THE 10 BEST Rouen Tours & Excursions

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1. Normandy Loire Valley 3-Days Trip with Mont Saint Michel and Castles from Paris

rouen france tour

2. Small Group Guided Tour of the Secret History of Rouen

rouen france tour

3. Normandy 2Days Trip, D-Day Beaches & Mont Saint Michel from Paris

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4. Guided Tour of the Historic Center of Rouen

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5. Private Day trip to Rouen, Normandy: On the footstep to Joan of Arc

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6. Private Custom Walking Guided Tour in Rouen

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7. Rouen: Private Walking Tour with a Licensed Tour Guide

rouen france tour

8. Treetop adventure course in the heart of Rouen

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9. Normandy Rouen, Honfleur, Etretat 2 to 7 people Trip from Paris

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10. Discover the Dday beaches in Normandy.

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11. Private Tour: Rouen and Giverny Day Trip from Bayeux

rouen france tour

12. 2-day Mont Saint-Michel, Full D-Day, Normandy Private from Paris

rouen france tour

13. Private day tour to Giverny Gardens and Rouen from Paris

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14. Private Tour: Rouen, Bayeux, and Falaise Day Trip from Rouen

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15. Two Days Private Tour to Normandy from Paris

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16. Sweet tour in Rouen (Small Group )

rouen france tour

17. Learn French naturally with our Normandy & Paris Impressionist tour for adults.

rouen france tour

18. Rouen Private City Tour from Le Havre Cruise Port or Hotels

rouen france tour

19. 2-day Mont Saint-Michel Normandy Brittany Private Trip from Paris

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20. Rouen Private Walking Tour With A Professional Guide

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21. Private Guided Tour In Normandy - Rouen, Honfleur, Etretat (ex)

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22. 2-Days Private Guided Tour in Normandy: D-day, MSM, Rouen etc

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23. Private Tour: D-Day Beaches from Rouen

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24. A day in Mont Saint Michel !

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25. The Great Paris Layover: Best of Paris in a Day!

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26. 2Days Trip D-Day Beaches, Saint Malo & Mont Saint Michel(Pick Up)

rouen france tour

27. Private Tour: Rouen, Bayeux, and Falaise Day Trip from Caen

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28. Rouen audio guided tour

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29. Private Normandy Live guided trip to Rouen — Honfleur — Deauville

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30. 3-Day Private Normandy — Brittany — 3 Loire Castles, Oysters & Calvados tasting

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A Free & Self-Guided Rouen Walking Tour

By: Author Sophie Nadeau

Posted on Last updated: 29th June 2023

Categories France , walking tour

Last Updated on 29th June 2023 by Sophie Nadeau

Alleged to be the place where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, the location where Rollo the Viking is buried, not to mention one of the most important cities in Northern France: when it comes to Rouen, there’s certainly no shortage of history to be uncovered. Here’s a free and self-guided Rouen walking tour you’ll love to follow…

Best things to do in Rouen, Normandy, Northern France! Acitivites, places to go and history to see in Rouen.

Practical tips and tricks to make the most of this Rouen walking tour

Hôtel de ville de rouen, church of st. ouen, rouen, have a coffee at l’ espiguette, cathédrale notre dame de rouen, le gros-horloge de rouen, church of saint joan of arc, musée de la céramique  , musée des beaux-arts de rouen (museum of fine arts) , la tour jeanne d’arc , enjoyed reading this free and self-guided rouen walking tour pin this article now, read it again later:.

This walk is best attempted on a sunny day thanks to the number of outdoor things to see and do within the city! With this being said, if it is indeed raining during your stay then rest assured that there are plenty of cafés and shops en route where you can shelter from the rain, warm up with a delicious hot chocolate, or do a little boutique shopping.

Otherwise, it’s worth noting that like many European cities, there are several cobbled lanes across Rouen and so this isn’t the place to wear your high heels!

As Rouen is the capital city of Normandy, you’ll soon discover that many people speak a great level of English. However, it’s only polite to learn a few words of the local language, in this case, French. Bring along a French phrasebook like this one to help you get by.

Walking time: 29 minutes

Distance covered: 2.2 km

Rouen suggested walking tour

This walking tour begins in the very heart of the administrative side of the city, at the Hôtel de Ville, i.e. the town hall. Situated a little way outside of the historic city centre, the Hôtel de Ville is constructed after the Gothic style. Once upon a time, the town hall would have been located next to where the Gros Horloge is now to be found.

In 1800, the administration was moved to the former Abbey of Saint-Ouen and offices are now located in the former Monk dormitories. Having survived the intense destruction of the city during WWII, today the building’s façade provides an excellent glimpse of Medieval architecture meets 19th-century construction.

While the Abbey of St Ouen was disbanded and dismantled following the French Revolution, the church of the Abbey itself still stands to this day and is situated beside the Hôtel de Ville.

Constructed between 1318 and 1537, you can visit the Church on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays throughout the year. Check out the full opening times on the Abbey’s website here .

Located in what may well be the very prettiest square in all of Rouen, you’ll want to sit outside to enjoy the ambience, snap photos of the timber-framed houses surrounding you and simply watch the world go by. Head to L’Espiguette for a quick coffee before embarking on the rest of your self-guided walking tour of Rouen!

Best things to do in Rouen, Normandy, Northern France! Acitivites, places to go and history to see in Rouen.

Truth be told, Rouen’s stunning Cathedral is truly the main reason to visit Rouen . As well as being the burial place of Richard the Lionheart and Rollo the Viking, among many other famous figures from history, the Gothic ecclesiastical building was even once the tallest building in the world.

Consecrated on the 1st of October 1063 in the Presence of William the Conqueror, there has been a church present on site since as early as the 4th-century.

The building you see today is free to visit, open on a daily basis (though services may mean that you can’t freely wander around Rouen Cathedral ) and is constructed after several veins of the Gothic style.

rouen cathedral in the daytime

Easily one of the most impressive public clocks in France, the movement of the Gros Horloge of Rouen dates all the way back to the late 14th-century, providing a fantastic insight into technology in Medival France. Even today you can still enjoy watching time pass by right in front of your eyes.

Much like the cock of Auxerre, there are two faces set either side of a watchtower. Head to the side furthest away from the Cathedral, turn around and you’ll be rewarded with a true glimpse of medieval France, including many timber-framed houses!

Otherwise, you should know that you can visit the Gros Horloge, for a fee, from Tuesday to Sunday (hours vary across the year) .

Gros Horloge of Rouen, Normandy France

Of course, thanks to Rouen’s historical importance as a seat of power within the church, the city has no shortage of unusual and quirky ecclesiastical buildings. However, truth be told, the most unique of them all certainly must be the Church of Saint Joan of Arc.

A fantastic feat of modern engineering, the church is constructed next to the site where Joan of Arc was martyred for heresy (there is debate as to whether this actually happened or whether Jeanne d’Arc as she is so-called in French actually managed to escape). Free to visit, though gratuities are of course welcomed, the Église was only completed in 1979.

Much like the city of Limoges , Rouen is world-renowned for its history of ceramics. As such, there’s a fairly large museum within the very heart of the city, dedicated entirely to the craft.

The Rouen museum was established in the mid-19th-century and the cultural institution is housed against the backdrop of the former hôtel d’Hocqueville, which in turn is constructed on the remains of the Château de Rouen.

For those who wish to experience a museum in Rouen but don’t fancy walking through rooms filled with ceramic exhibits, the Museum of Fine Arts of Rouen can be found just a short stroll away from the Ceramic Museum.

Well-reviewed and boasting a wide array of art pieces from artists of Normandy and beyond, the permanent collections are completely free to visit!

The tower of Joan of Arc is all that remains of a once impressive Castle which would have guarded the city. Perhaps rather interestingly, the Château de Rouen was not the first building to have existed onsite. Instead, the castle was constructed on the site of the Gallo-Roman amphitheatre, from a time when Rouen would have been known as  Ratumacos.

Of all the places on this Rouen walking tour, I highly recommend heading to the tower, if only to catch a glimpse of fortified medieval Rouen in real-life. Dating back to the 13th-century, today, the Tower of Jeanne d’Arc is free to visit on weekends from 10 AM to Midday.

Free and self-guided Rouen walking tour. Want to learn about the history of Rouen as well as see the top Rouen highlights and things to do? This guided walk will show you the top city things to do in Normandy, France!

Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A Francophile at heart, she runs when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She splits her time between Paris and London and travels as much as she can! Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.

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Things to see and do in Rouen

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A stunning Gothic cathedral, Renaissance clock, majestic churches, world-class museums, parks and gardens – Rouen is steeped in fascinating history and heritage. 

amazing heritage

Rouen boasts the second largest number of listed buildings in France after Paris! Here are just a few of the city’s unmissable sites:

Notre-Dame Cathedral : This exceptional cathedral, the tallest in France, is renowned for its elaborate gothic architecture. Its stunning façade was painted over thirty times by the artist Claude Monet, who depicted its glory in different lights. Inside are artistic and religious relics, including the heart of Richard the Lionheart, buried in a tomb here. Miraculously the cathedral has survived the Wars of Religion, the French Revolution and more recently the Second World War, and is a must-see when in Rouen.

rouen france tour


Gros-Horloge : This large clock tower straddling Rouen’s main shopping street is one of the most photographed landmarks in Rouen, and is open to the public. Journey back to the Renaissance period, enjoy panoramic views of Rouen’s medieval centre from the top of the tower, then sip a coffee on a terrace nearby looking up at the beautiful astronomical clock.

Rue du Gros-Horloge à Rouen

Eglise Sainte Jeanne d’Arc : Completed in 1979, this striking modern church rises over the Place du Vieux Marché, where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake. Although the architecture is bold and contemporary, it also features beautiful stained glass windows from the 16th century, salvaged from other Rouen churches.

Tour Jeanne d’Arc : This imposing tower is all that remains of the mighty castle French king Philippe Auguste had built in Rouen after he had booted Plantagenet King John of England out of France at the start of the 13th century. When English forces were back in control of Normandy in the second half of the Hundred Years’ War, Joan of Arc was held in this fortress and threatened with torture. The tower is now home to an exciting  escape game experience . 

Historial Jeanne d’Arc  (opened 2015): This state-of-the-art museum is dedicated to Joan of Arc, and takes visitors on an interactive journey through her triumphs, trials and tragic martyrdom. The setting is appropriate given the Salle de l’Officialité in the museum was where Joan was tried and condemned to death in 1431. This same chamber witnessed the Maid of Orléans’ posthumous rehabilitation trial in 1456, held once the French were back in control of Normandy.

Eglise Saint-Maclou : This gem of flamboyant gothic architecture can be found just behind the cathedral in one of the most beautiful historic quarters of Rouen, characterised by magnificent half-timbered houses.

rouen france tour

Aître Saint-Maclou : A parish cemetery was created here during the Black Plague in 1348, but later, buildings went up around it to serve as ossuaries for the large number of bones from the cemetery. Half-timbering is carved with skulls and cross-bones and grave-diggers’ implements, clearly indicating the former purpose of these buildings. It now houses a new centre dedicated to local arts and crafts.

Palais de Justice : This ornate gothic building, the former parliament of Normandy, is arguably one of the finest examples of medieval civic architecture in France.

Maison Sublime : Excavations at the Palais de Justice in the 1970s revealed the medieval remnants of the oldest Jewish building known in France, and the only example of a medieval rabbinic school remaining in Europe. The name derives from an inscription found declaring ‘Let this abode be sublime.’

Rouen, les quais de Seine

Fine Arts Museum : This major fine arts museum is one of the finest in France. Particular highlights include works by the Impressionists Monet, Renoir, Sisley and Degas, ground-breaking French artists Poussin, David, Delacroix, Géricault and Corot, and artists from further afield: Veronese, Velasquez, Caravaggio and Rubens.

Musée Le Secq des Tournelles / Musée de la Ferronnerie : Housed in the beautiful deconsecrated church of Saint-Laurent, this eclectic collection comprises 12, 000 wrought-iron items ranging from signs, keys and tools to surgical instruments and jewellery.

Musée de la Céramique : This museum explores Rouen’s rich history over the centuries as producer of some of the finest ceramics in France, exhibiting traditional plates and bowls, pottery shoes and even a ceramic violin.

Don’t miss

The beautiful Jardin des plantes, Musée des Antiquités ,  Musée Flaubert et d’Histoire de la Médecine , Natural History Museum and Musée Corneille  (the house where he grew up).

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Places to visit in Rouen

Rouen and the River Seine

Rouen and the River Seine

The Seine Valley cycle route

The Seine Valley cycle route

Meanders of the Seine Regional Natural Park

Meanders of the Seine Regional Natural Park

Useful information.

Rouen Normandie Tourisme et Congrès 25 place de la cathédrale, 76000 Rouen Where can I park in Rouen?

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Rouen Tours & Trips

Find the right tour for you through Rouen. We've got 303 adventures going to Rouen, starting from just 2 days in length, and the longest tour is 31 days. The most popular month to go is June, which has the largest number of tour departures.

250+ Rouen tour packages with 1,027 reviews

Paris to Normandy 2024 Tour

  • River Cruise

Paris to Normandy 2024

It was a shot in the dark, trying to choose the best cruise and we definitely hit the jackpot with Avalon. The cabins were comfortable and well kept, the food was divine, the tour options were diverse and encompassed everything we could wish for...and the crew were friendly, going out of their way to be helpful. With ages ranging from 14 to 50 in our family group, we were all catered for and everyone enjoyed the vacation. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Avalon, in fact we were so impressed, we are traveling again next March with Avalon and cannot wait.

Paris to Normandy WWII Remembrance & History Cruise (Southbound) Tour

Paris to Normandy WWII Remembrance & History Cruise (Southbound)

Paris & Normandy (2024) (Paris to Paris, 2024) Tour

  • Walking Adventure

Paris & Normandy (2024) (Paris to Paris, 2024)

The Must-see Sights of the Seine Valley (port-to-port cruise) Tour

The Must-see Sights of the Seine Valley (port-to-port cruise)

I was kept informed & on promptly basis. A very professional approach by your staff

The finest and most picturesque ports of call in the Seine valley (port-to-port cruise) Tour

The finest and most picturesque ports of call in the Seine valley (port-to-port cruise)

Croisi ship nice and comfortable. Tour director fantastic helping with issues. Nice food and all your directors excellent with info

3-day Guided Normandy : D Day Beaches, Mont Saint-michel And Loire Valley Chateaux From Paris Tour

3-day Guided Normandy : D Day Beaches, Mont Saint-michel And Loire Valley Chateaux From Paris

Great time! The tour was informative and fun

Paris & Normandy 2024 Tour

Paris & Normandy 2024

La Belle France: Paris, Normandy and the River Seine (Paris - Paris) Tour

La Belle France: Paris, Normandy and the River Seine (Paris - Paris)

Cruise was great. The crew were very friendly and helpful. The food was excellent. The tours were well planned, and even though there were a few technical problems, the staff worked very hard to make things go as smoothly as possible.

Seine Experience the Normandy 2024 Tour

Seine Experience the Normandy 2024

Seine Experience the Normandy 2024 (14 destinations) Tour

Seine Experience the Normandy 2024 (14 destinations)

The Treasures of France including Normandy (8 Days) Tour

  • In-depth Cultural
  • Coach / Bus

The Treasures of France including Normandy (8 Days)

Very well organized. Very knowledgeable guide who went out of his way to make this a truly memorable experience. I especially liked his readings of "The Little Prince" on some of the longer bus rides. Be prepared to climb lots of stairs or sit out some of the more challenging sites. The hotels were all good to excellent and food was delicious.
  • €100 deposit on some dates Some departure dates offer you the chance to book this tour with a lower deposit.

2-Day Trip to Normandy, Saint Malo & Mont Saint Michel from Paris Tour

2-Day Trip to Normandy, Saint Malo & Mont Saint Michel from Paris

France | Seine River BikeTour | Bike & Boat Tour

  • Bike and Barge

France | Seine River BikeTour | Bike & Boat

Normandy, Brittany & The Loire Valley (Classic, 8 Days) Tour

Normandy, Brittany & The Loire Valley (Classic, 8 Days)

This was a fantastic trip! The knowledge and passion my Travel Director Elizabeth had was amazing. The accommodation was incredible you walked outside and were in the centre of town. In Brittany I had a view of the sea. I never felt rushed and enough free time.

Impressions of the Seine & Paris 2024 Start Paris, End Le Havre Tour

Impressions of the Seine & Paris 2024 Start Paris, End Le Havre

What people love about rouen tours.

It was a very comfortable and enjoyable cruise. The service staff were very friendly and attentive. The fellow passengers were very friendly and sociable which makes the whole cruise line one big happy family.
I was kept informed & on promptly basis. A very professional approach by your staff
It was a very nice experience, the staff were very friendly and the food was excellent
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To awaken your senses in Normandy - Claire et Manu’s Blog

15 best things to do in Rouen (photos + tips)

by Emmanuel ROBINSON , Region Lovers | July 18, 2023 | no intrusive ads, no sponsored content, just some affiliate links - if you use them, we get a small commission (read more)

Planning your next trip to Normandy? For a weekend or even a week, there’s no shortage of things to do in Rouen .

With its rich historical heritage and colorful half-timbered houses , we were charmed by the town. Whether you’re passionate about history , gastronomy or art , the capital of Normandy is sure to surprise you. Cathedrals , churches , museums , restaurants and other good addresses abound!

Seduced by this city, we share with you our selection of 15 must-do activities . In this article, we give you our photo tips for visiting Rouen with complete transparency.

Discover our selection of 15 must-see activities in Rouen!

This is a completely independent opinion, based on our own experience . We visited the region anonymously , making our own choices, and paying all our bills in full.

The best things to do in Rouen

Before revealing all our ideas for things to do and see in Rouen, here’s a short video to give you an initial impression.

1. Visit the Big Clock

Why visit the gros horloge .

During our stay in Rouen, we visited the city’s emblematic monument: the Gros-Horloge. Have you ever heard of this historic monument? This 14th-century astronomical clock is located in the heart of Normandy. From the street, the low-angle view of the building is impressive. The richness of the sculpted details on the façade is truly impressive. We’ve written a full article on the subject.

Big Clock

What you will see

As we climbed the stairs to its tower, we were rewarded with a panoramic view of Rouen’s rooftops. The interior of the Gros-Horloge also houses a museum that allowed us to delve into the fascinating history of this incredible timepiece. The visit helped us better appreciate the importance of this symbol of the city and its rich history.

Inside the Musée du Gros-Horloge

Did you know that this is one of the oldest clock mechanisms in Europe? We highly recommend a visit to the interior of the Gros Horloge. Many tourists only appreciate the building’s exterior, even though there’s so much to discover in its museum!

How much time to allow

You should allow less than 1 hour to visit this building.

View of the street from inside the Gros Horloge

More information on the Gros-Horloge

Opening hours:

  • every day except Monday,
  • April to September: 10am to 1pm (last entry at 12pm) and 2pm to 7pm (last entry at 6pm),
  • October to March: 2pm to 6pm (last admission at 5pm).

Ticket price:

  • full price: €7.50,
  • concessions: €3.80,
  • free for children under 6 and people with disabilities.

For those who prefer to be accompanied, there are guided tours of Rouen’s historic center. They obviously include a visit to the Gros Horloge. It’s an interesting way to discover the city, as you’ll have access to juicy anecdotes about the various locations.

Check out our guided tour offers in Rouen here!

2. Contemplating Rouen Cathedral

Why visit rouen cathedral .

A jewel of flamboyant Gothic architecture, Rouen Cathedral is a must-see when visiting the city. Admirers of the Gothic style, we marveled at the church’s façade. The closer we got, the more we could appreciate the extraordinary architectural work carried out on this religious building. Are you also impressed by all these details?

Rouen Cathedral

Once inside the cathedral, we discovered a number of historical treasures, including the tomb of Richard the Lionheart . The interior is equally magnificent. The columns and vaulted ceilings bear witness to Gothic architecture. The atmosphere in the church is peaceful. It’s an ideal place to pause for a few moments and appreciate the immensity of the religious building.

Interior of Rouen Cathedral

To admire the church in detail, while reading the explanatory panels, allow between 1h and 1h30 for the visit.

More information on Rouen Cathedral

  • April to October: 7.30am to 7pm on weekdays and 8am to 6pm on Sundays and public holidays,
  • November to March: 7.30am to 12pm and 2pm to 6pm on weekdays, and 2pm to 6pm on Sundays and public holidays,
  • closed on Monday mornings, January 1, May 1 and November 11.

Please note that the ambulatory closes 30 minutes before the cathedral’s closing time.

Visits to the cathedral are free of charge.

See our article on Rouen Cathedral!


Option 1: in the old town center

A charming historic heart, museums and attractions around every corner… We recommend..:

  • Gustave Flaubert Literary Hotel with lots of quotes – see prices, photos and availability .
  • Hôtel de Bourghteroulde set in a 16th-century residence – see prices, photos and availability .

Hotel Littéraire

Option 2: near the station

Just a 10-minute walk from the historic center, you’ll find more modern options. We recommend..:

  • Blu Radisson Hotel next to the Jeanne d’Arc Tower – see prices, photos and availability .
  • Hotel de Dieppe Best Western and its Art-deco ambience – see prices, photos and availability

Hotel Blu Radisson

See all our reviews of the best hotels in Rouen


3. Explore the Museum of Fine Arts

Why visit the musée des beaux-arts de rouen.

Do you enjoy cultural and artistic visits? So don’t hesitate, you must visit this museum! Located in the heart of the city, we were won over by the richness and diversity of its collections. From Rubens to Modigliani to the master of chiaroscuro, Caravaggio, we were impressed from start to finish.

Painting by Caravaggio

We discovered incredible paintings, sculptures and other objets d’art dating from the 15th century to the present day. The list of great artists exhibited here is considerable. Works by Velázquez, Géricault, Delacroix and others also feature on the museum’s walls.

Rouen Museum of Fine Arts

Did you know that Normandy is the birthplace of Impressionism? At the museum, you can appreciate the work of important figures in this artistic movement. We were captivated by paintings by Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley and the undisputed master Claude Monet. If, like us, you’re a fan, we’ve organized a short tour of Normandy in the footsteps of the Impressionist .

Painting by Claude Monet

In our opinion, you should allow at least 1h30 to visit the museum. As lovers of fine art, we could easily have stayed for half a day. In fact, the museum boasts a wealth of collections and incredible works of art.

More information on the Museum of Fine Arts

  • every day from 10am to 6pm, except Tuesdays,
  • closed on January 1, May 1, November 1 and 11 and December 25.

The museum is free, as are all the city’s public museums. It also hosts temporary exhibitions for which a charge may be made.


  • Best things to do in Rouen: 15 ideas
  • Where to stay in Rouen: our best hotels
  • Where to eat in Rouen: 20 best restaurants
  • Rouen’s 10 best museums
  • Itineraries in Rouen: 1 day – 2 days
  • Rouen Museum of Fine Arts
  • Rouen Cathedral
  • Rent a car in Rouen

Rouen Cathedral

4. Take a tour of the historic center

Why visit rouen’s historic of rouen.

Exploring Rouen’s historic center was an interesting and enjoyable experience. The cobbled streets, half-timbered houses and many emblematic monuments took us back in time. Around every corner, we discovered architectural treasures. We got lost in the picturesque streets of the Gros-Horloge and the Saint-Maclou district. A visit to the Place du Vieux-Marché, where Joan of Arc was burned, is a must! Here you can commemorate the martyrdom of this incredible war heroine.

Rouen Cathedral

You’ll discover all the city’s must-see buildings:

  • Rouen Cathedral,
  • the Big Clock,
  • Abbatiale Saint-Ouen,
  • Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc Church,
  • Saint-Maclou Church,
  • the Palais de Justice.

This list is not exhaustive, as the conurbation is home to a large number of churches and cathedrals.

View from the Gros Horloge

To be able to discover all these monuments at your leisure, we recommend that you spread your visits over a full day.

Find out more about the historic center

A visit to Old Rouen and its medieval streets will transport you to another era. If you’d like to discover the city from a different angle, we recommend a personalized private tour with a local guide. It’s a fun and rewarding experience. There’s no one better than a local to talk about his town!

Discover our guided tours of Rouen’s historic center!


  • Compare prices on our preferred platform: DiscoverCars – one of the best rated sites.
  • Choose a car that is comfortable enough (distances can be long) but compact (some parking lots and villages are narrow).
  • Think of the complete insurance (some roads are tortuous and narrow).
  • There is a lot of demand, book it early .

rouen france tour

Thanks to the museum’s immersive tour, we immersed ourselves in the history of the famous Pucelle d’Orléans. The museum also deals with the end of the young woman’s life and her passage to posterity. We recommend this educational and entertaining experience.

Place du Vieux-Marché

How can you admire Joan of Arc and not visit the Place du Vieux-Marché? It’s steeped in history, with a memorial church and bustling market. It was there that she was burnt at the stake at the age of 19. We had trouble picturing the scene, so full of life and joy is this square right now.

Sainte-Jeanne-d'Arc Church

The exterior of the Église Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc is original, isn’t it? Its modern architecture, reminiscent of the sea, appealed to us. It’s an emblematic building dedicated to the memory of the illustrious heroine. Its bold design captivated us from the moment we arrived. As we stepped inside, we were impressed by the peaceful atmosphere, creating a space conducive to reflection and contemplation.

If you’d like to explore the city in search of Jeanne, we recommend a minimum of half a day, or even a full day.

More information on Rouen and its favorites

Do you like logic games? The Tour Jeanne d’Arc, the only remaining vestige of the Château de Rouen, is the setting for an escape game. Also known as the Rouen Dungeon, you can take part in a unique interactive experience!

Joan of Arc Tower

To relive our entire experience at the Joan of Arc Museum, read our article!

6. Discover the Abbatiale Saint-Ouen

Why visit saint-ouen abbey in rouen.

This magnificent Gothic church is renowned for its splendor and grandeur. It’s one of the city’s architectural treasures. It is also famous for its impressive Cavaillé-Coll organ , renowned for its powerful, sonorous sound. Our visit to the abbey was both a spiritual and aesthetic experience, as we admired Rouen’s religious heritage.

Abbatiale Saint-Ouen

The Abbatiale Saint-Ouen is a fascinating architectural marvel. Its imposing Gothic façade and colorful stained glass windows lend it a mystical atmosphere. Stepping inside, we were mesmerized by the height of the vaults and the richness of the carved details. Its harmonious proportions, ornate chapels and religious works of art bear witness to the refinement of Gothic art.

Inside the Abbatiale Saint-Ouen

We recommend you allow 30 minutes to visit the abbey.

Further information on Abbatiale Saint-Ouen

  • April 1 to October 31, 10am to 12pm and 2pm to 6pm,
  • November 1 to March 31, 10am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm,
  • closed Mondays and Fridays, December 25 and January 1.

The religious building is currently in peril. It is the largest restoration project ever undertaken by the City of Rouen. It is scheduled for completion in 2024. We really enjoyed our visit, despite the work in progress. And after all, isn’t it essential to restore this prestigious abbey church?


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7. Stroll through the Jardin des Plantes

Why visit the botanical gardens of rouen.

The Jardin des Plantes is a magnificent natural area in the heart of Rouen. It’s an oasis of tranquility and unspoilt beauty, ideal for relaxation and rejuvenation. We strolled along the aisles, admiring the carefully landscaped varieties of plants and flowers. It’s also a privileged place for botany enthusiasts, offering the chance to discover a large collection of remarkable plants and trees.

Jardin des Plantes

Lawns, ponds and greenhouses added an extra dimension to the experience. The autumn colors added a lot of charm to the place. The reflection of the golden leaves in the water was a superb sight. In the greenhouse, we fell in love with this lighting scheme. The water lilies and other aquatic plants look completely pink! Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

Jardin des Plantes

We recommend you allow 1 hour for a complete tour of the garden.

More information on the Jardin des Plantes in Rouen

  • November to February, 8am to 5:30pm,
  • March to April, 8am to 6:45pm,
  • May to August 8am to 8:15pm,
  • September to October, 8am to 6:45pm.

Access to the garden is free.

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8. Discover the Musée de la ferronnerie in Rouen

Why visit the musée le secq des tournelles.

Are you curious? If so, you’ll love Rouen’s iron art museum, which hides many strange treasures. Housed in a former Gothic church, the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles is home to the world’s largest collection of antique ironwork. Between signs, tools and scientific instruments, we discovered unique iron objects!

Rouen ironworks museum

We can assure you that you won’t see work like this anywhere else! The collection spans the Gallo-Roman era to the 20th century. It features pieces from all over Europe. It was Jean-Louis-Henri Le Secq des Tournelles who came up with the idea, realizing the great potential of iron. We highly recommend a visit here. Even though we weren’t particularly interested in ironwork, we fell in love with this museum!

Rouen ironworks museum

In our opinion, it takes 45 minutes to visit the museum. If you’re particularly interested in ironwork, the tour can last up to 1h30. The museum boasts a rich collection of surprising works.

Further information on the Musée de la ferronnerie in Rouen

  • open daily from 2pm to 6pm, except Tuesdays,

The museum is free, as are all the museums of the Réunion des Musées Métropolitains Rouen Normandie.

Read our article on the Musée de la ferronnerie in Rouen!

9. Have a snack at the Salon de Thé Dame Cakes

Why go to dame cakes for tea.

Are you as greedy as we are? If you are, you’ll love the Salon de Thé Dame Cakes. Housed in a former wrought-iron workshop, it is one of our sweet favourites. We tasted delicious home-made pastries made from seasonal produce. We’ve even included it in our selection of the best restaurants to eat at in Rouen .

Salon de Thé Dame Cake

The retro decor lends the premises a romantic ambience. We could easily have imagined a writer settling here to write a story inspired by Rouen. After this little gourmet break, you’ll have plenty of energy to continue your tour of the city. It hides even more culinary and historical treasures!

Between the cakes, tarts, crumbles, financiers, chocolate cakes and other sweet treats, it was hard to choose! To accompany these sweets, we had a 2nd decision to make about drinks. Tea lovers will love the Mariage-Frères range of teas. But there were also must-tries, such as grandma-style hot chocolate, Norman coffees, Alain Milliat fruit juices and homemade iced teas.

Salon de Thé Dame Cake

You’ll need to allow for a snack break of between 30 minutes and 1 hour.

More information about Dame Cakes Tea Room

The Salon de Thé is open every day except Sunday from 10am to 7pm.

Our article on the Dame Cakes Tearoom will be available soon!

10. Stroll through the narrow streets of Normandy

Why visit rouen’s narrow streets.

A stroll through the narrow streets of Rouen is like being transported back in time to the city’s historic heritage. We were charmed by the picturesque half-timbered houses lining the narrow streets. The city was punctuated by splashes of color, giving it a warm atmosphere.

Normandy lanes

Traditional and authentic, we loved exploring the Normandy capital. As we strolled along, we enjoyed the unique architectural details, small artisan stores and local restaurants and cafés. Every street corner revealed a new surprise.

Alley overlooking the Palais de Justice

It wasn’t unusual for us to come across a magnificent flamboyant Gothic building on a street corner. In this case, it was the Palais de Justice . It is listed as a historic monument. In addition to its judicial function, the building is also a tourist attraction due to its architectural beauty and history. Its imposing façade and many details make it a must-see on any visit to Rouen.

Close-up of the Palais de Justice

To take your time and enjoy a leisurely stroll through Rouen, we recommend reserving a half-day. You can also take the opportunity to try out a restaurant or go shopping.

More information on one of the city’s curiosities

Next to Saint-Maclou Church, our attention was drawn to the leaning house. As we approached this iconic building, we were amused by its sloping appearance, which created a surprising illusion. The destruction of the adjoining houses led to this unique architectural feature. If you’re creative, you can take original photos of this unique place!

The leaning house

Book your guided tour of Rouen here!

11. Taste local specialities

Why try regional products.

If you come to Rouen and don’t try the local culinary specialties, you’re really missing out! This town is part of a French region particularly renowned for its local produce. If you have a sweet tooth, you’re in for a treat, but don’t worry about putting on a few pounds!

Dish from Restaurant L'Épicurius in Rouen

The star of the Norman table, cheese is a regional speciality you don’t want to miss! With varying degrees of flavour, they come in all shapes and textures. The emblematic cheese of the Seine-Maritime region is Neufchâtel. Have you ever tasted this heart-shaped cheese? Between Livarot, Pont-L’Évêque and the famous Camembert, we had a wonderful time! Visit the official website of the Office Tourisme de Normandie to learn more about Normandy PDO cheeses.

rouen france tour

If you’re in a sweeter mood, we recommend a detour to Chocolaterie Auzou in Rouen . A traditional local pastry, “Larmes de Jeanne d’Arc” are small cakes made from almonds, sugar, chocolate and cocoa. Ideal for a gourmet break, they’re a real treat for young and old alike!

Normans love a good, long dinner. If you really want to sample the local cuisine at a restaurant in Rouen, you’ll need to save room for cheeses and desserts. It may take a little longer! You can read our article on the best restaurants to eat in Rouen to discover our selection.

Dame Cakes Tea Room Crumble

More information on local specialities

Normandy is one of France’s largest cheese-producing regions.

12. Visit the Aître Saint-Maclou

Why visit the aître saint-maclou .

This unique historic site is imbued with a mysterious atmosphere and macabre beauty. An “aître” is a piece of open land and/or a covered passageway used as a cemetery. The half-timbered galleries surrounding the inner courtyard house ossuaries and sculpted tombs. This bears witness to the town’s dark past, when it was struck by the plague. We admired the architectural details representative of the flamboyant Gothic art of the period. What’s more, the area is surrounded by charming cobbled streets and lively cafés, adding a picturesque dimension to your visit. It’s a place steeped in history that we recommend you discover!

Aître Saint-Maclou

This unique site is representative of Norman architecture. A former cemetery surrounded by half-timbered buildings, we loved discovering this place right in the heart of Rouen. Visiting the aître, we were captivated by the Gothic architecture and the sculpted details of the facades. The covered galleries surrounding the inner courtyard added a special dimension to the whole.

Aître Saint-Maclou

We were fascinated by the walls adorned with macabre motifs and the gravedigger’s tools, a reminder of the place’s historic past. The Aître Saint-Maclou is a place steeped in history and well worth a visit on any tour of the city. We also found the building charming and typical!

We recommend you allow 45 minutes to visit this historic monument in Rouen.

More information on Aître Saint-Maclou

The Oyster House is open to the public free of charge every day from 9am to 7pm. You can access the main courtyard via the passageway at 186 rue Martainville.

Find out more about the secret history of the Aître Saint-Maclou!

13. Take an excursion from Rouen

Why take an excursion from rouen.

An excursion from Rouen offers a unique opportunity to explore the emblematic destinations of Normandy. Whether it’s a cultural, historical or artistic visit, you’ll have a day full of discoveries. The Normandy capital is close to 3 must-see tourist attractions: the D-Day landing beaches, Mont-Saint-Michel and Giverny.

A visit to the D-Day landing beaches will allow you to commemorate history and pay tribute to the soldiers of the Second World War. The tour includes a stop at each of these destinations:

  • Pointe du Hoc,
  • Omaha Beach,
  • Arromanches-les-Bains,
  • German battery at Longues-Sure-Mer,
  • Colleville-sur-Mer American Cemetery.

Landing Beach Omaha Beach Beach

Read our article on the D-Day landing beaches!

A trip to Mont-Saint-Michel will transport you to a breathtaking medieval setting, with its majestic abbey perched on a rocky islet. Here you can observe:

  • the magnificent bay of Mont-Saint-Michel,
  • the exceptional abbey,
  • unique architecture.


8 reasons why you absolutely must visit Mont-Saint-Michel!

On our way to Giverny, we explored the enchanting gardens that inspired the famous painter Claude Monet, immersing ourselves in the world of Impressionism. You can explore the city and its surroundings:

  • Claude Monet’s house and gardens,
  • the Musée des Impressionnismes,
  • Hotel Baudy,
  • the Old Mill in Vernon,
  • the Eure Valley tourist railway.

Claude Monet's garden at Giverny

Our article on must-do activities in Giverny!

How to get there:

  • Driving time to the landing beaches: 2h,
  • Driving time to Mont-Saint-Michel: 2h40min,
  • Driving time to Giverny: 1h.

Visiting time on site:

  • landing beaches: 4h,
  • Mont-Saint-Michel: 3h,
  • Giverny: one day.

Mont-Saint-Michel Bay

More information on excursions from Rouen

These destinations offer a cultural and historical diversity that will enrich your Normandy experience.

  • Landing beaches: Book your excursion!
  • Mont-Saint-Michel: Book your excursion!
  • Giverny: Check out our tour offers quickly, places are going fast!

Claude Monet's house

14. Spend the night at the Hôtel Littéraire Gustave Flaubert

Why stay at the hôtel gustave flaubert in rouen.

If you’re looking for a well-located place to discover the city of Rouen, with a little culture thrown in for good measure, we recommend you stay at this establishment . It is one of our favorite hotels . Dedicated to Gustave Flaubert, the famous 19th-century writer from Rouen, the hotel offers an original concept based on literature.

Hotel Littéraire Gustave Flaubert

Read our full review of our very positive experience at this establishment!

The rooms are all different, tastefully decorated and inspired by the novels of Gustave Flaubert. In each room, a different quotation from the author will serve as the headboard. We enjoyed the literary winks hidden in every nook and cranny of the hotel, which made our experience a lot of fun. A well-stocked library is available for guests wishing to borrow a book for the duration of their stay.

Hotel Littéraire Gustave Flaubert

See more photos of the Hôtel Littéraire Gustave Flaubert in Rouen!

We recommend that you stay at least one night to enjoy this unique experience, which takes you away from the standardized atmosphere of chain hotels. If you have the opportunity to extend your stay in Rouen, we recommend staying longer.

More information about Hôtel Littéraire Gustave Flaubert in Rouen

The hotel opened its doors in 2013, in the courtyard of a historic building dating back to the 17th century. It was conceived and created by Jacques Letertre, president of the Société des Hôtels Littéraires, which launched this original concept of accommodation dedicated to literature in France.

The first literary hotel opened in Paris in 2007, dedicated to Marcel Proust, closely followed by other establishments dedicated to authors such as Oscar Wilde, Jules Verne, George Sand and Arthur Rimbaud.

Hotel Littéraire Gustave Flaubert

Book your night at the Hôtel Gustave Flaubert in Rouen!

15. Visit the Musée de la Céramique

Why visit the musée de la céramique in rouen.

This museum is a must for craft enthusiasts. Discover the history of ceramics in Rouen through a variety of collections, from painted earthenware to delicate porcelain. We admired unique pieces and immersed ourselves in the creative world of ceramic artists. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions featuring contemporary ceramics. An enriching visit for enthusiasts and amateurs alike!

Rouen Ceramics Museum

The tour is divided into several phases:

  • First floor: early European earthenware, the work of Rouen ceramist Masséot Abaquesne and other works from Normandy,
  • 1st and 2nd floors: masterpieces of Rouen earthenware, porcelain and fine earthenware and products from the Manufacture de Sèvres.

We loved visiting this museum, as we were able to admire some original works of art!

Rouen Ceramics Museum

We recommend that you allow between 45min and 1h to visit this museum. It also depends on your level of interest in the various collections on display. For ceramics enthusiasts, the visit can easily be extended.

Further information on the Musée de la Céramique

  • Open every day except Tuesday, from 2pm to 6pm.
  • Closed on January 1, May 1, November 1 and 11, December 25.

Our article on the Musée de la Céramique will be available soon!

Rouen Ceramics Museum

Around Rouen: exploring the Normandy coastline

While you’re in Rouen, we strongly recommend that you take the opportunity to discover the Normandy coast. It’s beautiful, with cliffs, beaches and charming coastal villages. Depending on the towns you visit, you’ll discover superb landscapes and typical villages.

Honfleur harbor

Whether you prefer large seaside resorts or small picturesque ports, the coastline is an ideal destination for enjoying the sea and nature.

  • Driving time to Deauville-Trouville: 1h30min,
  • Driving time to Dieppe: 1h,
  • Driving time to Le Havre: 1h25min,
  • Driving time to Étretat: 1h25min,
  • Driving time to Ouistreham: 1h45min.

See our articles on 25 things to do in Dieppe and 25 things to do in Étretat . We also recommend that you read our article on Le Havre and its places to discover .

Best things to do in Rouen with your children

In Rouen, you’ll find plenty of interesting activities to share with your children. In fact, we’ve listed some of them in our article on the city’s best museums (article to come).

Museum of Natural History

If you’re looking for an educational experience, the Museum of Natural History boasts an impressive collection of fascinating animals and specimens.

Museum of Natural History

Museum of Antiquities

History buffs will prefer to explore the Musée des Antiquités , housed in the former convent of the Visitation Sainte-Marie, and featuring unique antique objects.

Museum of Antiquities

Museum of Education

The Museum of Education allows children to learn more about the history of education through interactive exhibits. The building housing the museum is typical of Norman architecture.

Museum of Education

Our articles on the Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Antiquities and the Museum of Education will soon be available!

A ride on the Little Train of Rouen

Are you looking for something more fun? We recommend exploring the city on board the Petit Train de Rouen. Thanks to this guided tour, your children will discover the city’s main sights while being entertained! Rouen offers a wide range of activities for children, combining discovery, education and entertainment.

Little train from Rouen

What to visit in Rouen: other churches

Rouen is Victor Hugo’s “city of a hundred steeples chiming in the air”. The Normandy capital’s rich religious heritage explains why there are so many remarkable churches to visit. You can consult the official website of the Observatoire du Patrimoine Religieux, which lists them. In addition to the must-see Notre-Dame de Rouen Cathedral, the Abbatiale Saint-Ouen and the Église Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc, we discovered other impressive buildings in the city. The Église Saint-Maclou is another Gothic masterpiece, known for its unique architecture and sculpted details.

Saint Maclou Church

Each church has its own charm and history, offering an interesting architectural variation across the city. There’s also the Église Saint-Godard, with its magnificent stained-glass windows, and the Église Saint-Laurent, now home to the Musée de la ferronnerie. The architectural and historical diversity of Rouen’s churches makes it a fascinating destination for the art and religious history lovers among you.

Saint-Laurent Church


Inspiration destinations

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  • Our weekend ideas: best-of , romantic , unusual , seaside , luxury , family
  • 16 seaside hotels in Normandy
  • The most beautiful charming hotels in Normandy

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  • Best things to do in Normandy
  • Best cities in Normandy
  • Most beautiful beaches of Normandy
  • Most beautiful villages of Normandy
  • Best castles of Normandy
  • Best abbeys of Normandy
  • Read our complete guide to visit the Mont-Saint-Michel
  • Discover the D-Day sites

rouen france tour

  • Where to stay in Normandy – best places and hotels
  • See our tips for renting a car at CDG airport , Orly airport , Beauvais airport , Caen , Rouen , Bayeux …

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What to do near Rouen: outdoor activities

Do you like thrills? Located 40 minutes from Rouen in Romilly-sur-Andelle, you can choose from a wide range of outdoor activities. Rock-climbing enthusiasts can indulge their passion on the rock faces of the Andelle Valley. For those who prefer the water, kayak excursions along the waterway linking the Andelle and Seine rivers are available. We enjoyed this unique way of discovering the surrounding Normandy countryside.


If you’re looking for an even more adventurous experience, caving allows you to explore the Grandes Carrières de Caumont and discover fascinating rock formations. Try not to stain yourself like we do! In short, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities near Rouen. Set off on an adventure to suit your tastes and your level of daring!

Book your outdoor activity now!

Practical tips and map: Rouen, Normandy, France

Where is rouen.

Rouen is located in north-western France, in the Normandy region.


How to get there

We recommend you travel to Rouen by train. The train station offers regular services to Le Havre, Dieppe, Yvetôt, Elbeuf, Caen and Paris. Once you’ve arrived at Rouen station, all you have to do is walk around the city.

See available timetables and book your train and coach tickets now .

You can also drive to Rouen and park in a parking lot. The town is easily accessible from other Normandy towns such as Le Havre, Caen and Deauville via the A13 freeway. From Paris, the journey takes 2 hours. There are regular traffic jams at the Seine crossing.

Parking Rouen

If you’re traveling from elsewhere in France, you can reach Rouen via the A13 or A28 motorways, or via the national and departmental roads.

Finally, if you’re traveling by car from other European countries, you’ll need to plan your itinerary around your point of departure, using European freeways such as the E44, E46 or E402.

Frequently asked questions

Where to go for a walk in rouen.

If you’ve already visited the Jardin des Plantes, don’t worry, there’s still plenty to discover. We warmly recommend climbing to the top of Côte Sainte-Catherine as the sun begins to decline. Once you’ve reached the top, you can enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of the city and observe the majestic silhouette of Rouen Cathedral.

"General view of Rouen" by Claude Monet

As the sun set, we were struck by the beauty of the Normandy capital. As the light fades, you’ll be able to watch darkness slowly settle in, creating a landscape worthy of a painting. In fact, Claude Monet painted his painting “Vue générale de Rouen” from this vantage point, which can be seen at the Musée des Beaux-Arts.

Quais de Seine in Rouen

If you’re looking for a pleasant urban stroll, we recommend walking along the banks of the Seine. They are quite lively, with cafés, restaurants and boutiques creating a friendly atmosphere. We enjoyed the spectacle of passing barges and the lively atmosphere of the quayside. For admirers of beautiful boats, you’ll be aware that Rouen regularly organizes the Armada . Since the 1st edition in 1989, the town has hosted a gathering of tall ships, each more impressive than the last!

Which location best represents Rouen?

If you were to ask a Norman this question, the answer would undoubtedly be the Gros Horloge. Located in the heart of the city, this remarkable astronomical clock is a gateway to the historic center. However, competition with Rouen Cathedral is fierce. With its impressive Gothic facade and imposing spires, the church is also an essential symbol of the city. Its rich history has been immortalized in Claude Monet’s famous paintings!

Big Clock

Where to go in Rouen when it rains?

As you can see, the Normandy conurbation is rich in culture and history. When the weather turns fickle, you can take refuge in the city’s museums, or in one of its many churches. At the Musée Flaubert et d’histoire de la médecine, we delved into the memories of the Flaubert family. In the 2nd stage, we looked at the history of medicine from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century. Literature fans will also appreciate the Musée Pierre Corneille. We discovered the place where Le Cid was written. It’s also the playwright’s birthplace!

Coming soon: our articles on the Musée Flaubert et d’histoire de la médecine and the Musée Pierre Corneille!

All our tips in this article were put into words with the help of Elisa.

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11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Rouen

Written by Lisa Alexander Updated Dec 25, 2023 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

Author Lisa Alexander lived in France for two years and has traveled extensively through the country.

A stroll through the quaint old streets of Rouen, in Upper Normandy , feels like a walk back in time. There are historic places to visit at every turn, from the Middle Ages to the modern era.

For believers, the journey leads a few steps closer to heaven. Rouen has more than 50 religious buildings, and many of the churches are gems of Gothic architecture. You can also retrace the steps of Joan of Arc to see where she went to trial and where she was martyred.

Old Market Square in Rouen

Most of the top tourist attractions and things to do in Rouen lie within the city's pedestrian zone, a charming area of winding medieval lanes and half-timbered houses . Highlights include the magnificent cathedral, the renowned Fine Arts Museum, and the remarkable Gros-Horloge clock tower.

Rouen still reveals the destruction suffered during the Second World War. The exquisite façade of the Palais de Justice has evidence of shell holes from Allied bombings.

Soak up the history and culture in this charming town with our list of the top attractions in Rouen.

See also: Where to Stay in Rouen

1. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen

2. musée des beaux-arts, 3. abbatiale saint-ouen, 4. aître saint-maclou, 5. palais de justice and monument juif, 6. tour du gros-horloge (big clock tower), 7. eglise saint-maclou, 8. eglise jeanne d'arc, 9. musée le secq des tournelles, 10. musée de la céramique, 11. tour jeanne d'arc, where to stay in rouen for sightseeing, day trips from rouen, route des abbayes, saint martin de boscherville, map of tourist attractions in rouen.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen

In the heart of the old town, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen is a stellar example of Gothic architecture and holds the title of France's tallest cathedral . The monument's main structure was built in the 13th century, but the building was not completed until the 16th century.

The dazzling elaborate façade inspired Impressionist painter Claude Monet. The cathedral's central doorway was the subject of Monet's famous painting series . He painted the scene at different times of day to capture the effects of various lighting.

Above the façade, two towers loom over the town. The tower on the right is called the Tour du Beurre (Butter Tower) because it was paid for by offerings from the faithful, who in return were permitted to eat butter during Lent.

The cathedral also boasts France's highest spire at 151 meters. Despite damage during the Second World War, the cathedral still has some original stained glass windows.

During summer, splashy illuminations and sound effects bring the Rouen Cathedral to life. The Cathedral Light Show delights onlookers with its colorful animations projected onto the monument's façade, along with music, which tells the story of the Viking invasions of the 9th century and heroic saga of Joan of Arc in the 15th century.

The Cathedral Light Show is held at 11pm on weekends in June and every evening from July through mid September (show times are earlier in the late summer).

Address: 3 Rue Saint-Romain, Rouen

Rouen Cathedral - Floor plan map

The Musée des Beaux-Arts ranks among the most important art museums in France . This exceptional fine arts museum is renowned for its variety and breadth of artistic movements. The collection presents a wide range of paintings, sculptures, drawings, and objets d'art from the 15th century to the 21st century.

The most notable works include the 17th-century masterpieces by Caravaggio, Diego Velázquez, Anthony van Dyck, Nicolas Poussin, and Philippe de Champaigne. 19th-century works include those by Eugène Delacroix, Théodore Géricault, and Paul Delaroche as well as Impressionist works by Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Address: Esplanade Marcel-Duchamp, Rouen

Abbatiale Saint-Ouen

This majestic 14th-century building was created as a church for the powerful Benedictine monastery of Saint-Ouen. A masterpiece of Late Gothic (Rayonnant) architecture, the abbey church is classified as a Historic Monument.

Immense in its proportions (137 meters long by 33 meters high), the vaulted interior offers a peaceful space for spiritual worship. Exquisite 14th-century stained-glass windows allow light to filter into the sanctuary. In the south transept of the abbey is the Portail des Marmousets that depicts events of the Virgin Mary.

Be sure to see the famous Cavaillé-Coll organ , which is often used for musical concerts. Considered one of the most beautiful organs in the world, this particular Cavaillé-Coll organ has 5,000 pipes and four keyboards that produce perfect pitch.

On the same square as the abbey stands the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), once used as the dormitory for the monastery's monks. Behind the Hôtel de Ville are the former abbey gardens, now a public park.

Address: Place du Général de Gaulle, Rouen

Aître Saint-Maclou

During the "Black Death" plague of 1348 , around a third of the town's inhabitants perished. The now-pleasant courtyard of the Aître Saint-Maclou stands on a site that was once used for burials, and the buildings surrounding the cemetery served as the ossuary.

Listed as a Historic Monument, the building's galleries feature macabre décor depicting skulls, bones, gravedigger tools , and objects of funeral rites. The skeleton of a cat was discovered in the masonry. During the Middle Ages, cats (especially black cats) were considered to be evil spirits, and the cat would have been enclosed here (while still alive) to protect against bad luck.

The colonnaded galleries of the Aître Saint-Maclou also feature décor on a macabre theme. For instance, one set of intricately carved stone columns depicts "La Danse Macabre" (The Macabre Dance), a motif that was common in Europe in the 15th century, and this particular artistic rendition in sculpture is one of the finest examples found in France.

The recently restored "La Danse Macabre" at the Aître Saint-Maclou is open to the public. Guided tours are available in French. Groups may request guided tours in other languages.

The Aître Saint-Maclou also hosts art exhibitions, lectures, concerts, art workshops, and guided nighttime visits.

Address: 188 Rue Martainville, Rouen

Palais de Justice

A splendid example of medieval civilian architecture, the Palais de Justice houses the Rouen Law Courts and was the meeting place of the Parliament of Normandy. This Gothic masterpiece was built in the early 16th century, damaged during World War II, and subsequently restored.

The building is not open for tours, but you can see the ornate detailing of the façade and especially the incredible gargoyles. The central wing features a resplendent balustrade, soaring pinnacles, and perforated buttresses. The Palais de Justice was damaged during an Allied bombing in 1944, and the shell holes are still visible in the building's exterior walls.

In 1976, during a renovation of the Palais de Justice, the remains of a beautiful stone building were uncovered beneath the courtyard. The building was determined to be the lower room of an old Yeshiva (rabbinical school) that dates from 1100. Once uncovered, this Monument Juif (Jewish Monument) was immediately protected by an archaeological crypt.

The location was at the center of the old Jewish quarter that flourished during the time of William the Conqueror until the expulsion of the Jews in 1306. Rouen's Monument Juif is the oldest Jewish monument discovered in France .

The Monument Juif site is now called La Maison Sublime . Tourists may visit the site on a guided tour, which must be reserved in advance. The one-hour guided tours are available on Saturdays at 10:30am and 2:30pm.

Address: 36 Rue aux Juifs, Rouen

Tour du Gros-Horloge (Big Clock Tower)

One of the most emblematic sites in the historic center of Rouen, the Gros-Horloge lies just south of the Palais de Justice.

From the southeast corner of the Place du Vieux Marché (where the Eglise Jeanne d'Arc is located) the Rue de Gros-Horloge leads to the cathedral. Halfway along this charming route of cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses, the Tour du Gros-Horloge adjoins a Renaissance pavilion.

The Gothic belfry tower was built in 1389 for defensive purposes and the decorative clock dates from 1889. The belfry clock still serves its timekeeping functions for the city. Visitors should take a moment to admire the clock's incredible details.

The deity symbolizing the day of the week appears on a triumphal chariot at noon. A globe above the dial shows the phases of the moon, and sheep represent the wool industry. Depicted in the middle of the clock, a Passover lamb represents the arms of the city.

Address: Rue du Gros-Horloge, Rouen

Eglise Saint-Maclou

The Eglise Saint-Maclou is just a short walk east of the cathedral. This jewel of Flamboyant Gothic architecture was built in 1437 and dedicated to Saint Malo. A blend of different architectural styles is found throughout the church, from the Gothic staircase to the Baroque confessionals.

The ornate façade features five arched porches, which provide a dramatic entrance to the church. The porches enclose Renaissance-era wooden doors embellished with intricately carved Biblical scenes.

Saint-Maclou Church was severely damaged during WWII and has been well restored. In particular, the belfry was repaired and its five church bells now resound with daily chiming.

Address: Place Barthélémy, Rouen

Eglise Jeanne d'Arc

This surprisingly modern church let's you appreciate the invincible spirit of Joan of Arc, who spent the last days of her life in Rouen. The church was built at the Place du Vieux Marché, the very site where Joan of Arc was martyred (she was burned at the stake in the center of the square).

Designed to commemorate the famous saint, the Eglise Jeanne d'Arc was given a radical design. The shape of the church's roof represent the flames of the stake. Inside the church are spectacular Renaissance stained-glass windows that were taken from the former Church of Saint-Vincent.

This contemporary church provides an inspiring place for spiritual contemplation. The church is open to the public, free of charge, every day year-round (except on December 25th and January 1st).

Every year on or around May 30th, the Jeanne d'Arc Festival is held here to commemorate the French heroine.

Address: Place du Vieux Marché, Rouen

Old Church of St. Laurent which houses the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles

Housed in the former Gothic church of Saint Laurent, this unique museum boasts an exceptional collection of antique wrought-ironwork . The 15th-century church building still has its stunning stained-glass windows, including the remarkable "Tree of Jesus" window.

The largest museum of its kind in the world, it contains 14,000 items that date from the Gallo-Roman era to the 19th century. The collection covers a wide range and variety of ironwork, such as railings, door knockers, locks, scientific instruments, and jewelry.

Address: Rue Jacques-Villon, Rouen

Official site:

Musée de la Céramique

In the elegant Hôtel d'Hocqueville, the Museum of Ceramics displays a wonderful collection of faience and porcelain. The collection includes earthenware from Rouen, as well as from other cities, such as Delft in Holland.

Exhibits are devoted to delicate 19th- and 20th-century Sèvres porcelain objects, created by the ateliers of France's renowned Manufacture de Sèvres. There are also examples of Rococo chinoiserie, ceremonial dinnerware sets, and lovely faience sculptures.

Address: 1 Rue Faucon, Rouen

Tour Jeanne d'Arc

When Joan of Arc was brought to trial in 1431, she was taken to the dungeon of this tower to stand before her judges. Here she endured threats of torture by those who accused her of heresy.

Classified as a Historic Monument, the Tour Jeanne d'Arc (also called the " Donjon de Rouen ") is the only remaining part of the château built by Philippe Auguste in 1207. This large and imposing cylindrical tower features three superimposed rooms and an attic.

The Tour Jeanne d'Arc is open to the public free of charge for independent visits on Saturdays and Sundays from 2:30pm until 4pm. Guided tours are available on Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm.

Once a forbidding dungeon, today the Tour Jeanne d'Arc provides a venue for an amusing game. The Hyper Escape Game was created specifically for this heritage site. Combining virtual-reality activities and puzzles, the Hyper Escape Game (in French or English) allows participants to experience the Siege of Rouen that occurred in 1419.

This 60-minute game is available on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday between 4:30pm and 11:30pm and Sunday between 4:30pm and 10pm. Visitors may schedule game reservations for teams of three to six players.

Address: Rue Bouvreuil / Rue du Donjon, Rouen

The best place to stay in Rouen is the historic city center, with medieval buildings, winding cobblestone streets, and plenty of restaurants and shops. This is also a pedestrian-only zone and home to many of the main attractions. Below are some highly-rated hotels in convenient locations:

Luxury Hotels:

  • The Hotel de Bourgtheroulde, Autograph Collection is housed in a modernized 15th-century building just steps from the pedestrian-only historic city center. The hotel has a fine-dining restaurant open for special events, a casual brasserie, and an upscale spa with an indoor swimming pool and sauna.
  • In a half-timbered historical structure is the four-star Hôtel Mercure Rouen Centre Cathédrale Hotel , just steps away from the cathedral. Amenities include a breakfast buffet, snack bar, and complimentary newspapers.
  • In a prime location near the Place du Vieux Marché is the contemporary-style Best Western Plus Hôtel Littéraire Gustave Flaubert . This four-star hotel offers 24-hour front desk reception, a breakfast buffet, and a fitness center.

Mid-Range Hotels

  • The charming three-star Hôtel Mercure Rouen Centre Cathédrale is found on a picturesque pedestrian street, in the heart of Rouen's old town. Occupying a quaint half-timbered building, the hotel features cozy rooms with old-fashioned décor and a lovely garden patio.
  • Offering a great value for the price, the ibis budget Rouen Centre Rive Gauche is convenient if you are visiting Rouen with a car. The historic center of Rouen is about a 10-minute drive. This modern two-star hotel offers 24-hour check-in and a breakfast buffet.

Budget Hotels

  • Featuring rooms with high ceilings and half-timbered walls, the two-star Hôtel Morand is a good budget option near the train station and the Musée des Beaux-Arts. It's just a short walk from the old town (historic center).
  • Another historic half-timbered building, Le Vieux Carré hotel has a beautiful courtyard where breakfast is served on warm days. The hotel is just a 5-minute walk from the cathedral.
  • A 10-minute tram ride from the city center is the two-star ibis budget Rouen Petit Quevilly , featuring basic guest rooms and easy access to the motorway.

Abbey of Jumièges

One of the most enjoyable things to do on a clear, sunny day is to take a scenic drive along the picturesque "Route des Abbayes," which leads between Rouen and Le Havre, running parallel to the Seine River for much of the way.

This well-signposted route offers a delightful scenic drive. The ever-changing landscape and many historic buildings, such as the abbeys of Jumièges and Saint-Wandrille, make this journey worthwhile.

Abbey of Saint-Georges de Boscherville

About 12 kilometers from Rouen, the small village of Saint Martin de Boscherville lies in a Regional Natural Park along the Seine River. The 12th-century Abbey of Saint-Georges de Boscherville and the surrounding scenery are the main tourist attractions.

The village is part of the Parc Naturel Régional des Boucles de la Seine Normande , a gorgeous area of Normandy bounded by pristine marshlands of the Seine and the lush Roumare Forest.

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Nearby Attractions in Normandy : After visiting Rouen, most travelers will want to explore the Normandy region . This picturesque region features unspoiled natural scenery, charming old port towns, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mont Saint-Michel (a three-hour drive away). For those interested in World War II history, the D-Day Landing Beaches (about a two-hour drive away) are not to be missed.


Places to Visit in the Brittany Region : Many tourists visit Rouen as a day trip from Paris , which is a two-hour train ride away. However, Rouen is also an excellent base for sightseeing in Brittany . Along the Atlantic coast southwest of Normandy, the distinctive region of Brittany boasts picture-perfect medieval towns with half-timbered houses, alluring fairy-tale castles, ancient megalithic monuments, and quaint fishing villages.

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11 Best Things To Do in Rouen, France

By: Author Christine Rogador

Posted on Published: October 12, 2019  - Last updated: January 19, 2023

Rouen in Upper Normandy is known mostly for its part in t he story of Saint Joan of Arc , and the devastation it suffered during the second world war. It is also less than 2 hours away from Paris and one of the best day trips from the city.

Both faces of its rich history have made Rouen a town an interesting place to visit, with fascinating sights almost at every turn.

Retracing Joan of Arc’s story is a given, as well as seeing the Palais de Justice evidence of shell holes from Allied bombings, but there’s more to Rouen than poignant reminders of its sordid past.

The architecture is something else, the winding medieval alleys are like pathways to an old era, the renowned Musée Le Secq des Tournelles will have you in awe for hours and you probably won’t stop taking photos of the Gros- Horloge clock tower.

So pack your bags and here are the best things to do in Rouen, France.

Things you'll find in this article

1. ‪Old Rouen‬

Opening hours, admission fee, contact information, 3. palais de justice and monument juif, 10. ‪shop at the public markets‬ in rouen, travel tips and resources.

Old town Rouen

‪A great way to begin exploring is at the delightful Old Rouen. Be sure to pick up a map at the Tourist Office to help with your little walking tour.

If you are new to this Normandy capital, it is among the best things to do in Rouen to really know it better.

Your tour starts as soon as you get the map, right across to cathedral, and into any of the narrow streets where you’ll find half-timbered houses from the Renaissance era.

Old Rouen is also where you’ll find the Palais de Justice, and the infamous Place du Vieux-Marche, a former venue for public executions, including that of the burning of Joan of Arc.‬

2. ‪Gros Horloge of Rouen‬

Gros Horloge of Rouen‬

‪Not to be missed while you’re in town is the Renaissance-style clock that’s definitely one of Rouen’s top attractions.

Located in the heart of the city, this one is regarded as among the most beautiful clocks in France.

The Gros Horloge is a must-see as it has one of the oldest working time movements in the country, and its intricate design is quite impressive.

For a fee and if you just want to see more of this impressive structure, you can enter and climb up the clock tower. ‬

Tuesday to Sunday – 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM

Full price – 7€, 5€ (with a “Rouen en liberté” card)

Reductions – 3,50€ (6 to 18-year-olds, students, people on minimum income, large families and groups of at least 10 people)

School groups – 1,50€ per child

Free of charge for children ages less than 6, disabled people.

Phone: 0232083240

Email: [email protected]

Address: 25 places de la Cathédrale CS 30666 76008   Rouen

Palais de Justice

The Palais de Justice, apart from being a stunning example of medieval architecture, is also among the best attractions in Rouen.

Constructed between 1508 and 1509, this Gothic masterpiece was the meeting place of the Normandy Parliament and currently houses the Law Courts of Rouen.

Touring the building is not allowed but you can admire the facade’s intricate details which feature gargoyles, a balustrade at the central wing and perforated buttresses that must’ve helped to brilliantly preserve this building.

The Palais de Justice was also damaged during 1944’s Allied bombings and you can still see evidence of shell holes in the walls of this building.

4. Cathedral of Notre-Dame

Notre Dame of Rouen

You simply cannot miss the extravagant Cathedral of Notre-Dame, easily one of the best places to see in Rouen.

Founded in 1200, this cathedral was rebuilt and renovated over the next centuries, into the glorious Gothic masterpiece that it is today.

You simply have to stand in front of this church and you&ll be awed by the details, including the two completely different but equally splendid towers.

The cathedral’s facade was an inspiration for a series of 28 paintings by Claude Monet , which shows the different effects of light at various times of the day.

The interiors are simple yet elegant and hold many treasures such as hearts of certain personalities and remains of Rouen’s important people from centuries ago.

Monday – 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM

Tuesday to Saturday – 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM

Sunday – 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Phone: 0235718565

Email: [email protected]

Address: 3 Rue Saint-Romain, 76000 Rouen, France

5. Aître Saint-Maclou – ancient burial ground

Aître Saint-Maclou

If you’re looking for some strange things to see in Rouen, head on to the Aître Saint-Maclou. It is a medieval building that was used as a burial ground since Roman times.

Be sure to keep an eye on fascinating macabre decorations that relate to death as well as ‘Dance of Death’ statues.

Even the building’s wooden frames are adorned with details such as bones, cult objects, and skulls.

These days, Aître Saint-Maclouis home to the region’s school of fine arts. If you’re interested in Rouen and the rest of the region’s history and architecture, then it’s a definite must-visit.

Address: 186 Rue Martainville, 76000 Rouen, France

6. Abbatiale Saint-Ouen

Abbatiale Saint-Ouen

A stunning example of Late Gothic architecture is the Abbatiale Saint- Ouen. Built-in the 14th century, a tour of this grand structure is one of the best activities to do in Rouen.

There’s a lot to see — from the grand facade and its intricate details, the symbolic tower, stunning vaulted interiors, and stained glass windows.

Be sure to check out the abbey’s Cavaillé-Coll organ, as well as the Hôtel de Ville within the church complex and the former abbey gardens , turned public park behind it.

From April 1- October 31

Tuesday to Thursday, Saturday-Sunday – 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM

November 1 to March 31

Tuesday to Thursday, Saturday-Sunday – 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM

Phone: +330232083240

Address:  Abbatiale Saint-Ouen place du Général de Gaulle 76000 Rouen 

7. ‪Jardin des Plantes‬

Jardin des Plantes‬

You’ll find the ‪Jardin des Plantes‬ (Botanical Garden) just off the center of Rouen, a wonderful respite from all the walking and exploring.

This 25-acre garden is beautiful any time of the year — filled with camellias, irises, and wisteria at springtime, the scent of roses during summer, magical foliage during autumn and winter’s exotic flowers and plants in hothouses.

Take an early morning or late afternoon stroll, or maybe bring your takeaway coffee or lunch here in between exploring the city for a break.

This is one of those things to do in Rouen that you’d keep coming back to over and over again.

Monday to Sunday – 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM

For Garden of Plants

Phone: 0140795601 / 0140795479

Email: [email protected]

Address: Galleries, Gardens, Zoo- Jardin des Plantes   57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris, France

8. Musée Le Secq des Tournelles

Tournelles Museum

Rouen is home to some interesting museums, and one of them is the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles.

Featuring a diverse collection of antique wrought- ironwork, this museum is housed in a 15th-century Gothic church building with stunning stained glass windows.

The Musée Le Secq des Tournelle is the biggest of its kind in the world and is home to 14,000 items that are from the Gallo-Roman era to the 19th century.

This vast collection was donated by Henri Le Secq des Tournelles and includes an incredible vary of ironwork that includes door knockers, jewelry , locks, railings, and scientific instruments.

Monday – 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Wednesday to Sunday – 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Phone: 0235712840

Address:   2 Rue Jacques Villon, 76000 Rouen, France

Email: [email protected] 

9. Musée de la Céramique

  View this post on Instagram   A post shared by Tom Hdr ☄️ (@tom_hdr) on Jul 8, 2016 at 9:00am PDT

Housed in the gorgeous Hôtel d & Hocqueville, the displays feature an impressive collection of faience and porcelain, with Rouen earthenware as well as from other cities like Delft.

There are two rooms in the museum that has the delicate Sèvres porcelain from the 19th and 20th centuries As well as exhibits that feature examples of ceremonial dinnerware sets, and pretty faience sculptures.

Address:   1 Rue Faucon, 76000 Rouen, France

Phone: 0235073174

Email:[email protected]

Old market Rouen

‪A great way to experience local life in Rouen is to be at the markets , where you can sample local cuisine and buy local delicacies as well as flowers, crafts, antiques, and used goods.

These markets are hosted weekly in places like Clos Saint-Marc in Saint-Marc square and the Vieux-Marché in the Old Market Square.

These are the biggest market in the city and one of those Rouen attractions that you must visit.‬

11. Retrace the history of Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc Church Rouen

Rouen was the witness to the tragic end of the legendary Saint Joan of Arc, and the city continues to be known as the venue for her execution.

If you’re up for a historical walking tour of her final days, it is one of those activities to do in Rouen that’s quite sobering and poignantly inspiring. You may start at the museum located at her exact trial site, the Historial Jeanne d’Arc.

This museum features interactive exhibits that take you through the saint’s history and the legends about her. About one kilometer from the museum is the impressive Joan of Arc Tower, which is the last remaining part of the once majestic Rouen Castle.

This was constructed in 1204 by Philippe Auguste and now houses an escape room game. This tower was also a former dungeon where Joan was imprisoned during her trial.

The next destination is the Old Market Square, to the Église Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc de Rouen, with its stunning glass windows. There’s a monument of Joan outside, said to be the exact spot where she was burned for heresy and where her life ended.

Phone: 0235524800

Address: Historial Jeanne d’Arc- 7, rue Saint-Romain, – 76000 Rouen

Email: [email protected]

Travel Insurance: I never leave home without travel insurance. My personal opinion is if you can afford to travel, you can afford to buy a travel insurance. All things can happen while on the road and you can never be too sure. And it's something that you'll be glad to have when you need it. For my preferred travel insurance, I use Safety Wing .

What To Wear: If you want some ideas on what to pack for France, check out this packing list guide for France .

Where To Stay: I personally use for all my accommodations. Check out for their latest deals here .

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Christine Rogador in the Louvre

Hi, I’m Christine – a full-time traveler and career woman. Although I’m from the Philippines, my location independent career took me to over 40 countries and lived in 4 continents in the last 10 years, including France. A self-proclaimed Francophile, I love everything France.

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Rouen Food Tour - Secret Food Tours


Rouen, France, is an exceptional foodie city that will delight the taste buds of any culinary enthusiast. Renowned for its rich gastronomic heritage and diverse culinary scene, Rouen offers a unique and unforgettable experience for food lovers. If you're seeking a culinary adventure, embarking on a Rouen food tour is an absolute must.

Rouen's food scene is a harmonious blend of traditional French cuisine and innovative culinary trends. From cozy bistros to Michelin-starred restaurants, the city offers a wide range of dining options that cater to every palate. Indulge in classic dishes like duck confit, Normandy-style sole meunière, or creamy Camembert cheese that will transport you to gastronomic heaven.

A food tour in Rouen will allow you to discover the city's vibrant local markets, such as the Marché Saint-Maclou, where you can explore stalls brimming with fresh produce, aromatic herbs, and artisanal cheeses. You'll have the opportunity to interact with passionate vendors who take pride in their craft and learn about the region's culinary traditions.

Don't miss the chance to savor the famous Rouen specialty, Canard à la Rouennaise, a succulent roasted duck dish that has been celebrated for centuries. Rouen is also renowned for its apple-based delights, including the delightful Tarte Tatin and the refreshing Pommeau, a traditional apple-based apéritif.

To fully immerse yourself in Rouen's culinary delights, joining a food tour is the perfect way to navigate the city's culinary landscape. Rouen food tours provide an insider's perspective, offering a curated selection of the best culinary experiences, hidden gems, and insider tips from knowledgeable guides.

Whether you're a food connoisseur or simply seeking to indulge in delectable French cuisine, Rouen is the ultimate foodie destination. Embark on a Rouen food tour and unlock a world of exquisite flavors, charming culinary traditions, and unforgettable gastronomic experiences. Book your Rouen food tour today and prepare to indulge in a culinary journey like no other. "Rouen food tours" will satisfy your craving for extraordinary cuisine in this enchanting city.

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Free Walking Sightseeing Tours in Rouen, France

Guided free walking tours.

Book free guided walking tours in Rouen.

Guided Sightseeing Tours

Book guided sightseeing tours and activities in Rouen.

Explore Rouen in France with one of our free walking tours . Click on a marker on the map to get started and view details about the tour. Below is an overview of the sightseeing tours. A total of 8 tours are available in Rouen, France.

Freetour: Rouen Like a local Free Tour

Rouen Like a local Free Tour

Freetour: Free Tour of the Charming City of Rouen

Free Tour of the Charming City of Rouen

Self-guided Tour #1

  • Temple Saint-Éloi
  • Église Saint-Pierre-du-Châtel
  • Gros-Horloge
  • Cathédrale Notre-Dame
  • Église Saint-Maclou

Self-guided Tour #2

  • Centre de ressources du Munaé
  • Théâtre des Deux Rives
  • Muséum d'histoire naturelle
  • Chapelle Saint-Louis
  • Chapelle Corneille
  • Statue de Napoléon
  • Musée Le Secq des Tournelles
  • Église Saint-Godard
  • Musée des Beaux-Arts
  • Musée de la Céramique
  • Tour Jeanne d'Arc
  • Église Saint-Patrice
  • Hôtel de Sacy
  • Jeanne au bûcher
  • Maison natale Pierre Corneille
  • Musée Flaubert - Histoire de la Médecine
  • Église Saint-Gervais

Self-guided Tour #3

  • Couvent des Pénitents
  • Square Marcel Halbout
  • Église Saint-Vivien
  • Grosse pierre de Jelling
  • Abbatiale Saint-Ouen
  • Église Saint-Nicaise

Self-guided Tour #4

  • Église Saint-Jean-Eudes
  • Albert Ettinger
  • Halle aux Toiles

Self-guided Tour #5

  • Pont Flaubert
  • Basilique du Sacré-Cœur
  • Église Sainte-Madeleine

Self-guided Tour #6

  • Musée national de l’Éducation
  • Église Saint-Sever
  • Jardin des Plantes

Why Visit Sights? Self-guided sightseeing tours are a free and safe alternative to bus tours. You can explore Rouen at your own pace, any time! Do something good for your health by walking.

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Tour de Beurre, Rouen Cathedral

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Last Updated:  15 April 2020

Rouen ’s most prestigious monument, the lofty and imposing cathedral, is one of the most exquisite pieces of pure Flamboyant work existing. The magnificent and lofty Tour de Beurre is one of the three mighty towers that make the  cathedral of Rouen  one of the country’s most stunning sanctuaries. As the southern tower of the West front , the Tour de Beurre is a luxuriant specimen of Flamboyant Gothic architecture with pinnacles, gables and statues on every side topped by a beautiful crown of open stone-work.

Construction of the Tour de Beurre

The Tour de Beurre is more recent than the Tour Saint-Romain to which it was built to counterbalance the West front of Rouen Cathedral . Like its counterpart, the Tour de Beurre was not built above the side-aisles of the nave.

The laying of the foundation stone took place on the 10th November 1485 by Robert de Croismare , then archbishop of Rouen.

Work was first led by architect  Guillaume Pontif and then by Jacques le Roux who completed the tower in 1506. During the construction a small land subsidence made the tower shift southwards, making it necessary to remodelled the central portal of the West Front. In 1507 the tower was consecrated by Rouen archbishop, Georges d’Amboise . The clergyman was so delighted by the new tower that he choose it to house the largest bell in France.

The tower was built following a squared plan and comprises of four square-plan levels adorned with statues, pinnacles, gargoyles and gables on every side. The statues are amazing, especially those on the eastern side, which are inspired by the legend of Ara Coeli .

The gargoyles of the tower:

The Crown of the Tour de Beurre

The tower’s last level is a Gothic marvel as it transforms the squared plan to a refined octogonal balustrade of open stone-work. One characteristic of Flamboyant Gothic style, the ‘ crown ’ is more yellowness than the rest of the tower. While the bell tower was built with white stones from the quarry of Caumont near Rouen, the crown was designed with stones from the quarry of Saint-Maximin in the Oise Valley. One might think that the ‘crown’ was sculpted through butter . This is one of the reasons why the tower is called ‘ Tour de Beurre ’ (Butter Tower).

The other reason behind the name of the tower is a religious one. In the Middle-Ages, the consumption of butter was banned during Lent . For parishioners who hoped to escape the drastic religious rule, permission was given for them to keep on eating ‘ fat ’ in return for a donation of six Livres Tournois. The purchase of such indulgences was granted by Pope Innocent VIII. The construction of the Tour de Beurre cost 24,750 Livres Tournois.

In 1499 as the bell tower was near completion, there was animated discussion on how to top the tower. In the mind of the hardliners a stone spire was in their favour following the Gothic tradition whilst the modern thinkers supported a crown. Considering the divergent opinions expressed in stormy debates, the deterioration of finances and the contention with the architect, construction stopped momentarily. In 1505 an agreement was found and decision was taken to end the tower with a spire – which was never built. Eventually the elaborated terrace – the crown – was placed on top of the Tour de Beurre.

The towers’ Carillon

The tower houses one of the biggest carillons of France. In 1914 it had 29 bells and was later enlarged by the Paccard Bell Foundry in Annecy to include 64 bells. In 2015-2016, the carillon is being restored by Paccard, including the largest bell, the bourdon Jeanne d’Arc , weighing 10 metric tonnes. According to Paccard, the carillon of Rouen will be France’s second largest one after the carillon found in Castle of the Dukes of Savoy, Chambéry (70 bells).

My book recommendation!

Its name? Simply:

Gothic: Architecture, Sculpture, Painting b y Rolf Toman, Publisher: Ullmann

This book has been for me a great resource that helped me better understand the Gothic movement in art from the 12th century to the Renaissance. An architectural style that first originated from France and spread all over Europe.

Over 500 pages it focuses on the development of Gothic architecture with many illustrations and photographs, but not only. I’ve also found interesting the in-depth discussion of the most diverse art forms, including painting, sculpture, metalwork and even book illumination! It also includes specific coverage of the Cathars’ Heresy and the Papal Palace in Avignon. And, of course, it mentions the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Rouen!

This is definitely the book I recommend if – like me – you love everything about Gothic such as churches, gargoyles, stained glass, flying buttresses and so much more.

Order it online!

Interior of the Tour de Beurre

The ground floor of the tower is occupied by a chapel: ‘ Saint-Étienne-la-Grande-Église ’. Accessed from the south side aisle, it stands on the site of two older chapels (1275), Saint-Jacques and Saint-Christophe built prior to the edification of the Tour de Beurre. The chapel houses two recumbent statues from the 17th century: Claude Groulard (first president of the Parliament of Normandy) and his wife Barbe Guiffard .

Several headstones adorn the chapel: Denis Gastinel (1440) a canon of the cathedral who was one of Joan of Arc’s judges, Nichole Sarrazin (1505), Inguerran d’Étrépagny (13th century), Nichole Gibouin (1320), Étienne de Sens (1282), and the headstone of the three ‘Innocents of Les Andelys’ who were hanged in 1625.

The lofty vaulted room features some beautiful stained-glass windows from the 16th century.

Part of the ground floor is used as a souvenir store. The chapel can be accessed from the South side aisles of the cathedral.

Facts about the ‘Butter Tower’ of Rouen Cathedral

The Tour de Beurre is the third highest tower of Rouen Cathedral  after the Lantern Tower and Tour Saint-Romain at a height of 77 metres above ground level. At the time of its completion in the early 16th century, it was Rouen’s tallest building and overlooked the Seine harbour and the trading districts of the local bourgeoisie. The city of Rouen regarded the lofty tower as a matter of pride just as the people of Strasbourg did regarding their cathedral’s spire (which was back then the tallest building in the world).

The Tour de Beurre bears some resemblance with another iconic landmark in Rouen: the lantern tower of the Abbey Church of Saint-Ouen , also nicknamed the Crown of Normandy.

The best views of the Tour de Beurre are from the Place de la Cathédrale, rue du Change and the viewpoint of Côte Sainte-Catherine .

The Tour de Beurre stood untouched from the Allied bombing in 1944  unlike the Tour Saint-Romain  who was unfortunately damaged by the air-raid.

The Tour de Beurre partly inspired the architects of Tribune Tower , Chicago for the design of the 141 metre high skyscraper. The Tribune Tower in turn was a source of inspiration for the construction of two buildings in Australia: the Grace Building in Sydney  and the Manchester Unity Building in Melbourne .

Find out more about Rouen Cathedral .

For more information, visit the Rouen Tourist Board website .

Author Box 05

About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of Discovery Courses and books about France.

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