France is usually on the bucket list of any traveler. It is where art, history, and nature join forces to create an exquisite sense of beauty and cultural uniqueness. When thinking about France, the first city that comes to mind is Paris. But the country has many exceptional cities to visit that should be on your travel schedule. Rouen is one of those cities.
Being on the river Seine, reaching Rouen is an easy trip. It is located near Paris and can be reached by various means of transportation like the train, the airport or by car. The city is the capital of the Normandy region. Thus, it is known for its connection with Anglo-Norman history.
Walking in it is like taking a tour in medieval Europe among the Rouennais. It is full of historical landmarks, as it used to be one of the largest cities of Medieval Europe. There is no better way to describe it than what Georges Rodenbach wrote in his, The Bells of Bruges, “In France there is Rouen, with its rich accumulation of architectural monuments, its cathedral like an oasis of stone, which produced Corneille and then Flaubert, two pure geniuses shaking hands across the centuries. There is no doubt about it, beautiful towns make beautiful souls.”
1) Rouen Castle
A fortified castle built by Philip II of France in the 13th century that served as a royal residency at the time. It is located north of the medieval town of Rouen. It has a military association with the Hundred Years’ War. Furthermore, it is where Joan of Arc was imprisoned in 1430. Today, only the 12 feet tower where Joan of Arc was imprisoned stands amid the modern town, and it is open to the public. The castle thus can be easily reached by public transportation.
2) Church of Saint Joan of Arc
It is located in the City center of Rouen, north France, in the ancient market square. It is a Catholic Church, built in 1979 to immortalize the place where Saint Joan of Arc was burnt in 1430. The exact spot of the burning is marked outside the church by a small garden. The church’s structure with its curve is meant to remind us of the flames which consumed Joan of Arc in the same place.
3) Rouen Cathedral
The Notre-Dame Cathedral of Rouen is a standing religious landmark that was first built in 1144. It was destroyed during different wars over the years and reconstructed again. An act that made its building structure appear unique and of distinct style. The cathedral’s exceptional construction made it a source of inspiration to many artists. It was included in a series of paintings by a French impressionist; Calude Monte. In addition, it came to life as a character in Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, which was written in 1831.
The Cathedral is located near the symbolic sites in the Seine-Maritime region, surrounded by a neighborhood with ancient homes. Also, every year, the cathedral’s courtyard hosts the Christmas market. In short, it is a must-see, inspirational historical site.
4) The Gros-Horloge
The Gros-Horloge is a great astronomical clock that was built in the 14th century in Rouen. It is installed in an arch building dividing the Rue du Gros-Horloge in the old town of Rouen. The clock’s exceptional two-faced design depicts the sun with its 24 rays on a blue background that symbolizes the sky. A single hand in the clock shows the hour. It also features the moon phases in a sphere of 30 centimetres in diameter that is located above the clock face. Its working mechanism was one of the oldest in Europe, but it was powered by electricity in the 1920s.
It is recommended that you take the audio tour while climbing up the clock building. It is when you will learn more about the clock’s mechanics and its history. Also, the top of the building offers a marvellous view of the old town of Rouen and its Cathedral. It is going to be a remarkable site to visit for architecture and astronomy lovers.
5) Church of Saint-Ouen Abbey
Saint-Ouen abbey church was listed as historic monument in 1840. The church is named after Saint Owen, a bishop in the 7th century in Rouen. It is built in the Gothic architecture style. The Catholic Church is not only famous for its architectural design, but also for the design of its pipe organ. The church’s abbey was originally built as an abbey for the Benedictine Order. It was destroyed and rebuilt during several wars over the years. After being wrecked during the French Revolution, its building is now used as a city hall for Rouen.
6) Church of Saint-Maclou
The Saint- Maclou church is a uniquely designed architecture that follows the Flamboyant style of Gothic architecture. It was built during the transitional period from Gothic to Renaissance at the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century. It is located at the heart of Rouen’s old town amid the old Norman houses. It was considered a historic monument in 1840. Therefore, it is one of the must-see landmarks to put on your list during your visit to Rouen Cathedral and the Church of Saint-Ouen.
7) Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen
The Museum of Fine Arts of Rouen is an art museum inaugurated by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1801. It is located in the city centre near Square Verdrel. It is renowned for its extensive work of art collection that features the period from the 15th century to the present. The museum’s art collection varies from paintings, sculptures, and drawings. It has the second-largest Impressionist collection in France; featuring paintings by great artists like Pissarro, Degas, Monet, Renoir , Sisley, and Caillebotte. It also has two inner courtyards covered with glass where you can enjoy a drink surrounded by a sculpture garden.
8) Maritime, Fluvial and Harbour Museum of Rouen
It is a museum that features work of art dedicated to the port of Rouen. It includes a photo history of the port, including the destruction caused by World War II. Furthermore, it also has a ship exhibition and a section for submarine history; in addition to featuring other exhibitions, and the famous whale skeleton. It is located in building 13, which used to be a former port building in Quai Émile Duchemin.
9) Museum of Antiquities
The Museum of antiquities was originally built in 1931 in the place of a 17th-century monastery at street Beauvoisine. It features a wide range of collections from different stages of the history of local art; from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, adding to a Greek and Egyptian collection.
10) Jardin des Plantes de Rouen
The garden has a wide range of plants, over 5600 of at least 600 different species. It dates back to 1691 but was only opened to the public in 1840. A statue of the famous writer Eugène Noël is also installed in the garden along with a runic stone from Norway which was placed in 1911. The garden is located on street Trianon.
11) Rouen Opera House
The famous opera house in Rouen can be reached easily as it is located near the Metro and TEOR station Théâtre des arts. Its first hall was built between 1774 and 1776 near what is known today as Grand-Pont and Charrettes streets. The theatre was destroyed several times due to war casualties. The current building is located at the end of Joan of Arc Street, which was finished after 10 years of work in 1962.
Famous Events and Festivals
Rouen festivals are usually accompanied by lots of fun activities and exceptional quality time. Some of these festivals are:
- Joan of Arc: Two days festival on the last weekend of May every year.
- Film Festival: Held during the end of March. It is when you can enjoy new unreleased French movies.
- Rouen Armada: 9 days festival organized every five years that takes place in summer. It is where people enjoy a fireworks show and special events.
- Saint- Romain Fair of Rouen: It is a yearly fair that lasts about a month, usually from the end of October till the end of November. It is considered the second largest fair in France where people of all ages and backgrounds can find entertainment.
Where to stay?
There are many hotel options to stay in Rouen that would satisfy your quality taste and budget. The best 5 hotels near the historical site of Rouen are:
- Mercure Rouen Centre Champ-de-Mars
- Radisson Blu Hotel Rouen Centre
- Comfort Hotel Rouen Alba
- Mercure Rouen Centre Cathedrale Hotel
The best accommodation options on a budget include:
- Astrid Hotel Rouen
- Studios Le Medicis
- Le Vieux Carré
- Kyriad Direct Rouen Centre Gare
Where to Eat?
France, in general, has a famous cuisine. You cannot visit France and not try their famous food options, from French baguettes to the delicious French cheese. The French Rouen, being a city with old history, also rises up to the same expectation, adding to it the Normandy taste.
Some famous dining out options in Rouen include:
- Le Pavlova Salon De The – Patisserie
- La Petite Auberge
How to get around?
Reaching Rouen and getting around in the city is not going to be a problem due to its wide network of public transportations. Various options are available, among which are:
- Mainline trains
- Regional trains
- TEOR (Transport Est-Ouest Rouennais)
Hopefully this article on the Amazing things to do in Rouen have given you a lot of inspiration. We would also like to suggest you read our travel blogs on Must Do Things in France, Things To Do In Paris, and of course one of our favourites – Things To Do in Brittany.