The capital of Upper-Normandy, Rouen like Paris, sits on the Seine, an hour from the capital. The city of the Impressionists, Rouen has inspired countless artists over the centuries. Prepare for a sensory overload, in the city where Joan of Arc is ever-present.
As you step off the train in Rouen, Joan of Arc has her eye on you already. The Joan of Arc Tower is the only remaining part of the castle built in 1204 by Philippe Auguste, and it was here that the "maid of Orléans" was imprisoned and tried.
The historic centre of the "city of a hundred bell towers" is a maze of half-timbered houses and churches. In the evening, admire the flamboyant Gothic Church of Saint-Maclou lit up in the midst of the second largest antiques village in France. Not far from here, venture into the darkly mysterious Aître Saint-Maclou courtyard, which has often been used in films. Improvise your own scene before some of the macabre carvings. Explore the imposing Abbey-Church of Saint Ouen and perhaps go for a stroll in the park at the Hôtel de Ville in Rouen. The inquisitive can embark on a treasure hunt for the Jelling Runestone which was a present from the King of Denmark… Head down the picturesque rue Eau de Robec, near rue Saint-Romain, to get to the city centre. This ancient river has seen all the colours of the rainbow during Rouen's days as a key player within the textile industry.
Imagine, over a hundred years ago, Claude Monet setting up his easel in the square in front of the Rouen Cathedral to paint his famous cathedral series. In summer, during the Impressionist Nights in Rouen, you can watch a sound and light show on the façade of the Museum of Fine Arts in Rouen, which contains the best impressionist collection in France after that of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. An hour from here, at the Claude Monet Foundation in Giverny you can admire the painter's magnificent gardens with their famous lily ponds.
Rouen's famous Gros Horloge or "big clock" is one of the most famous symbols of Normandy, alongside the Palace of Justice in Rouen, the former parliament of Normandy, with its delicate carved Gothic stonework.
The variety of shops in Rouen for example in the rue du Gros-Horloge make for a unique shopping experience. The macaroons made by Grand-mère Auzou are indisputably the best in the region. You won't be able to resist Joan of Arc's tears: these are in fact almonds wrapped in nougat and chocolate. Joan of Arc weeps for her fate, of course, and it was the English who burned her at the stake in Rouen in 1431, in the place du Vieux-Marché. Discover all about the life of this fearless warrior at the Joan of Arc Waxworks Museum, and you can visit the strikingly modern Church of Joan of Arc, built on the site of her martyrdom. The river banks, a stones throw from here, are a pleasant place for a stroll, and it is here that the Rouen Armada takes place every four years: one of the largest gatherings of Tall Ships in the world.
Travel to Rouen and take advantage of its proximity to the "Alabaster Coast", which encompasses Dieppe, Veules-les-Roses, Fécamp, Yport, Etretat, and Le Havre… or follow the Seine to the beautiful town of Honfleur.
De gare à gare