Learn French in Rouen: Location
Rouen in north western France is a beautiful city with plenty to appeal to the French language student, it is a great place to experience French culture first-hand. Rouen is well-known as the place where St. Joan of Arc was executed and for the beauty of its famous Cathedral. Rouen is an ancient city of 100,000 people (including the suburbs the population jumps to 500,000) in Normandy. It mixes magnificent Gothic architecture, charming half-timbered houses and contemporary bustle. Today’s Rouen is France’s fifth-largest port, Europe’s biggest food exporter (mainly wheat and grain), and a popular tourist destination, but it was once second only to Paris until the 18th century.
Located on the Seine River near the coast, Rouen was a regional capital during Roman times and France’s second greatest city in the Middle Ages. Rouen’s wealth and power was based primarily on its wool industry and favorable position on the river. In the 9th century, the Normans chose Rouen as their capital, and William the Conquerer made it his home before moving to England.
The Cathedral Notre-Dame is a textbook example of the French Gothic style. Although severely damaged during a bombardment in 1944 (and still undergoing restoration), the cathedral is incredible. The interior of the cathedral features some outstanding stained glass work and a more gruesome claim to fame is that it features a tomb containing the heart of Richard the Lionhearted.
If you enjoy the Impressionists, then as an Art lover you probably know that the Cathedral featured in numerous paintings by Monet. He was so entranced by the cathedral’s image that he rented a room across from it so that he could paint it as it appeared in the changing light of different seasons. Monet’s home at Giverny is approximately 40 minutes away on the train from Rouen.
Even the local Tourism Office just across from the Cathedral has a claim to fame as it is located in the one of the oldest buildings in Rouen. It dates from the early 16th century.
St.-Maclou’s Quarter is one of the oldest areas of Rouen. It features incredibly old, narrow, winding streets lined with timber framed medieval houses, most leaning left or right. There are a number of excellent outdoor cafés in this area, perfect for lunch post a hard morning’s French classes.
To the west of the cathedral, students love to explore the Rue du Gros Horloge through a shopping area to the Gros Horloge, a delightful clock tower with an impressive clock. A must see for any French language student staying in Rouen. Further along you will discover the Place du Vieux Marché containing the modern church, Église Sainte-Jeanne D’Arc, and a large cross marking the place of St. Joan of Arc’s execution in 1431.
The Palais de Justice is another building with interesting architecture, constructed during the late Middle Ages. Numerous bullet holes pock the building’s surface and chunks of facing materials that were blasted out during the battle for the city following the D-Day Invasion have never been repaired.
Art lovers will also want to make a trip to the Rue Jean Lecanuet to see the Musée des Beaux-Arts (next to Vedrel Square), which features a collection of sculptures and some excellent canvases by Velazquez, Delacroix, Sisley and Monet (including paintings of the Cathedral Notre-Dame in Rouen).