The town of Rouen in France is the capital of Upper Normandy (Haute-Normandie) and historically is the capital city of Normandy (Normandie). It is a beautiful and historic city – William the Conqueror died here in 1087 and Joan of Arc was burned at the stake here in 1431. The wonderful historic buildings have long provided inspiration to painters and artists and it has traditionally been and remains a prosperous area of France. The inland ports of Rouen were historically very important, today they provide harbour for the wealthy who park their yachts there and are a stunning backdrop at which to sit and watch the world go by. Rouen is an area of historic buildings, rustic farm buildings, lovely harbour views and lush rolling countryside.
Rouen was heavily bombed and suffered much destruction during World War II. Parts of the old town survived and there are lovely half timbered medieval houses to see and old cobbled streets. The old part of Rouen has immense character and charm and much of the area that was destroyed was rebuilt and restored to its former glory.
Things to do in Rouen
Visit the splendid Gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame. Monet, the great French impressionist painter exalted its great beauty in a series of famous paintings of the early 1890s. The great artist rented space in buildings opposite the Cathedral, set up studio and produced more than 30 paintings. They were completed at his home in Giverny and you can see several of the paintings at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. You can also see some of Monet’s paintings at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen.
Richard the Lionheart’s heart is buried at the Cathedral, in the Chapelle de la Vierge.
The Cathedral is famous also for its Butter Tower, erected in the early 16th century when Archbishop Georges d’Amboise authorized the burning of butter instead of oil, which was scarce at the time, during Lent.
Marvel at the Gros Horloge: An astronomical clock which parts dating back 7 centuries. Find it in Gros Horloge street.
Remember Joan of Arc: The site where she was executed is commemorated by a bronze statue, the Jeanne d’Arc Museum is dedicated to her memory and you can visit the Tour Jeanne d’Arc, part of the old Rouen Castle (which no longer exists), where it is said that the saint was taken to be tortured though not imprisoned there.
Visit one of the many museums and art galleries. There is a wide choice in this cultural town from the Wrought Iron Museum, Maritime Museum, Museum of Antiquities, Ceramic Museum and many more.
How to get to Rouen
By train: There is a mainline TGV station – Gare de Rouen-Rive-Droite with services to Paris, Amiens, Lille, Lyon, Marseille and Le Havre. A regional service operates to to Caen, Dieppe and other local stations in Normandy.
By Plane: Rouen has its own airport with services to domestic cities and Europe.
By ferry: Caen, Le Havre, Dieppe (about an hour). Calais port and the Channel Tunnel are around 2.5 – 3 hours diving distance.
In Town: Buses and a tram service.