A City that Makes an Impression
With a half a million people, the capital of Normandy is a vibrant, bustling landscape that's been captured by both history and artistry. William the Conqueror died here in 1087, and Joan of Arc was burned at the stake on the place du Vieux-Marché. Today, that same street houses shops and cafes in half-timbered buildings. So things have changed a bit.
Paris is a mere hour away, and just as the Seine splits that city into a Left and Right Bank, it does the same for Rouen. You'll find the "Vieux" (Old) City on the Right Bank. Here you'll find beautiful sets of wood-framed houses from the 15th -18th century. Walk along the Rue St.-Romain, which leads to the church of St. Maclou, an extravagant example of gothic architectures, full of statues and ornaments. The church was carefully restored after being bombed during World War II. Further up, visit the macabre Dance of Death at the Aître St-Maclou, one of the last examples of a medieval plague cemetery.
On the Rue Eau de Robec, a narrow street with facades colored in crosses of pink and blue, you'll find a mass of artisan shops: violin restorers, milliners, engravers and the like. Each window is like a picture – someone sitting while restoring, creating, painting…something. Watching these people work will make you hungry. Walk over to La Couronne, France's oldest inn for more than 650 years.
Rouen's most famous structure is the Notre Dame Cathedral. Inside, the church is more of a city than a place of worship. With its honeycomb of chapels, crypts and aisles, you could get lost in here for days. The stained glass windows have been taken down twice this century to preserve them from war. The beauty captured one of France's most famous impressionists, Claude Monet. He created a series based on the Cathedral, painting the subject every day, capturing the play of light in constant motion. The canvases were considered one of the vertices of the artistic genre.
Rouen is just the beginning of your journey into Normandy. With a France Rail Pass, go from Rouen to Caen in just 90 minutes. Home to the award-winning Caen Memorial Museum, it is regarded as the best World War II museum in France and is only 15 minutes away from the D-Day beaches.
Hit the seaside in two very different resort towns, both less than 2 hours away (with one connection). Deauville is regarded as the "Queen of the Norman Beaches" and is one of the most prestigious beach resorts in France. Trouville is more famous for its fish market and its terrific moules frites.
Of Rouen, the artist Pissarro said it was as "beautiful as Venice." The city became a laboratory for a new style of painting, juxtaposing the urban and rural. This is perfect way to travel to Normandy – see the big city, relax by the shore.
Come create your canvas.
To learn more about preparing your trip to France, visit Atout France by clicking here if you’re a US resident or here if you’re a Canadian resident
Contributed by: Nadia, project manager, definitely French! She has lived in 10 different cities in France.