Le Havre (Paris), France
The port at Le Havre in northern France is the closest large cruise ships can get to Paris. It's takes about 2.5 hours to travel to the City of Light from the coast — and it's worth it for a sightseeing day if you've never been or won't be back anytime soon. If you're a repeat visitor, or not up for cramming the city's highlights into one shortened day, Le Havre is a cultural hub in its own right. Bombed to bits during World War II and rebuilt in modernist concrete, the town has swank bars, a futuristic spa complex, and unrivaled impressionist galleries.
What We Love
The Lower City: The area around Hotel de Ville is considered the European epitome of smart urban planning. Judge for yourself if Auguste Perret’s reinforced concrete rebuild is the architectural wonder of the postwar world.
The Upper City: For a taste of the Old World, head to the effortlessly appealing (and strategically unimportant) suburbs along the coast, which were spared from Allied bombing. The opulent villas and twisting alleys beguile in all the ways you imagine France would.
Best Known For
Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux: Le Havre doesn’t call itself "the birthplace of impressionism" for nothing. This museum rivals Parisian institutions, with exquisite works by masters like Renoir, Monet, Degas, and Manet.
Bains des Docks: Take the waters at this magisterial spa and water park that rifts on ancient Roman baths and was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Architect Jean Nouvel.
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Who It's Best For
Urban Explorers: Formerly seedy docks are an urban design enthusiast’s playground, where once grubby warehouses and factories now host slick bars and gastropubs.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It’s Still an Active Port: This is also France’s major container shipping terminal and has all the attendant headaches of any port city, with a little more grit and crime. Embrace the authenticity.
Sarah Rose is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who also writes for The Wall Street Journal.