Le Havre is a city in the Normandy region of France, located on the northern shore of the country. While Le Havre has a long maritime history, today it is mostly known to travelers for being the gateway port to Paris. When you cruise to Paris, France, you’ll actually be arriving in Le Havre, which is the second largest port in France. In fact, it’s name even means “the port”.
Visitors to Le Havre on a Paris cruise port of call from a European cruise will find a temperate oceanic climate that is often windy when you’re right by the coast. Luckily, going inland to Paris usually finds more temperate weather, particularly in the months when cruise ships sail to Le Havre and Paris, which is typically in the spring and summer during northern Europe and transatlantic cruise itineraries.
Take a walk or drive by what may be the world’s most stately looking roundabout thanks to the Arc de Triomphe. Located in the middle of a busy roundabout, the Arc de Triomphe grandly stands at the western end of the Champs-Elysees. Go up to the top of it for an excellent photo op of the famous Champs-Elysees boulevard and to marvel at the organized chaos of the cars zipping around below you.
Along the coast of Normandy is Mont Saint Michel Abbey, which is an incredible example of Norman architecture. The stunning site is magnificent to behold due to its location atop a rock towering above the ocean. When you visit, take time to walk the cobblestone walkways where you’ll find shops and cafes to tuck into. You’ll also want to see the awe-inspiring interior of the abbey.
Those who are interested in learning more about the history of World War II will want to visit Omaha Beach, where D-Day occurred. While in Normandy you can also visit Pointe du Hoc, where Allied forces strategically climbed the 100-foot promontory to better battle the Axis forces; the American Cemetery of Colleville, where American troops are buried; and Pegasus Bridge, which is the landing location of the British Parachute Brigade.
In Paris, you can’t miss seeing the curved steeples of Sacré-Cœur, perched on a hill in the Montmartre neighborhood overlooking the city center; or the gothic architecture of Notre Dame Cathedral with its gargoyles seeming to keep a watch over the square below. In Le Havre, you can visit St. Joseph’s Church, which was built after World War II decimated the city and has a modern style designed by renowned architect Auguste Perret.
When you cruise to Paris, France, it’s not just enough to see the Eiffel Tower standing proudly over the city. You’ll also want to go to the top for incredible panoramic views of Paris that stretch on for miles.
If you’re into art, you can’t miss a visit to the Louvre, one of the most famous art museums in the world. It houses the Mona Lisa and a vast array of other paintings and sculptures. Even its entrance is artful since you arrive to the museum by going through a glass pyramid.
One of the iconic things to do in Paris is sit at a café and write in your journal or people-watch while eating a perfectly baked croissant and sipping a frothy cappuccino, of course. A great way to do this is on your free time during a Paris city tour shore excursion.
Feel like a king or queen when your spend the day touring the opulent Palace of Versailles and its lovely gardens. The Palace of Versailles was built in the 17th century and served as the principal royal residence of the king of France until the French Revolution in 1789. In 1837 it was turned into a museum, and today it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you’re curious what shopping in a supermarket is like in France, you can find out during your Paris cruise port of call. Visit the Monoprix department store, which is located in Espace Coty mall and features a supermarket. There is also a small supermarket in Halles Centrales, the central market in Le Havre.
In Paris, you won’t want to miss trying its mouth-wateringly delicious crepes, baguettes with cheese spread, and chocolate croissants – or any one of the many, many other delightful pastries and cuisine you’ll come across. Unique dining experiences abound in Paris, from dining atop the Eiffel Tower to taking in a show with your meal at Moulin Rouge.
If visiting Normandy during your time in port, don’t miss out on some of the region’s delicacies, such as calvados and cider brandy, which you can drink or enjoy as an ingredient in the local cuisine such as pork with calvados and apples.
Le Havre’s history has long been linked to its harbor. The city began to grow substantially in the 18th and 19th centuries thanks to trade from the West Indies and the industrial revolution, respectively. Le Havre has a place in World War II history as the Battle of Normandy touched its center where thousands of lives were lost and property was damaged. Today, the city of Le Havre has been rebuilt and reflects a modernist style.
Though most civilians are aware of Le Havre due to the cruise ships that stop there, the port is also busy in other ways and regularly sees container traffic, oil tankers, and other industrial ships come through its harbor.
As you near Paris, you’ll begin to leave behind the commercial maritime industry and start to feel more of the romance of the country as the elegant culture and exquisite cuisine of Paris invites you into its folds.
French is the official language of Le Havre and Paris (and the rest of France), though you’ll find that many locals speak English.
As mentioned earlier, the cruise port for Paris is actually located about 120 miles to the northwest in the city of Le Havre. Located on English Channel and adjacent to the Seine River, Le Havre is in an excellently located spot that makes it easy for ships to call, and just a short distance away for travelers from some of France’s most iconic sites.
The cruise terminal has a long, steep gangway so physically impaired passengers should expect to need assistance. Once you’ve reached the inside of the cruise terminal, you’ll find a welcome center with tourist information and complimentary wifi. Taxis are usually waiting outside the cruise terminal.
Getting to the city center of Le Havre from where cruise ships dock in the harbor takes about 25 minutes to walk. Sometimes there are free shuttles to the center of town, and you can also find taxis and a train station that takes you into town fairly affordably. However, most passengers leave behind Le Havre for the wonders of Paris or Normandy.
The easiest and most stress-free way to get to Paris from Le Havre is on a shore excursion that conveniently takes you there from your ship on a comfortable bus with a knowledgeable guide. You can do a city transfer shore excursion that gives you free time on your own for the day before catching the transfer back to the ship. There is also a train that runs between Paris and Le Havre that takes about two hours.
If you want to stay in Le Havre for the day, a shuttle is available between the cruise terminal and city center, and you’ll likely be dropped near City Hall or the Espace Coty. Car rentals are also available by the Paris cruise terminal of Le Havre. In addition, you’ll find a tram system within walking distance of the ship that will take you to the beach or other areas of the city and beyond.
In Paris, the Champs-Elysees is the famous shopping boulevard to head to, and is flanked by the Arc de Triomphe at one end. The Champs-Elysees has high street and luxury fashion houses lining it and lots of cafes mixed in as well, which are perfect for a break from your shopping spree.
In Le Havre, you’ll find several malls and a central market called Halles Centrales. The malls to head to are Espace Coty in the city center or the new Docks Vauban by the train station.
France accepts the Euro and you’ll find ATMs dispensing Euro notes all around Paris. Tipping in France can be confusing since a service charge is required by law to be added to the bill in cafes and restaurants, typically in the amount of 15%. However, this amount doesn’t necessarily go to your server, so leaving a small additional tip in change or euro notes is appreciated. It’s common for people to round up the bill to the nearest euro for exceptional service or leave around 5% of the total bill.