Le Havre, France


Le Havre is the sub-prefecture of Seine-Maritime and the largest municipality in Normandy with 193,000 inhabitants, in France. It is the second French port in terms of tonnage. City rebuilt after the bombings of the Second World War, its city center imagined by Auguste Perret has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005.

Registered on the world heritage list for its city center rebuilt in July 2005, Le Havre is taking real revenge on its reputation as an industrial city. It is a city full of contrasts, which should be explored in order to discover the very special charm. If the city center with exemplary reconstruction is borrowed from a monumental style softened by the vast expanses of green spaces, older neighborhoods (Saint-Vincent), others in the process of change (Saint-Nicolas and Eure) will be so many surprises throughout your walks. Le Havre is therefore a city classified as art and history, the first in France to obtain this label for a heritage of the twentieth century and was awarded in 2005 two blue flags: one for its beach and the other for its marina. It also has the seaside resort label.



Before Francis I
Human presence in Le Havre dates back to prehistoric times, around 40,000 BC, several vestiges of the Neolithic have been found. The first references to the Abbey of Graville date back to the 9th century. The village of Leure (place of the current district of Eure) is mentioned as a refuge for ships which awaited the tide to enter the port of Harfleur.

The foundation of Le Havre
On October 8, 1517, François Ist signed the founding charter of the port. Despite the difficulties linked to marshy terrain and storms, the port of Le Havre welcomed its first ships in October 1518. Le Havre also became one of the gathering points for the French fleet during the wars. In 1525, a violent storm killed hundreds, destroyed around thirty boats and the Notre-Dame chapel, the latter being rebuilt in 1936. In 1540, François I entrusted an urban planning and fortification project to the Italian architect Girolamo Bellarmato, to organize the Saint-François district according to precise standards (orthogonal plan, limitation of the height of houses, etc.). The 1550s saw the creation of several municipal institutions such as the town hall, the admiralty and the hospital.

Wars of religion
The Reform is relatively successful in Normandy. Le Havre was affected by the Wars of Religion: on May 8, 1562, the Reformed took the city, looted the churches and expelled the Catholics. Fearing a counter-attack They turn to the English who send them troops and set up fortifications. On July 29, 1563, the English were finally driven out by the troops of Charles IX.

With the edict of Nantes of King Henri IV, granting freedom of worship, a first Protestant temple was built in Le Havre in 1600 in the Sanvic district, it was destroyed in 1685, when the edict of Nantes was revoked by Louis XIV. It was not until 1787 and the Edict of Tolerance of King Louis XVI, that the Protestants of Le Havre again opened a place of worship in the Saint-François district.

The Rise of the Port
The defense function of Le Havre was reaffirmed and the modernization of the port began in the 17th century, by order of Cardinal Richelieu.

Le Havre asserted its maritime and international vocation during the 17th century: the Compagnie de l'Orient settled there in 1643, exotic products (sugar, cotton, tobacco, coffee and various spices) were imported from America. The slave trade enriched local merchants, especially in the 18th century. With 399 slave shipments in the 17th and 18th centuries, Le Havre is the third French port to have practiced the Atlantic slave trade, behind Nantes and La Rochelle. The city is experiencing a real boom, the population is increasing, rich traders settle and new infrastructure is created. During a visit in 1786, Louis XVI approved the expansion project of the city and it was François Laurent Lamandé that he chose to be responsible for quadrupling the surface area of ​​the city.

But the wars of Louis XIV and Louis XV temporarily interrupt the development of Le Havre. The Anglo-Dutch bombed the city several times, notably in 1694 and 1696.

Between 1789 and 1793, the port of Le Havre was the second in France, after that of Nantes. The triangular trade continued until the war and the abolition of the slave trade. The port ran out of steam during the revolutionary period with the end of trade with England. Throughout the 19th century, the cosmopolitan aspect of the port city only strengthened, with in particular a large Breton community that settled there. In the middle of the 19th century the old ramparts were razed and the neighboring municipalities were annexed, the population of the city therefore increased sharply. The city and its port are transformed thanks to major development works, partly financed by the State. The effects of the industrial revolution are visible in Le Havre: The shipyards developed and the railway arrived in 1848. The docks were built at the same time, as were general stores.

On the eve of the First World War, Le Havre was the first European port for coffee; it also imports some 250,000 tonnes of cotton and 100,000 tonnes of oil.

The time of wars
During the First World War, the city was spared but 6000 Le Havres died at the front and boats were torpedoed in the harbor. The neighboring commune of Sainte-Adresse serves as a refuge for the Belgian government in exile and the port serves as a military base for the entire Entente. Thus some 1.9 million British soldiers pass through the port of Le Havre.


During the interwar period, the city's population stagnated and the economic crisis was felt. In 1920 and 1936 with the Popular Front, the city, which had become largely working-class, was the scene of major strikes and social movements.

From the spring of 1940, with the Second World War, Le Havre was occupied by the Germans, causing the exodus of part of its population. The Germans set up a naval base there in order to conquer the United Kingdom. Le Havre is integrated into the Atlantic Wall and lines of defense are installed there.

The life of Le Havre, already difficult because of the occupation and the related shortages, did not improve with the Allied bombardments. Indeed, the city thus undergoes 132 bombardments planned by the Allies during the war. But the most important destruction occurred on September 5 and 6, 1944 when British planes bombed the city center and the port to weaken the occupier as part of Operation Astonia. The toll of the bombings is heavy: 5,000 dead (including 1,770 in 1944) and between 75,000 and 80,000 victims. When the city was liberated on September 12, 1944, the city center was nothing but a field of ruins.

Le Havre from 1945 to the present day
In the spring of 1945, the Ministry of Reconstruction and Town Planning entrusted the reconstruction project for downtown Le Havre to the Perret workshop. He wanted to wipe out old structures and apply the theories of structural classicism. The material chosen is concrete and the plan is orthogonal as in American cities. We thus see the birth of the famous reconstructed center of Auguste Perret which earned the city its UNESCO classification in 2005. Various modifications to the city will be made over the years such as the opening of the André Malraux museum of modern art. and the Oscar Niemeyer cultural space. With the oil crisis and deindustrialization, the city experienced some difficulties and then turned to tourism, wind power and the modernization of its port (port 2000).



Located on the coast of the Channel, Le Havre enjoys a temperate oceanic climate. Days without the slightest wind are rare. They bring maritime influences all year round.

The rains are distributed throughout the year, a little more in autumn and winter than the rest of the year. There are also a few thunderstorms in June and July. As for storms, they occur in winter, especially in January.

Tourist information offices
Tourist Office 186, boulevard Clémenceau 76600 Le Havre (located on the seafront, between the beach and the marina), +33 2 32 74 04 04 In high season (April-September): from Mon. to Sun. : 9:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. In low season: shorter hours. - The Havre tourist office. 30 min of free wifi.
Maison du Patrimoine (Atelier Perret) 181 rue de Paris 76600 Le Havre, +33 2 35 22 31 22 In high season (April-September): Monday to Sunday 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. / 1.45 p.m. - 6.30 p.m .:. In low season: same hours but open only in the afternoon. - Organization of guided tours and other activities around the heritage of the city.