of the building that shelters the nave and choir.
The stained glass windows, an outstanding work by Marguerite Huret, make the interior of the church an incredible place to visit and a highlight of your visit to Le Havre. The impression of the tall tower from the inside with the colorful windows on top is truly extraordinary.
Elysian Fields by the Sea
Avenue Foch and Porte Océane bring to life the urban ambitions of Auguste Perret: he wanted to provide the inhabitants of Le Havre, who had just lost all their former reference points, with a spacey, airy and mostly ambitious lifestyle. Like the theater, the architect builds the relationship between the sea and the city through a prestigious layout reflecting the perspective of the Champs-Elysées and the Arc de Triomphe at Place de l’Etoile .
80 meters wide (Auguste Perret wanted to refer to the most famous avenue in the world), the Avenue Foch is a great place for a walk, linking the city center with the sea. The residential area resulting from this avenue and the Porte Océane is a fine example of the architectural movement embodied by the Perret school: structural classicism. Polygonal columns and bas-relief adorn the upscale buildings of the residential street.
Porte Océane, an imaginary pier designed for cruise ship passengers, is the strongest symbol of Le Havre’s maritime vocation. It inevitably draws the passerby to the horizon and the sea, indicating the connection between the city, the “boulevard de la mer” and the waterfront…
Le Havre Town Hall
The City Hall of Le Havre, the most monumental building of the French reconstruction, emphasizes its elongated structure with its elegant slender columns and its 74 meters high bell tower. The tower offers a stunning panorama of the center, the restored Perret, as well as the entire city, the mouth of the river and the modern port. At its foot and above, the viewer gets a full panorama of the ambitions that Perret is pursuing in Le Havre: the straight-line layout of the buildings and the harmonious organization and built-up spaces, the wide streets, the low buildings and the tower can create a sense of perfection in his pure architectural vision.
André Malraux Museum of Modern Art – MuMa Le Havre
Undoubtedly the center of art in Le Havre is the famous André Malraux Museum of Modern Art (another modern building, but made of glass rather than concrete). Known throughout Europe for its collection of Impressionist painters, the museum holds many other interesting things, including some ivory artifacts and precious ceramics from Rouen and Normandy.
The highlight of the museum is undoubtedly the collection of Impressionist painters, enriched by donations over time and including outstanding works by Monet (1840-1926), the undisputed master of the movement (who lived from 1883 in Giverny, where you can visit his house) . You can admire Monet’s beautiful Water Lilies in the museum.
The museum also has other collections of Impressionist landscape art, particularly many works by Eugène Baudin (1824-1898), such as ‘Deux chevaux à l’écurie’, ‘Dame en blanc sur la plage de Trouville’, ‘Paysage au bord de l’eau’, ‘Environs de Plougaste’ and many others. Also very good is L. A. Dubourg’s painting “The Honourable Jet” (1825-1891).
Other attractions in Le Havre
Volcano in the city center
This huge building, nicknamed “The Volcano” in French, is the arts center and theater of Le Havre, designed by the famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and built in 1982. The architecture is a white swirl of concrete that brings curves to the angular city designed by Perret.
Quite rightly noted that the Vulcan building was inspired by the Le Corbusier school, with its twisting shapes and curves, it is striking with the whiteness of the painted cement.
It is now also among the most prestigious cultural centers in France and Europe. Originally planned by André Malraux as a “House of Culture”, today the Vulcan is a venue for theater, film and music performances.
The Perret Show Apartment.
This show apartment is designed to help visitors understand how Perret and his task force relocated the residents of Le Havre after 80% of the city was destroyed during World War II. This fully furnished apartment gives a glimpse of what postwar modernity looked like and the architectural innovations that led to the city of Perret becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hanging Gardens of Le Havre
Le Havre is one of the greenest cities in France with its 96 parks, gardens and squares covering nearly 2,000 acres. Opened to the public in 2008, the city’s Hanging Gardens are built on the site of an old 19th-century Napoleonic fort overlooking the mouth of the Seine and boast panoramic views of the sea and port. Explore the four bastions of the fort, discovering rare plants before moving on to the greenhouses, full of richly flavored plants and species from around the world.
Around Le Havre and neighboring Saint-Adres, you can find nine panels depicting famous Impressionist works painted in this very spot. The route begins at Bassin du Commerce in Le Havre and continues to the beach in Saint-Adresse. A guide to the trail is available from the Le Havre Tourist Office. Read more…
Catène de Containers.
Built in 2017 in anticipation of Le Havre’s 500th anniversary celebrations, this Vincent Ganivet art installation of brightly colored shipping containers stacked in two arches has quickly become a much-loved and photographed landmark in the city.
Maison de l’Armateur
Many shipowners lived in this house, which was designed and built in the wealthy Saint-François neighborhood in the late 18th century. The façade is in the Louis XVI style, with exotic wood flooring and geometric stone flooring. What makes the building truly unique is that all five floors are arranged around a central octagonal shaft with a large ceiling window on top. The house, listed as a French historic monument since 1950, was purchased by the city of Le Havre in 1954 and turned into a museum.
Les Bains des Docks
Among the many interesting architectural projects to come to Le Havre in recent years is a state-of-the-art aquatic center including a pool, spa and gym designed by the award-winning architectural firm Ateliers Jean Nouvel as part of Havre’s efforts to revitalize its docks.
Notre Dame Cathedral.
This church is one of the few buildings in the city center that survived the devastation of World War II. The church was damaged during the bombings: the bell tower still shows the effects of the war. Perret gave the church prominence in the 1950s by building a square around it, which draws attention to the way the building sits at prewar ground level, which is lower than the rest of the street. Notre Dame achieved cathedral status in 1974.
Marina and beach
Le Havre’s harbor has 1,150 berths and is the departure point for many famous races and international sailing competitions. Its two-kilometer-long pebble beach with promenade and bike path is only 500 meters from the city center. Visitors can enjoy fishing, snorkeling and paddling, and there is also a big wheel, skate park and a wide variety of bars and restaurants right on the beach serving delicious local cuisine.
Le Havre’s five sights
Le Havre (France) – the most detailed information about the city with photos. The main sights of Le Havre with descriptions, guides and maps.
City of Le Havre (France)
Le Havre is a city in northern France in the region of Normandy. It is located on the right bank of the Seine, near the mouth of the river and the shores of the Channel. Le Havre is the largest French port and a dynamic modern city with many modern architectural structures. It was almost completely destroyed in World War II and rebuilt in the 1960s with iron and concrete. The complex of monumental concrete buildings was included in the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
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Geography and climate
Le Havre is located in the region of Haute-Normandie, on the banks of the Seine, almost at the place where it flows into the English Channel. The city is located between Rouen and Caen 190 km northwest of Paris. The climate is temperate maritime with warm summers and cool winters.
- Population – more than 170 thousand people.
- Area – 46.95 km 2 .
- Language: French.
- Currency – euros.
- Visa – Schengen.
- Time – Central European UTC +1, in summer +2.
- Le Havre has a small airport with flights to Lyon and Amsterdam.
- Trains to Le Havre are available from Paris, Marseille, and Rouen.
- Normandy is famous for its cider and cheese. For these products go to the indoor market Les Halles. You can buy fresh seafood at the fish market opposite the Maison de l’armateur.
- A popular gastronomic neighborhood is the St-François quarter.
In the Gallo-Roman period, the area around Le Havre was home to Celtic tribes. Under the Romans there was a route leading from the mouth of the Seine to the English Channel. The Abbey of Gravill was founded in the 9th century, and the port village of Leur two centuries later. In the 15th century Guillaume Malet built the Castle of Gravillas, which was destroyed in the Hundred Years’ War and fell into disrepair.
The panorama of Le Havre
Le Havre was in fact founded in the 16th century during the reign of King Francis I. The reason for this was the silting up of the bays of the traditional ports of northwestern France, so the French monarch was forced to sign a decree to build a new port. The new city was named first Franciscopolis and then Le Havre-de-Grâce, which translates as “The Harbor of Grace. Le Havre quickly became the seaport of France. The city was sacked by the Huguenots during the Wars of Religion. After that, its defenses were strengthened in the 16th century.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the city prospered thanks to commerce. In the 19th century, Le Havre was decorated with many new buildings and boulevards, and acquired the status of a seaside resort. In 1940, the city was occupied by German troops. In 1944, the historic center and port were virtually destroyed by bombing. After the war, Le Havre was rebuilt by Perret. Many of his solutions were used in the typical Soviet construction of the 60’s – 70’s.
Notre Dame is a 16th-century cathedral that is one of the oldest buildings in Le Havre. This baroque church survived World War II and is known for its organs, which were donated by Cardinal Richelieu. The cathedral has a low height because of the difficult soil.
Abbey of Gravel
The Abbey of Gravil is a medieval monastery founded in the 11th century. Known for its Gothic architecture and large collection of religious art.
The Vulcan is the cultural center of Le Havre, built in the 1980s. This interesting modern structure is used as a theater and concert hall.
Church of St. Joseph
The Church of St. Joseph is a symbol of rebuilt Le Havre and a masterpiece by the architect Auguste Perret. The gloomy interior is done in neo-Gothic style and is diluted with bright stained glass windows. The 107 meter high tower of the church resembles a lighthouse.
Church of St. Anne
The Church of St. Anne is a neo-Romanesque building that dates back to the end of the 19th century.
The port is a place with a real maritime atmosphere, filled with many fishing boats.
The Normandy Bridge is a monumental engineering structure which is more than 2 km long and is one of the largest cable-stayed bridges in the world.
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