HomeCity BreaksRouen - The City Of A Hundred Spires

Rouen – The City Of A Hundred Spires

Although many of us have been captivated by the romance and allure of Paris, there are other charming destinations within easy reach of the French capital. One such delightful city that is easily accessible by train is Rouen.

Introducing Rouen

Rouen was once described by Victor Hugo as the city of ‘a hundred spires’. It is the capital of Normandy and a destination steeped in history, culture, and charm.

Nestled along the banks of the river Seine, the city is renowned for its picturesque medieval architecture, rich artistic heritage, its excellent University and its association with Joan of Arc.

Departure from Paris: The Journey Begins

From Paris Charles de Gaulle you should take a train to Gare St-Lazare where you can pick up the service to Rouen. Prices range from approximately 30 to 80 euros depending, as always, on how early you book.

The journey takes approximately two and a half hours with the scenery soon changing from urban landscapes to those wonderful French rolling green fields and rural countryside villages.

Arriving in Rouen: A Glimpse of Medieval Majesty

Upon arrival in Rouen, you are immediately struck by the city’s medieval grandeur. The towering spires of cathedrals punctuate the skyline, casting shadows over cobblestone streets steeped in history.

Having settled into your hotel many will make their first stop, the magnificent 12th-century Rouen Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture that has inspired artists and writers for centuries. Remarkably this building used to be the tallest in the world and even today is still the tallest church in France.

The Church of Saint Joan of Arc stands at the old market square in which the saint was burned at the stake in the early 15th century. Today the pretty houses and buildings that border the square provide a wide range of cafes, brasseries, and restaurants to entice visitors.

Immerse Yourself in History: Museums and Landmarks

Rouen is a city that wears its history proudly, and nowhere is this more evident than in its museums and landmarks. Wander the halls of the Musée des Beaux-Arts and enjoy the many works by renowned artists such as Monet, Renoir, and Delacroix.

The Joan of Arc History Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of the legendary heroine, while the Gros-Horloge, a stunning astronomical clock dating back to the 14th century, stands as a testament to Rouen’s medieval past.

Retail Therapy: Shopping In Rouen

For those inclined to indulge in a spot of retail therapy, Rouen offers a wealth of shopping opportunities. The charming old town, with its cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses, and bustling markets, invites visitors to wander. The bustling city centre is lined with charming boutiques, artisan shops, and trendy galleries. From high-end fashion to locally crafted goods, there’s something to suit every taste and budget. For a snapshot of local life visit the Marché aux Fleurs (Flower Market), where fragrant blooms and vibrant produce fill the stalls, creating a feast for the senses.

If you’re a fan of exploring flea markets and antique shops, head over to Rue Damette and Rue Saint-Romain. These popular streets are brimming with intriguing art, ceramic workshops, and antique stores offering second-hand treasures. This neighbourhood is an ideal spot to immerse yourself in the city’s ambience and indulge in its culinary delights.

Parks and Gardens: Finding Tranquillity in Nature

Amidst the hustle and bustle of city life, Rouen is proud of its many parks and gardens.

The Jardin des Plantes, where lush greenery and colourful blooms provide a serene escape from the urban chaos while the Parc de la Presqu’île Rollet, with its sweeping views of the Seine River, offers the perfect spot for a picnic or a moment of quiet reflection.

For those interested in outdoor activities, Rouen’s picturesque riverside promenades, lush parks, and scenic trails offer opportunities for strolls, cycling, and boating.

Evening Entertainment: Dining and Culture

As is the way with many of the best French cities there is a vibrant dining scene. From cosy bistros serving up traditional Normandy fare to chic wine bars and gourmet restaurants, the city offers a culinary adventure to suit every palate.

If you are looking to try some local dishes then how about the Normandy-style sole meunière, scallops a la Rouennaise, Agneau de Pré-Salé (Lamb) or why not indulge in the many varieties of Normandy cheese, particularly the Camembert?

The apples are famous in this region and as such the local cider is a great choice to wash down some of those fabulous dishes as are, of course, the French wines.

As a sweet treat and something to perhaps bring home, how about Les Larmes de Jeanne d’Arc which translates to the Tears of Joan of Arc – these are almonds coated in caramel and chocolate.

After dinner, take in some culture at the Théâtre des Arts or you could catch a live music gig at one of the city’s many bars and clubs.

Festivals & Events

Throughout the year Rouen boasts a plethora of events including art and history to photography and music.

Perhaps the standout event planned for 2024 is the 5th edition of the “Normandie Impressionniste” festival which showcases masters such as Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley. From the 22nd of March to the 22 of September 2024, this event will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Impressionist movement!

Where To Stay In Rouen

Rouen offers a diverse array of accommodations to suit every budget and preference. Here are some suggestions:

Luxury: Hôtel de Bourgtheroulde, Autograph Collection
Known for its stunning architecture blending historic charm with modern luxury, this 5* hotel offers an opulent spa, gourmet dining, and elegant rooms.

Mid-Range: Mercure Rouen Centre Champ de Mars
Situated in the heart of Rouen, this 4* hotel offers comfortable rooms, friendly service, and convenient access to the city’s attractions at an affordable price.

Budget: Ibis Rouen Champ de Mars
Perfect for budget-conscious travellers, this 3* hotel offers simple yet comfortable accommodations, a central location, and excellent value for money.

Explore: In the Vicinity

If you are staying in Rouen for a few days, then how about hiring a car and heading out and exploring some of the treasures of Normandy:

The picturesque village of Giverny is located approximately 80 kilometres from Rouen. Explore the famous Claude Monet’s House and Gardens, where you can admire the beautiful water lilies and vibrant flowerbeds that inspired many of Monet’s paintings.

Discover the charming port town of Honfleur, situated about 90 kilometres from Rouen. Stroll along the cobbled streets lined with half-timbered houses, explore the historic Vieux Bassin (Old Harbour), and visit the Sainte-Catherine Church, the largest wooden church in France.

Explore the stunning cliffs and natural arches of Étretat, located approximately 90 kilometres northwest of Rouen. Walk along the coastal path for breathtaking views of the English Channel and visit iconic landmarks such as the Needle Rock and the famous Arch of Étretat.

A Journey to Remember

From its medieval landmarks to its vibrant cultural scene, Rouen offers a unique and fascinating alternative to Paris. With its easy rail connection, superb gastronomy, rich history, and French flair, this timeless gem of Normandy is very much worth a visit.

Contact Information

For more information visit the Office de Tourisme de Rouen or contact your local travel agent or tour operator.

My thanks to Rouen Tourisme for providing the images for which all copyrights are stated.

This article is featured in the Aurigny Airlines Magazine “En Voyage“.



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