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Tourism, holidays & weekends guide in the Seine-Maritime

Rouen - Tourism, holidays & weekends guide in the Seine-Maritime

Normandy's historic capital, Rouen, is known as the City of a Hundred Bell Towers and is a fascinating place. With an exceptional architectural and religious heritage, it is no surprise that it has earned City of Art and History certification! You can take a lovely stroll through the picturesque old neighbourhoods on cobbled streets lined with historic half-timbered houses. You will pass remarkable monuments such as the Cathedral of Our Lady (Notre-Dame), a Gothic masterpiece whose construction began in the 12th century. Built on the foundations of a 4th-century structure, it still has its episcopal palace and houses the tombs of the Dukes of Normandy. Culminating at 151 metres, its spire is the highest in France!

Endowed with a five-porch portal with carved wooden doors, the Church of St. Maclou is a perfect example of the Flamboyant Gothic style, making it another must-see monument in Rouen. Just like the Abbey Church of St. Ouen, built from the 14th to 16th centuries and formerly one of the most powerful Benedictine monasteries in Normandy. Inside, note the 80 stained glass windows adorning the abbey church on three levels. You may be interested to learn that the city hall is now based here, in what used to be the monks' dormitory.

Rouen also has one of the last medieval necropolises in Europe in its city centre: the Ossuary of St. Maclou. Founded during the Black Death plague of 1348, this former mass grave, now a listed Historic Monument, still has macabre ornaments on its galleries' half-timbered façades. Built in the 16th century to provide an ossuary, these galleries are set in a peaceful, tree-lined courtyard.

Another remarkable historical treasure is the Great Clock (Gros Horloge), consisting of a Gothic belfry, a Renaissance dial and a Louis XV fountain. This belfry contains the city's bells and clock, whose mechanism, operational until 1928, was one of the oldest in Europe!

We cannot talk about Rouen without mentioning Joan of Arc. Several buildings tell her story, from the Joan of Arc Tower, the old keep of the castle where her trial took place, to the Place du Vieux Marché where she was burned alive in 1431. A large cross also indicates the location where the stake stood. In the centre of this square, the Church of St. Joan of Arc has some remarkable 16th-century stained glass windows that come from the old Church of St. Vincent. To bring her whole story back to life, the Joan of Arc Historial, based in the archbishops' palace, offers a very interesting interactive journey.

France's largest Gothic civil monument, the Parliament of Normandy's origins date back to the late Middle Ages. If you look closely, you will see shell holes on the façades, a reminder of the 1944 bombing. Today, it houses the Law Courts. And below the courtyard of this building, you will find the Sublime House, a Romanesque Hebraic stone structure that is the oldest Jewish monument in the country. Discovered in 1976, it is named after a graffiti in Hebrew meaning "May this house be sublime".

Rouen will satisfy lovers of art, culture and traditions with the Fine Arts Museum and its superb collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures and objets d'art from the 15th century to the present day, the Ceramics Museum exhibiting remarkable, historic pieces made in Rouen, or the Le Secq des Tournelles Ironwork Museum, housed in the Church of St. Lawrence and dedicated to the art of wrought ironwork.

After all these visits, go for a stroll along the carefully landscaped banks of the Seine, or head for the Botanical Garden (Jardin des Plantes), which has both a French formal garden and an English garden. You will find many botanical varieties there as well as a beautiful rose garden.

Additional information

City of Art and History, Rouen takes place in Normandy, in the department of Seine-Maritime. Sharing its status as capital of Normandy with the city of Caen, political seat, it is today the most densely populated city of the Great West.

Ancient, Rouen has especially developed in the Middle Ages, as evidenced by an important architectural heritage present throughout the old center of the city. There are narrow streets lined with half-timbered houses, picturesque and full of charm. Although it is partly due to the myth and death of Joan of Arc, this Norman commune is above all one of the most important tourist sites in the region.

Today large economic pole, Rouen attracts visitors by its antiquated charm and its historical richness that shines through much of this city with many attractions. Its proximity to Le Havre, Étretat and Honfleur and its harbor make it an excellent base for exploring a part of Normandy.

Things to see and do

Walking through the old center of Rouen, one has the impression to pass the barrier of time and to dive in the middle of the Middle Ages.

Of Gothic style, the cathedral Notre-Dame is surely the most beautiful monument of the city of Rouen. The one that inspired a series of paintings to Claude Monet was built between the eleventh century and the fifteenth century. The second highest cathedral in the world behind Cologne, it reveals in its interior the history of the stained glass window from the 12th century to the present day, as well as the burials of several Dukes of Normandy, such as Rollon or the famous Richard Cœur de Lion. Its facade is dazzled by its 70 sculptures representing notably apostles, saints, angels or former archbishops of Rouen. On the south facade, the tower of Beurre, 80 meters high, is a fine example of flamboyant Gothic.

Another important religious building, the Abbey Saint-Ouen was once the most powerful Benedictine monastery of all Normandy. Also representative of the flamboyant and radiant Gothic, it was built between the beginning of the fourteenth century and the sixteenth century. At the beginning of the 19th century, its former dormitory became the town hall of the commune.

A jewel of the flamboyant Gothic style, the Saint-Maclou church was built between the 15th and 16th centuries. As evidenced by the Norman tradition, it reveals a tower-lantern that also serves as a bell tower. Heavyly attacked during the bombing of the Second World War, it still unveils a sacristy in the form of neo-Renaissance pastiche, notably with columns of Italian marble. Not far away is the Saint-Maclou aisle, an ancient ossuary built in the middle of the fourteenth century following an epidemic of plague. Today, part of the building hosts artistic exhibitions.

Symbol of Rouen, the Gros-Horloge is an astronomical clock dating from the fourteenth century and unveiling a dial of the sixteenth century. It takes place in a pavilion that spans the street of the same name, on a Renaissance-style arch.

Former parliament of Normandy, the palace of Justice of Rouen unveils a very beautiful Gothic style. Classified to Historic Monuments, it was started at the end of the 15th century. On the exterior façade, one can particularly admire gargoyles, or even an adjoining staircase in neo-Gothic style Champagne from the beginning of the 20th century. Heavily destroyed during the Second World War, the building saw its Gothic-Renaissance central part almost completely destroyed.

The main square of the old town of Rouen, the Old Market Square is known to have housed the place of execution of Joan of Arc by the English in the 15th century. A large cross bears witness to the exact location of the pyre. One can also see the church Jeanne-d'Arc, modern building dating from the late 1970s.

Various museums are present in the city, following the example of the recently opened Jeanne d'Arc Museum. The city also offers the second museum of natural history of France after Paris, the museum of fine arts with works of the Caravage or Monet, an antiquities museum, or the Gros-Horloge museum which retraces the history of Watchmaking.

Walking through Rouen, you will also admire the old half-timbered houses of the town, the Jeanne-d'Arc tower, a remnant of the old castle of the city, or different fountains.

Places of interest

Information points
Leisure centres
Natural sites
Performance halls

Events and festivities

Rouen organizes no fewer than thirteen markets in different districts. They run from Monday to Sunday, with an organic market on Friday and Saturday. A Christmas market is also unveiled in December.

Every year in January, the city offers its festival "Regards sur le cinéma du monde", which promotes films from Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean with screenings.

In May, Rouen is the only French city to host the Wings for Life, a running race taking place at the same time in several countries of the world.

Every five years, in June, the Great Armada takes place in the port of Rouen. It allows to admire a large gathering of giant sailing ships and warships.

Every Thursday in July, the city offers Les Terrasses du Jeudi, a series of free concerts.

Between October and November, the city hosts its famous Saint-Romain fair with many attractions.

The 10 km of Rouen, running, takes place in the city in October.

Jean Suquet : un Regard Humaniste sur le Monde de l'Enfance - Exposition
"Silences" - Exposition Photo
Installation - Akira Inumaru - Chambres Ardentes - Festival Normandie Impressionniste
Odyssées Impressionnistes
Rouen National Arts
Exposition "Art et Migration"
Jeanne d'Arc [R]Evolutions
Expostion - Oliver Beer - Festival Normandie Impressionniste
“Hulahoop” du Collectif Scale - Festival Normandie Impressionniste 2024
Suites Pour Violoncelle - Bruno Philippe

Detailed information

Normandy Impressionist Festival
Since 2010, Impressionism has had its own festival! From 22 march to 22 september 2024


Projection Museum of Fine Arts 2010
Projection Museum of Fine Arts 2010
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View of the Cathedral of Our Lady (© Benoit Beal)
View of the Cathedral of Our Lady (© Benoit Beal)
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