Is Rouen worth visiting? A Rouen day trip has Gothic architecture, medieval streets, and Joan of Arc sites. Take the train from Paris to Rouen and go!
Rouen History & Today
Rouen, the capital of Normandy, enjoys an extensive history full of intrigue and battles for control. The beginnings of the city trace back to a tribe of Gaul which later the Normans took over. In 1150 AD, Rouen was given a charter of self-government before King Philip II Augustus brought Rouen into the French Kingdom in 1204.
But that was hardly the end of Rouen’s tumultuous history. Following becoming part of the French Kingdom, Rouen still had assassinations, surrendering to Henry V of England, and the excommunication of the English King. Add in Joan of Arc burned at the stake, and later the Kriegsmarine headquarters during the German occupation, and Rouen has weathered it’s share of momentous history.
The history of Rouen is fascinating. If you are into European history, you are going to love exploring the sights of today.
Use this guide to decide if Rouen is worth visiting for you, and if so, make a plan!
Is Rouen Worth Visiting?
While the above tells you about Rouen, it doesn’t really answer whether Rouen is worth visiting. For me, the answer is an absolute YES. The train trip (see below) is very manageable at 1.25-1.75 hours long. The transfer from train station to historic area is a short 10 minute walk, or a super-easy metro trip. The logistics are easy.
Further, the variety of sites can easily fill several days if you want to see it all! The main sites include some of the most gorgeous Gothic churches in France. Then there are the sites from the imprisonment, trials, and martyrdom of Joan of Arc. There are medieval streets that have been maintained beautifully, giving you the feel of what old Europe was like. And, of course, the famous astronomical clock, the Gros Horloge. Oh, and Richard the Lionheart’s… heart.
So, if you are in it for one of your easy day trips from Paris by Train, it’s checking all the boxes.
Major Sites for Rouen Day Trip
Visiting Rouen gives you a wide selection of ways to spend your day. Fitting everything in to one day may prove challenging, so be sure to prioritize your list and make sure you see the things that are really important to you. But beyond that, it’s up to you to decide what your Rouen day trip is!
Rouen Notre Dame Cathedral – Claude Monet Rouen Cathedral paintings
One of the main reasons the answer to Is Rouen Worth Visiting?’ is a resounding YES, is the Notre Dame Cathedral. It is a nearly overwhelming example of Gothic architecture. It quite literally will stop you in your tracks. Apparently, Monet thought so, too, because he spent quite a bit of time in the Exchequer building painting this very cathedral. You can see this series of painting in the Orsay museum in Paris today. Inside, you will find the beautiful architecture continues as does the history. Inside this cathedral are the tombs of the Dukes of Normandy, and even the actual heart of Richard the Lionhearted rests here. For practical information on visiting, go to the Rouen Tourism site for the cathedral for the most up to date hours
Eglise St. Maclou
Another startlingly beautiful gothic (technically “flamboyant” gothic, I love that) church in Rouen. The carved doors on the front are particularly worthy of taking a few minutes to examine. Another reason to visit this church is its location on Place Barthélémy, mentioned below. The church is only open to visit inside limited hours on Sat, Sun, & Mon, so see Rouen Tourism for specifics.
Saint-Owen Abby Church
This is a different stop on the church list, because it is not a fully functioning church, the interior is fairly empty. It leaves you to focus on the Gothic architecture of the building, and the beautiful wrought iron, instead of the great art on the walls or carved wooden seating. The Abby also borders a small park area that draws strolling people and dog-walkers, so it can be a nice place for a brief respite! The Abbey site lists visiting times.
Joan of Arc Church
Joan of Arc Sights
A particularly significant episode in Rouen’s history, is Joan of Arc’s history in the city. It was here in Rouen that Joan was imprisoned, interrogated, and eventually burned at the stake. Whether you see Joan of Arc as a Christian martyr, a strong young women committed to her ideals, or a weird story of a woman with a possible illness, you will have the opportunity to learn more about her. Be sure to see some of these sights on your Rouen day trip.
Joan of Arc Museum
Ok, I have to admit. I had my doubts about the Joan of Arc Museum. When I am doing a day trip, and this holds true for my Rouen day trip, I don’t like to spend a lot of time in museums. I stopped in here because I was really warm, and thought I could hop back out if I didn’t think it was worth it.
Very worth it. They do a great job of telling the story of Joan of Arc through what I will describe as a multi-media, documentary style, re-investigation of the facts. But it is done dramatically with actors in character, and moving you room to room for each stage. I wish we taught more things like this, my kids would love it.
Joan of Arc Tower
Walking along Rue Jeanne d’Arc, between the train station and the rest of the major sites of Rouen, is an easily missed Rouen Joan of Arc site. There is a complicated intersection where Boulevard de la Marne, Boulevard de l’Yser, Rue du Donjon and Rue Verte come together. Look down Rue du Donjon (as in Dungeon) and you will see an old, cylindrical stone tower. This tower is where Joan was interrogated.
Joan of Arc Church
for a completely different type of church stop, there is the Joan d’Arc Church. This church is modern building with one wall of gorgeous stained glass that tells the story of Joan d’Arc. On the other side of the stained glass, is the actual spot that Joan d’Arc was martyred. The church welcomes visitors when services are not going on, so step inside to take a look. The Church site lists specifics of times.
Place de Vieux Marché Joan of Arc Martyrdom Site
In the Place de Vieux Marché, just beside the Joan of Arc Church, is a small garden (pictured above). In the midst of it is an easily missed plaque stating that this is the actual spot where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake on May 29, 1431.
Beautiful Streets and Squares of Rouen
Is Rouen worth visiting? Yes – if you like half-timbered buildings and meticulously maintained medieval streets. Here are some favorites to include in your Rouen day trip while you wander.
Rue Gros Horloge
Rue de Gros Horloge crosses Rue Jeanne d’Arc. To the west the road leads to the Joan of Arc church. To the east Rue de Gros Horloge is a pedestrian street that is lined medieval buildings. It passes underneath the Gros Horloge, the astronomical clock, and leads to Place de la Cathédrale and Rouen’s Notre Dame Cathedral.
This narrow street, lined with half-timber buildings, stretchest from the Place de la Cathédrale to Place Barthélémy. It also has the Historic Joan of Arc Museum along the way.
Rue Eau de Robec
Just a beautiful street of shops worth the wander. Also close to Saint Owen Abbey Church and the little park beside the church.
Place de la Cathédrale
The Place de la Cathédrale is, fittingly, right outside the Rouen Notre Dame Cathedral. The square is also lined with restaurants, a few shops, and the Exchequer which houses the Rouen Tourism office. On summer evenings, the Cathedral has a light show on the front – definitely a highlight of this beautiful square.
Just outside the Eglise St. Maclou is this surprisingly quiet place. The square is completely surrounded by leaning and varied-shaped, half-timber buildings. There weren’t nearly as many people here, which probably added to its charm.
Museums are not a top stop for me when doing day trips, including a Rouen day trip. However, if it’s your thing, these are the museums that stand out for me because of the quality and/or uniqueness.
Museum of Fine Arts – Musee des Beau Arts
The art collection in the Museum of Fine Arts in Rouen is impressive. The collection includes paintings, drawings, sculpture, and objects of art from the 15th century to present day. The impressionist area is particularly notable, being the 2nd largest collection in France.
Wrought Iron Museum – Le Secq des Tournelles
I have to list this museum for the uniqueness. Le Sec des Tournelles exclusively displays wrought iron art. This including gates, door knockers, keys, utensils, and more. Admission is also free for the permanent collection.
Flaubert Museum of the History of Medicine
This is another worth mentioning for the uniqueness. Located in the building where Gustave Flaubert was born, the Flaubert Museum is filled with unusual medical items. Want to see a leech perch? You can do it here.
Historic Joan of Arc Museum
See Joan of Arc Sights.
Other Sights Worth Seeing in Rouen
Just because I’m listing these under ‘other sights’ does not mean these are low priority stops for your Rouen day trip. A few of these are top sights in Rouen!
This famous clock in Rouen is an astronomical clock built in the 14th century. The mechanism inside is one of the oldest in France. The clock originally only had an hour hand that traveled around a 24 hour face, and was cast in wrought iron. Only later, 1529, was the façade that represents a sun with 24 rays on a starry background. The dial also shows the phases of the moon and days of the week. The clock was electrified in 1920.
Aitre St. Maclou
As of the summer of 2019 the Aitre St. Maclou is under renovation and only open for unpredictable times. However, I look forward to visiting once the renovation in finished. What seems to be a courtyard tucked away from the street is actually decorated with bones and skulls. After the plague devastated Rouen, the cemeteries couldn’t hold all the dead. Twice throughout history this space was used to bury the dead from plague. When the second plague outbreak hit, the bones of the previously buried were dug up and moved to rooms above the cloister. The new dead were then buried. Today it is a unique, somewhat dark, but fascinating reminder of the struggles of the past.
Palais de Justice
The Palais de Justice was the seat of the Parliament of Normandy. The earliest parts of the ornate building was begun in 1499 and not completed until the middle of the 16th century. It took terrible damage during World War II, but has been beautifully restored.
House of Exchequer
Without context this is a building you look at an automatically know it is historic and beautiful. And it’s useful since today it houses the Rouen tourism office. But beyond that, it can just seem a beautiful building across from the Notre Dame Cathedral. However, this is actually the House of the Exchequer, an early Renaissance building from the early 16th century. It is now most famous for the fact that it was from this building that Claude Monet painted part of his Cathedral series.
Train: Paris to Rouen
If you are considering a Rouen day trip, taking the train from Paris to Rouen is an easy and low-stress way to make it happen. Here are the relevant details to help you out:
Departure Train Station from Paris
Paris St. Lazare train station is where to take the train from Paris to Rouen. Metro lines 3, 12, 13, & 14 all stop at Paris St. Lazare train station.
Train from Paris to Rouen Duration & Frequency
SCNF Trains runs more than 20 trains to Rouen Rive Droite station throughout the day, beginning at about 6am. The trip between Paris and Rouen varies in length from 1 hour 12 minutes to 1 hour 41 minutes depending on the stops. Only a very few trains make a change.
Special Note on Train from Paris to Rouen
Most train tickets for Paris to Rouen will actually be for a train that ends in Le Havre. Rouen Rive Droite is the first stop on the trip between Paris and Le Havre. When you are checking the departure screens in the train station for which platform your train is departing from, be sure to look for the train to Le Havre. The stops of the train will scroll underneath, the first of which will be Rouen Rive Droite.
are also very frequent with final return train departing around 9pm. (Do not rely on this your actual day of travel! The schedule may be different based on day of week, time of year, and holiday and special event schedules!)
Rouen Train Station to Historic Sites
Once you arrive at Gare de Rouen, labeled as Gare Rue Verte on maps, there are two easy choices to reach the heart of the historic area: Metro Rouen and Walking.
Walk to Historic Sites
From the Gare Rouen or Gare Rue Verte, you exit the station, and proceed directly onto Rue Jeanne d’Arc in front of the station. If you follow Rue Jeanne d’Arc for about 10 minutes, you will be at the Palais de Justice, just steps from the Rue du Gros Horloge and the historic sites.
Taking the Metro from Gare rue Verte is not difficult. The metro station is right under the train station, and is reached by taking the steps/escalator just inside the entrance to the station. Once at the lower level, you can buy a ticket from the kiosk, and then proceed lower to the metro Rouen platform.
There are two lines for the metro Rouen, but they converge on the same track on this side of the river, so you can take either line from the train station to the historic area. You can take the metro from Gare Rue Verte, one stop to Palais de Justice. Once you exit this metro Rouen station, you are only one short block from Rue de Gros Horloge and the main historic sites.
So, is Rouen worth visiting? Well, I definitely say yes. It might have been my favorite day trip from Paris by train when considering the wealth of history and sights and ease of travel. Hopefully this helps you make your own decision.
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