Rouen – Medieval alleys & half-timbered houses (France)

Categories: Travel reports, Europe, France

After reaching the westernmost point of our river cruise on the Seine with A-ROSA VIVA with the small town of Caudebec-en-Caux, we went back upstream towards Paris. Today’s stop was the port city of Rouen – also referred to as the “city of 100 church towers”.


Things to know about Rouen

Rouen is a port city with about 110,000 inhabitants, which is located directly on the Seine. Although Rouen was badly destroyed during World War II, the city has retained its old half-timbered houses, cobbled streets and magnificent Gothic churches. This makes it more like an open-air museum than a big city and is considered one of the most visited cities in northern France.

Rouen is the capital of Normandy and although the city is located about 120 kilometres from the sea, it is home to the fifth largest seaport in France. More than 3,500 ships sail up and down to reach this important port of transport. The city gained dubious fame in 1431, when the trial of 19-year-old Joan of Arc and Joan of Orléans took place and she was subsequently burned at the stake in the market square of Rouen.

The A-ROSA harbour guide of Rouen

The A-ROSA harbour guide for the respective pier can be picked up free of charge at the reception the night before. It gives a very nice overview of the place and inspires with tips for exploring the region.

You can also download the port guide of Rouen here as a .pdf version.

Vernon, Harbour Guide, A-ROSA, Travelreport, His River Cruise

The A-ROSA port guide of Vernon

The sights of Rouen

In the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Rouen was a major city by European standards with a population of about 40,000, of which countless important sacral but also non-church buildings have been preserved today. We have explored the sights of Rouen on our own. From the A-ROSA pier we only walked about 15 minutes into the city and also there all the important sights are within walking distance. We always find it nice to walk through hidden side streets and let ourselves drift, so we prefer to explore the city on foot instead of just using public transport 🙂

The Cathedral

The Gothic Cathedral of Rouen, Notre-Dame de L’Assomption, stands in the heart of the old town. At the end of the 12th century, the construction of the cathedral began as a replacement for a Romanesque cathedral. We were definitely impressed by the monumental west facade, which is simply riiiesig and which we could only photograph in a wide-angle format. On the right, it is flanked by the 75-metre-high, six-storey Butter Tower (Tour de Beurre) and on the left by the Saint-Romanus Tower (Tour Saint Romain). The cathedral has a 64-part chimes and one of the most powerful bells in France, spread over both western towers. The iron quadruple tower, which was unfortunately equipped during our visit, is at 151 meters the highest church tower in France.

The light show “Illuminations de la Cathédrale de Rouen”

One of our highlights in Rouen was the evening light show at the cathedral,which takes place every year from the beginning of June to the middle of September. Shortly before 10 p.m., there was already a lot going on in the square in front of the cathedral. We sat down on the ground in the middle of it and were very excited about what to expect here. This was followed by a 30-minute light and sound show with elaborate images and video sequences projected onto the cathedral’s facade and tell a story. We were really excited and impressed, because we had never seen anything like this before.

The golden astronomical clock “Le Gros Horloge”

A popular attraction in downtown Rouen is the large, golden astronomical clock “Le Gros Horloge” from the 14th century, which is located in a Renaissance archway in the alley of the same name. The watch represents a golden sun with 24 rays on a star-blue background and the dial has a diameter of 2.5 meters. A nice photo motif, which we have visited several times. On the second day we even got up early to be able to photograph the alley without people at 8 o’clock in the morning 🙂

The 2,000 half-timbered houses in the Old Town

Despite the devastation of the Second World War, Rouen still has about 2,000 half-timbered houses dating back to the late Middle Ages. We really like half-timbered houses and couldn’t get enough of the buildings in Rouen. A beautiful half-timbered house followed the next; one photo motif was more beautiful than the other. The city is a real gem for photographers due to its architecture!

Other sights

In addition to the cathedral, the astronomical clock and the many half-timbered houses, there are other spots worth seeing in Rouen:

On the old market square Place du Vieux-Marché, framed by Norman half-timbered houses, stands the modern church of Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc, reminiscent of a Viking ship. It commemorates Joan of Arc, who was burned here at the stake in 1431.

Near the church of St-Maclou, behind an unobtrusive passageway, there is a courtyard surrounded by half-timbered houses, which is currently only partially accessible due to restoration work: A’tre Saint-Maclou. When the plague killed more than 75 of Rouen’s inhabitants in the 14th century, the cemetery was no longer sufficient, so that the bodies were buried in mass graves on the grounds of the church of St-Maclou, regardless of their social status. Today there is an art college as well as art studios in the half-timbered building.

The Palace of Justice is the largest non-acratic Gothic building in Europe. The palace was built at the end of the Middle Ages on the remains of the then Jewish quarter, which had been destroyed after the expulsion of the Jews in 1306.

Rouen is a great city and really thrilled us ❤ Before we had heard little about this city, the more enthusiastic we were about the small streets, countless half-timbered houses, the many churches and the charm of the port city.

All travelogues from our Seine River Cruise

Our river cruise with A-ROSA VIVA (offers at A-ROSA) led us for 7 days from the metropolis Paris along the Seine to the highlights of Normandy. Start of the journey is the city of love Paris, further to charming provincial towns like Les Andelys, an impressive cathedral in Caudebec-en-Caux and a trip to Honfleur and Deauville, the port city Rouen with countless half-timbered houses and an impressive light show in the evening, an excursion to Le Havre and Étretat, on the traces of Claude Monet in Vernon until it goes back again to the multicultural metropolis Paris. In between, the Seine winds its way between wide meadows and forests, apple orchards and castles.

Seine Cruise with A-ROSA

1. Day Seine River Cruise with A-ROSA VIVA (France)
1. Day Paris – Photo spots for the Eiffel Tower & the Louvre (France)
2. Day Les Andelys, Chateau Gaillard & Castle of Vascoeuil (France)
3. Day Caudebec-en-Caux – Tourist Attractions & Photo spots (France)
3. Day Honfleur & Deauville – A day trip to Calvados (France)
4. Day Rouen – Medieval alleys & half-timbered houses (France)
5. Day Le Havre & Etretat – A day trip to the Atlantic coast (France)
6. Day Vernon & the Gardens of Claude Monet in Giverny (France)
7. Day Paris – Tourist Attractions, Things to do & Photo spots (France)