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Le Havre France French Holidays

Le Havre

Le Havre is France's second largest port, after Marseile, and its name in fact means 'the Harbour'. Francois I had it built in 1517 to replace Harfleur and Honfleur and it has flourished as a trading port ever since, receiving cotton, tobacco and sugar from America and distributing them all over France.

Le Havre was rebuilt after WWII according to the designs of one single architect, Auguste Perret, who famously said "concrete is beautiful". This may give you some idea of the style of Le Havre but don't let the architect's words put you off visiting this interesting town.

http://www.le havre.fr/http://www.le havre.fr/ Official tourist site for Le Havre. (See top right button for English)

Consider these pages for busses, trains and airport information.

There are three ferries a day to Le Havre from Portsmouth in England, or overland transport from all over France will deposit you at either the gare routière or gare SNCF in the east end of town. The tourist office is west of the town centre at 186 bvd Clémenceau (02 32 74 04 04).

Once you have arrived, head towards one of Perret's monuments either the église St Joseph or the Hotel de Ville are good places to start. The church is based on a cross design where all four arms are the same length and the central altar bathed in coloured light from the stained glass windows. Fountains, flowerbeds and a lively ambience surround the flat roofed Hotel de Ville. The more recent Volcano cultural centre, designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, has earned the nickname 'the yoghurt pot' for reasons that will become obvious when you see it for yourself. As for museums, you can't go wrong with the Musée Malraux (€3.80), which is full of nineteenth and twentieth century artworks, including pieces by Raoul Dufy and Eugène Boudin, all displayed using natural light.

The main conglomerations of hotels are around the gare SNCF or the port. The Parisien at 1 cours de la République (02 35 25 23 83) has rooms for €40 55, or for a room nearer the port for under €30 try the Faidherbe at 21 rue Général Faidherbe (02 35 42 20 27). The more upmarket Vent d'Ouest hotel at 4 rue Caligny (02 35 42 50 69) has modern rooms for €70 85.

Generally speaking, you will find cafés, brasseries and bars around the gare SNCF, and more ethnic or traditional restaurants in the quartier St Francois. There is a market near place Gambetta if you are self catering or want to take some local produce back home with you. Alternatively, if seafood is your thing, blow your budget on the €115, two person 'Abondance' platter at L'Huitrière, 12 quai Michel Féré (02 35 21 24 16) for the ultimate crustacean extravaganza.