This month we’re going to the north! To Rouen, to be precise. This port city sits on the Seine river in the Normandy region and has such an impressive collection of Gothic churches that Victor Hugo actually called Rouen ‘the city of a hundred spires’. Rouen’s medieval history is very visible in its architecture and you can see the picturesque, narrow, medieval-style residences in the historical quarter.
- Rouen is where Joan of Arc was tried and burned at the stake.
TO SEE AND DO IN rouen
- La Cathédrale Notre Dame de Rouen : There are certainly many beautiful Notre-Dame Cathedrals around France: at Paris, at Reims and now Rouen too! This cathedral was built in the 12th century in the Gothic style. It suffered heavy damage in the WW2 period and yet its spire is still the highest in France (151m!). The tomb of the cathedral holds the bodies of the dukes of Normandy as well as the heart of Richard Lionheart. The Notre Dame of Rouen is also the subject of a series of paintings by Monet. He paints the cathedral in a number lights, showing how it changes through the day.
- Musée des Beaux Arts: Rouen is actually known as the “Pays de l’Impressionnisme” because of the number of Impressionist masters that have painted the landscape: Monet, Sisley, Turner and more. The Musée des Beaux Arts has a fantastic collection of such Impressionist works (the second largest outside Paris) but also an impressive amount of works from other masters such as Caravaggio and Fragonard. And it’s not only paintings that are housed in the museum, but sculptures too. The museum’s collection starts from the end of the Middle Ages and continues through to the modern period. Best part of all is that access to the permanent collection is totally free!
- Rouen’s street art: In Rouen, art is not just in the museum, but on the streets too! There is a growing tradition of street art in Rouen with both local and international artists painting the walls and buildings of the city. In 2016, because of the ‘Contemporary Art Triennale’, 25 new frescos were added to the city walls to commemorate the occasion as well as showcase those that were already around.
- Pans de bois houses: In Rouen’s historical city centre, you’ll see quaint narrow wooden houses on cobbled paths. The “pans de bois” are built with a structure of wood and and use “corbelling”, an architectural technique that supports extra weight and allows you to build multiple floors. Indeed, you can see lots of 3-4 floor buildings, but these were outlawed in 1520 because they were thought to be more of a fire hazard. These previous residences are remnants of the medieval period but they’ve now been converted into stores and restaurants, mixing old and new traditions. La rue Damiette, la place Saint-Amand, la rue Martainville, and la rue du Gros-Horloge are some spots to visit to see the pan de bois houses.
- Jardin des Plantes: The Normandy region is full of greenery, but if you’re looking for something in the city itself, then check out the Jardin des Plantes. It’s lovely for taking a walk, but is also a botanical garden so there are many exotic species that are studies and conserved here. From 20th October till 20th November, the garden is also having special events on the theme of “myths and legends”, included are late night tours of the park, workshops and more.