Is Rouen worth visiting?

So is Rouen worth visiting? You will certainly be unimpressed by the approach into central Rouen, with its ugly industrial suburbs. But, stick with it, because once you are through the repellant industrial and commercial business parks a day trip to this historic city centre is a must and I will show you the best things to see in Rouen Normandy. The warfare of World War II flattened much of the city south of the Cathedral. So, there is nothing much to see there. But, it would be a crying shame to miss out on experiencing its fascinating historic streets that includes Gothic churches, mansions and hundreds of restored half-timbered houses.

In recent history there has been a costly upmarket restoration of its historical centre (still ongoing), which is now largely pedestrianised and a delight to stroll around.

Victor Hugo calls Rouen the ‘City of 100 bell towers’. It may not have that many any more but it certainly has enough to delight. Let me take you on a quick tour of this under-rated French city…

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting?

 

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So is Rouen worth visiting? You will certainly be unimpressed by the approach into central Rouen, with its ugly industrial suburbs. But, stick with it, because once you are through the repellant industrial and commercial business parks a day trip to this historic city centre is a must and I will show you the best things to see in Rouen. The warfare of World War II flattened much of the city south of the Cathedral. So, there is nothing much to see there. But, it would be a shame to miss out on experiencing its fascinating historic streets that includes Gothic churches, mansions and hundreds of restored half-timbered houses.

 

Let’s talk about the best things to see in Rouen to answer the question ‘ Is Rouen worth visiting? ‘.

 

Notre Dame Cathedral

It is currently being cleaned and restored (and will be for a long time to come). Parts, therefore, are gleaming white, parts are blackened and parts are under scaffolding.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Notre Dame Cathedral.
Notre Dame Cathedral.

But, there are good reasons to pay this a visit. Firstly, Rouen’s Notre Dame Cathedral has the tallest church spire in France.

The cathedral was completed in 1507 when the grander Flamboyant Gothic south tower was completed. It is topped by an octagonal crown and never had a steeple. It’s known as the Tour de Beurre (Butter Tower) because it’s believed that the construction was financed through ‘indulgences’ paid by some of the rich, who didn’t give up eating butter during lent!

 

So is Rouen worth visiting? You will certainly be unimpressed by the approach into central Rouen, with its ugly industrial suburbs. But, stick with it, because once you are through the repellant industrial and commercial business parks a day trip to this historic city centre is a must and I will show you the best things to see in Rouen. The warfare of World War II flattened much of the city south of the Cathedral. So, there is nothing much to see there. But, it would be a crying shame to miss out on experiencing its fascinating historic streets that includes Gothic churches, mansions and restored half-timbered houses.
One of the most impressive Gothic churches ever built.

The external detailing is quite breathtaking.

On our visit a Christmas market was being constructed in the square just in the front of these doors.

 

So is Rouen worth visiting? You will certainly be unimpressed by the approach into central Rouen, with its ugly industrial suburbs. But, stick with it, because once you are through the repellant industrial and commercial business parks a day trip to this historic city centre is a must and I will show you the best things to see in Rouen. The warfare of World War II flattened much of the city south of the Cathedral. So, there is nothing much to see there. But, it would be a crying shame to miss out on experiencing its fascinating historic streets that includes Gothic churches, mansions and 100's of restored half-timbered houses.
Flamboyant details.

Being the capital of Normandy, the dukes of Normandy were traditionally crowned in this Cathedral. Several are buried inside, including the heart of Richard the Lion Heart.

Stepping inside, the first impression is of the soaring nave four stories high, the church seems to stretch on forever. It is lined by small chapels.

 

So is Rouen worth visiting? You will certainly be unimpressed by the approach into central Rouen, with its ugly industrial suburbs. But, stick with it, because once you are through the repellant industrial and commercial business parks a day trip to this historic city centre is a must and I will show you the best things to see in Rouen. The warfare of World War II flattened much of the city south of the Cathedral. So, there is nothing much to see there. But, it would be a crying shame to miss out on experiencing its fascinating historic streets that includes Gothic churches, mansions and restored half-timbered houses..
The nave.

The original construction started during the late 12th century to modernise and enlarge a Romanesque cathedral on the site. However, a fire in 1200 caused major damage to the structure. This allowed the new Gothic church to be built free from the restrictions of the Romanesque predecessor.

Construction of the Gothic cathedral resumed but was hindered by the Hundred Years War, finances, fire, revolts and weather which all interfered with the building project. It ended up taking three centuries to complete (although parts of the church were always in use).

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Inside Notre Dame Cathedral.

 

Look out for the Escalier de la Librarie, the Booksellers’ Stairway. It’s terribly romantic looking! The lower flight is from the 15th century while the upper flight was added in the 18th century.

 

So is Rouen worth visiting? You will certainly be unimpressed by the approach into central Rouen, with its ugly industrial suburbs. But, stick with it, because once you are through the repellant industrial and commercial business parks a day trip to this historic city centre is a must and I will show you the best things to see in Rouen. The warfare of World War II flattened much of the city south of the Cathedral. So, there is nothing much to see there. But, it would be a crying shame to miss out on experiencing its fascinating historic streets that includes Gothic churches, mansions and 100's of restored half-timbered houses..
Stairs to the library.

There are original statues within the cathedral. You can get up and personal.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Gothic Statues Of Notre Dame Cathedral.
Statues.

Many of the stained glass windows in this cathedral were blown out in 1944 during World War II. However, in 1939, almost all stained-glass windows in Rouen were removed from churches and historic buildings and kept safely until the end of the war.

Rouen Cathedral thus has some stained-glass windows dating from as far back as 1210.

This is not a cathedral where the windows stand out gloriously. However, this beautiful piece of art certainly did…

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Art In Notre Dame Cathedral.

 

Other things to see inside the church are paintings by Monet.

 

Dame Cakes – Cake shop

 

If you have been following me for any length of time you will know I have a passion for quality tea rooms.

 

So is Rouen worth visiting? You will certainly be unimpressed by the approach into central Rouen, with its ugly industrial suburbs. But, stick with it, because once you are through the repellant industrial and commercial business parks a day trip to this historic city centre is a must and I will show you the best things to see in Rouen. The warfare of World War II flattened much of the city south of the Cathedral. So, there is nothing much to see there. But, it would be a crying shame to miss out on experiencing its fascinating historic streets that includes Gothic churches, mansions and restored half-timbered houses...
Medieval Streets.

Head down Rue Saint Romain. It’s a beautiful street anyway – one not to miss.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Medieval House.

 

Dame Cakes is housed in a building that used to be owned by an iron craftsman who created this building so it is beautifully decorated with flamboyant ironwork.

 

So is Rouen worth visiting? You will certainly be unimpressed by the approach into central Rouen, with its ugly industrial suburbs. But, stick with it, because once you are through the repellant industrial and commercial business parks a day trip to this historic city centre is a must and I will show you the best things to see in Rouen. The warfare of World War II flattened much of the city south of the Cathedral. So, there is nothing much to see there. But, it would be a crying shame to miss out on experiencing its fascinating historic streets that includes Gothic churches, mansions and 100's of restored half-timbered houses...
Dames Cakes.

The window display is full of incredibly elegant delicacies.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting?

 

The boutique inside is extremely tempting. The teas are exceptional and make a beautiful gift.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Regional Foods.

 

It’s quiet and chic inside. I would have loved to sit in the dining room but settled with ‘a cake on the run’.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Seating Inside Dame Cakes.
Seating inside Dame Cakes.

It was extremely hard to choose. There is a wide variety of cakes for sale, confectionary such as candied fruits, sweets (rose, violet or poppy), chocolates, fruit jams and other Norman specialities.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Dame Cakes. Tea And Cake Shop.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Dame Cakes Window Display.

 

I sat outside and indulged in a gloriously chocolatey brownie-muffin.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Trying A Cake.

 

Rue du Gros Horloge

 

Straight ahead from the Cathedral is a busy pedestrian and shopping street that you can’t miss. The rue du Gros Horloge has more than just shops of course. It is full of beautiful brightly coloured half-timbered houses and the famous astronomic clock ‘Gros Horloge’.

When considering is Rouen worth visiting? You need to check out this iconic Normand street.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Rue du Gros Horloge.
Rue du Gros Horloge

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Half Timbered Houses.
Half timbered houses.

Le Gros-Horloge, the astronomic clock, takes pride of place on a Renaissance arch which has spanned the street since 1527.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Le Gros-Horloge.
Le Gros-Horloge.

The mechanism of the clock is one of the oldest in Europe, it was still working efficiently in the 1920’s when it became powered by electricity.

 

So is Rouen worth visiting? You will certainly be unimpressed by the approach into central Rouen, with its ugly industrial suburbs. But, stick with it, because once you are through the repellant industrial and commercial business parks a day trip to this historic city centre is a must and I will show you the best things to see in Rouen. The warfare of World War II flattened much of the city south of the Cathedral. So, there is nothing much to see there. But, it would be a crying shame to miss out on experiencing its fascinating historic streets that includes Gothic churches, mansions and hundreds of restored half-timbered houses.

 

Take a close look at the coat of arms of Rouen at the centre of the archway. It features the lamb of God on a red background (the colour of Normandy) and is held by two angels. One has its head wrongly placed! It’s the result of workers which were discontented at the time of the construction.

 

So is Rouen worth visiting? You will certainly be unimpressed by the approach into central Rouen, with its ugly industrial suburbs. But, stick with it, because once you are through the repellant industrial and commercial business parks a day trip to this historic city centre is a must and I will show you the best things to see in Rouen. The warfare of World War II flattened much of the city south of the Cathedral. So, there is nothing much to see there. But, it would be a crying shame to miss out on experiencing its fascinating historic streets that includes Gothic churches, mansions and hundreds of restored half-timbered houses..
Renaissance arch.

Under the arch is a highly detailed bas-relief of Christ as the Good Shepherd.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Underneath The Renaissance arch.

 

So is Rouen worth visiting? You will certainly be unimpressed by the approach into central Rouen, with its ugly industrial suburbs. But, stick with it, because once you are through the repellant industrial and commercial business parks a day trip to this historic city centre is a must and I will show you the best things to see in Rouen. The warfare of World War II flattened much of the city south of the Cathedral. So, there is nothing much to see there. But, it would be a crying shame to miss out on experiencing its fascinating historic streets that includes Gothic churches, mansions and hundreds of restored half-timbered houses...

 

 

War torn Rouen

 

Much of Rouen is tatty and worn looking. Hardly surprising considering is was war torn during recent history.

I found this oddly fascinating. I love reading historical and WWII novels and these scars brought them to life somewhat.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting?

 

This church may just be VERY dirty, but it seemed to us that it was blacked by intense fire.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting?

 

You will find dirty and graffitied streets in Rouen. Many of the buildings look like they are about to fall down! It’s all adds to the romance, I suppose.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting?

 

Joan of Arc

If you are still wondering, is Rouen worth visiting? Then perhaps a chance to learn more about Joan of Arc, the patron saint to the whole of France might persuade you.

She went from hero, to martyr, to saint and a lot of the story happened here.

Rouen is making the most that she was held, tried and burned at the stake here in Rouen.

There is a Joan of Arc chapel in Rouen’s Notre Dame Cathedral (with a rather uninspiring memorial statue of her).

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Joan Of Arc Chapel In Notre Dame Cathedral.
Joan of Arc chapel in Rouen Cathedral.

Place du Vieux Marché is one of the main squares of Rouen. It is surrounded by half-timbered houses and restaurants and is dominated by the perplexing, modern church of Saint Joan of Arc.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Place Du Vieux Marché.
Place du Vieux Marché.

The 1979 wacky and spiky-looking memorial church looks odd with the attractive surrounding half timbered houses. It is thought to be the shape of an upturned boat or the pyre on which the Saint was burnt. The scaly tiling of the roof matches the fish-shaped windows.

It is whats inside that’s impressive. There are 13 stained-glass windows from the Renaissance era which form a glass wall of 500 square metres. These look magnificent bathing the interior with colourful light. They date back to the 16th century and were originally set in another church destroyed during the Second World War. Fortunately, precautions were taken and the windows were put in safe keeping until they were used in this church some 40 years after the war.

A small commemorative plaque and a plain 20 metre high cross mark the actual spot where Joan of Arc was burnt alive in this square on the 30th May 1431.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Flower Market.
Flower market in the Place du Vieux Marché

There is a nice market in the square which is much nicer to look at..

The rue Saint-Romain (where Dame Cakes is) is also bordered by the ruins of a former chapel where the trial of Joan of Arc ended on the 29th May 1429.

 

So is Rouen worth visiting? You will certainly be unimpressed by the approach into central Rouen, with its ugly industrial suburbs. But, stick with it, because once you are through the repellant industrial and commercial business parks a day trip to this historic city centre is a must and I will show you the best things to see in Rouen. The warfare of World War II flattened much of the city south of the Cathedral. So, there is nothing much to see there. But, it would be a crying shame to miss out on experiencing its fascinating historic streets that includes Gothic churches, mansions & hundreds of restored half-timbered houses.
Ruins of the chapel where Joan of Arc was tried.

 

Architecture and winding streets

 

Despite the devastation of World War II there is a significant area of historic Rouen still to explore. The streets are narrow, cobbled, largely pedestrianised and full of interesting shops and restaurants.

 

So is Rouen worth visiting? You will certainly be unimpressed by the approach into central Rouen, with its ugly industrial suburbs. But, stick with it, because once you are through the repellant industrial and commercial business parks a day trip to this historic city centre is a must and I will show you the best things to see in Rouen. The warfare of World War II flattened much of the city south of the Cathedral. So, there is nothing much to see there. But, it would be a crying shame to miss out on experiencing its fascinating historic streets that includes Gothic churches, mansions & hundreds of restored half-timbered houses..
Vast numbers of half timbered houses.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting?
Narrow winding streets.

 

So is Rouen worth visiting? You will certainly be unimpressed by the approach into central Rouen, with its ugly industrial suburbs. But, stick with it, because once you are through the repellant industrial and commercial business parks a day trip to this historic city centre is a must and I will show you the best things to see in Rouen. The warfare of World War II flattened much of the city south of the Cathedral. So, there is nothing much to see there. But, it would be a crying shame to miss out on experiencing its fascinating historic streets that includes Gothic churches, mansions & hundreds of restored half-timbered houses...
Pedestrianised streets.

They are wonderful for selfies or Instagramming.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Couple Taking Selfie.

 

Explore around the Place des Carmes. It’s a neat area with some great boutique shops and restaurants.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Place Des Carmes.
Place des Carmes

The rue de Ganterie is lined up with some interesting half-timbered houses.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Beautiful And Colourful Shops.

 

You find you’ll want to zig zag your way through these historic streets, not wanting to miss one!

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting?

 

The Gothic building of the Parliament of Normandy really stands out. It is rare to see a civil building constructed in Gothic style in the late Middle Ages in France.

It was once the seat of the Parliament of Normandy. It’s not short of gargoyles!

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Parliament of Normandy.
Parliament of Normandy.

Some buildings are much simpler but can hold your attention just as long…

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Narrow Half Timbered Houses.

 

Some parts feel as if time has stood still for hundreds of years.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Historic Streets.

 

Rue Eau-de-Robec is lined up with half-timbered houses and in its centre is a streamlet crossed by a walkway. Don’t go out your way to see it, it’s a little disappointing, being a bit concrete. But if you’re nearby it’s a tick in the box.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Rue Eau-de-Robec.
Rue Eau-de-Robec.

 

Great restaurants

 

We discovered that there are a cluster of good restaurants around the Church of Saint-Maclou.

The Church of Saint-Maclou is one of the most striking and flamboyant churches in Rouen.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Church Of Saint-Maclou.
Church of Saint-Maclou.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Great Restaurants.
Great restaurants

Our choice was a fantastic steak house restaurant called Rotomagus. It is on the church square with a brilliant view of the beautiful Church of Saint-Maclou. But, the men in the group only had eyes for the matured meat from the maturation cellar room.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Steakhouse Restaurant.
Matured meat.

The wine list is great and we received some excellent recommendations.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Great Places To Eat And Drink.
Great wine list.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Restaurants.
An assortment of Charcuterie from Normandy.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Restaurants In Rouen.
Comté cheese drizzled with truffle oil and pine nuts.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Best Restaurants.
American Black Angus “Chuck Flap”.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Best Restaurants In Rouen.
Burger Rotomagus.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Restaurant Choices.
Apple Tartan.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting? Best Restaurant Choices.
Profiteroles.

So, what do you think? Is Rouen worth visiting? In my view it certainly is!

I probably wouldn’t stay, as a day trip was enough time for us to see most sights we wanted to see. But, I’m so pleased we went and will certainly go again.

 

Is Rouen Worth Visiting?
Is Rouen worth visiting?

 

Let’s stay in touch!

 

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Other Normandy travel articles

 

A day in Deauville, Normandy

 

The French House, Normandy (Vlog)

 

Saint Catherine Church Of Honfleur

 

Beuzeville Normandy

 

The French House Fiquefleur-Equainville

 

Walking Around Honfleur

 


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50 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Definitely worth the visit. A great idea honey. It was very romantic and exciting to walk around. I loved the post, with all the interesting historical snipits! Especially the disgruntled stone mason 🤣🤣

    Well done 👍😘

    Reply
    1. Haha! I’m delighted to introduce you to Rouen. Prepare yourself for a dreadful journey in – once you’re in the historic centre, it’s all forgiven..! x

      Reply
  2. Yes to Rouen! I’ve only been once as an adult, quite a few years ago but I remember liking it a lot. Your photos are lovely despite it obviously not being great weather. I’d love it if you’d link up this or another post on France to my monthly linky #AllAboutFrance now on over on my blog.

    Reply
  3. This city looks fabulous. I’m heading to Northern France in April next year to do a roadtrip with a girlfriend in Lille. Normandy might just have to make it onto our itinerary. As always your pics were great & that comte cheese…my mouth is watering. #Teamlovinlife

    Reply
  4. I love the architecture of the place and of course it’s so different to Australia it’s a huge drawcard! The cathedral itself looks amazing.

    I must admit I didn’t know where Rouen is so glad you mentioned France or I would have had to google it! #teamlovinlife

    Reply
    1. Oh I’m so glad you said that – I’ve now added ‘Normand’ ‘French’ etc into the first few paragraphs. The architecture is divine – most of it looks on it’s last legs but I kind of love it for that! x

      Reply
    1. Thank you so much Di! France is a gorgeous country. I’m so lucky to be a neighbour – it’s just a hop over the channel for us in England xx

      Reply
  5. You’ve convinced me! I’m pretty sure I visited Rouen as a child, but I’m sure I would appreciate different things about it now. The cathedral looks breathtaking, I love the grandeur of the nave.

    Reply
    1. Rouen has had a good tidy up and they are starting to develop the much ignored riverbank that was flattened during WW2. I think it’s worth another visit if you can x

      Reply
    1. Oh the cake shop was incredible! A cathedral for pastry lovers like me! The cathedral is gorgeous in parts and well worth a look but is undergoing much needed maintenance. x

      Reply
  6. Thank you for this guide! I have a ‘thing’ for more unknown French cities, as there is simply so much more to explore than just Paris! I really loved Nantes, Metz and Lyon in France, as well. And I think Rouen would really work for me, enough to see and a good atmosphere! I really like the look of that cake shop, mmm.
    #FarawayFiles

    Reply
    1. I’m delighted to introduce you to Rouen – it does sound just right for you! I’ve been wanting to go to Lyon – but I’ll have to pop onto your blog to check out Metz and Nantes! Thanks Esther! x

      Reply
    1. It was the same for me! I had been reading a book about the battle of Agincourt – suddenly it seemed crazy we had never been – especially considering we holiday in Honfleur each year! x

      Reply
  7. What a beautiful blog you have that I have now discovered thanks to the #AllAboutFrance link-up! I’ve not visited Rouen before but I really should as it looks worthwhile. The cathedral looks lovely, as does that Comte cheese dish with truffle oil and pine nuts, yummy! #AllAboutFrance

    Reply
    1. Thank you so much Becks! The restaurant was fantastic! The cathedral is wonderful in parts. Overall though Rouen was an absolute delight! Thank you so much for the comment x

      Reply
  8. Such the perfect word to describe the cathedral… breathtaking. It certainly is that! We didn’t go inside on the evenings we headed into Rouen but the lightening on the external walls during the winter evenings was quite amazing. Thanks for taking me back there. Annette #FarawayFiles

    Reply
  9. We’ve yet to venture to Rouen but I’m very tempted. My husband has an interest in the war while I love the intricate detail that has gone into the buildings and tea rooms are a treat. #TriumphantTales

    Reply
    1. Hi Helena! That sounds like my husband and me! My son and husband were particularly fascinated by the the palace full of bullet holes. It’s a glimpse into the devastation Rouen must have found itself in. x PS Dames Cakes was exceptionally good!! x

      Reply
  10. i went to Notre Dame with Hubby for my birthday back when we had just started dating and it is so stunning and a place that we both hold fond memories of.
    I’m sure I could convince him to go back and do the streets like you have as they look beautiful! Thanks for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back tomorrow!

    Reply
  11. Well, you’ve certainly made the case for Rouen – looks like an absolutely lovely city! I love anything French so didn’t need much persuading, but regardless really enjoyed this post. I would love to see the clock! Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

    Reply

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