1 Day In Rouen: The Perfect Rouen Itinerary

Rouen is the capital of Normandy and one of the most beautiful cities in this French region. But Rouen is much more than a picturesque and photogenic destination: it’s a place with centuries of history, dating back to the beginning of the Roman Empire!

If you visit the historic center of Rouen, you’ll find a little of everything: typical German-inspired wooden houses, monuments reminiscent of the Hundred Years War, and religious buildings, which are true masterpieces of Gothic architecture!

So, do you want to know more about 1 Day In Rouen: The Perfect Rouen Itinerary? Keep reading!

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Rouen Itinerary
Rouen Itinerary

Brief History of Rouen

The city of Rouen was founded in the 1st century by Emperor Augustus, with the name of Rotomagus. At a later stage, it was conquered by barbarians, Christians, and Vikings (the Normans) – being that the latter came to govern the entire region in the 10th century, under the leadership of Rollo (a Scandinavian nobleman, who became the first Duke of Normandy).

Also during the Middle Ages, Rouen became the capital of Normandy and was annexed to the Kingdom of France, being fundamental during the Hundred Years War. However, the most striking event of this war for the city was the condemnation of Joan of Arc (or Jeanne d’Arc in French) to death at the stake in 1431.

Visiting Rouen

Like other destinations in this region (such as Giverny, Honfleur, or Mont Saint-Michel), Rouen is an excellent option for a day trip from Paris. Or you can always visit it on a road trip through Normandy! Why not use the city as a base to discover the historic villages and towns nearby?

But if you don’t have a car, don’t worry! Rouen isn’t far from the French capital and there are several public transportation options. From Gare Saint-Lazare you have direct trains with Oui.sncf to Rouen-Rive-Droite. And at the Paris La Défense and Paris (Bercy Seine) bus stations, there are also direct buses from Flixbus to Rouen (Avenue Champlain).

Rouen Itinerary

Cathédrale Notre-Dame

The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the country and the series of thirty paintings that Claude Monet painted of it proves this.

This Monument historique in Gothic style began to be built in 1145, to replace an earlier Romanesque church from the 11th century. However, the works continued during the following centuries, due to delays and setbacks (such as fires and the French Religious Wars).

In the 19th century, the Rouen Cathedral gained a cast-iron spire, which made it the tallest building in the world between 1876 and 1880, until the construction of the Cologne Cathedral.

The Notre Dame Cathedral is open every day (except Monday morning), but with specific hours for the high (April to October) and low (November to March) seasons. The first one operates from 7:30 am to 7 pm (Monday to Saturday) and from 8 am to 6 pm (Sundays and holidays). The other is open from 7:30 am to 12 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm (Monday to Saturday) and from 2 pm to 6 pm (Sundays and holidays).

Le Gros Horloge

After a visit to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, this Rouen itinerary continues along the Rue du Gros Horloge, one of the busiest streets in the city. Here, there’s no shortage of shops, cafes, and restaurants, but the main attraction is the “Great Clock” that gives it its name.

Installed in a Renaissance arch, the Gros Horloge has one of the oldest mechanisms in France and has been in operation since 1389! In fact, on both sides of this astronomical clock, you can see the time, day of the week, and the phase of the moon!

The interior can be visited from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 7 pm (April to October), or from 2 pm to 6 pm (November to March). The ticket costs €7.10 or €3.60 (with a discount).

Place du Vieux-Marché

The Old Market Square is a must-stop when visiting Rouen. After all, this is where Joan of Arc was burned alive, on May 30th, 1431! Today, there’s a memorial at the exact spot where the French heroine was executed called Le Bûcher by Jeanne d’Arc (ie, “The Pyre of Joan of Arc”).

Today, the Place du Vieux-Marché is one of the liveliest areas of the city, with dozens of cafes, bars, and restaurants with terraces. In addition, it stands out for its buildings with centuries of history. One of them is called La Couronne and it’s the oldest inn in France, now converted into a gourmet restaurant!

Église Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc

Still on the Place du Vieux-Marché, I recommend that you visit the Église Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc, also dedicated to the young martyr. This modern 1979 church was designed by French architect Louis Arretche and built on the site of the now-vanished Église Saint-Vincent, taking advantage of its Renaissance stained glass windows.

The Church of Saint Joan of Arc is open every day (except Friday mornings), from 10 am to 12 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm. Don’t forget to admire its interior (in the shape of an upside-down boat) and its slate and copper exterior, which evokes the waves of the sea!

Abbatiale Saint-Ouen

The Abbatiale Saint-Ouen is one of the most impressive flamboyant monuments in France, with its 137 meters high and 80 stained glass windows.

Construction of the current temple began in 1318 but was interrupted due to the Hundred Years War.

Once the conflict ended, work continued and the church was completed in the 15th century.

Its name is a tribute to Saint Audoin, Bishop of Rouen. And actually, this church started out as a Benedictine abbey, assuming special importance in the Normandy region between the 14th and 16th centuries.

Statue de Napoléon

Next to the Abbatiale Saint-Ouen, you’re gonna find a large square (the Place du Général de Gaulle) where the City Hall of Rouen (or Hôtel de Ville) is located. And in front of this square, there is a monumental sculpture of Napoleon I.

This bronze equestrian statue was created by the Parisian sculptor Vital Gabriel Dubray and its inauguration took place on August 15th, 1865, on the birthday of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The granite plinth was designed by the architect Louis-François Desmarest. It contains four marble panels, with bronze frames and inscriptions from imperial institutions: “Empire français”, “Code Napoléon”, “Concordat”, and “Légion d’honneur”.

Église Saint-Godard

As you can see, Rouen is a city with many churches. And although the Église Saint-Godard is not as imposing as the Cathédrale or the Abbatiale, I think it still deserves a visit!

This small Gothic and Renaissance-style church is located at the back of the Musée des Beaux-Arts (the museum of fine arts) and next to the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles, (a museum dedicated to wrought iron art, housed in a church).

The name is a tribute to another Bishop of Rouen, in this case, Saint Gildard. And this temple has two organs produced by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, one of the most notable organ builders of the 19th century. By the way, Cavaillé-Coll was also the creator of the organ of the Abbatiale Saint-Ouen!

Colline Sainte-Catherine

Sainte-Catherine’s Hill (also known in French as Côte Sainte-Catherine) is undoubtedly the viewpoint with the best views over Rouen and the Seine river. But as it’s 2 km from the historic center, it’s best to visit the place by car – although there’s a pedestrian path, with more than 500 steps!

Located to the east of the city and at 140 meters of altitude, the Colline Sainte-Catherine is the ideal spot to watch the sunset or have a picnic. At the viewpoint, you’ll also find plaques, which help to identify the various monuments present in the panorama.

Map of the Rouen Itinerary

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