Rouen in Upper Normandy is known mostly for its part in the 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
- 11 Best Things To Do in Rouen, France
- 1. Old Rouen
- 2. Gros Horloge of Rouen
- 3. Palais de Justice and Monument Juif
- 4. Cathedral of Notre-Dame
- 5. Aître Saint-Maclou – ancient burial ground
- 6. Abbatiale Saint-Ouen
- 7. Jardin des Plantes
- 8. Musée Le Secq des Tournelles
- 9. Musée de la Céramique
- 10. Shop at the Public Markets in Rouen
- 11. Retrace the history of Joan of Arc
11 Best Things To Do in Rouen, France
1. Old 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
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.
Address: 25 places de la Cathédrale CS 30666 76008 Rouen
3. Palais de Justice and Monument Juif
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
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
Address: 3 Rue Saint-Romain, 76000 Rouen, France
5. Aître Saint-Maclou – ancient burial ground
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
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.
Tuesday to Thursday, Saturday-Sunday – 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Tuesday to Thursday, Saturday-Sunday – 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Address: Abbatiale Saint-Ouen place du Général de Gaulle 76000 Rouen
7. 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
Address: Galleries, Gardens, Zoo- Jardin des Plantes 57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris, France
8. Musée Le Secq des Tournelles
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
Address: 2 Rue Jacques Villon, 76000 Rouen, France
9. Musée de la Céramique
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A unique museum that’s among the best things to see in Rouen is the Museum of Ceramics.
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.
Monday – 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Wednesday to Sunday – 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Address: 1 Rue Faucon, 76000 Rouen, France
10. Shop at the Public Markets in 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
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.
Address: Historial Jeanne d’Arc- 7, rue Saint-Romain, – 76000 Rouen
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 for the past 8 years. I also lived in 3 continents – from the Caribbean, South East Asia to Africa. France remains special to me, however. From architecture, history, and arts – France is truly an amazing place.