Rouen is a firm favourite with visitors to Normandy. There’s just something about those multicoloured half-timbered houses and gothic churches on every street corner – as French cities go, the ‘city of 100 bell towers’ (as Rouen was once called by French writer Victor Hugo) is certainly up there with the prettiest of them!
For that reason, it comes as no surprise that Rouen pulls out all the stops when it comes to Noël. The festive fun, known as Rouen Givré [Frosty Rouen] goes on until 30 December, and is well worth a trip out to Normandy. We’re talking thousands of magical lights all over the medieval city centre. In fact, more than eighty streets and squares are lit up for Christmas in Rouen!
Best of all is the traditional Christmas market which takes place in front of Rouen Cathedral, whose façade was immortalised on canvas by none other than Claude Monet in his famous ‘Cathedral Series’. The market comprises around 70 chalets selling local produce (cheese, cider, caramel, Calvados, the list goes on) as well as traditional arts and crafts, jewellery and Christmas decorations galore. Have you ever wanted to hang a mini Camembert on your Christmas tree? Now you can.
And mulled wine? Forget mulled wine. At a Norman Christmas market, there’s mulled cider in abundance, made with delicious apple juice, cinnamon, cloves and spices. Those feeling brave could even go for a hot Calvados and honey, Normandy’s answer to a hot Toddy.
After the Christmas market, head to the Place du Vieux Marché. Dominated by the huge modern church of Saint Joan of Arc, this square is where the Maid of Orléans met her fiery fate. In December it is also home to a big wheel from which you can enjoy a breathtaking panorama over Rouen’s higgledy-piggledy rooftops, the Gros Horloge (Rouen’s ornate astronomical clock) and the gothic towers of Rouen Cathedral.
The big wheel also has the added bonus of being on the same square as the oldest inn in France, La Couronne, which dates all the way back to 1345! Hiding behind a traditional half-timbered façade is a medieval world of wooden beamed ceilings, lead framed windows, worn upholstered chairs and heavy red curtains. Oh, and amazing food!
All photos © Rouen Normandie Tourisme & Congrès | Text: Fran Lambert