Does your cruise call at Le Havre, France?
If you have the chance to stop in our hometown, here is a guide with our selection of things to do in the cruise port of Le Havre on a day: architecture, nature, history, art… ideas for everyone!
Stay in town or explore Normandy with one of the shore excursions from Le Havre.
Introduction to Le Havre, Normandy
As a major commercial port of Normandy France, Le Havre also welcomes many cruise ships each year.
A resilient story
The city itself was largely destroyed during World War II, so you won’t see many churches and old buildings like in other French cities.
But it was rebuilt by Auguste Perret in a modern architectural style that has been classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
A light that has inspired many artists
The light and the clouds in Le Havre are always special. They have inspired many artists, including the impressionists. Claude Monet and Eugene Boudin, for example, painted the colors of Le Havre.
In the beautiful region of Normandy
The cruise port of Le Havre is also a great place to explore some of the most beautiful places in Normandy with shore excursions.
Le Havre is our home town. This is where we were born and raised.
I have been living thereClaire) again since 2016.
Our family has been here for a long time. Our family store is established in Le Havre since 1870 (yes, you read correctly with an 8!).
Our grandfather was one of the first people to receive the keys to the new buildings after World War II and he was very appreciative of the improvement in his quality of life.
If you are planning a longer weekend in Le Havre, see our article on things to do in Le Havre in Normandy.
Cruises arriving in Le Havre
This article is for people who spend a few hours on a cruise ship. You can arrive with :
- MSC Cruises (by the way, if you need help choosing your drink packages on an MSC cruise, see this guide)
- Royal Caribbean
- or with a river cruise on the Seine
Main options – Shore Excursions from Le Havre in Normandy
So, are you stopping over in Le Havre during your cruise? Great!
Here is my selection of the main shore excursions from Le Havre to consider. They are not in any particular order (it depends on what you are interested in):
OPTION 1 – Visit Le Havre
Le Havre is a strange city, I admit it. For many visitors (and for the French), this is not what France should look like.
But Le Havre is a unique and trendy city, which has a lot to offer and should not be neglected.
You can spend a great day in Le Havre discovering the architecture and sea views that have inspired so many artists, such as Monet.
And it will be the cheapest option.
I’m not going to go into detail here – you can learn all about my hometown later in the article (after my list of options, check out the must-see places and my itinerary suggestions).
OPTION 2 – Visit of the landing beaches
Those interested in the history of the war can take a shore excursion from Le Havre to visit the landing beaches and some of the World War II monuments.
American-friendly tours include Omaha Beach, Pointe du Hoc, the Overlord Museum and the American Cemetery.
See program and book
Canadian-friendly tours include Juno Beach, the Canadian Cemetery and the Abbaye d’Ardenne.
See program and book
OPTION 3 – Mont-Saint-Michel
It’s a long drive to Mont St Michel (a little over 2.5 hours) but it is one of France’s most iconic jewels, and a Unesco site.
The view from the mainland is simply breathtaking, whatever the weather.
You can then visit this rocky island on top of which is the 8th century Benedictine abbey.
One of the most famous sites to visit in France is accessible during a Le Havre cruise excursion!
OPTION 4 – Live painting – Giverny, Rouen and Honfleur
If you are looking for charming villages and places that have inspired famous artists, Normandy has many sites that can satisfy you. For example, you can go to Giverny to visit Monet’s house and gardens, and stop in the historic city of Rouen. You can also visit the charming town of Honfleur, which is one of the most charming ports in France.
See program and book
OPTION 5 – Étretat
One of my favorite places to visit in Normandy is Etretat.
I love this little cove and the impressive white cliffs that surround it.
And as a French girl, I grew up with the stories of Leblanc’s fictional character, Arsène Lupin, who hid his treasure in the pinnacle.
The heart of the town has charming old houses typical of the area and from the beach you can climb the cliffs on both sides for incredible views.
You can take the bus 13 which runs every hour.
Or rent a car for the day (40min drive)
OPTION 6 – Paris
Of course, you can also go to Paris for the day.
Your cruise ship will probably offer day trips between Le Havre and Paris.
It takes about 2h30 to get there. So you still have several hours to visit.
We know that Paris is the city that makes people dream, but our opinion is that it would be very frustrating to spend only a few hours there. It is too difficult to choose what to see.
Stopover at the Port of Le Havre – advice
Let us now tell you a little more about Le Havre as a cruise port.
Arrival at the cruise port of Le Havre
When your cruise ship arrives in Le Havre, I recommend you go out on deck to see the beach and the Perret architecture as a whole.
And wave a little because I might see you from my window. LOL (here’s the picture of the boat below – I took it from my apartment window).
The ships are docked at the Cruise Terminal.
It is located 2.5 km (1.5 mi) from the city center.
The walk will take you 30min.
Most cruise lines offer shuttles between the terminal and downtown for those not participating in shore excursions. They take you near what is called Le Volcan (a unique theater that I will show you later).
Or you can jump in a cab. It costs about 8 euros for the city center and 10 euros for the train station.
At the reception center, you can get a map of the city to help you get around.
The best way to visit the city center is on foot.
Unless you visit Sainte-Adresse, the rest is just flat walking. This is how you can best appreciate the architecture.
Tourist bus – in summer
However, if you want to get a glimpse of the whole city, consider jumping on the“Bee Le Havre” tour bus to learn more about this amazing city. It leaves from the side of the volcano opposite the one where the shuttle drops you off.
They also now have a Food Bus and a bus tour of Honfleur.
At the cruise terminal, it is possible to rent bicycles
Other things to know
- The currency is the euro
- Tipping is not mandatory. At the restaurant, you can leave a few euros if you are very satisfied with the service.
- The European emergency number is 112
- Sunday is a day of rest in France, stores are closed, except food stores, until lunchtime. The Muma Museum is normally open.
- Many stores and museums may be closed on Mondays (the Muma Museum is closed).
- If you are looking for clothes, some stores should be open on Mondays and Sundays at the Docks (not the same direction as the city center)
- It is a large seaport, so English is common, but some French people will not speak English at all.
What to do in Le Havre from the cruise port
You wonder if you should opt for a stay in Le Havre and visit the city? Let me show you all the main points of interest in Le Havre that you could enjoy:
Architecture of Perret
Let’s start with the reason why Le Havre is a Unesco site. Since it was destroyed during World War II, most of the downtown area was rebuilt with a uniform architecture. It was based on the engineering ofAuguste Perret who was a pioneer in the use of reinforced concrete. These new buildings have brought many facilities that people did not have before in their homes.
The most stunning pieces of downtown are the town hall with its tower on the side and the unique St. Joseph’s church. Don’t hesitate to enter the church (from 10 am to 6 pm), especially on a sunny day, to see the stained glass windows.
Architecture of Oscar Niemeyer
Right next to where the shuttle stops, you can’t miss the iconic building that we call either “The Volcano” (the volcano) or “The Yogurt Pot” (the yogurt pot). I know, it’s funny.
It contrasts sharply with the Perret architecture and we love our theater.
It was built in 1982 on the project ofOscar Niemeyer, an architect famous for his modern buildings in Brasilia.
Nature & Art
As we said before, the light of Le Havre has been a source of inspiration for many artists, especially the impressionists.
The city has set up displays along the ponds and the coastal promenade to show you some of the paintings where they were created.
I think this is a great idea, and although I see them often, I always stop to look at them again.
There is a long walk along the beach that also takes you to the nearby town of Sainte Adresse where the Belgian government was headquartered during the First World War.
Note that at high tide, there is no sand, only pebbles. But at low tide, you can walk on the sand. And in summer, small historic beach bungalows appear on the beach, where families come to spend the day.
The most famous museum of Le Havre is the André Malraux museum, also known as MuMa.
Located at the end of the seaside promenade, near the harbor watchtower, it offers beautiful collections.
The museum is filled with light and has a large open structure.
On permanent display are paintings from the 15th century to the 20th century with pieces by Delacroix, Boudin, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Manet and many others…
It has one of the most prestigious collections of impressionist art outside of Paris.
Closed on Monday.
In 2018, it was the 500th anniversary of Le Havre. For the event, modern art pieces were installed and fortunately, some are here to stay.
Vincent Ganivet set up 2 modern arches created by assembling colored containers.
We love it!
It is located at the end of the rue de Paris with the port in the background.
As I said earlier, there is not much left of the old Havre, because it was destroyed during the Second World War. But on the rue de Paris, you can still see the cathedral. It is small.
The bell tower dates from the 16th century.
The main façade is baroque.
Inside, the church’s organs are gifts from Cardinal de Richelieu in the 17th century.
Point of view
If you feel like walking a little higher. At the end of the main beach walk, you can head to the top of the cliffs. Follow the road and you will reach a panoramic viewpoint.
On a clear day, you can see Deauville and Trouville on the other side of the estuary.
But whatever the weather, you have superb views of the city of Le Havre with the beach and the bell tower of St. Joseph’s church overlooking it.
It is called ‘Table d’orientation’ or ‘Balcon de l’Estuaire’.
GPS – 49°30’26.3 “N 0°04’25.7 “E
Culture and gastronomy
You can also stroll through the streets of Le Havre to discover many bakeries and other stores to understand a little about life in France.
Les Halles is a great place to people-watch as many downtown residents come to buy food at this covered market (many stores are closed between 1 and 3 pm).
It is located behind Le Volcan.
One of us likes coffee…
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1 day in Le Havre Walk
- Get off the shuttle at the Volcano
- Admire the Bassin du Commerce with its beautiful arched bridge. The statue next to it is in memory of those who died protecting our country.
- Cross the road and admire the architecture of Oscar Niemeyer
- Cross the passage behind and visit the covered market for a snapshot of life in France (if you like bread, see the Boulangerie Portier outside the market (across the street), they make the best bread in Le Havre in my opinion) – Note that the covered market is closed in the early afternoon, it becomes lively again at 3pm
- Walk to the City Hall and enjoy the gardens – appreciate Perret’s architecture – square concrete blocks
- Walk to the beach on Avenue Foch, one of the largest in Europe
- Before the gate-shaped buildings, turn left and walk towards St. Joseph’s Church
- Walk to the sea
Option A – for art lovers
- Walk to the left along the marina and arrive at the MuMa Museum
- Visit the museum
- Walk to the double container arch
- Return to the Volcano via the Rue de Paris and its protected arches to do some shopping, and visit the cathedral on the way.
Option B – for those who prefer the outdoors and can walk uphill
9b. walk to the right, arrive on the beach promenade
10b. At the Sainte Adresse sign, either go up or continue on the flat promenade and take the stairs
11b. Enjoy the view from the panoramic viewpoint
12b. Return on foot
Options for a rainy day
Le Havre is not as humid as other regions of Normandy, but it is located in the north of France, by the sea, and therefore receives frequent showers.
If it doesn’t rain much, I recommend wearing a good poncho and still enjoying the sunny day program. And you never know, the rain may stop.
The main areas you can still enjoy on a rainy day:
- The underground of the Volcano and its library
- The rue de Paris because it has covered passages for window shopping and the cathedral
- The MuMa Museum
- Les Halles, the covered market
Don’t make the same mistake we did!
On one of our last trips to Europe, a hacker stole our credit card details while we were using a hotel WiFi.
So our trip started with a “blocked card” call… Not funny at all!
Learn from our mistake, make a small VPN investment to surf without worry.
Shopping and Souvenirs
Looking for souvenirs?
Just before taking the shuttle back to your cruise ship, near the volcano is the “Local Shop” where you can find many Le Havre or Normandy branded items and other local products (location B on the map).
You can also find Le Havre brand products at the reception center (location A on the map)
Want to go shopping?
It’s not our thing, but for those who like it, the main shopping areas downtown are:
- The street of Paris with its local and traditional stores
- Coty Mall where you will find chain stores (location C on the map)
- The docks – outside the Hyper-center, not far from the train station – more chain stores.
Where to eat
Hummmm it’s a difficult question to answer from a tourist point of view…
It also depends on where you are in the route…
I don’t normally write about food much. But since this is where I live, here are some suggestions:
Baguettes, Sandwiches and Cakes
If you want to taste an excellent French bread, delicate pastries or if you want to opt for a sandwich for lunch, go to Maison Portier, Place des Halles (near location 4).
Address : 48 Rue Bernardin de Saint-Pierre – closed on Monday
Even after living in many cities and all over the world, my brother, my parents and I still think this is the best bread we have ever tasted.
The Wine bar
In the pedestrian streets north of Les Halles (north of point 3 – 101 rue Victor Hugo), you will find the Wine bar.
It’s a place with wine fountains where you can taste the amount you want of each wine.
It’s great to be able to taste a wide variety without drinking whole glasses.
And their food is also delicious
There are many restaurants in the city center. It depends on what you like.
In the summer, we even have temporary restaurants that are set up on the beach. The typical dish to taste is mussels in a cream of camembert.
But some of my favorites are actually not near the hiking trails I gave you…
For fine French cuisine, you can go to Jean Luc Tartarin – Address: 73 avenue Foch (along route 6 on the map) (reservation required)
Or one of my favorites: Le Bouche à Oreille at 19 rue Paul Doumer (reservation required).
And another one : Le Margote at 50 Quai Michel Féré (reservation required)
Nice break for those who are on option B Walk
If you continued to walk along the beach, on the Sainte-Adresse side, you will arrive at a nice restaurant-bar with a terrace on the seaside. His name is LATERAS.
It’s a great place for a break with delicious mocktails of freshly squeezed juice and tasty pancakes.
GPS – 49°30’14.7 “N 0°04’40.1 “E
Update: The restaurant-bar has a new owner. The name has changed. We haven’t tried the new one yet. We will update this when we go.
Street Art walk in Le Havre
If you are looking for something different and like Street Art, Jace has created pieces all around Le Havre, notably with a little orange character named Gouzou.
You can find a map of all his tags HERE. You can create your own itinerary around it!
Departure from Le Havre / Staying in Le Havre
At certain times of the year, the ships leave just as the sun is setting and you could be enjoying some great colors!
And if you finish your cruise in Le Havre, why not stay a few days to explore the area!
Here are some accommodation options
- Hotel Spa Vent d’Ouest near our famous church and less than 5 minutes walk from the waterfront
- see pictures and availability
- Pasino Spa Hotel inside one of our most impressive buildings with high ceilings, pool and casino
- see pictures and availability
- Hotel Oscar next to Oscar Niemeyer’s Volcano Theater
- see pictures and availability
- New beachfront hotel opened in 2021: Hilton Garden Inn by the marina with sea views
- see pictures and availability
- and superb rentals, see the best rated accommodations in Le Havre
Plan your trip to Normandy!
- How to get to Normandy – coming soon
- Deciding where to go in Normandy – read
- Best things to do in Normandy – read
- The most beautiful cities in Normandy – read
- The best beaches of Normandy – read
- Where to stay in Normandy – article to come
- See our tips for renting a car at CDG airport, Orly airport, Beauvais airport, Caen, Rouen, Bayeux…
- Visit the Mont-Saint-Michel – all our advice