Part 1 – Rouen
When talking about Normandy, probably one of the most vivid pictures that come to our mind is that of the hauntingly beautiful Mont Saint Michel. However there is just so much more to Normandy than a visit to this beautiful island town, its a setting that is so unique in France and much of the other side of the English Channel. Normandy can entice different types of travelers, the World War history types, the literary cultural types, the sweaty hiker types, the instagrammer types and the everything in between types.
Normandy stretches in the east from Giverny, boasting of Claude Monet’s beautiful house where he spent 40 years of his life till his death, to the capital town of Rouen in the middle and all the way upto the English Channel coasts dotted with the beautiful towns of Dieppe, Etretat right upto Deauville. And not to mention the idyllic town of Mont Saint Michel.
If you have a short time in Normandy, I would recommend having your base in Rouen, the capital of the region. It is right in the middle providing easy access, read day trips, to the west coast as well as to Giverny in the east. And Rouen is a beautiful city in its own right with the charming Notre Dame sure to coax a visit. And being a city, there are multiple options to stay, suitable for all budgets.
Where to stay in Rouen
Rouen is an important French port city by the Sienne, and has a variety of accommodation options to chose from. I chose to stayed at the IBIS Champ de Mars which is by the Sienne and a 15 min walk to the city centre. There are a number of options within the city centre itself including another IBIS. I didnot checkout Airbnb’s for this trip, but there are a number of options there as well.
Going about in Rouen
Rouen has a network of public buses and metros running, however the way to my hotel from the station didn’t have any options. Which although I found quite strange didn’t bother me too much because in these situations there is always Uber to your rescue. Honestly I would have walked the 2 kms stretch to my hotel but with a heavy backpack, a suitcase and after a tiring day at work, a ride was most welcoming. So, if in Rouen, be prepared to walk although the city centre, the train station and the riverside are within comfortable walkable distance.
Must see in Rouen
Rouen is packed with history and architecture and beautiful wood framed houses. If you have a weekend to spare in Rouen, then follow this guide for the top things to see in Rouen.
#1 Cathedral de Notre Dame Rouen
The primary attraction is the 12th century Notre Dame cathedral sitting in the centre of the town. The choir of the cathedral contains the tombs of the Dukes of Normandy, including that of Rollon, founder of the duchy in 911, and the heart of Richard the Lionheart, King of England and Duke of Normandy.
TIP: If you are visiting between June and September, then donot miss the Light Show at the Cathedral. To check timings and dates, visit Cathedral of Light 2019
#2 Gros Horloge of Rouen
Right opposite the street to the cathedral is the ‘Rouen Clock’ or the Gros Horloge. This Renaissance-style clock and one of the oldest in France, can take your sense of time away.
#3: The Joan of Arc Church and Museum
Treading further on the historic path, it was in Rouen that Joan of Arc was martyred and Rouen today gloriously remembers this daughter of France. The recently built Joan of Arc church, the Joan of Arc Museum and the Dungeon where she was held are all up for the eager visitor to glimpse into.
#4: The DonJon or The Tower of Joan of Arc
The only surviving piece of the castle where Joan of Arc was imprisoned in the 13th century and also where part of her trial was conducted. In modern times, an Escape Game has been fashioned within this Tower, which can be pretty fun I believe but it was closed when I had visited.
#5: Church of St Maclou
The Church of Saint-Maclou is considered one of the best examples of the flamboyant style of Gothic architecture in France.
#6: Timbered houses of Rouen
Looking for some Instagram inspirations in Rouen? Well you don’t have to look too hard because those timbered houses are just waiting for your camera.
#7: Sunday Market
And finally if you are in Rouen on a Sunday, then do take a stroll to its market square to relish the French love for fresh produce. The market comes alive with fresh vegetables and fruits from local producers as well as a variety of food stalls.
#8: A walk-around the town
No trip to anyplace is complete without aimlessly walking around town, and thats why it is on my list of must dos in Rouen too. You never know what you can chance upon, like I did in a church courtyard.