More than a tourist destination in itself, the City of Le Havre is a transit center for ferry passengers moving between England and France and for cruise passengers coming to visit more romantic destinations like Paris. Even so, the Port of Le Havre has a few offerings that tourists, particularly lovers of art, will want to visit.
The Port of Le Havre enjoys a wonderful temperate maritime climate with warm, sometimes hot, summers and cool damp winters. Rain can fall at any time of year, which makes the countryside lush and green. However, there are more sunny days than cloudy ones. Temperatures range from an average high of 18 °C (66 °F) in August to an average low of 3 °C (38 °F) in February.
There is one "must-see" in the Port of Le Havre, the Musee Malraux (French), housing the largest collection of Impressionist works anywhere in the world outside Paris. The building itself is somewhat impressionist, a ship anchored before the sea with a mix of glass, steel, and concrete. Inside, however, is the real treasure. Including some pieces of classical, baroque, and modern art, the main collection features the great Impressionists and Fauvists with works by Boudin, Monet, Renoir, Manet, Pissarro, and many others. Eugene Boudin donated much of his studio collection to the museum, and visitors can enjoy many sketches from his later years. Raoul Dufy bequeathed some of his works, too, making the Musee Malraux one of the best places in the world to see his work.
The Port of Le Havre's Museum d'Histoire Naturelle, in an old building that miraculously survived the war, is a rich source of collections dealing with natural history as well as many activities geared to its young visitors. The museum's major functions are to acquire, conserve, restore, manage, and exhibit the nation's important collections related to natural history. Exhibits are devoted to paleontology, geology, mineralogy, botany, zoology, meteorology, chemistry, pre-history, anthropology, and ethnobiology. The museum contains more than 60 million specimens.
Visitors to the Port of Le Havre will also want to take a break in the mid-city forest, "Foret de Montgeon." Archaeological digs on the site have discovered evidence of Neolithic and Gallo-Roman presence there. In the Middle Ages, the forest was a hunting reserve. In the 16th and 17th Century, it was used for firewood. Since it was acquired in 1902, however, the city has worked to make this 300-hectare forest a retreat for walking and recreation. The reserve contains 200 hectares of forested area, 35 hectares of leisure space, five hectares of ponds, four hectares of campgrounds, and 23 hectares of sports fields and game lawns. The forest also has a tropical greenhouse, a "trail of discovery," and an arboretum as well as specialized enclosures of animals and birds. In the fall, mushroom pickers come to gather some of the 150 species that grow in the forest.
Travelers who want to visit the Port of Le Havre, and Paris, by sea can find a list of scheduled cruises on the Cruise Compete website.