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.
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!
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.
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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