Le Havre is always there where you least expect it. Considered “mineral” due to the reconstruction, yet so green with an average 37 hectares per inhabitant !
The Hanging Gardens, planted in the former 19th century fort, provides an exceptional view of the sea, the Seine estuary and the reconstructed city and a voyage with plants. A botanical world tour.
From the top of the hanging gardens, the visitor’s gaze takes in Le Havre, listed World Heritage, an estuary which inspired the greatest names of Modern Art, and an enterprising port turned towards the world.
A place for escaping, for discovery and for life, this fort pays tribute to the Norman explorers who, from the 15th century, enhanced European gardens with their discoveries.
The landscape architects did not disturb the structure of the Vauban-style fort, but reworked it and tailored it to the project. The bastions, alveolus, ramparts, ditches and gunpowder magazine are all still in place. The four bastions have been converted into themed gardens: austral, oriental Asia, North America and lastly, discoveries by contemporary explorers. In the middle of the courtyard, surrounding a green carpet, visitors to the greenhouse collections revel in the scents of perfumed or aromatic plants, varieties of orchids, begonias and tropical plants.
A trading port, initiated by King François 1er, Le Havre played a key role in exchanges for both importation and exportation. So it is logical that the theme of this reconversion evokes the relation between plants, the sea and voyages.
Don’t miss the test garden. You will discover banks of strange plants and flowers being tested for their capacity to acclimatise to our region.
In a state of perpetuation evolution, the gardens are different every day, so don’t hesitate to come back.
Amongst the greenery, there is a little-known treasure that’s worth the detour: the Japanese garden. It is a surprising place, ideal for contemplation and meditation amidst the buildings and docks - a breath of fresh air far from the madding crowd.
The story begins with the water - so omnipresent. First of all a trickle, like the birth of a child. The trickle then gains momentum, and becomes turbulent like a teenager, before calming down and turning into a pond - an adult.
Built in 1992, and designed by the landscape gardener Yasuko Miyamae and the Norman architect, Samuel Craquelin, it symbolises the union between the twin sister ports, Le Havre and Osaka. The two rivers symbolise the history of the two ports, the pond evokes the union between the two oceans and the pebbly beach is a perfect reproduction of Le Havre beach. As for the stone lanterns, they incarnate the divine light and represent the mutual enrichment between the two cultures. Every detail is a reference to the meeting of the two worlds. The paths are curved like the S of “Sagesse” or wisdom, to give a gentle impression. And the pond is home to a group of brightly-coloured Koi fish.
The Montgeon forest, the city’s green lung with a surface area of 270 hectares is the ideal place to escape to, for enjoying nature or practising sport, alone or with the family.
With football pitches, playgrounds, a bike hire service for adults and children, and pedal boats for learning to navigate on the lake, the forest is the place to be for experienced athletes as well as beginners and enthusiasts.
There are itineraries to suit all tastes: cross country running, orienteering, hiking, mountain biking for the most daring, and a fitness trail for the less courageous. And special itineraries have been created for disabled users.
If you would quite simply like to stroll, have a family picnic, savour nature for the day or improve your botanical knowledge, the rich collection at the conifer arboretum should satisfy your curiosity.