The Medieval City of Rouen – In Photos

My itinerary from my home region of Auvergne to Normandy had me in need of a pit stop roughly two hours outside of Paris; but being short on time, I didn’t want to spend unnecessary time in dormant suburban cities with nothing to do besides fueling up. And then I found Rouen.

Unbeknownst to me, Rouen is actually one of the most visited and photographed cities in France. I quickly found out why:

  • Pierre Corneille, one of the most famous French playwrights, was born in Rouen.
  • Rouen was the inspiration behind a good dozen of Claude Monet’s paintings.
  • Although her heritage wasn’t as historically significant as the others in this list, Julia Child is said to have eaten her first authentic French meal at La Couronne restaurant.
  • Gustave Flaubert wrote the famous Madame Bovary in this very town.
  • Last but not least, Place du Vieux Marché is where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in the 1400s.

What surprised me the most is how lavish the centre of Rouen is. The main city square, Place du Vieux Marché, has some of the best-preserved timber-frame buildings I’ve seen in all of France, and the city’s many churches are fine examples of Gothic architecture. How could this modest city in Northern France hold so many underrated treasures?

Rouen Photos – Place du Vieux-Marché

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Rouen Photos – Quaint Streets & Buildings

After some research, I discovered that Rouen was considered to be France’s second city for quite some time. It actually was one of the most prosperous cities of Europe, as it was the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy in the Middle Ages. This title meant that Rouen was one of the capitals of the Anglo-Norman dynasties, which ruled both England and large parts of modern France between the 11th and the 15th centuries. Hence the city’s sumptuously rich architectural and cultural heritage.

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Rouen Photos – Gros Horloge

I was also told that one does not visit Rouen and omit walking past the Gros Horloge, an astronomical clock dating back to the 16th century which has recently been restored.

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Needless to say, I really did feel like the dumbest person in town after seeing all the glorious sights of Rouen, and not having known about them beforehand. It also made me realise that Normandy is SO much more than just pebbly beaches, mussels and World War II like movies would have us believe.

Normandy has a vast and intricate history, and Rouen was just the starting point of my exploratory journey.

12 Comments on The Medieval City of Rouen – In Photos

  1. Kayla
    March 29, 2014 at 5:19 pm (3 years ago)

    I was actually in Rouen just last May and before going there I did not know much about it either! I love your pictures.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres
      March 30, 2014 at 2:29 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you Kayla! Rouen is such a fabulous city to discover.

      Reply
  2. Hamish Healys
    April 4, 2014 at 8:33 am (3 years ago)

    Rouen, France … Your photos reminded me of Life Magazine then, when it featured some quaint European city or town. Your shots are great! Why am I not surprised to learn Rouen served as an inspiration to some of Claude Monet’s paintings?

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres
      April 4, 2014 at 10:48 am (3 years ago)

      Thank you so much for the kind words! Glad you like the photos. Were I a painter, I have no doubt I would be inspired by the city.

      Reply
  3. Mike
    September 13, 2014 at 9:31 pm (2 years ago)

    I studied at ESC Rouen (one of the Grande Ecoles) in the 1993 – but lived in a dorm which was ex-Army, balcony door slightly opening so a cold draft would come in. The heat (under floor pipes warmed by hot water) was turned off until sometime in October when the mayor would switch it on. We all froze waiting for “his highness” to keep us plebs warm!

    Also bought my first pair of “proper” dress shoes – Chevignon in downtown.

    Nice place, a bit of a university town. Close to the UK.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres
      September 15, 2014 at 12:14 pm (2 years ago)

      It must have been lovely to study in Rouen despite the rudimentary accommodation ;-)

      Reply
  4. Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki
    March 10, 2016 at 1:40 am (11 months ago)

    This town is so charming! Those buildings look like they are straight out of a fairytale!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      March 11, 2016 at 11:08 am (11 months ago)

      I know! It has a beautiful architectural ensemble, one of the best I’ve seen in France.

      Reply
  5. Rashaad
    March 28, 2016 at 12:12 pm (10 months ago)

    I lived in Rouen for about seven months and I greatly enjoyed my time here. I loved taking a stroll on the cobblestone streets.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 10, 2016 at 5:23 pm (10 months ago)

      What a wonderful experience that must have been!

      Reply
  6. Ed
    May 9, 2016 at 9:15 pm (9 months ago)

    Great blog on Rouen. Rouen’s center definitely has some of the best preserved, medieval and renaissance era half-timbered architecture in France and Europe. In France, only Alsatian towns and maybe Dinan in Brittany seem to have preserved more.

    Again, great blog!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      May 9, 2016 at 10:24 pm (9 months ago)

      Thank you so much Ed! Glad you like Rouen too :-)

      Reply

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