When Marco and I were doing our impromptu road trip from Brittany through Normandy to Paris, we decided on a quick stop in Rouen to at least get a glance at its famous cathedral, Notre-Dame de Rouen. We really only had time for a superbrief visit in Rouen, because we could neither pass up fresh mussels in Trouville-sur-Mer nor the cute port and wooden cathedral in Honfleur… and I don’t regret that choice one bit. However, there are many things in Rouen we didn’t see or do, so I’d definitely like to go back and explore more of the city one day.
Visiting Rouen France
Rouen is a good hour and a half northwest of Paris. We came from the other side though as we had just visited Honfleur. We looked for hotels online at the very last minute and found a good deal for the Hotel de la Cathedrale. It is located right behind the cathedral (however, not with a view of it in that sense) and it’s therefore a great place to start visiting that part of the city. It was clean, the people were nice, and it was a pleasant stay overall. However, there is no parking close-by and you can’t even drop off your bags in front of the hotel since it is a restricted street, so be prepared to walk 10-15 minutes even from the paid hotel parking. Also, the walls are superthin, so you do get to hear what your neighbors are up to… less than ideal I’d say. I also didn’t like that there really weren’t any bars or restaurants in the immediate vicinity. In the end we found some good crepes at Chez Roland which was in walking distance, but if I were to return to Rouen again I would look for a hotel closer to the square (Place du Vieux-Marche). It seems like that’s where the life is in the evening.
Things I didn’t know about Rouen
- There are many big cathedrals. To my shame I have to admit that I didn’t really know much about Rouen before we went there. I had read about its amazing cathedral, but that was about it. When we arrived and drove through the city in our search of the hotel I was surprised by the number of big cathedrals in Rouen. You only ever hear about the main one, but there are at least two other pretty big ones. The funny thing is that they aren’t even lit up at night. We drove by one and saw a huge cathedral all hidden in the dark because we had to stop at a traffic light nearby. Apparently, in Rouen a cathedral has to be bigger than in other towns to get recognition I guess it’s hard to compete with the famous Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Rouen.
- It’s all about Jeanne D’Arc. There is a church in her name, there is a tower in her name, and many stores, hotels, and restaurants somehow incorporate her name. Rouen is where this young freedom fighter was tried, found guilty, and ultimately burned to death.
- Monet’s cathedral series is based on a cathedral in Rouen. So… this is really embarrassing. I had no idea about this at all. Monet lived in Rouen and painted the Notre-Dame de Rouen in various lights and from various angles. It’s crazy famous and the drawings are beautiful. How did I not know? No idea!
- Rouen was built around the Seine. Not only am I apparently bad at art, I also am pretty bad at geography. When we left Honfleur via the Pont Du Normandy, we crossed a a big river, the Seine. Did I know this? No. Well, we saw it again in Rouen…
- Sunday morning are not for breakfast in Rouen. We decided to skip a fairly pricey hotel breakfast in favor of a coffee and a croissant at a bar… or so we thought. Everything was still closed when we left the hotel around 9am. Luckily we found a stand that was selling croissants and other sweet goodies on our way through the Rue Du Gros-Horloge. I’m really not a morning person to start out with, so when we saw a, wait for it, McDonald’s with a McCafe in it, I had no problems storming in there for my coffee fix And it was nice! My theory is that McDonald’s has a lot more competition in Europe in the dessert department, so they sell much nicer stuff in European locations to keep up.
What we did in Rouen
- Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Rouen: It’s a beautiful cathedral and well worth a visit. What struck me from the outside is that the towers are different from each other. They must have been built at different periods in time. What struck me from the inside is just how large it really is. It’s tall and long and wide and you can basically get lost in there. When we went, they had closed off the back part of the cathedral for an event of some sort, so we could just get a glimpse of the pretty glass windows. They looked nice though!
Rue du Gros-Horloge: Literally this translates to “street of the big clock”. The clock is over a walkway about half-way between the cathedral and the square. It is big alright and its features are really interesting. It does not only show the time, but also how far the sun had moved. Very intricate!
Place du Vieux-Marche: That’s where I would try to book a hotel if we went to Rouen again. There are a lot of cute little restaurants and bars and it must get pretty lively there in the evenings. I don’t know if they have a market every day or if it was just there because it was Sunday, but if it’s there when you go, you should check it out. They have all sorts of cheeses and meats and fruits and vegetables and whatever kind of seafood you could want. The square also features some houses built in the traditional Normandy-style that are fun to check out. The square also houses the Eglise Jeanne d’Arc which looks completetly different from most other churches I have ever seen (at least from the outside). Quite a bit to see there!
What I’d like to go back for in Rouen
- We went to the Place du Vieux-Marche only during the morning. I bet during the evening it’s a lot of fun and great for people watching. So, dinner & drinks at the square go on the list for next time.
- I would also want to check out some of the other cathedrals/ churches, e.g. the Eglise Jeanne d’Arc. It’s very intriguing because it’s so different from the outside. I want to see how it looks from the inside.
- The Tour Jeanne d’Arc is a tower in which Jeanne D’Arc spent her final days. I’d like to visit it. I think it might not be central enough to provide great views of the city, but the area is pretty flat, so who knows. Great views from the top are always a bonus.
Here are some of the pics we took that morning. There are a few more in an album on my Facebook page. This post is also part of Travel Photo Thursday. Head on over there for more fun travel pics from around the world.