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Rouen

The city of Jeanne d’Arc

Rouen is one of the principal cities in northern France. We stayed one week about 20 minutes south of the city. In retrospect because of the proximity we could have spent more time here, but as it turned out we commited the mistake of overlooking what’s right under one’s nose and didn’t give ourselves enough time to better explore this charming city.

Rouen’s 2000-year history included both humble beginnings as a pre-historic settlement and past glory as a Roman center in Gaul. Rouen also figured prominently in French history through its connection with Joan of Arc, savior of France. She was tried and executed for heresy by the English here in 1431. In WWII it was occupied by Nazi Germany, and many places in the city still showed the scars of war. Fortunately Rouen was mostly spared from bombardment during the Allies’ liberation of France (unlike Caen). Now it’s an important industrial and transportation center, as well as a historical center, in France.

I was most impressed by its many cathedrals and churches. I’ve visited a few Gothic cathedrals in France, yet the Notre Dame cathedral still stunned my mind. If Monet painted it, it must be worth a second look :) If one is taking a “cathedral tour” in northern France, Rouen is a must-stop, along with Chartres, Reims, Amiens, Strasbourg, etc.

The ornate Gros Horloge is a main tourist attraction, while the Rue du Gros Horloge which runs from Notre Dame cathedral to Place Vieux Marche and which passes right under it is the principal tourist thoroughfare.

Half-timbered houses adjacent to the Église St-Maclou.

Église Jeanne d-Arc

At the site where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake by the English is a church dedicated to her. The church is interesting architecturally, with its long, sweep roofline which reaches all the way to the ground and the serrated “rooflets” seen here. Inside, gigantic panels of stained glass lend the church an ethereal air.

Rue du Gros Horloge

This cobblestoned pedestrian-only lane is the heart of the tourist district and is lined with shops of all kinds. At about the half-way point is its namesake, a really big clock.

Palais de Justice

Another simply splendid Gothic structure. The Palace of Justice is just a stone’s throw away from the Rue du Gros Horloge.

Notre Dame Cathedral

This Gothic masterpiece towers over the city and is visible for miles from the surrounding countryside. One feels awed by the complexity and majesty of this marvellous creation.

More Rouen sights

Pros: Cathedrals, a good base for exploring Normandy In a nutshell: Must stop for Gothic lovers