Le Havre, an old maritime tradition

Le Havre is the 2nd largest French port after Marseille and the largest French container port.

Le Havre harbour

It is located on the right bank of the Seine estuary in the department of Seine-Maritime.

In the 15th century this major port, however, was no more than a small fishing village that had developed by the Seine estuary.

It expansion started after 1516, when King Francois I founded the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Grâce in the little Hable de Grâce.

The king then founded Le Havre harbour on October 8, 1517 in order to replace the ports of Honfleur and Harfleur that had stilted up.

Le Havre port and city started to thrive in the late 18th century… with the development of the slave trade.

Le Havre city centre, a World Heritage Site

The city was almost entirely destroyed during WWII as it was part of the German Atlantic Wall.

Le Havre listed city centre with S. Joseph Church spire
The listed city centre with S. Joseph Church spire

Auguste Perret, however, rebuilt it between 1945 and 1964

Amazingly, the ocean of concrete he created, the current city center, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on July 15, 2005.

It is indeed one of the few contemporary sites today classified!

Le Havre is therefore known for its  contemporary architectural structures such as the impressive St. Joseph Church and Maison de la Culture.

The latter, built in 1982 by the architect Oscar Niemeyer, it is also known as Le Volcan (volcano) because of its shape.

The harbour district

WWII bombing, however, spared the northern and eastern districts.

This is where you’ll find 19th and early 20th century buildings such as the impressive ship owners’ houses.

St. Joseph Church in Le Havre
St. Joseph Church

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Cathedral replaces the chapel Francois I built in the 16th century.

The industrial, maritime and harbour districts are located to the south of the city, along the Seine estuary.

The oil, chemical and car industries were at their peak after WWII.

However, but the oil crisis of the 1970s led to their decline and by consequence to the disappearance of the majestic oceans liners that sailed off Le Havre.

This obviously resulted in a significant increase in unemployment and decline of the population.

The development of the service sector and the installation of aeronautical industries and wind farms in the last 3 decades, however, relaunched Le Havre industry and economy.

A huge container port known as Port 2000 was created in order to compete with the almighty ports of Northern Europe.

Le Havre, the setting for ‘Impression au Soleil Levant’

Port of Le Havre by Eugene Boudin
Port of Le Havre by Eugene Boudin

Le Havre is also renowned for its outstanding Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux*, a museum dedicated to Impressionism.

The reason is that Claude Monet represented Le Havre harbour in his iconic painting Impression au Soleil Levant – Impression, Rising Sun in 1872.

This exceptional painting left its name to the Impressionist movement!

Monet was very fond of the city where he family moved in 1845. He was then 5.

Department of Seine-Maritime
Coordinates: Lat 49.494370 – Long 0.107929

Photos Wikimedia Commons: city centre – *muma-lehavre.fr

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