It's almost impossible to resist Rouen's charms. Lying on the river Seine, 65 km from Paris, the settlement was known to the Romans as Rotomagus. Following the Norman conquest of England in the 11th century, Rouen became the capital of Normandy and a period of political and economic ascendancy followed. Many delightful half-timbered houses from this period still line Rouen's alleyways. Darker days followed with the Great Plague of 1348 and the Hundred Years' War, with Rouen reverting to English control in 1419. A decade later, in 1431, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in the Place du Vieux-Marché, becoming one of the city's most famous figures. More recent sons of the city include authors Pierre Corneille and Gustave Flaubert and the Impressionist painter Claude Monet, who made his home at Giverny, 70 km to the south-east.

Badly damaged by both World Wars, Rouen's historic core was lovingly restored, returning the Cathédrale Notre-Dame and other buildings to their former glory. Today a city of 400,000 inhabitants, Rouen's economy remains tied to the river, with 22,000 people employed in the port. Tourism is also a major earner, and it's easy to see why - with history, museums and delicious cuisine, Rouen is one French destination you can't afford to miss.


Begin your tour at the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, a stunning church begun in the 13th century and embellished over the centuries. Marvel at the soaring Beurre and Saint Romain towers, then step inside for the chapel of the Virgin and the 15th century Flemish choir stalls. Don't miss the 13th century stained-glass windows, which miraculously survived wartime bombing.

Continue the architectural theme at the late mediaeval Palais de Justice. These ancient law courts stand on the site of a 12th century Jewish synagogue, and were badly harmed in WWII - some shrapnel and bullet holes are still visible on external walls. Now restored, the ornate façade and soaring ceilings are yours to enjoy.

Rouen has around a dozen museums. All are worth visiting but be sure not to miss the following - the Musee Jeanne D'Arc, devoted to Rouen's famous martyr, and the Musee Le Secq des Tournelles. The latter is devoted to iron, with a fascinating collection of practical and artistic iron objects, as well as information on blacksmiths through the ages.

Close to the cathedral lies the Gros-Horloge, a huge 14th century clock with a single “hand” which still chimes every quarter hour! The beautifully ornate blue-and-gold clock sits above an archway which was once a gate in the Roman walls that protected ancient Rouen.

The Aître Saint-Maclou is the site of large communal graves, where 14th century plague victims were buried. The surrounding half-timbered buildings served as ossuaries, for the storage of bones, as you might guess from the murals! Take note of the skulls and crossbones, gravediggers' tools and the “danse macabre” motifs, as well as the cat's skeleton, immured to provide protection from evil spirits.

For a less grisly experience, visit the rural home of the Impressionist painter, Claude Monet. Surrounded by water-gardens and flowers, his house at Giverny is a beautifully peaceful place. You can drive the 70 km from Rouen, or take the train to Vernon, then cycle or walk 6km to Giverny.


You'll find plenty of department stores and clothes shops in Rouen. For epicureans, there's plenty on offer – perfumeries, craft shops and no fewer than three large markets. The Vieux-Marché takes place daily, with fresh produce and delicious cheeses making it a real pleasure to wander among the stalls. For more mouthwatering shopping, head to Chocolaterie Beyer on rue Grand Pont. The window displays are works of art - everything from lighthouses to sailing ships made of chocolate. Step inside for treats like Calvados marzipan and chocolate coated apple flakes...

Nightlife and Eating Out

Rouen is lively after dark, with lots of bars clustered around Vieux-Marché. Nightclubs include Le Chakra, Le Kiosk, and l'lbiza – clientèle and music vary in each, so you'll need to find the one that suits you best! The tourist information office produces a weekly guide entitled Cette Semaine à Rouen, providing up-to-date details of what's on.In Rouen, brasseries and formal restaurants jostle for space with pizzerias and crêperies. Of the latter, Crêperie Roland on rue Saint-Nicolas serves lovely pancakes in a cosy, wood-floored setting. For Normandy cuisine cooked to perfection, head for Restaurant La Marmite. Try their seven course Menu Dégustation for €50 - perfect for special occasions, although smaller meals are available for those with more modest appetites! Don't miss Rouen specialities, like duckling cooked with calvados or apple tart. For something completely different, try La Suite Afghan. Situated on rue des Augustins near the cathedral, this lounge-cum-restaurant serves inexpensive food influenced by Afghani and Middle Eastern cuisines. They also do take-away.

Tourist Information

Office de Tourisme de Rouen25, place de la Cathédrale BP 666 76008 ROUEN Cedex 1Telephone: 00 33 2 32 08 32 40Email: accueil@rouentourisme.comWebsite: www.rouentourisme,com


Rouen Airport is a 15 minute drive from the city centre, with flights to 30 destinations, mostly domestic. Paris Beauvais airport lies 85 km to the east of Rouen, with connections on Ryanair to Glasgow, Dublin and Shannon. You could also fly to Paris Charles de Gaulle and take the train to Rouen – a journey time of 70 minutes. Alternatively, go green and take the train all the way from the UK!

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