Top Five Things to do in Le Havre

15 November 2013

During WWII, the city of Le Havre was completely razed to the ground but after much hard work it was rebuilt in the 1950’s. The goal was to create a metropolis that would ring in the future of urban cities. These efforts were recognized in 2005 when Le Havre became a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its city planning. However, among the French, Le Havre developed a reputation for being nothing but a large slab of gray concrete.

If one were to research information on Le Havre, one would encounter the same adjectives again and again; bombed, rebuilt, ugly concrete. Likewise, a Google search for things to do in Le Havre would be equally bleak. “Well there’s this museum and this restaurant but really you should just pass Le Havre, nothing to see or do here.” This is the common opinion of travelers who have stopped through Le Havre.

However, there are actually plenty of entertaining things to do in Le Havre. And not just the sort of activities that one could typically do in any other city, such as visiting a history museum or going to so-and-so night club. Le Havre offers genuine places that will immerse you in the life of the French and real activities that will teach you about the dynamic culture of this nation.
Here are the top five ways to experience French life in Le Havre.

1. Eat a French delicacy in a 450 year old restaurant: Dig into escargot or, a regional special, mussels in cream served with fries at La Taverne Paillette. This is one of the few buildings to survive the bombings of the war and actually dates back to 1596. Reasonable prices and great atmosphere make for an authentic, French experience.

Looking down on the chocolate store from the tea salon
2. While we're talking about food, try the best hot chocolate in the world: Many have said that Chocolate Passion is a paradise for chocolate lovers. This tea and chocolate salon located next to the city hall offers many treats that pair perfectly with a lazy afternoon. Spend some time here and take in the French cafe culture with the charming staff.

Look at that variety!
3. Visit the Arab market: Every Saturday morning, the empty parking lot across the street from the university turns into a gigantic market where you can buy any household good or do some grocery shopping. This offers a chance to stock up on fresh breads and veggies for the week and sample some fusion cuisine. Best of all, everything is extremely cheap!

The art museum
4. Discover the roots of impressionism: That's right, this artistic movement was born in Le Havre! Visit the art museum to see some beautiful, original works or step outside and look at the very beaches that are in those paintings. Watch one Le Havre sunset and you'll understand how these painters were inspired to create such amazing works.

The Volcano and St Joseph
5. Make the city into your amusement park: The discipline of parkour was developed by the French. Take a look at the design of this city and you’ll be wondering if Le Havre was rebuilt just for this activity. Moreover, it's considered ok to climb monuments in France. People often enjoy sliding down the iconic Volcano in the center of the city.

Hopefully this list will dispel the myth that Le Havre is nothing but a gray, boring city. In truth, Le Havre is an intriguing and dynamic city. It may not have the typical look of older French cities but it still has much to offer to any tourist. From food to art, this city is a gem of French culture along the Seine estuary. Give it a chance if you're in the Normandy area. It may surprise you how vibrant this city truly is!

What city do you feel is under appreciated?

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