Le Havre

Concrete City Listed as a World Heritage Site

Le Havre in France played an essential role during the Second World War. This was mainly due to its strategic location. The city centre was destroyed entirely by the British air force. Architect Auguste Perret developed a new city plan after the war. He reconstructed Le Havre with modern architecture consisting of concrete. It is now a striking example of reconstruction after the war. The city centre is listed as UNESCO World Heritage. In this article, you'll find the highlights of Le Havre.

You like it or not. It is that simple. Le Havre is different, which you will notice immediately when you explore the city. Expect few old buildings, as in many places in France. However, the reconstruction of Le Havre also demonstrates the city's resilience and commitment to recovery after a tumultuous period in its history.

The History of Le Havre

June 10, 1940, Le Havre fell to the German army during the Battle of France. The city was occupied and German troops settled there throughout the war period. Le Havre quickly became an essential point of defence for the Germans. They fortified the harbour with bunkers, minefields and other fortifications to prevent possible Allied invasions.

Le Havre was regularly a target for Allied bombing. During the night of September 5 to 6, 1944, Allied bombers carried out a devastating bombing raid on the city. This was done to weaken the German defences in the run-up to the invasion of Normandy. After the successful invasion in June 1944, Allied troops advanced on Le Havre. On September 12, 1944, the city was liberated by Canadian soldiers. This was done under the leadership of General Harry Crerar.

Despite the liberation, the city suffered greatly from the bombings. Most of Le Havre, including the historic centre, was destroyed. After the war, a large-scale reconstruction project began under the direction of the architect Auguste Perret. The history of Le Havre during WWII illustrates the consequences of the occupation and the destruction that many cities in Europe suffered. It is now a thriving city, partly due to container transhipment.

St. Joseph’s Church

The interior of St. Joseph's Church. ©Corno van den Berg

Saint Joseph's Church (Église Saint-Joseph) in Le Havre is a striking architectural masterpiece. The church was designed by the French architect Auguste Perret. Construction started just after the war and the church was completed in 1957. Perret used concrete as the main material. The reason was simple, this was cheap and widely available. He created a modernist design with clean lines and geometric shapes.

The church has the shape of a concrete cylinder with a height of 107 meters. Inside the church, the design is simple and minimalist. The interior is spacious and bright, with large stained glass windows that provide coloured light. Especially when the sun is shining. One of the most striking features of St Joseph's Church is the concrete spire that rises atop the cylinder. Often described as a concrete needle, it has become a recognizable symbol of Le Havre.

Address: 130 Bd François 1er

Plage Du Havre

One of the works of art along the beach of Le Havre. ©Corno van den Berg

Le Havre Beach and the associated boulevard are perfect to discover for yourself. Le Havre was the birthplace of Claude Monet and holds special significance in his artistic career. As a young artist, Monet spent a lot of time on the beach at Le Havre. He painted several works that captured the coastline, the sea and shipping. His most famous painting of the port of Le Havre is Impression, soleil levant. The impressionism art movement derives its name from this painting.

Le Havre Beach hosts regular art exhibitions and events. During the summer months, sculptures and installations are often displayed along the shoreline. This turns the beach into a large exhibition space.

Bibliotheque Oscar Niemeyer

The interior of Bibliotheque Oscar Niemeyer. ©Corno van den Berg

The Bibliothèque Oscar Niemeyer, also known as the Oscar Niemeyer Library, is a striking architectural building in Le Havre. It is part of the cultural complex of Les Bains des Docks. The library was designed by the famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, who is known for his modern and organic designs. The building is built in the style of Brazilian modernism, with characteristic round shapes and curved lines.

Inside the library, you will find a spacious and modern environment. It offers various collections of books, magazines and multimedia equipment. Study areas and reading rooms are also available to visitors. The Bibliothèque Oscar Niemeyer is a unique architectural jewel and an important cultural institution in Le Havre.

Address: 2 Place Niemeyer

Le Havre Port

The captain of the tour will explain about the container port. ©Corno van den Berg

At Le Havre, the river Seine flows into the sea. As a result, you can regularly see large container ships unloading their cargo in the port. There are boat trips to the container port and the surrounding Seine estuaries. Where you can come remarkably close to the immense ships. I did this tour and found it very interesting.

The Importance of the Containers

Container art in Le Havre. ©Corno van den Berg

You will come across the container in various places in the city. Including the art object Catene de Containers by Vincent Ganivet along the quay (see photo). But you can also see various housing for students in the port area There are now countless new projects in which the container is used.

These student residences are made from old containers. ©Corno van den Berg

MuMa - Musée d'Art Moderne André Malraux

This museum in Le Havre is home to an impressive collection of modern art, including works by Monet and other artists. The museum focuses on Impressionism and has several paintings that depict the relationship between art and the coast of Le Havre.

Address: 2 Bd Clemenceau

Le Havre Cathedral (Notre-Dame du Havre)

Le Havre Cathedral. ©Corno van den Berg

This is one of the few buildings that could still be restored after the Second World War. Construction of the cathedral began in the 16th century and lasted until the 19th century. It was originally a Gothic church, but it was badly damaged during World War II. After the war, the cathedral was rebuilt and given a new look.

The current cathedral combines Gothic and modern elements. The design is the result of reconstruction after the destruction of the original church. It has clean lines and a simple aesthetic, typical of Le Havre's Reconstruction architecture.

The interior of the cathedral has a light and spacious atmosphere. It contains some beautiful stained glass windows and religious artwork. The altar and pulpit are notable features of the interior. The cathedral is located in the heart of Le Havre, near the main shopping streets and the town hall.

Address: Rue de Paris

Smallest House

The unique extremely narrow house. ©Corno van den Berg

The narrow house in Le Havre, also known as Maison étroite, is an architectural landmark of the city. It was built in 1954 by architect Jacques Tournant as part of an experimental housing project. The house was designed to fit on a narrow plot of land and has a striking facade with large windows. It is only 5 meters wide and 20 meters long but has five floors. The interior of the house has been cleverly designed to make the most of the limited space.

Les Bains des Docks

Les Bains des Docks is another striking example of contemporary architecture. It is a modern swimming pool complex in Le Havre. The complex was designed by Jean Nouvel, a renowned French architect and Pritzker Prize winner. The building has clean lines, geometric shapes and a minimalist design. It includes, among other things, a large swimming pool, a children's pool, a relaxation area, a fitness room and a wellness center. Les Bains des Docks is open to the public.

Address: Quai de la Réunion

Le Marché aux Poissons (Fish Market)

The small fish market offers many types of fish. ©Corno van den Berg

The fish market is located in the heart of the city, near the port. It offers an abundance of fresh fish and seafood. These come directly from the local fishermen. You will find stalls selling different types of fish, shellfish, crustaceans and other seafood. You can buy fish, but there are also some restaurants and eateries around the fish market for lunch, for example.

Address: Quai de l'Île

Funiculaire du Havre

View from the top of the funicular railway line. ©Corno van den Berg

A funicular railway line connects Le Havre city centre to Saint Joseph Hill. The Funicular du Havre bridges a height difference of about 90 meters. It starts at the station at the bottom of the hill and takes passengers to the top, where you can enjoy a nice view of the city and the sea.

Accommodation in Le Havre

When you visit Normandy, Le Havre is a nice city to stay. You will find several small hotels, hostels and apartments that you can easily book online. Be there on time during the weekends and holiday periods, otherwise, most are full.

My recommendation is Vent d'Ouest

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