Colleen and I visited Le Havre for the first time this summer during our cruise on AIDAperla.
We sometimes choose to "just wing it" for a day ashore in a new place. And we decided that Le Havre would be a good place to employ this strategy.
When the weather is nice, we enjoy going for a run to explore new port towns, and Le Havre looked like it was an ideal place for this when we arrived on a quiet Tuesday morning.
Le Havre offers cruisers the chance to go on excursions to the Normandy beaches of D-Day and stunning villages like Honfleur and Giverny. This is also the port to go to Mont St-Michel, a picturesque rocky island that is home to an 8th-century Benedictine abbey. These trips take several hours of bus rides to get there and back, and Colleen and I felt like we would rather come back to explore the region when we had more time to fully appreciate it and give these sights proper attention -- instead of being rushed through our days. So, it would be an "explore Le Havre on your own" kind of day for us.
Le Havre is situated in the beautiful Normandy region in northern France. The city was destroyed during numerous bombings during World War II. It has been rebuilt and is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site, a rare designation for a contemporary city center. It owes this distinction to the fact that it was rebuilt with such care and interesting and innovative architecture in the French Classicist style. The reconstruction was overseen by architect Auguste Perret using light colors and wide avenues.
Le Havre achieves a unique symbiosis with the sea, especially along the boardwalk area at the urban beach that we discovered during our run through town.
Including the beach, we found several other cool things to do on a visit to Le Havre.
The port of Le Havre is used for both commercial and industrial purposes, but once you get outside the gated area, the city is easy to navigate and safe to run, especially along the scenic waterfront promenade. Colleen and I found our way quickly into the city center and came across a cute footbridge over the Bassin de Commerce lake, as well as a large monument and Le Volcan, the distinctive volcano-shaped auditorium and theater that hosts dance and musical productions. The building was designed by noted Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.
You can easily run to other destinations worth a visit, such as MuMa Modern Art Museum, the Natural History Museum and St. Joseph's Church (that's the tower you see rising above the skyline).
Once we got to Le Havre Beach, it seemed a good spot to cool off and spend a bit of time. Le Havre Beach is a nearly two-kilometer-long strip of beach area on the shore of the Seine River Estuary. The rocky pebble beach is lined by a long promenade filled with restaurants, shops and hotels.
Le Havre Beach is located just 500 meters from the city center and features and large skate park and volleyball and boule courts. We took a break from the run though the city to jump in for a swim and to wander the promenade to see what was there. It looks like an amazing place to hang out for the day, especially during the summer.
We're always on the lookout to try a couple local varieties of beers when we travel. We were skeptical that Le Havre would yield any kind of craft brew offerings. This is France, where wine and cheese rules, after all.
However, we came upon a bounty of beers -- and wines, cheeses, breads and sausages -- at a wonderful spot within view of our cruise ship near the port. Maltese Havre de Biere is small eatery located at 69 Quai de Southampton on the main roadway adjacent to the waterside. We had noted its spot on our way into town during our run and made a point to stop by to check it out on the way back to AIDAperla.
We ended up having a few beers from their wide variety of craft brews from around the world. We were enjoying sitting outside on the sidewalk in the bright sunshine and just relaxing so much that we spent a few hours there, ordering a platter of cheeses and charcuterie of cured meats.
As the day went by, we were joined by residents and shared a bit of conversation as they sipped wines and we savored our beers.
Le Havre is a bikeable city, and you can rent bikes through numerous outfitters. Bike rental agencies are available right at the cruise terminal and this is a perfect option if you just want a casual sight-seeing ride around the city center and perimeter.
At the end of the promenade that traces the course of Le Havre Beach, you'll come to a cliffside area. You can walk up the roadway to get a vantage point over the estuary and city. This viewpoint is not hard to reach and provides the picture-perfect shot over Le Havre, the beach and the St. Joseph's Church tower.
Thanks for reading,