While growing up, my sister and I spent many summers in Normandy, visiting my our grandmother and other French family members. I remember playing in the park next to my grandmother’s apartment and going to the bakery with 10 francs for baguettes and croissants. And I remember the trips to Rouen.
The bus from the tiny town of Le Trait to the city Rouen drives through charming villages with the river on one side and cliffs on the other. No matter where you arrive in Rouen, you’ll see the tower of the large cathedral and people strolling through the cobblestoned streets.Rouen still has a lot of medieval architecture, including half-timbered houses in various colours, that seem to have become crooked over the past centuries.
The cathedral is one of my favorites in France (along with Notre Dame in Paris) and it’s easy to spend a while, marveling at the architecture from both the inside and the outside. It’s free to visit the cathedral and I’ve never experienced a line, you just walk right in. Don’t forget to stroll through the small garden behind the cathedral – it features a copy of the Danish ‘Jellingesten’, a large middle age stone, where scriptures tell that king Harald Blåtand (litterally ‘Harald Bluetooth’) christened the Danes.
After visiting the cathedral, it’s only a two minute walk through the cobblestoned streets, to get to the city’s other main attraction: Le gros horloge. The city gate with the beautiful golden clock is located at the end of the main street and you can even climb to the top of the gate for a small fee. Or you can do like we did and admire it from the ground, while taking dozens of photos.
Rouen offers many museums and also has a lot of small cafés and restaurants where you can enjoy local food as well as world cuisine. I recommend strolling along the Seine during the summer, where you can enjoy a glass of wine on a café terrace. Try walking away from the Gros Horloge for lunch, if you want local food at better prices than the touristy restaurants in the main street.
If you have a few days, I really recommend taking the bus along the Seine and stopping in small towns such as Caudebec-en-caux and Duclair.