Rouen, located on the banks of the Seine, is a beautiful French city famous for its Norman Gothic palaces, as well as its museums and parks.
Who and why should come to Rouen
The settlement on the site of modern Rouen was formed in ancient times. In 843, the territory was captured by the Vikings, who sailed from the Scandinavian Islands. They founded the Duchy of Normandy and made Rouen their capital. The city developed rapidly, built up with palaces and temples. During the Renaissance, chic mansions appeared in it, not inferior in beauty to the buildings of Paris and Marseilles — architecture lovers will definitely like it here.
Alas, at the end of World War II, Rouen was bombed, as a result of which many architectural masterpieces were damaged. The reconstruction lasted 15 years, and now the historical center has been restored. Tourists come to see the Abbey of Saint-Ouen, the Palace of Justice, Rouen Cathedral, the Old Market Square.
Rouen offers a rich cultural program. The first place in it is occupied by the international festival of sailboats and warships. For ten days in June, guests are entertained with concerts, parades, fireworks and get acquainted with the maritime traditions of different countries.
Shoppers rush to the city in the spring so as not to miss the trade fair. The event is attended by French and foreign manufacturers of fashionable clothes, accessories, furniture, perfumes, toys. Buyers are waiting not only for grandiose discounts, but also for shows and concerts.
The Botanical Garden and Grammont Park lure adults and children with original design and entertainment. Playgrounds, attractions, cafes, sports equipment are installed in the green zone.
To appreciate the traditional Norman nature, people go to the reserve located between Le Havre and Rouen. Arriving there, you can see lush deciduous forests growing along the Seine, picturesque plains, green hills. The park has hiking trails and campsites.
Interesting places and architecture
Old Market Square
The history of Rouen is closely connected with Joan of Arc. It was here that the inquisitorial trial of the national heroine took place. After the verdict was passed, she was executed on Starorynochnaya Square. Today it is a place of memory of the Maid of Orleans.
In the center of the square there is a cross of Joan of Arc, next to it there is a temple dedicated to the warrior girl, canonized by the Catholic Church. The territory is framed by beautiful mansions with cafes, restaurants and shops.
The central part of the city is crossed by a small Gros-Khorlozh street, built up with historical buildings in the Gothic style. An important object on it is the astronomical clock of the XIV century, installed above the brick arch. An intricate wrought iron mechanism is hidden inside a large square façade that depicts a golden sun and a blue sky.
The dial diameter is 2.5 meters. In addition to time, the clock counts the phases of the moon and the days of the week. A tower with a bell tower adjoins the arch itself — on its top, tourists can see the back of the clock mechanism and the panorama of Gros-Khorlozh Street.
The square in the historic heart of Rouen is framed by houses where famous people of the city lived: the poet Edmond Spalikowski and the writer Gabriel Benois. The main architectural complex is the Hotel Bourgtheroulde. A chic 15th-century mansion built in a mixed French Renaissance and Gothic style.
The outer walls are decorated with plaster medallions, coats of arms of the Norman lords, arches and portals in the style of Louis XII. The five-star hotel is a well-preserved historical monument of the Renaissance.
Donjon of Rouen Castle
In 1204, the French king Philip II Augustus gave the order to build Rouen Castle. But during the medieval religious wars, the powerful structure collapsed. Only the round tower of Jeanne d’Arc with a pointed roof has survived to this day.
In this dungeon, a court session and torture of the national heroine took place. In the middle of the last century, a museum of the Rouen Castle was opened in the interior of the tower. The expositions tell about the construction of the architectural complex, its significance for the city and the trial of the Virgin of Orleans.
Palace of Justice
In the historical part of Rouen rises a magnificent example of medieval Gothic architecture — the Palace of Justice. The façade of the house is adorned with spike-shaped turrets with pointed spiers. Gargoyles are placed on the cornices, designed to drive away evil spirits. The interior decoration is a harmonious combination of Renaissance and Gothic. The walls of the central building are decorated with stucco, tapestries and paintings.
Before the start of the French Revolution, the Parliament of Normandy was located here. Now the city court settled in the palace.
The Cathedral in Rouen is considered a national monument of the French people and is under state protection. The Gothic church was built in 1030 on the site of a destroyed Roman baptistery.
A tall building with a beautiful openwork facade is decorated with arches, lancet windows, statues of the prophets, and narrow towers. Inside there are frescoes illustrating the life of John the Evangelist and a sarcophagus with the embalmed heart of the legendary King of England Richard I the Lionheart.
One of the most important historical monuments of Rouen is considered to be the Abbey of Saint-Ouen. The monastery, founded in the era of the Merovingians and Carolingians, was once the largest abbey of the Benedictine order in Normandy, but gradually lost its grandeur and fell into disrepair.
Now the city hall is located in the building of the dormitory. And in the main church, decorated with multi-colored stained-glass windows and wall paintings, classical music concerts, art exhibitions and meetings with interesting people are regularly held.
Church of Saint-Maclou
The construction of the Catholic Church of Saint-Maclou in the French Gothic style began in 1436 and lasted almost 100 years. The architectural ensemble looks like a basilica with four chapels around an octagonal choir. The high spire of the temple is clearly visible from different parts of the city. The outer walls are decorated with openwork ornaments, sculptures of saints are installed in the niches. Inside there is an ancient wooden altar, carved furniture, marble statues.
Church of Joan of Arc
The Church of St. Jeanne was erected in 1979 on the Old Market Square near the site of the burning of the Virgin of Orleans. The modern building, designed by the architect Louis Arretches, features sweeping curves that represent the flames that engulfed Jeanne. Inside are stained glass windows of the 16th century, brought here from an ancient church destroyed during the Second World War. Window panels illustrate the life of Jesus Christ, the Mother of God, St. Peter.
The Benedictine monastery in the vicinity of Rouen was built in the Norman classical style, which stands out for its harmony and austerity of lines. The 17th century complex includes a manor of lords, a church, monks’ houses, and barns. The territory, spread out on the banks of the Seine, is surrounded by an old garden and is open to visitors. Tourists are shown the monastery buildings, the park and the home chapel of the owners of the estate.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Rouen, founded by Napoleon I in 1809, houses a huge collection of paintings, engravings, and sculptures dating back to the 15th-20th centuries. The permanent exhibition includes Russian icons, French Rococo and Classical paintings, a model of the Saint-Maclou church, and antique furniture. A separate room is reserved for contemporary art: impressionism, symbolism, post-impressionism.
The Archaeological Museum of Upper Normandy is housed in a two-story 17th-century mansion. Exhibits illustrating the life of people in this area are exhibited in spacious halls. The collection is based on items found during excavations of an ancient Gallic settlement: weapons, ceramics, jewelry. Special exhibitions cover the Bronze Age, the Merovingian Age, the Gallic Period, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
The port of Rouen is one of the oldest and largest in France. The museum, launched in 1999, covers its turbulent history from the day it was founded to the present day. Tourists are told about the merchant fleet, show models of ships, dock infrastructure, engine parts, sailors’ uniforms.
Exhibitions about whaling and submarines are popular. Among the famous exhibits are the skeleton of a huge whale and a copy of the submarine invented by American engineer Robert Fulton.
Gustave Flaubert Museum
The French prose writer Gustave Flaubert was born into the family of a doctor who was in charge of the department of the Rouen hospital. Despite the demands of his father, he did not devote himself to medicine, but began to engage in literary activities.
The writer’s house is equipped with a museum that tells about the life of Flaubert. Guests are shown his personal belongings, manuscripts, a desk, antique furniture, and tapestries. The second part of the museum is dedicated to his father’s medical work. It presents an obstetric simulator of the 19th century, apothecary scales, surgical instruments and models of human organs.
Museum of Ceramics
Back in 1673, the Rouen Porcelain Manufactory unraveled the secret of Chinese porcelain and launched the mass production of dishes. The Museum of Ceramics tells about the development of production and the formation of the original French style.
The collection contains 5,000 items made in the factories of Rouen, Lille, Nevers and Mustiers. Visitors are shown painted sculptures, tea sets, vases, ceramic ornaments, and soft and hard porcelain wash jugs.
In the vicinity of Rouen is the village of Giverny, where the French painter Claude Monet lived and died. The artist, fascinated by the local scenery, bought a house and planted a plot of land with fruit trees. After the death of the owner, the estate passed to the state and a museum was opened in it. Tourists can see how the famous artist lived, enter the workshop where famous masterpieces were created, and visit the grave of Claude Monet in the village cemetery.
H2O science museum
On the embankment of the Seine in 2010 opened its doors to a science center designed for adults and children. Inside there is an auditorium for seminars with 200 seats, equipped with interactive screens and a sound system. Lectures telling about natural phenomena, scientific discoveries, flora and fauna of the Earth are available to young tourists. Children can sign up for master classes and take part in interesting experiments.
Nature and parks
An area of 10 hectares near the south bank of the Seine belongs to the botanical garden. It grows 5600 species of plants from different countries. Irises, rhododendrons, daylilies, dahlias, spices, medicinal herbs flaunt in the flower beds. The greenhouses are planted with orchids and roses. In greenhouses there are palm trees, cacti, succulents.
Golden pheasants, parrots and quails live in the aviary of the botanical garden. The garden attracts guests with magnificent landscaping. In its center there is a pavilion used for flower exhibitions and seminars.
The park, designed by designer Jacqueline Osti, is a favorite vacation spot for citizens. The area of 25,000 m² is occupied by trees, shrubs, lawns. In the middle there is a large lake surrounded by willows, across which a wooden openwork bridge is thrown. The park is equipped with playgrounds, roller tracks, gazebos, a stage for performances. There is a bowling alley, an indoor pool and a gym on site.
Hill of Saint Catherine
On the banks of the Seine, the green hill of St. Catherine rises, from which a beautiful panorama of the river and the city opens. At its top, Claude Monet liked to relax and create. It was here that he painted the General View of Rouen, which is kept in the local art museum. A narrow paved path leads up the hill. Going upstairs, travelers can sit on the benches, breathe in the fresh air and admire the architectural sights of Rouen.