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Located north-west of Paris on the Seine River, Rouen is the capital of the Haute Normandie region. An ancient city featuring a beautifully restored medieval section and Gothic Cathedral, Rouen is considered to be of the highlights of the Normandy region as well as one of France’s most beautiful cities.

Rouen can be reached by car, taking 90 minutes from Paris along the A13 motorway. Trains also run daily to Rouen from Paris, with tickets costing around €20.

Rouen, Tower and facade of Notre Dame cathedral

The city can easily be explored on foot and there is also a bus and light rail service available.  Bikes can be hired from Velo-R, which is located close by the Metro Station. Scooters are also available for rent but require an advance booking.

Established by the Gaulish Veliocasses tribe during the time Caesar, Roeun was later taken over by Vikings in the mid-9th century. The city then fell to the Dukes of Normandy during the 10th century. The Middle Ages saw the city become a centre for commerce and industry but soon succumbed to the ravages of plague, fire and rebellion.  Consequently, the city fell to English occupation  and served as the capital for English power in France. It was in Rouen’s central square that, Joan of Arc sentenced to death by burning at the stake after being was convicted of heresy in 1431.

The city incurred heavy damage during WWII due to bombings and subsequent fires. Almost half of the city was destroyed as a result.

Rouen old town houses

Among the city’s main attractions are:

  • The 16th century Gros Horloge astronomical clock.
  • Rouen Cathedral, a magnificent gothic structure which is the focus of artist’s Claude Monet’s painting series of the same name.
  • The courthouse.
  • The 15th century Saint Maclou Gothic Church.
  • The modern church dedicated to Saint Joan of Arc.
  • The many museums including Rouen Museum of Fine Arts; Maritime Museum and river port; Museum of Antiquities; Museum of Ceramics; and Museum Secq Tournelles.

Rouen provides an excellent base for day-trips into the Norman countryside and Seine Valley. If you have time to explore beyond the city, visit the seaside resort town of Dieppe, the village of Les Andelys, the harbour of Honfleur, the towns of Le Havre and Bayeux, or the home of Claude Monet at Giverny.  There are also many excellent biking trails in the forests near Rouen.