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One of the oldest cities in France, Rouen is the historical capital of Normandy and an atmospheric place with a fine medieval quarter of narrow streets lined with half-timbered houses. The city also has a vibrant cultural life with a host of engaging museums, a cathedral that Monet used repeatedly for subject matter, and numerous Gothic churches and mansions.

Devastated by fire and plague on several occasions, occupied by the English in the Hundred Years War, and then the trial and execution site of French heroine Joan of Arc, it’s a place where history has a very visible presence on the modern city.

The city's crowning glory is its Gothic cathedral. Built between the 12th and 16th centuries, it displays all the major architectural styles of the era, from simple decorative elements in the nave to the flamboyant stonework of the main façade. The cathedral has three towers, one of which, the Butter Tower, was funded by donations from locals who in return were given permission to eat butter during Lent.

Inside the cathedral, you can see some of the original 13th-century stained glass windows, the tomb of Richard the Lionheart that contains his heart, and the zigzagging Bookseller's Stairway in the transept. The cathedral was the subject of a series of more than 30 works by French Impressionist Claude Monet, who captured its beauty in various lights and at different times of the year.

Rouen, NormandyRouen's medieval quarter fans out around the cathedral and is the cultural heart of the city, its cobbled streets lined with higgledy-piggledy half-timbered buildings. Although many of these are original, others were rebuilt in the traditional style after extensive damage by Allied bombing and subsequent fires during World War II.

The area has numerous impressive streets, including the Rue du Gros Horloge with its gilded astronomical clock. A host of Gothic churches include the Church of Saint-Maclou with its elaborate detailing and the lavish Saint-Ouen Abbey Church.

Also of note is the modern church dedicated to Joan of Arc in the Place du Vieux Marché. Its unusual angular shape is tempered by stained glass windows taken from a previous Renaissance chapel. The church stands near to the spot where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431.

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    Written by our specialists from their own experiences of visiting Rouen, these guides will help you make the most of your time there. We share both our practical recommendations and the best ways to appreciate Rouen at its best.

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      American Cemetery, Normandy

      Introducing Normandy: from the D-Day Beaches to the Bayeux Tapestry

      Introducing Normandy: from the D-Day Beaches to the Bayeux Tapestry

      A land of apples and honey (and invasions), Normandy has a long and complicated history. Discover the region’s medieval roots at Bayeux, visit the shores that inspired Impressionism at Honfleur, and pay your respects at the D-Day beaches.

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