12 must-do things to do in Rouen

Rouen

On vacation in Normandy? Discover the must-sees in Rouen

The capital of Normandy, Rouen is a port city well worth a visit. The city of a hundred steeples has been marked by history since Roman times. Its architecture bears witness to its past, with numerous Gothic churches, cobbled streets and medieval half-timbered houses. At once modern and traditional, Normandy’s capital abounds with exceptional sites to discover.

To make your stay easier, Generation Voyage has put together a list of Rouen’s must-sees.

1. Notre-Dame de Rouen Cathedral

Notre Dame de Rouen

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Kirk Fisher

Right in the heart of the city, Notre-Dame Cathedral reflects the evolution of Gothic art. Built in the 12th century, the monument was bombed by the Allies during the Second World War. Since its creation, the building has undergone constant transformation.

The cathedral will impress you with its spire rising to over 150 metres. As well as boasting the tallest cast-iron spire in France, it is one of the few cathedrals to retain an archiepiscopal palace and ancillary buildings dating back to the Middle Ages.

Today, Notre-Dame de Rouen is the seat of the city’s archdiocese. Come and visit Rouen and its cathedral, and you’ll discover the tombs of the Dukes of Normandy, such as Rollon and Richard the Lionheart.

You can also admire a series of 28 paintings by Claude Monet, who made Rouen’s Notre-Dame cathedral famous the world over.

2. Museum of Fine Arts

Musée des beaux arts Rouen

Photo credit: Instagram – lytomon

It’s impossible to visit Rouen without discovering the city’s Musée des Beaux-Arts. Created in 1801 under Napoleon Bonaparte, the Musée des Beaux-Arts has continued to evolve over the years. Today, it is one of the most comprehensive museums in France.

Inside, more than 8,000 works are displayed in 60 rooms. They are as varied in terms of the periods covered (from the 16th to the 20th century), as in terms of media (paintings, sculptures, decorative objects, drawings, etc.). The Musée des Beaux Arts brings together some of Europe’s greatest artists, including Caravaggio, Velasquez, Rubens, Puget, Delacroix, Modigliani, Monet, Renoir and many others.

Alongside its permanent collections, the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen regularly organizes temporary exhibitions, some of which are internationally renowned.

3. Historial Jeanne d’Arc

Historial jeanne d'arc Rouen

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Telly

Rouen is infamous for being the scene of Joan of Arc’s death. As such, a Joan of Arc historial has been erected in her honor. But this is no ordinary museum. The Joan of Arc historial takes the form of a show trail. The aim is to present the life of the Maid of Orleans, using innovative technologies.

Start your visit in the dark, where the stone walls begin to come to life. 3D projections and mapping transport you back to the Middle Ages for an unforgettable experience.

As well as giving you a new insight into the story of Joan of Arc, the historial also sheds light on the myth of Joan of Arc as constructed and interpreted by mankind.

Also read in the Rouen guide :

4. Cruise on the Seine

Croisière sur la seine rouen

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Pack-Shot

What’s there to do in Rouen apart from visit the historic monuments? Why not take a cruise on the Seine, sharing the two banks of the Normandy capital. You’ll be able to enjoy the valley’s natural, cultural and traditional landscapes.

During your cruise, discover Rouen and the surrounding towns in a whole new light. These cruises along the rivers of Normandy inspired talented Impressionists such as Lebourg and Sisley.

In addition to discovering the environment around you, you’ll have a great time thanks to the staff on board. They’ll take care of you every step of the way, making sure you’re comfortable and providing you with a few culinary delights.

5. Rue du gros Horloge

Rue du gros horloge rouen

Photo credit: Shutterstock – andre quinou

A must-see in Rouen, the gros horloge is one of the city’s most emblematic monuments. This Renaissance building spans the rue du gros horloge via an archway. A Gothic-style belfry adjoins it, housing the belfries and the Rouen clock.

The 14th-century astronomical clock tells the time to the town’s inhabitants by means of a double dial with a single hand. Several representations are also on display. Below the number IV, admire a divinity symbolizing the day of the week.

At noon, a triumphal chariot is featured. And above the dial, the phases of the moon are indicated.

6. Saint-Maclou Catholic Church

Saint-Maclou, Rouen

Photo credit: Shutterstock – zebra0209

Listed as a Monument Historique, the Catholic church of Saint-Maclou is one of the must-see sights in Rouen. Considered one of the jewels of Gothic art, the building features a portal with five carved wooden doors.

Inside, admire Renaissance furnishings, a Gothic staircase, an organ case, an arch of glory and Baroque confessionals.

Above, the lantern tower and spire have been renovated after suffering damage during the Second World War. Finally, the church’s five bells – Marie, Adrienne, Adèle, Joséphine and Léontine – are now safely housed in the lantern tower.

7. Abbatiale Saint-Ouen

Abbatiale Saint Ouen Rouen

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Walencienne

During the 14th and 16th centuries, the Abbey of Saint-Ouen was one of the most powerful Benedictine monasteries in Normandy. The abbey church boasts 80 stained-glass windows, giving it an exceptional luminosity. The building is best known for its great organ, the last by Cavaillé-coll, and one of the most recorded instruments in the world.

You’ll be impressed by the abbey’s dimensions: 137 meters high and 33 meters under the vaults. Because of its size, some visitors sometimes confuse it with the cathedral.

Since the French Revolution, the abbey church no longer serves as a place of worship. It is now a tourist attraction. Adjacent to this building is the present-day town hall, once used as the monks’ dormitory.

8. Place du Vieux Marché

Place du Vieux Marché Rouen

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Mariia Kan

Visit Rouen and its history via the Place du Vieux Marché. It was on this mythical square that Joan of Arc was burned alive on May 30, 1431. At the time, the square was occupied by the Saint-Sauveur church, the remains of which have now disappeared.

It was in this church that Pierre Corneille was baptized. A few yards away is the house where he was born, now a museum.

Today, the old market square is marked by a large cross symbolizing the bonfire of the time. All around, bars and restaurants make the square a lively and convivial place.

9. Plant garden

Jardin des plantes Rouen

Photo credit: Nathan Viel

With a surface area of 85,000 m², the Jardin des Plantes is the ideal place for a family outing. A place to relax during a visit to Rouen, this park is also used for the conservation of plant species. If you’re a botany enthusiast, you’ll be able to observe plants from all five continents.

In the center of the Jardin des Plantes, a 170-year-old greenhouse dominates the space. Within it, a variety of plants from arid environments, utility plants from the Mediterranean, and even carnivorous plants.

Birds are also present at the Jardin des Plantes.

The aviaries are illuminated in a thousand colors with parakeets, parrots, Chinese quail, golden pheasants and many other species.

10. Roumare forest

Fôret de roumare Rouen

Photo credit: Instagram – rouentourisme

What can you do in Rouen to discover Normandy’s natural beauty? The Roumare forest is the ideal place for a Sunday hike in Normandy.

With over 4,000 hectares, this estate offers a wide range of trails. A number of facilities are available if you’d like to do some exercise or enjoy the calm of the forest for a family picnic. The vegetation is lush, with coniferous trees, ancient coppices, oaks and beeches.

The Roumare forest also boasts a wildlife park for the enjoyment of the little ones. Your little ones can admire deer, roe deer, fallow deer and wild boar.

11. Sainte Catherine Hill

Colline Sainte Catherine

Photo credit: Flickr -Frédéric Bisson

If you’d like to discover Rouen in a different light, you’ll need to visit the Sainte-Catherine hill. From Rouen, take the N14 towards Bonsecours to reach the hill.

After climbing the 525 steps, you’ll enjoy one of the finest panoramas of Normandy and its capital. In fact, it was here that Claude Monet painted his Vue générale de Rouen in 1892. On his canvas, you can see Notre-Dame Cathedral and the church of Sainte-Maclou.

To capture this magical moment, don’t forget your camera. And if you’re artistically inclined, now’s the time to imitate the master of Impressionism.

12. Taste culinary specialities

Camembert Rouen

Photo credit: Shutterstock – HandmadePictures

Visiting Rouen also means sampling the region’s culinary specialties. Indeed, Normandy is famous for its cider, calvados and camembert. In addition to these must-try meals, Rouen offers other less famous, but just as delicious, specialties.

On the savoury side, duck à la rouennaise will intoxicate you with its exquisite rosé cooking. On the sweet side, Elbeuf’s douillon features Normandy’s flagship ingredient, the apple.

When you visit Rouen, don’t hesitate to take the fruit route, where small producers offer cherries and plums. In the same spirit, the cheese, apple and cider routes will delight your taste buds.

How to get to Rouen

There are several ways to get to Rouen:

  • By train: Rouen station serves Le Havre, Marseille, Paris, Amiens and Lille.
  • By car: Rouen is two hours from Paris, seven hours from Lyon and four hours from Nantes.
  • Where to stay in Rouen?

    Not sure where to stay in Rouen? Don’t panic, the city offers hundreds of accommodations to suit all budgets; Airbnb, hotel, youth hostel. Use our hotel comparator to find the best places to stay in Rouen.

    To the west of the city, the peaceful Canteleu district will satisfy lovers of green spaces and long walks. Culture buffs can head for the Vieux-Marché/Cathédrale district, where culture takes center stage. You’re sure to find what you’re looking for in Rouen.

Map of hotels and accommodation – Rouen,fr