Popular Ports in France
As well as having UNESCO World Heritage site status, the Normandy port town Le Havre offers an abundance of cultural delights to enjoy. The Musée Malraux or MuMa which houses a collection of famous works, including Monet’s iconic Water Lilies series, is not to be missed. St Joseph’s Church is an architectural highlight and part of the post-war rebuild by architect Auguste Perret, its self-supporting tower a celebration of contemporary architectural techniques. Le Havre also has a Blue Flag beach not far from the port terminal for sunbathing and swimming.
The Normandy port town of Cherbourg is a quaint spot with a seafaring history that resonates through its streets. The Liberation Museum offers a fascinating insight into the history of the region, housed inside an imposing 19th-century fort. The surrounding coast offers everything from dramatic cliffs to quiet sandy coves so it’s worth getting off the beaten track to explore. There are a variety of excellent restaurants in Cherbourg with moules-frites (mussels and chips) a local favourite. If you fancy experiencing a traditional French market, head to Place de Gaulle which sells beautiful blooms, deli favourites and fresh produce.
Saint-Nazaire (for Nantes)
Located in the western tip of the Loire Valley – one of the most beautiful regions of France, packed with magical castles – lies Saint-Nazaire, the city by the sea. The highlight is Escal’Atlantic, a fascinating museum where you can climb aboard a submarine and learn about modern naval life. The beautiful town of Nantes is just a little way inland – a trip to the stunning Château des Ducs de Bretagne is a must. This 15th-century castle is the real deal, with its moat and drawbridge. There’s also the visually arresting Île de Nantes, with its incredible steampunk playground.
Located in the edge of north-west France, Brest straddles the Penfold River and is packed with maritime attractions, including the National Navy Museum as well as a fantastic marine discovery centre, Océanopolis, where children can interact with a host of sea creatures. There’s a striking 14th-century castle high up on a hill overlooking the harbour, too. Brest also has a clutch of pretty towns on its doorstep, too, such as Quimper, Locronan and Concarneau, and is the ideal starting point for a tour of Brittany, one of the six Celtic nations.
What are the best cruise ships for a France Cruise?
Royal Caribbean offers the chance to visit Le Havre during the Taste of Paris & Bruges option, onboard the Independence of the Seas. Part of the Freedom class of ships, this vessel is packed with attractions. Aside from 24-hour room service, a spa and surf simulator there are numerous dining options. Active types can also check out the ice-skating rink and climbing wall to keep fit during their cruise.
Shore Excursion Ideas
There’s a host of things to do in north-west France, so whether you’re a lover of culture, castles or coastlines, you’ll have plenty of sightseeing to fill your time with. Here are some ideas:
Brittany’s answer to Stonehenge, Carnac is home to more than 3,000 prehistoric standing stones, some of which are more than 6,000 years old. You’ll find single-standing stones, known as menhirs, (as seen in Asterix books) and multistone clusters, known as dolmens. If your cruise stops off at either Brest and Saint-Nazaire, this mysterious attraction is definitely worth a visit.
MuMa – Museum of Modern art at Le Havre
Modern art lovers will enjoy MuMa, or the Musée d’art moderne André Malraux, to give it its full name. Located right by Le Havre port, the museum faces out to sea and has huge windows, allowing the variable Normandy light to subtly change the mood inside. MuMa houses a huge collection of works from the likes of Degas, Renoir and Gauguin, and the iconic Water Lilies series from Monet.
Prehistoric Park (Malansac)
Love dinosaurs? Of course you do. One hour north from Saint-Nazaire will take you to the Parc de Préhistoire de Bretagne, a 20-hectare park with 30 life-size dinosaur models, including T-Rexes and Velociraptors. Set in beautiful countryside, with plenty of picnic areas, you and the kids will love this more peaceful version of Jurassic Park!