Visit Rouen (Normandy, France)
Rouen is a large town, and capital of the Upper Normandy region, situated in the Seine-Maritime department.
Unfortunately a great deal of Rouen was very badly damaged during the second world war, but extensive reconstruction has taken place to rebuild the medieval old town , and Rouen also contains a number of noteworthy monuments including an impressive cathedral - famously painted by Monet on many occasions. Rouen is classified as a ‘City of Art and History’ and has more than 200 protected sites.
The cathedral is undoubtedly the highlight of a visit to Rouen, despite the troubled history it has had. The cathedral we see today is third cathedral in the same location (nothing remains of the first, but the crypt from the second is part of the current cathedral).
It was then very badly damaged during bombing in April 1944 and came close to complete collapse. Happily the cathedral was saved and has undergone major renovations since that time.
It is the ornate facade with highly decorated entranceway that is the main feature of the cathedral, although the very tall iron spire might catch your eye first.
Inside the cathedral, the light filled nave, the stained glass windows, the effigy of Richard the Lionheart, the staircase to the library and the Lady Chapel are among the features of interest.
Other highlights in Rouen
Wandering around the old centre of Rouen there are fabulous half timbered buildings to be seen on every street. There are some particularly impressive examples around the Church and Cemetery of Saint Maclou and around the Church of Saint Joan.
The Saint Maclou church is built in the 'flamboyant gothic' style and is very attractive. Nearby you can see the Aitre Saint-Maclou. This was the church cemetery and dates back to the time of the Great Plague.
The buildings now house the School of Fine Art. Have a look at the buildings to see carvings evoking death and the mummified cat.
The church of St Joan of Arc has a completely different appearance to much of historic Rouen. This modern church has been built on the site where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake. The large cross stands on the exact spot, with the church next to it. The strangely shaped slate tiled roof is supposed to represent the flames (it has quite a dragon-like appearance to my mind).
Next to the church the same style roof sweeps away to cover the food market and the ensemble is quite a contrast to the wood and timber buildings on the other side of the square.
From here the Rue du Gros Horloge takes you to the Great Clock housed in a Gothic Belfry with a Renaissance archway. It is spectacular. The astronomical clock also shows the phases of the moon dates from the early 16th century.
Another remarkable building in Rouen is the Palais de Justice. This building almost has the air of a cathedral it is so beautifully decorated on the outside. It has been restored since the war but certain parts have been deliberately left exposed as a testament to the bombardments the city suffered during its liberation by the allies. The Palais de Justice is the largest civil building in the gothic style in France.
You can also see the impressive Abbey Church of Saint-Ouen, and the Joan of Arc Tower where Joan was imprisoned and threatened with torture.
There are several museums in Rouen, including a Museum of Fine Arts (with an important display of Impressionist Paintings) and a Museum of Ceramics (historically an important product in the town).
Gustave Flaubert (who wrote Madame Bovary and Salambo) was born in the town, an event commemorated as a museum in the house where he was born. Rouen’s Natural History Museum is second in France only to that of Paris and has an impressive collection of artefacts.
Joan of Arc in Rouen
It is hard to visit Rouen without thinking a little of Joan of Arc. After the Burgundians had captured Joan of Arc, and subsequently sold her to the English, she was brought to the town, threatened with torture at the Joan of Arc Tower, then put on trial for heresy.
She was subsequently burned at the stake in the Place du Vieux Marché in Rouen on 30 May 1431. The Church of Saint Joan is the modern church that you will see in Rouen, in the Place du Vieux Marché.
Note: some Rouen photos kindly contributed by Vincent-J Liagre
Photos of Rouen
Click any picture to start the gallery
Tourist classifications for Rouen
Rouen has received the following tourist classifications: listed town of Art and History ; historical protected town centre' (secteur sauvegardé)
Address: Rouen, Seine-Maritime, Normandy, 76000 || GPS: latitude 49.4439, longitude 1.1033
Map of Rouen & places nearby
Highlights close by
La Bouille 16km
Jumieges Abbey 20km
Suggested tourist attractions to visit near Rouen, France
- Abbaye Saint-Georges - remarkable garden (10km)
- Abbaye Saint Georges de Boscherville (Saint-Martin-de-Boscherville) - religious monument (10km)
- Montville - ville fleurie 4* (12km)
- Parc du manoir de Villers - remarkable garden (14km)
- Jardin Plume - remarkable garden (15km)
- Parc zoologique de Clères - zoo or wildlife park (17km)
- Elbeuf - town of art and history (19km)
- Jardins du château de Vandrimare - remarkable garden (19km)
- Abbaye de Jumièges (Jumieges) - religious monument (21km)
- Clos du Coudray - remarkable garden (23km)
Market days in Rouen: Regular market(s) are held in Rouen each Tuesday all day & Sunday & Saturday all day & Friday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)
The French version of this page is at Rouen (Francais)