Day Trips From Paris: Rouen


While it goes without saying that I love living in Paris, after nearly 30 days of reconfinement, I’m itching to leave it. Not for good, but just to take a trip – even a day trip. While I make plans for my next destinations once we’re free to travel again, I’ve begun to look back at day trips I took in the past few months, one of which I hadn’t had the chance to sit down and write about yet: Rouen!

The capital of the Normandy region, it’s a stunning medieval city full of timbered houses, a Gothic cathedral, more churches than you can count, and charming shops and restaurants. After discovering that it was not too far from Paris, a friend and I decided to spend a day there this autumn, and had a wonderful time!

How to get to Rouen from Paris

While a trip to Rouen is unfortunately not free to visit with the Passe Navigo, getting there doesn’t break the bank either. You can get tickets on sites such as the Trainline for prices as low as 9€ each way if you book in advance – my friend and I had waited a little last minute so ended up paying around 17€. 

The trains in Paris depart from St-Lazare station, and the ride is a mere one hour and twenty minutes with no changes. You disembark at Rouen Rive Droite station, which is a 15 minute walk from the historic city center. 

Things to do in Rouen

Rouen is one of the historical and cultural capitals of France, in addition to being a buzzing city full of young professionals. It goes without saying that there are a great many things to do there – the majority of which my friend and I didn’t even have the chance to do! Below I listed a few of the highlights of my visit, but if you want a comprehensive list of things to do in Rouen I’d suggest visiting their official tourism website.

Gros Horloge Clock Tower

Upon arrival in the city center, the first thing that my friend and I noticed was the giant clock installed on a Renaissance arch crossing that you led you into the historical heart of the city. I later discovered that it was the Gros Horloge, an astronomical clock from the 14th century. A huge fan of the astronomical clocks in Prague and Vienna, I was delighted to find one close to Paris!

Rouen Cathedral

Victor Hugo famously described Rouen as the “city of a hundred spires”, a name that is well deserved! There seems to be a stunning church at every street corner, with my favourite being the jaw-droppingly beautiful Rouen Cathedral, or Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen. A Gothic masterpiece from the 12th century, it’s been witness to many historical battles and events in France’s history.

The cathedral is free  to visit, and I would highly recommend going in as the inside is just as splendid as the exterior. Also, if you’re staying multiple days or at least staying late in Rouen, you can catch the light show which takes place every evening from July to September.

Historial Jeanne d’Arc

Joan of Arc (or Jeanne d’Arc as she is known in France) plays an important role in the city of Rouen, as it was where she was tried and executed. There is a very impressive museum dedicated to her story by the Rouen Cathedral, called the Historial Jeanne d’Arc. Housed in the Archdiocese of Rouen, it’s a built on an interesting concept in which visitors go from room to room, learning about the story of Joan of Arc through special effects and videos with actors taking on different historical roles. 

I found everything to be really well presented and loved how the multimedia approach allowed visitors to really immerse themselves. After the tour, one can visit different rooms to learn from experts, look at relics, learn about Joan of Arc’s legacy in France, and get a stunning view of the Rouen skyline. 

Tickets are 10.50€, and 7.50€ if you qualify for a reduction. And while the visit is entirely in French, free audioguides are available in dozens of different languages.

Dame Cakes

Prior to departing from Rouen, my friend and I stopped at a cake shop across from the Historial called Dame Cakes. A wonderfully girly salon de thé, it reminded me both of Marie Antoinette and Vienna’s famous coffee houses and tea rooms.

In the windows they have a wide variety of small cakes in different flavours like matcha, chocolate-coconut, and chocolate-raspberry, and on the menu there are multiple pages filled with different kinds of tea. My friend and I split a few cakes and got a pot of black tea each, which was the perfect finish to our rainy day trip in Rouen. 



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