When visiting Normandy, there are so many cool towns and villages to stop in that it can be overwhelming. Some of them like Rouen make for the perfect two-hour pit stop. Rouen is located on the Seine, and it’s also the capital of Normandy. The city was heavily damaged during World War II, destroying much of the medieval architecture. However, the famous Rouen Cathedral and well-preserved Old Town prevailed. After visiting Giverny and on our way to Etretat, we took a slight detour to Rouen for lunch and a quick afternoon in Rouen.
Getting to Rouen
You have several options for visiting Rouen.
Rent a Car
Just under two hours away from Paris by car, visiting Rouen is doable as a day trip. It can make for a good pit stop on the way to Etretat or an extension of a trip to Giverny. However, I think it’s best to rent a car and visit Rouen as part of a larger Normandy itinerary.
Take a Train and Bus
There is a direct train to Rouen from Paris which takes just over an hour and a half. You can check out train options here.
What to See and Do in Rouen
There are several must-see stops in Rouen.
The Rouen Cathedral is the highlight of an afternoon in Rouen. The cathedral was opened in 1876 though construction first began in the 12th century. It is the tallest cathedral in France. The Rouen Cathedral greatly inspired Claude Monet who painted it more than 30 times.
Walk Around the Medieval Streets
Walk around the streets of Old Town Rouen to experience the medieval architecture that was largely destroyed during World War II. There are plenty of restaurants in this area to stop for lunch.
Gros Horloge of Rouen
The Gros Horloge, or Great Clock, is an astronomical clock dating back to the 14th century. It’s located on the aptly named Rue du Gros Horloge in Old Town Rouen.
Points of Interest for Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc was known for her role in the Hundred Years’ War. She was captured, sold to the English, and tried for heresy. She was burned at the stake in 1431 at the age of 19 in none other than Rouen. You can visit the Church of Saint Joan of Arc at the center of Old Market Square. There is also a plaque marking the place where she was burned at the stake.
Tips for Rouen
Here are some tips for visiting Rouen:
- Don’t judge a book by its cover: Driving into Rouen, you’ll notice that the city isn’t the prettiest. The city had to be rebuilt due to damage from World War II, and as a result, it lost a lot of its charm. Once you get into Old Town, you’ll see why Rouen is worth a stop.
- Start by the Cathedral: There’s a large parking garage near the Rouen Cathedral. From there, it’s an easy walk to Old Town Rouen and other points of interest.
- Don’t just visit Rouen: Rouen makes for the perfect lunch stop when driving between Giverney and Etretat which is perfect for fans of Monet! However, I recommend adding Rouen as a stop on a longer Normandy itinerary.
If you find yourself in Normandy, Rouen is the perfect stop for lunch and a bit of history. From the famous Rouen Cathedral to the Joan of Arc Church, there’s a good amount to see during your afternoon in Rouen.