A Weekend in Rouen, France
Located in the Upper Normandy region, Rouen, France is best known for its Notre Dame Cathedral and for being the location where Joan of Arc was executed. Both of these sites are worth a visit, as is the historic town center.
Getting to Rouen
Rouen is located about an hour and a half north of Paris by train. Trains for Rouen leave twice an hour from Paris’ Gare Saint Lazare. Tickets may be purchased either online, at yellow ticket machines in the station, or at Grandes Lignes ticket offices. Ticket prices vary considerably depending on the time of year and how far in advance tickets are purchased. That being said, round-trip tickets tend to range between 20€-40€.
Notre Dame Cathedral
This cathedral was made famous by French impressionist painter Claude Monet, who did a series of paintings about it. But even without Monet’s influence, this cathedral is incredibly impressive. Its imposing Gothic style, intricate details, and magnificent spire are truly awe-inspiring. In fact, it was the world’s tallest building between 1876 and 1880!
I was mesmerized by the building’s exterior sculptures and detailing, but unfortunately I found the interior of the cathedral rather lackluster. Its design was very simple and lacked the exterior’s magnificence.
Address: Place de la Cathédrale, 76000 Rouen
Hours: 9 AM-7PM
Time of Visit: 20 minutes (self-guided)
Church of St. Ouen
This church is close to Notre Dame Cathedral and is built in a similar Gothic style, but has a much more impressive interior. Visitors are greeted with high vaulted ceilings, detailed stained glass windows, and an enormous organ. While I was visiting, an organ concert started. The organ was so powerful that I jumped in surprise.
Address: Place du Général de Gaulle 76000 Rouen
Hours: 10 AM-12 PM, 2 PM-5 PM, closed Mondays and Fridays
Time of visit: 20 minutes (self-guided)
Le Gros Horlage (Clock Tower)
The clock tower is housed in a Renaissance-style building that spans a narrow cobblestone street in the historic town center. There are many interesting details to note about the clock. For example, under the 6, the divinity representing the specific day of the week can be seen. Above the clock, notice the moon phase.
Inside the tower, explore the old machinery from the clock dating back to the 14th century, as well as decommissioned town bells. The best part of the tour, however, is the bird’s eye view of the city.
Address: Rue du Gros-Horloge 76000 Rouen
Cost: 6€ full price; 3€ for students
Hours: April-October 10 AM- 1PM, 2PM-7PM; November-March 2 PM-6 PM
Time of visit: 45 minutes (self-guided)
Tour Jeanne- d’Arc (Joan of Arc Tower)
This donjon was part of a castle that was built in 1204 by Emperor Phillip Augustus. It was in this castle that Joan of Arc’s trial was held. Although she was actually imprisoned in another tower (which no longer stands), she was tortured in this remaining piece of the castle.
Although the tower itself isn’t very remarkable to look at, I am grateful to have seen this historical site because Joan of Arc was one of my idols when I was little.
Address: Rue Bouvreuil
Cost: 1.50€ full price; free for students
Hours: April-September 10 AM-12:30 PM, 2 PM-6 PM Monday-Saturday, 2 PM-6:30 PM Sunday; October-March 10 AM-12:30 PM, 2 PM-5 PM Monday-Saturday. 2 PM-5:30 PM Sunday
Rouen is a great little escape from Paris. There are hardly any tourists, the locals are super friendly, and the prices are a fraction of what they are in Paris. I spent a weekend there, but it is definitely possible to see everything in just one day.
Top Photo by Rob