If you are looking for a city near Paris for a quick visit, Rouen is a great option. Easy to reach, just over 1h30, charming, and with many things to see.
It is a city that, despite being destroyed during World War II, managed to retain a Middle Ages architecture and become an exciting city that attracts tourists from all over the world.
I visited the city one weekend because I already live “next door” and wanted to take it easy and seek the most tips for you. But a single day is more than enough, considering you’ll arrive early and leave later in the day.
The main point of the city is a large clock located in the center of the town. Also, the city has a clear link with a French symbol history: Joana d’Arc.
Rouen’s importance in the history
The city of Rouen, considered the capital of Normandy, was marked as the place where Joan of Arc ended his days.
For those who don’t know the story, Joan of Arc was and still is a historical character who helped France confront England during the Hundred Years War. Even very young, just over 14 years old, Joana won several battles, but unfortunately not for long.
She was captured, accused of witchcraft and sentenced to death at stake. After this tragic end, years later, Joan of Arc was beatified by the Catholic Church and considered a saint.
What to do in Rouen
Now that I have told you a little about the city, I will tell you the places worth visiting, how to get to Rouen and, of course, the right places to taste the local cuisine.
Built-in the 12th century, the Notre Dame de Rouen Cathedral has a Gothic style. It is considered one of the tallest churches in France due to its central tower. The original church was destroyed by the Vikings. However, there are still remnants of the ancient Roman cathedral, such as the crypt, which can be visited by guided tour.
The church itself already catches the eye, with all its architectural details. Still, you can be even more impressed by the guided tours that lead you to the crypt where is the heart of Charles V, the chapel of the Virgin, and the baptistery. These visits take place daily at 2:30 pm and must be booked with Veronica by email or telephone (intendance.cathedrale.rouen@gmail).
This cathedral appears in several paintings by impressionist painter Claude Monet – the one who motivates everyone to go to Giverny to see his home and its beautiful gardens.
Another detail, during June and September, the city performs a light show on the facade of the Cathedral, beautiful thing to see! And during the Christmas season, a Christmas market is set up right in front that is also successful.
Other Churches of Rouen
⇒ Abbaye Saint-Ouen
It is a church with a high ceiling and beautiful natural light. Not as famous as Rouen Cathedral, it is a peaceful place that gives you peace of mind. Around the basilica also has an ideal park to rest your legs or even have a picnic. [3 Place du General de Gaulle, 76000 Rouen]
⇒ Église de Saint-Maclou
Gothic in style, this church also suffered from World War II. It has a slightly different ’rounded’ facade but is rich in detail, just like the others. [7 Place Barthélémy, 76000 Rouen]
⇒ Église Jeanne d’Arc
Located on Place du Vieux Marché, this church is named after Joan of Arc. This is because of all the historical events, but also because Joan is considered the city patron saint. It has a modern architecture and beautiful stained glass. [Place du Vieux Marché, 76000 Rouen]
You will quickly see the main point of the city as the famous clock is located right in the center of Rouen. He is all beautiful and rich in ornaments. However, it becomes even more interesting if you pay a visit inside.
During the visit, made with audioguide – with an option in English and Spanish, you will have the opportunity to know all the history of the clock. Also, you will learn about the person responsible for its operation, as well as the history of the city.
The audioguide tour costs 7 euros per person, lasts approximately 40 minutes, and ends at the top of the clock tower that allows you to see Rouen from above. That’s awesome!
Place du Vieux Marché
Famous square for the history of Rouen because in this place, they installed the bonfire for Joan of Arc dying burned.
Apart from this sad part, it is in this area that is located in the primary market of the city and other smaller ones, besides several bars and restaurants.
These more traditional markets are ideal for you to buy typical Normandy food, such as cheeses that are irresistible.
In that same square, there is a beautiful boulangerie! If you want to take a break for a tasty croissant, Ma Boulangerie is the place. It even queues outside on demand. If you’re going to have a quick lunch, they also offer a variety of homemade sandwiches.
Jeanne d’Arc Historial
As I commented at the beginning, the city of Rouen is linked to the story of Joan of Arc. For this reason, in 2015, history was opened in her memory, with an exciting proposal.
The visits have time to start, that is, you do not get there and are already visiting everything. Why that? The rooms are equipped with overhead projectors that automatically rotate to tell the whole story interactively and visually.
In this way, it is possible to have a more unobstructed view of everything that happened to Joana. You also have a sense of how people were judging in a time where women were not to wear pants and have short hair.
The whole visit lasts almost two hours, but you don’t even see the time go by because it’s really well done to get your attention. I think it must be enjoyable for the kids too.
The audio of the videos is in French, but there is the option to get a free audio guide right at the entrance. The first visit starts at 10am, and the ticket costs 10.50 euros per person.
Address: 7 Rue Saint-Romain, 76000 Rouen
Jeanne d’Arc Tour
Today it is a tower. Still, it was actually part of the old Rouen castle built by Philippe Auguste and which served as a prison for Joana d’Arc, hence the origin of the current name. As it is close to the train station where you will arrive, I suggest going there.
To be honest, I wasn’t too excited to visit the tower from the inside, although it’s free. I found it kind of boring, even more knowing that there is a museum dedicated to Joana d’Arc. So it’s up to you, but it’s worth stopping by at least. ?
Important to say, the tower is also called “le donjon de Rouen.” Besides the visits, there are escape game style games that can be interesting if you are in a group and with time.
Endereço: 71 Rue Bouvreuil, 76000 Rouen
Museums in Rouen
If you have some time left in your day, there are several museums to visit in Rouen. Still, I recommend, mainly two: Musée des Beaux-Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts) and the Musée de Rouen. It focuses on natural history and has free admission.
However, you still have a few other museums such as Musée de la céramique, Musée de l’Education, Musée de la Ville de Rouen e Musée des antiquités.
Where to eat in Rouen
◊ L’espiguette: French restaurant with typical Provencal décor, delicious dishes, and generous desserts. Very old fashioned, they do not carry the menu on the table, you should look at the picture on the wall and choose your plate. [25 Place Saint-Amand]
◊ Dame Cakes: Cute place for afternoon tea, close to the Joana d’Arc museum. Everything is made homely to make you feel at grandma’s house. They offer lunch formulas, but I advise you to go for a mid-afternoon break that leaves 8.90 per person (word ‘gouter‘). [70 Rue Saint-Romain]
◊ La Parenthèse: Modern rest, ideal for lighter meals like soup or a salad. However, there is also pasta, pies, and dessert. Prices for lunch formulas range from 13 to 15.50 euros. [7 Rue de la Poterne]
◊ Restaurant Les Maraîchers: Situated in Rouen’s most central square since 1912, this restaurant also serves classic French cuisine. Besides a nice environment, the prices are very friendly. For example, a starter + dish or dish + dessert formula costs around 19 euros. [37 Place du Vieux Marché]
◊ La Boite à Bières: If you are a beer fan, I recommend you this bar that seems to be from another era and offers a very varied beer menu. [35 Rue Cauchoise]
How to get to Rouen
In addition to the car option that allows you to explore other cities around Rouen, you have the opportunity to go by bus or train.
I advise you to take the train, although the bus is a little cheaper and with almost the same travel time. By train, you leave the easily accessible Saint-Lazare Metro station and get off in the center of Rouen. The journey takes an average of 1h30.
To buy train tickets in advance, simply visit the website of SNCF, the company responsible for rail transport.
If you prefer to spend less and go by bus, the company that makes this trip is Ouibus, and you get off La Defense, subway line 1 to get there and get off at the center of Rouen. Travel time is pretty much the same as going by train. However, it is worth mentioning that, depending on the day of the week, you can catch traffic on the road, especially near the toll booths.
Other tips for visiting Rouen
Avoid Sunday! The French usually keep Sunday for them, especially in cities of the same grace as on other weekdays.
Visit the local shops! There are several porcelain shops where the paintings are handmade as in the old days. I also recommend a divine macaron store called Auzou, close to the clock.
Don’t go to lunch too late! If already in Paris most restaurants do not serve meals all day, without a break, imagine in smaller cities ?! Ideally try to have lunch between 12h and 13h30.
I hope this Rouen guide will be useful to you. If you have any suggestions or experiences to add, you can write in the comments. I’ll love it!