Joan of Arc Statue

Joan of Arc

In 1431 a young girl was burned at the stake in the old market square in the medieval city of Rouen. A memorial stands as a tribute and a reminder of the short, inspiring, and tragic life of Joan of Arc, the young heroine of France, who was a pivotal figure in the history of the Hundred Years’ War with England.

Today this area, called the Place du Vieux Marché is bustling with shoppers on the hunt for their daily produce. Locals and tourists enjoying their coffee, wine, beer and more, in the cafes and restaurants, seem oblivious to the drama that occurred here almost 600 years ago. But amongst all the commerce, those inclined can still pay their respects at the site of Joan’s martyrdom and reflect on her enduring legacy.

Gros Horloge

A stroll through Rouen’s picturesque streets reveals a wealth of historic buildings and landmarks, including the Gros-Horloge, a magnificent astronomical clock dating back to the 14th century, and the Palais de Justice, a stunning example of Renaissance architecture. Add to that a delightful jumble of half-timbered houses, some leaning out into the street vying for attention, clustered around charming squares, leading to hidden courtyards, each with its own story to tell.

But the highlight of any architectural walk through the city is the magnificent Rouen Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture that has inspired awe for centuries. Its soaring spires and intricate façade a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of the artisans who built it. Inside, visitors can marvel at the stunning stained-glass windows, including the renowned “La Sainte-Chapelle de Rouen,” which bathes the interior in a kaleidoscope of color.

Rouen Cathedral

Rouen Cathedral

One of France’s most famous artists, Claude Monet, captured the cathedral’s facade in a series of paintings done at different times of the day and throughout the year, reflecting its changing appearance under different lighting conditions. Today there is a storyboard located where Monet set up his easel allowing us to see the cathedral from the same vantage point.

As in pretty much every city in France, art and culture thrive in Rouen, with a vibrant arts scene that pays homage to the city’s rich heritage. The Musée des Beaux-Arts houses an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts spanning from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, including works by masters such as Monet, Delacroix, and Renoir.

Literature enthusiasts will delight in exploring Rouen’s connections to writers like Gustave Flaubert, whose childhood home has been transformed into a museum dedicated to his life and works. Visitors can also wander the cobblestone streets that inspired the setting for Flaubert’s iconic novel, “Madame Bovary,” and imagine themselves stepping into the pages of literary history.

No matter where you find yourself in France, the food is always a highlight, and Rouen is no exception. The city’s markets burst with fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, and delectable pastries, providing a feast for the senses. From cozy bistros serving up hearty Norman fare to Michelin-starred restaurants showcasing innovative cuisine, Rouen offers a gastronomic experience that is sure to tantalize even the most discerning palate.

In conclusion, Rouen is a city of timeless beauty and rich heritage, where the echoes of history mingle with the vibrant rhythms of modern life. Whether you’re drawn to its storied past, its architectural splendor, or the richness of its cuisine, there’s something special waiting to be discovered around every corner.