When you think of foodie destinations in France, Le Havre is not exactly what springs to mind. Yet this buzzing coastal city in Normandy is a great weekend destination for foodies, families, friends and now footie fans, thanks to the fact that it is hosting seven matches during the FIFA Women’s World Cup between 7 June and 7 July. It’s easy to get to Le Havre from London and the south of England – take a direct six-hour ferry from Portsmouth, walk from Le Havre ferry terminal for ten minutes and you’re in town.
Le Havre’s concrete facades lend a modern feel to the city centre, 90% of which was destroyed in 1944 and completely rebuilt in the years that followed. Designed by Auguste Perret, a leading architect of the time, pristine low-rise blocks give Le Havre a remarkable sense of space not often found in cities – the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville is one of the largest squares in Europe, and the Avenue Foch, which leads down to the beach, is wider than the Champs Elysées. So impressive is Perret’s post-war reconstruction that in 2005, UNESCO classified Le Havre’s city centre a World Heritage Site.
Football has deep roots in Le Havre and continues to thrive in the city, largely thanks to Le Havre Athletic Club (HAC), the oldest surviving football and rugby club in France, having been founded in 1872. The city’s Stade Océane was built in 2012 and HAC’s football academy can pride itself on having produced a long list of international male players, as well as a successful women’s squad that’s been playing in the national Division 2 for a few seasons now.
But back to the food! As you might expect, Le Havre’s coastal location means there are plenty of places where you can eat fresh fish and seafood to your heart’s delight. It’s also a great place to try all the Norman classics, showcasing local specialties such as marmite dieppoise (fish stew), cider-soaked chicken, Normandy beef, and (of course) the iconic apple tart with Normandy cream. From the Rue Racine and the Saint-François neighbourhood in the city centre to the bars and restaurants along the beach, there’s something to suit all tastes.
So whether you fancy fish or could murder some meat, the following recommendations have got you covered:
Opposite Le Volcan [The Volcano] in Le Havre’s bustling bar and restaurant district, Le Grignot is one of the most famous brasseries in Le Havre. Specialising in seafood platters, delicious traditional recipes and organic food, its dishes are all seasonal and cooked fresh. Sit on the terrace and enjoy views of Le Volcan, which lights up blue at night!
Right on the promenade overlooking the beach, Saison 2‘s unfussy menu features classics such as burger and chips, meat and two veg, and the must-have dish when at the beach in France: moules-frites. Enjoy with a glass of chilled white wine while watching the sun set over the sea – what better way to spend an evening?
Le Grand Large
A little way out of town in the stylish neighbouring town of Sainte-Adresse, Le Grand Large (which means ‘the open sea’) boasts a maritime menu of epic proportions against a a panoramic view of the Channel. Be sure to try the prawns with citrus fruit followed by this restaurant’s signature dish, the mighty marmite dieppoise fish stew.
Le Bouchon Normand
The word bouchon may make you think of Lyon, but this restaurant is 100% Norman! With all ingredients sourced in the region, a particular favourite of ours is the feuilleté de pommes tatin Pont l’Evêque (that’s apple and cheese puff pastry to you and me). For those especially partial to a bit of pomme, there’s also apple tart on the menu…
La Taverne Paillette
Founded in 1596, the Taverne Paillette is almost as old as the city of Le Havre, and is therefore a local landmark in itself. Serving food throughout the day, seven days a week, this lively restaurant is renowned for three things, its delicious seafood (to which we can attest), its sumptuous sauerkraut and its refreshing home-brewed beer. Tchin !
Le Bistrot des Halles
Right on the market square, Le Bistrot des Halles is somewhat of an institution in Le Havre. With its parquet floor, wooden paneling and art nouveau-style posters, it is the epitome of classic French décor and, with its vast selection of tasty salads, mains (we opted for sea bream) and desserts, its food doesn’t disappoint either!
If you’ve now got a taste for Le Havre and fancy a foodie footie break there, visit the Normandy Tourism website for inspiration and the FIFA website to find out which matches are being played in Le Havre. The Women’s World Cup runs from 7 June to 7 July so don’t miss out on all the fun!
Cover photo © F. Godard | Text: F. Lambert / Normandy Tourism