Rouen is a lovely town with great architecture and history, just one hour away from Paris. Although it has the potential of a major tourist attraction, you won’t find too many visitors in Rouen. Maybe it’s because it’s impossible to pronounce its name if you’re not French. A Paris to Rouen day trip is easy to organise and a great way to experience a picturesque Normandy town.

Rouen

Whether you spend a few days in Paris and want to explore somewhere different or you live in Paris, and you’re looking for a short break, a day trip to Rouen is a great option. Whenever I am asked the question “Is Rouen worth visiting?”, I say a bit YES! It’s one of the best day trips you can find from Paris.

I lived there intermittently for about three years when I was a student. The first time I wandered around the unique town centre, I was charmed in a few minutes. Family and friends sometimes came for short visits, and I loved showing them the place.

Rouen was built in the twists of the Seine River and was a prominent place during the Roman and Medieval times. You can feel History wandering in the old cobbled pedestrian roads in the heart of the city. You pass old medieval Norman-style houses and many imposing buildings from different times.

How to plan your Paris to Rouen day trip

I only have great news about planning a Paris to Rouen day trip: you actually don’t need much planning. The below tips and itinerary may even be enough.

It’s great to visit Rouen on foot, so it’s very convenient to catch a train from Paris directly to the centre of Rouen (Rouen Rive Droite). You don’t need to book in advance, and it has always been under 25 euros for me.

Don’t want to drive or catch the train? You can also join a tour from Paris (click here for more information*).

If you come by car, I recommend finding a spot to park your car for the day and walk. Driving in Rouen isn’t easy. There are many narrow and one-way streets. It’s often much quicker to walk from one point to another. And it’s also the best way to see all the stunning buildings in the old town.

And if you’re worried about communicating with locals while travelling outside Paris, don’t be. French have the reputation to speak English poorly and often expect foreigners to speak basic French – especially as you go further away from big cities. This reputation does not come out of the blue, but don’t panic. You can learn here the tricks to tackle the language barrier in France.

Responsible travel tip: Travelling by train has a lower impact on the environment than driving!

One-day itinerary for a day trip to Rouen

If you took a train from Paris to Rouen, take a few minutes to have a look at the station and its belfry when you get out.

The Tour Jeanne d’Arc is the only part left of the Castle of Rouen, built in the early 13th century. If you have time, speak French and want to experience history, they organise escape games in the tower late in the afternoon. I haven’t tried it, but I like the idea!

Rouen - Tour Jeanne d'Arc

The Beaux-Arts Museum is free and is France’s second-biggest impressionist art gallery! It opens at 10 am so it can be hard to fit in a short day itinerary. If you don’t have time to go in, it’s still a nice building to see from the outside.

The Palais de Justice is a fascinating building. I’ve walked passed masterpiece hundreds of times, and I could always spot a new detail on the Gargoyles.

Place du Vieux Marché is full of history. It’s the place where the French heroine Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431 when Rouen was under the English rules. The new church has an interesting modern architecture that contrasts a lot with the old monuments in Rouen. There are many squares in this area to enjoy drinks on a terrace. Place de la Pucelle was my favourite at the time.

The Gros Horloge is a unique clock from the 15th century that goes over the paved pedestrian street. You can visit it for the single experience of being inside a clock, and the fantastic views of the roofs and the Cathedral.

As you go down the Gros Horloge Street, you cannot miss the majestic Cathedral of Notre-Dame. During summer (June to September), there’s a light show on the Cathedral at night (check timetables here) that you don’t want to miss if you chose to spend one night in the town. There was already a church there in the 4th century. It says a lot about the great past of Rouen. This Cathedral has been destroyed and rebuilt many times, so there is an interesting mix of styles in there. I first saw the Cathedral in Monet’s famous series of paintings. It is also famous for having the highest spire in France (151 m).

Then, you can wander towards St Maclou church and get lost in the small streets around. There are many restaurants for lunch. I recommend stopping at the lovely Rue Eau de Robec.

Rouen - Proche Eglise St Maclou

If you finish your lunch before 2 pm, take a walk in the Gardens of the Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) and admire the Abbatiale St Ouen, one of Rouen’s most famous buildings. It will open again at 2 pm for visits, and it’s worth a look inside.

Rouen is surrounded by small mounts. It is not ideal for the climate, but it provides great birds eye’s views of the city when the weather is clear. The most accessible one is Colline Sainte Catherine. You’ll have to walk up there (about 3km) so allow one hour. It can be a great spot for the sunset. From the Hotel de Ville bus stop, you can catch the Bus 20 and stop at Cimetière du Mont Gargan. In 10 to 15 minutes, you’ll be near the start of the walk. You can check bus trips and timetables on this website.

Have you ever done a Paris to Rouen day trip? Share your experience in the comments below!

Where to stay in Rouen

If you’re planning to stay longer in Rouen than just a day trip, I recommend staying in the town centre. There are many accommodation options and you can easily walk from one place to another.

If you’re looking for something special, the Hotel de Bourgtheroulde* with its beautiful courtyard views is one of the most charming options in Rouen. The Hotel de la Cathedrale* is perfectly located and also has a lot of character. Otherwise, one of the cheapest options to stay in Rouen City Centre at a walking distance from the best parts of the old town is the Hôtel du Palais*.

Interactive map of my one-day itinerary in Rouen

If you manage to catch an early train, you should be able to experience all these activities on a Paris to Rouen day trip.

Where is Rouen?

Rouen is the capital of Normandy, located 130 km north of Paris. It takes less than 2 hours to drive there from Paris centre, and only a bit more by train.

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Rouen one day itinerary day trip from Paris

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  1. Danielle

    What a lovely little city! This looks like it would be a great place to live. I’ve never been to Rouen before, despite several trips to France – I’ve spent most of my time in the south of the country.

    1. Eloise

      Yes, I really enjoyed living there. Plus, it’s not far from Paris, and not far from the coast. The weather was the only downside: a bit too rainy and cold for me 😉
      The South of France is lovely, but very different from the regions in the north. If you ever get the opportunity to travel to Brittany, Normandy and the East of France, you’ll discover other facets of the country!

  2. Anya Carion

    This looks like a great day away from the city. Rouen looks charming!

    1. Eloise

      Thanks, Anya. It’s a very different atmosphere compared to Paris and the half-timbered houses makes the architecture quite different as well!

  3. sonikatravels

    Travel really changes your life. Beautiful photography too. Love your blog. Keep it up! :1

    1. Eloise

      Thank you, Sonika. I appreciate the encouragements 🙂

  4. runawaywidow

    What a great tour you have provided. The village looks beautiful and is filled with such history.

    1. Eloise

      Thank you! It’s actually quite bigger than a village (a small city from a French point of view), but the most interesting places are in the small area of the old city centre. It makes it easy to wander around 🙂

  5. Brianna

    I’ve never heard of Rouen before, but it sounds like an awesome idea for a trip from Paris! I love knowing that it’s easy to get there from Paris, and that most of the museums are free!

    1. Eloise

      Yes, we’re very fortunate with our train network in France. It’s easy and often not expensive to go to regional cities from Paris.

  6. gelacnicolas

    I always dream to go to Paris. I hope I could go there in the near future. Your post is very informative, and very helpful. thanks for this.

    1. Eloise

      Thank you. Paris is epic, I hope you’ll have a chance to see it soon.

  7. SecretMoona

    This is a great post about Rouen. The architecture is beautiful, specially walking by scenic river Seine. I went there years ago on a school trip but didn’t get to see a lot. I will definitely go again now as I fell in love with medieval towns!

    1. Eloise

      Wow! That’s a great school trip, lucky you! 🙂 I love seeing again places I visited as a kid. I get very surprised sometimes!

    1. Eloise

      Thank you, Karolina. I find it important to raise awareness so people can decide to make “better” choices, so I’m happy you like them 😀

  8. Ha

    I should have visited this place when I was in Paris. I had so much free time in Paris and didn’t know what to do… Rouen looks so lovely and nice. I’d love to visit the Beaux-Arts Museum 🙂

  9. mikkelpaige

    Thank you so much for this helpful post! I have noted it and the days adventures if we go to Rouen in a few weeks!

  10. Liane Watanabe

    We did this day trip from Paris yesterday. Rouen is absolutely beautiful. Besides the Musée des Beaux-Arts (which was terrific), there are an additional 7 free museums – check out the brochure you can pick up when visiting the Beaux-Arts museum. We mostly followed your path, but took so many side detours when something captured our fancy, so we didn’t have a chance to walk up the hill for a sunset. A one day visit was well-spent, but an additional day might be nice. We will return for an additional day some other time! Thanks for the guidance!

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