What to see in Rouen: discover the city of Joan of Arc

Who I am
Valery Aloyants

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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If there is a city of mine itinerary in Normandy that struck me, that is surely Rouen. It is famous for being the city where she was killed Giovanna D'Arco in that square (square of Vieux-Marché) where now there is the “Eglise Sainte Jeanne d'Arc”. But not only that, Rouen is also called the city of a hundred bell towers. At the end of your visit to Rouen it will be clear why… there are churches everywhere!

A particular in Rouen

Rouen made history both for past events and for relatively recent events. Due to its important role in the procurement of goods, it was the scene of several during the Second World War bombings that have marked it in a particular way.

But I don't want to anticipate everything, find out much more about Rouen by continuing to read the post.

Park in Rouen

Although I am talking about a walking itinerary around the city, if, as in my case, you arrive in Rouen by car, it will be important to know where to park. My advice, before getting lost in the streets and traffic of this beautiful town is to look for a parking space on Onepark, a portal that with a few simple clicks also allows you to book city parking lots.

What to see in Rouen: walking itinerary

It is a pleasure to visit Rouen, and my advice is to do so strictly on foot, also because I doubt there are many other ways to do it. This Norman city is rather intimate, the historic center can be said to be concentrated all around the cathedral within a radius of no more than 200/300 meters.

Apart from the main streets that run around the center, those inside Rouen are not very busy and mostly pedestrian. There is no shortage of parking spaces so if you arrive by car in Rouen you will not have problems parking.

I would like to make you retrace the same itinerary that I did on foot because I think it is a pleasant walk to discover the city.

1 - Place Saint-Marc and one of its markets.

The starting point of this day in Rouen will be parking in St. Mark's Square.

Why right here? For two reasons.

The first is that it is an easily accessible parking lot as it is outside the busiest points. The second is because it is the place where you will immediately come into contact with the local people and the fantastic products of Normandy.

The car park is located just below the square where the market is. Once on the surface you will find yourself in the midst of cheeses of all kinds. As you know Normandy is famous for its cheeses, this will be the best place in Rouen to buy them.

And since the itinerary I am recommending will end again in Place Sain-Marc, remember to buy them on the way back and not on the outward journey.

Even the street in front of the square, that is Rue Armand Carrel, it's a great place to shop. Both on the right and on the left there are many shops, many are typical French gastronomy. I visited Rouen on a Saturday, I just tell you that in all the shops there was a queue. I assume they are very well known.

2 - From Place Saint-Marc to Eglise Saint Maclau

Rouen is quite small and the stretch from the square to the church is short. Precisely in this section, however, you will pass in one of the areas more features of Rouen.

From the square you will have to take Rue Martanville that after a few meters will shrink and on the right you can admire some houses with very special wooden facades. These are called houses with wooden trellis.

Half-timbered houses

Rue Martanville ends right near the church of Saint Maclau. It is an imposing church in Flamboyant Gothic which stands on a small square whose houses are all with wooden façades.

The church respects the opening hours and during the lunch break they close. I invite you to reach it before closing time because it would be a shame not to be able to enter it.

Why do you have to enter it? Not necessarily for purely religious reasons but if anything for historical reasons. The church of Saint Maclau was heavily damaged (together with the cathedral and the entire city) by a bombing in June of the 1944 which hit her in 5 points.

To better understand that period, I advise you to deepen here -> the places and beaches of the Normandy landings.

It took many years to put this little gem of Rouen back on track and be able to reopen it to believers. Inside the church, panels recall the events of those years and trace the history of the reconstruction of the church.

Saint Maclau

Consiglio: nothing to do with the religious aspects but, given that the area is particularly full of pastry shops of all kinds, this is the right place to try French pastry. If I were you I would take a nice Eclair full of chocolate.

3 - Towards the beautiful Cathedral of Notre Dame of Rouen

Rouen is the city of one hundred bell towers, you cannot miss a visit to the most important bell tower of the city, namely its Cathedral.

Leaving the church of Saint Maclau behind you, taking Rue Saint Romain you will find the cathedral on your left.

You have two options: enter from the side entrance or go all the way to the main entrance.

The side entrance of the cathedral

La Notre Dame Cathedral of Rouen it is a must see. It is giant and has been the subject of multiple canvases by the Impressionist painter Monet. The spire reaches 151 meters. It is the highest in France and you will notice it even better by climbing the Sainte Catherine hill adjacent to Rouen. Thanks to the spire you will always be able to identify what is the center of Rouen.

The cathedral was also hit in several places during the bombings of 1944. It too remained closed for years, although for a shorter period than Eglise Saint Maclau. Looking up towards the end of the central nave you will notice the different colors in the ceiling due to the post-World War II repairs.

4 - From Notre Dame Cathedral to Joan of Arc Square

Leaving behind you also the Rouen Cathedral, you will have to take Rue du Gros Hologe. In the middle of this pedestrian street with a medieval atmosphere with the classic wooden half-timbered houses, you will pass under the Gros Horologe, that is a clock with allegorical figures representing the days and phases of the moon.

Continuing further you will arrive in Old Market Square, the square where Joan of Arc was burned. Here, ancient and modern coexist and there is also one of the city's markets. It is a covered market where I recommend you stop because it is even more niche than that of Place Saint-Marc.

5 - A walk on the Seine

Rouen is part of the seine-maritime department and was built on the Seine. This important French river divides the city. On the right side the ancient part and therefore the historic center of Rouen. On the left side the modern and industrial part that develops for miles and miles. The Seine is navigable and is itself an attraction. On its banks stand giant barges waiting to take off. Moreover, every 5 years all eyes are on Rouen because Armada is celebrated, a parade of the most beautiful sailing ships in the world. It could be an excellent opportunity to visit Rouen.

So I recommend a little walk along the riverside.

To reach it from Old Market Square you have to take Place du la Pucelle and then Rue Saint Eloi which ends right on the Seine. Here, keeping the Seine on your right, you can enjoy the river.

6 - From the Seine to the Rouen Museum of Fine Arts via Saint Ouen

When you meet the bridge of Avenue Champlain you can go back inside and visit two of Rouen's museums: the Museum of Fine Arts and museum des Tournelles. I did not have the pleasure of visiting the first, but I did visit the second, which among other things presents free exhibitions. As I understand it, the museum is inside a deconsecrated church and therefore very particular.

To get to the museums, just go all the way from the Seine Rue de la Republique to the Town Hall square, where you will then take the Rue Jean Lecanuet. 200 meters later you will find the museums on your right.

Near the Town Hall you can see yet another bell tower, yet another giant Gothic church. You will therefore understand the nickname of the city of a hundred bell towers.

Returning near Saint Ouen and the gardens behind it, taking Rue Armand Carrel you will find yourself in the square from which you left shortly before.

A gem not to be missed: the view from the Sainte Catherine Hill

Rouen is very very beautiful, and will be even more beautiful if you manage to see it from above.

From the hill of Sainte Catherine the view is wonderful and you can see how the city has developed on the banks of the Seine and how it is sheltered by the adjacent hills.

The view from the Sainte Catherine hill

The cathedral spire stands out and almost seems to be higher than the lookout point, or maybe it really is. You cannot leave Rouen without having seen it from its vantage point, although unfortunately you need a car to get there, I don't think there are any walking paths.


Rouen is a perfect city to be included in an itinerary in Normandy. A full day is enough to visit it in peace. Rouen is passed with flying colors!

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