Rouen and its historic centre
Explore ‘the City of a Hundred Bell Towers’ and its amazing historical heritage
In Normandy’s capital, the influence of Joan of Arc and the Impressionists is all around. Designated a Ville d’Art et d’Histoire since 2002, given its rich history, Rouen stands out for its exceptional timber-frame houses, some dating back to the 14th century; admire the oldest examples on Rue Saint Nicolas and Rue Saint Romain. The city also boasts the oldest inn in France, La Couronne, founded in 1345. Today, Rouen has one of France’s largest pedestrian city centres, many of its picturesque streets reserved for visitors on foot, such as Rue Eau de Robec, once lined with drapers and dyers, but, since 1980, featuring a clean, artificial little stream running down the middle of it.
Rouen’s varied, bustling quarters are packed with fascinating things to visit
In the Vieux Marché and Cathedral Quarters, the squares Place de la Pucelle and Place du Vieux Marché stand out. Also seek out the courtyard of the Hôtel Bourgtheroulde, to admire one of Rouen’s finest Renaissance buildings, and the city’s famed Halles (covered market), where you can sample excellent local produce. Rouen’s Notre Dame Cathedral is world famous thanks to Claude Monet’s series of paintings of it; every summer, a fabulous sound and light show is projected across its façade. Another highlight not to be missed is Rouen’s Gros Horloge, a magnificent clock tower open to visitors, symbol of the city’s freedoms.
In the Quartier des Musées, as the name indicates, there’s quite an array of museums appealing to a wide audience, all the more so as entrance is free to the permanent collections, plus a number of temporary exhibitions. In this quarter, wander around Square Verdrel, a perfect illustration of a garden that might have inspired Impressionist artists, retaining its 1862 design. Rouen’s Musée des Beaux-Arts boasts one of France’s greatest collections of Impressionist works outside Paris.
Finally, the Saint Ouen Quarter is reputed for its art galleries and antiques shops, some boutiques here at least a century old. Seek out young creators and artists too, alongside cosy tearooms and trendy restaurants. Look out for the ‘maison qui penche’, a crooked house said to have dropped by 70cm in parts!