Le Havre is a port city situated in the north west of France, in the Seine Maritime department, which is in the Haute Normandie region. With 183,900 inhabitants, called the Havrais, the city in itself is the largest of Normandy. However, when it comes to the agglomeration it stands second behind Rouen. Le Havre is also one of the sous-préfectures of the department along with Dieppe.
Le Havre was listed as a World Heritage by the UNESCO, the 15th of July 2005, for its “innovative exploitation of the concrete potential”. It is one of the few contemporary sites to have been listed in Europe, and hence 133 protected hectares represent “an exceptional example of post war architecture and town planning”.
Since its creation Le Havre has based its economy on its harbour. Indeed, the harbour, and with it the city, were built by François 1er, in order to avoid an English landing at the entrance of the Seine River. Hence, Le Havre was as much a defensive harbour as a fishing one. During the 17th century, Le Havre asserts itself as an international maritime harbour and the French east India Company settled there in 1642. During the 18th century the city reached its golden age. People from all over Europe used to go there for trade business or to settle. The city expanded a lot at that time; construction of big boulevards, city hall, courthouse, new stock exchange, etc.
During WWII Le Havre suffered 132 bombings, and as a consequence the city centre was totally destroyed. In 1945, the project of reconstruction of the city was given to the Perret architecture agency which applied classicism structural theories.
In France in 2009 a property costs in average €3,197 /sq m. Since in Le Havre the average price is around €2,400 /sq m, the city can be said to be very affordable. However this is surprising if we take into account all the assets the city boasts, such as transport facilities, administrative offices, and a brand new city centre which deserved to be listed to the UNESCO World Heritage.
Owing to all these qualities, buying a property in Le Havre is a good investment not only for a second home, as it is close by England, hence easy and cheap to go, but also for a buy-to-let. All the more that 60% of residents in the city are tenants.
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Many reasons make Le Havre a very attractive city, especially for British people, as it is located just across the English Channel.
Culture, art and historical heritage: as already mentioned, Le Havre has a glorious past from the 17th to the 19th century. Unfortunately, most of its heritage was destroyed during WWII. However there are some remains which are nowadays under protection, and which can tell the story of this renowned 18th century harbour. Among these vestiges stands out the Maison de l’Armateur (the ship-owner’s house), which is a beautiful 18th century house built in a rich quarter of the city. You can also visit the Malraux Museum. It was built in 1961, along the estuary, and at that time it was the first Culture House-Museum in France, and also the most modern museum in Europe.
Enlightened city: the architecture heritage has been emphasized thanks to nocturnal lights. When strolling into the city by night you will see the Saint-Joseph Church, the Town Hall, the Victory and Volcano Monuments, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Maison de l’Armateur, etc. all enlightened. It gives another personality to the city and it makes it even more alive.
Architectural style: in a country where only noble and former traditional architecture is recognised and appreciated, Le Havre stands out for its architectural heritage. Indeed, its heritage stretches from its creation during the 16th century, until today. Auguste Perret, the architect who designed the town planning in 1945 is nowadays given credence as a modern town planning specialist amongst architects, and its works are being studied in architecture universities. Le Havre is a beautiful combination between traditional and modern heritage.
Cosmopolitan life: since the 18th century Le Havre has been a cosmopolitan city. The international maritime harbour used to attract many wealthy people from all over Europe, from Italian to Polish. Many Bretons settled in the area as well, and they used to represent 10% of the population. As a consequence, Le Havre culture is a mix of European and French culture, and this is what makes Le Havre such a pleasant city to live in.
Beach resort: Le Havre has based its economy on the harbour but for 20 years it has also been a sought-after destination for seaside tourism. With 2km of seafront, Le Havre boasts the Seaside Resort label since 1999, as well as the Pavillon bleu label, recognised in 34 countries, and certifying the good quality of the water. This is not all! Le Havre also displays the Water Resort label since 1999, with a marina, and more than 30 associations and clubs of windsurf, fishing, snorkelling, rowing, etc.
Location – transport links: Le Havre is an ideal destination for British people thanks to its closeness. Indeed, owing to its harbour, you have direct liaison to Porstmouth every day, and to Newhaven, also every day, but only in summer. Le Havre is also well linked to other French cities. Because of its geographical isolation, politics were willing to develop a motorway network, in order to move closer the city from other cities. Hence, there are 2 motorways, started in Le Havre, the A31, which links to the Normandy motorway and makes Le Havre one hour driving from Rouen, and 2 hours from Paris, and the A29 which links Le Havre to the north of France. Train networks have also been developed; there are Corail trains going to Paris, as well as the TGV (speed train) going to Lyon, Paris and Marseille.
Anglo-Normande houses: this kind of dwelling can be found mainly along the seaside, either in Le Havre itself, but more commonly, outside the city, in residential areas. They are usually 20th century house and are located in front of the seaside, which allows a breathtaking panorama. They are usually 2 o 3 storey high and come with a private parking. On the ground floor you will find a hall, a living room with parquet floor, a sitting room, a fireplace and picture windows. On the first floor there are the bedrooms, 4 or 5, a bathroom, a dressing room.
Appartments: as they represent 69% of housing in Le Havre you are likely to find one of them. As already said, Le Havre has been almost totally rebuilt after WWII. As a consequence, most appartments you will find will be modern ones, in modern concrete buildings. They come with all modern features, such as american kitchen, living room, 2 or 3 bedrooms, bathroom with separated WC, and a small desk. In most of them you will have a private parking and sometimes a balcony.
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