What to visit in Rouen in a weekend ? Rouen is one of the largest medieval cities in France. This city has an absolutely magnificent historical heritage. Between its small streets, its half-timbered houses, the history of Joan of Arc, its shops and pottery workshops and the magnificent cathedral, you will not be disappointed !
Here is our top 10 of the most beautiful monuments to see in Rouen to inspire you in planning your next holiday in Normandy !
Notre Dame de Rouen Cathedral
In pole position of our top 10 “What to visit in Rouen”, we advise you to visit the magnificent Notre Dame de Rouen Cathedral, whose bell tower can be seen from miles away thanks to the cast iron spire that rises to 151 meters!
Located in the heart of the city, the Notre-Dame de Rouen Cathedral is a monument where you can read all the evolution of the Gothic art. The construction of the building was undertaken in the middle of the 12th century, on the site of the Romanesque cathedral whose crypt has been preserved. A hundred years later, it was completed, but it was reworked and finished in the following centuries. The façade is a testimony to the evolution of Gothic art.
The Cathedral houses some of the tombs of the former Dukes of Normandy, such as that of Rollo, the founder of the duchy. Richard the Lionheart, who loved the city so much, asked to have his heart put in the crypt.
In addition, during the 1890s, the famous painter Claude Monet painted a series of 30 pictures depicting the cathedral at different times of the day and seasons.
If you want to know more about Monet, go to our blog post dedicated to Monet!
Historial of Joan of Arc
The Historial de Jeanne d’Arc is an exciting and visually stunning museum! This museum is very instructive, thanks to different visual and audio explanations on the tour, we learn more about the life of Joan of Arc, “the Maid of Orleans” from her childhood to her death at the stake. Captured by the Burgundians at Compiègne in 1430, she was sold to the English by Jean de Luxembourg, Count of Ligny, for the sum of ten thousand pounds. She was condemned to be burned ? alive in Rouen on May 30, 1431 after a trial that condemned her as a heretic.
In 1455, following the execution of Joan of Arc, Pope Calixtus III reviewed her trial because it was marred by numerous irregularities. A second trial in 1456 concluded that Joan was innocent and fully rehabilitated. Thanks to these two trials, she is one of the best known personalities of the Middle Ages.
Beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920, Joan of Arc became one of the patron saints of France in 1922. Her national holiday is set for the 2nd Sunday in May. In many countries, she is a mythical figure who has inspired a multitude of literary and cinematographic works.
If you want to have more informations about Joan of Arc, have a look at the Historial website .The museum entrance costs 10€50.
Le Gros Horloge clock
In 3rd place we elected the Gros Horloge which is one of the most important monuments in Rouen! The Gros Horloge ⏲️ is located on the rue du Gros Horloge which is one of the busiest streets in Rouen. It has one of the oldest clockwork mechanisms in France: the movement and the clock were made in 1389.
The two facades of the clock represent a golden sun with 24 rays on a blue starry background. The hand, at the end of which is represented a lamb, points the hour. The phases of the moon are indicated in the upper part of the dial. There is also a “semainier”. It is decorated with allegorical subjects: the Moon for Monday, Mars for Tuesday, Mercury for Wednesday, Jupiter for Thursday, Venus for Friday, Saturn for Saturday and Apollo for Sunday.
Restored from 1997, the place was reopened to the public in December 2006. The museum allows to discover and admire the workshop of the clockmaker, the bells, the weights, the machines and the dome. The upper platform offers a splendid panorama on the roofs of the city and the Notre-Dame de Rouen cathedral.
The access to the Big Clock of Rouen costs 7€.
Saint Maclou Church
If you like churches, we advise you to visit the Saint Maclou Church in Rouen: We love it because it is a jewel of the flamboyant gothic art! Built between 1437 and 1517. The main portal is decorated with scenes of the resurrection of the dead and the last judgment.
The church suffered a lot of damage during the Second World War with the fall of two bombs in 1944 causing destruction and fire. The bell tower is in danger of collapsing. Comforting works are still in progress. The choir was restored in 2000 and the bell tower was rededicated on June 23, 2007. The church is classified as a historical monument and its superb façade was renovated a few years ago.
Saint Maclou Cemetery
Just next to the church of Saint Maclou, there is an unusual cemetery: The Saint Maclou Oyster is an ancient charnel house cemetery dating from the 16th century in Rouen. It is one of the few remaining examples of this type of ossuary in Europe. This monument is classified on the list of historical monuments.
First of all, the name of the Saint-Maclou aître comes from the old French aitre, meaning “cemetery”. The Saint-Maclou cemetery dates back to the Black Death of 1348.
Following a new plague epidemic in the 16th century, it became necessary to increase its capacity. Consequently, the parish decided to build galleries topped by attics, intended to contain the bones. The construction of the ossuary began in 1526.
Then, one after the other, the following were built on this site: cemetery, boys’ school, then girls’ school, spinning mill, girls’ boarding school, brothers’ school. In 1927, the City of Rouen bought the buildings, which had been left in a state of abandonment. It planned to install the Museum of Norman Art there. However, after restoration of the buildings, it was finally the School of Fine Arts that moved there in 1940 before moving in 2014.
Archaeological excavations undertaken in the courtyard in 2016 and 2017 unearthed numerous skeletons.
The Flaubert Museum is a place not to be missed! Indeed, this place is classified as a Historical Monument, and it has the label Musée de France and Maison des Illustres.
Located in the pavilion of the Hôtel-Dieu where Gustave Flaubert was born, and where his father was a surgeon, this museum presents souvenirs of the Flaubert family.
In addition, this place evokes the history of medicine from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the 20th century. An important collection of ceramics, literature and old books can be found in this hospital museum:
11 rooms of permanent collections are to be discovered: cabinet of curiosities, apothecary, dental cabinet… Many unusual and unique objects are installed there: 6-seater patient bed, 18th century delivery dummy, leech perch and many other things to discover!
The access to the Flaubert Museum costs 4 €.
The Old Market Square
Moreover, Rouen is also a city not to be missed for its Place du Vieux Marché, notably thanks to Joan of Arc!
Indeed, the Place du Vieux Marché of Rouen is the historical square of the city. The name of the square refers to a market that was originally held there.
The fame of the square is linked to the ordeal of Joan of Arc who was burned alive there on May 30, 1431. A cross was erected next to the site of the pyre, as stipulated in the annulment proceedings in 1456. This cross is a national monument to Joan of Arc. The Place du Vieux Marché was also the usual place of execution.
Today, it is a lively square with restaurants and bars around it.
What to visit in Rouen : Walk on the banks of the Seine
Moreover, the Seine passes through Rouen, so why not navigate on its waters to discover more about this wonderful city?
Indeed, it is possible to walk around Rouen by the river! You can walk on the banks of the Seine, and admire the landscapes of Normandy.
Moreover, you can also embark on a boat for a cruise on the Seine. Whether it’s a simple stroll or a festive dinner, this trip will take you to the heart of the Boucles de la Seine for a relaxing moment with your partner, friends or family. From Rouen, along the water, discover the impressionist landscapes immortalized by great artists such as Hector Malot, Sisley or Lebourg.
Visit the Bourgtheroulde Hotel courtyard
The Hôtel de Bourgtheroulde is a historic property dating from the 15th century located in the heart of Rouen.
This former mansion was built for the Le Roux family between 1499 and 1532.
The left wing of the mansion consists of a Renaissance Italian style gallery called “galerie d’Aumale”. The upper register represents six allegorical scenes from Petrarch’s Triumphs, while the lower register shows a historical scene contemporary with the monument: the interview at the Camp du Drap D’Or: A diplomatic meeting, a political stunt and the most expensive party in history… 500 years ago, near Calais, the diplomatic meeting of the Camp of the Cloth of Gold took place between François I (King of France) and Henri VIII (King of England) from June 7 to 24, 1520 in Balinghem near Calais, between Ardres, belonging to France, and Guînes, English at the time. In short, they will live 18 days of festivities of an unheard of luxury, with huge feasts, jousts and balls… not to mention the facilities!
In addition to the history of the hotel, you can also enjoy the SPA, indoor pool, steam room and sauna. In addition, you can have your meal in the beautiful restaurant or simply have a drink in the hotel bar. The hotel is located close to the train station, the Cathedral, the Joan of Arc historial and all the places of interest in the historic district!
Faience of Rouen
Finally, Rouen is also famous for its Faience! It is a symbol of French craftsmanship developed during the reign of Louis XIV.
Rouen’s faience appeared in the sixteenth century with Masseot Abaquesne. He made magnificent ceramic tiles depicting historical scenes, emblems and coats of arms in the Italian style of the Renaissance. He also created a number of Italian-inspired containers for pharmacies and groceries.
Then, from the beginning of the sixteenth century, the faience de Rouen acquired a national fame. The quality of its models and motifs makes it the privileged decoration of the mansions of the nobility.
Later, in 1644, the faience craftmanship returns to Rouen thanks to a man called Nicolas Poirel, who hired Edme Poterat who launched the famous white and blue decorative style. on with lambrequins. The decoration, initially sober and limited, will gradually become more and more sought after and will cover all the pieces. It will mark the Rouen style for a long time.
You can now buy beautiful sets of faience in Rouen, thay are quite expensive but they make a beautful gift!
We hope that our article has given you the desire to visit Rouen! Don’t hesitate to go for a walk in the area!
And as always…Be curious!