By Emma

Rouen is a beautiful French city, and a really lovely place to explore with children. We have spent some very happy days there and would totally recommend it as a place to travel as a family. It has to be one of the prettiest places we have explored in France, with its half-timbered houses, cobbled streets, Gothic spires, and endless history around every corner. The medieval quarter is stunning and a lovely safe traffic-free place to explore as a family.

Where is Rouen?

Rouen lies on the banks of the River Seine in Normandy, in northwestern France, about 80 miles northwest of Paris. It is really well serviced by highways, and by train. We have driven here on two occasions via the Euro Tunnel. It takes just over 2 hours to get to Rouen from Calais making it a really easy and achievable trip with kids, and a perfect first stop on a road trip if you are then heading on further afield. We have stopped here on trips to Vendee and Spain. It is so nice to be able to explore somewhere so beautiful after just a 2 hour drive from Calais.

What is Rouen’s history?

It is impossible to appreciate just how much history this beautiful city has seen without being there. Everywhere you look there is something exciting to see and explore. It is this that makes it so good with children I think, because it is just so unique.

Founded during Roman times, Rouen is a city that has seen some of the most important events in European history (being a history geek this makes it the perfect city in my mind!) It was the scene of WIlliam the Conqueror’s death in 1087 and Joan of Arc’s trial and execution in 1431, as well as being the final resting place of Richard the Lionheart’s entombed heart at Rouen Cathedral.

Many monuments in the town have links to Joan of Arc including the tower where she was kept during her trial (the Tour Jeanne d’Arc) and a monument in La Place du Vieux Marché marking where she was executed, now also marked by the contemporary Église Ste Jeanne d’Arc. So there really is loads to explore in terms of iconic moments in history.

More than just this though, the historic half timbered buildings, cobbled streets and beautiful architecture add to a real sense of being somewhere unique and deeply rich in history. It is a photographers dream!

Why visit Rouen with family?

I think it really works as a destination for families for several reasons, and having spent time there with our own children I know they would pick it out as one of their favourite stops from our recent European road trips.

  1. So unique – steeped in history and beautiful architecture, there really is something interesting to look at everywhere you go in the city. This is a major plus with kids as it means they just can’t get bored! Visually is is stunning.
  2. It is really easy to walk around – this makes it great with little ones. No huge hills or long walks. It is quite compact and really easy to navigate.
  3. It feels really safe with little ones. The main centre is cobbled and medieval in nature, making it free of cars. This makes it feel safe and easy to explore on foot.
  4. Easy to get to – close to Calais and Paris and easy to drive to from ferry and Euro Tunnel ports.
  5. Great food and drink options. There is so much choice which makes it ideal with kids, from beautiful classic French restaurants to fast food chains.
  6. User-friendly tram line. The tram line is a major plus in my mind – the kids loved it! Plus it makes getting around really easy. There was a tram line 2 minutes from our hotel which made getting in to the centre really easy and stress-free.

Top things to see and do with kids in Rouen:

  • Rouen’s Notre Dame Cathedral

The Cathedral is a stunning Gothic structure and a definite must-see, even if you just view from the square it sits on. This is the final resting place of Richard the Lionheart as well as many other famous kings. Free to enter and wander around, there are stunning stained glass windows to enjoy too.

  • Saint Maclou Church

This is a beautiful and striking church at the heart of Rouen. It is incredibly detailed with impressive doors and designs from the Renaissance era. It sits in a lovely square so is a nice place to spend some time or stop for a drink and an explore.

  • The Great Clock (Le Gros-Horloge)

The famous 14th century astronomical clock is beautifully preserved and has one of the oldest working mechanisms in France. The clock sits at the centre of the city, not far from the cathedral and is absolutely beautiful. It took my breath away the first time I saw it.

  • Medieval streets and half timbered houses

One of our favourite aspects of Rouen is just wandering the medieval streets. Because so much of it is cobbled and traffic-free it really feels like stepping back in time, and I think that just works so well with children. So I would definitely just spend time wandering, exploring, taking photos and letting the kids lead the way. There are lots of places to stop for food and drink as you amble, so you could easily spend the day just doing this!

  • Joan Of Arc

The story of Joan of Arc is a fascinating one, and her story is so closely entwined with Rouen, it makes it a wonderful thing to explore with children. Key sites to visit include The Church of St Joan of Arc, The Old Market Square (and site of her execution), The Joan of Arc Historical Exhibition, and Notre-Dame Cathedral.

  • Place du Vieux Marche

A great place for people watching and resting your feet! There are loads of restaurants and cafes here, with plenty of places to stop for a drink and soak up the atmosphere of the city. We always head here for some rest after all the walking. It is also the site of the city’s old market, and has lots of links to Joan of Arc with the Church of St Joan of Arc and the site of her execution.

  • Tourist Train

As you can imagine the boys loved this! It was a nice way to break up the day and all the walking, and allowed us to see some other spots in Rouen, with the commentary a good bonus for the children. It lasted about 45 minutes and we caught the train from Cathedral Square.

Resources and top tips:

There are a few good travel guides which feature Rouen and I would recommend either The Rough Guide to Brittany and Normandy or taking a further look at sites including Lonely Planet.

In terms of other top tips, we stayed at the brilliant Ibis Styles. This was a really good price for a family, with breakfast included. The breakfast was great.; self serve and lots of choice, plus the best Madeleines ever!!!! I dream about those Madeleines. There is parking onsite, and the hotel is a 5 minute walk from the tram in to the city.

We found Rouen a really easy drive from the Euro Tunnel at Calais, so would definitely recommend this as a route to the city. It makes a great first stop on a road trip of this northwestern part of France. It takes just over 2 hours to reach from the Calais terminal.

We visited Rouen in August (school holidays restrict us somewhat!) but we found it a really lovely time to be there. The summer sun meant we could make the most of the outdoor seating that you find at every cafe and bar, and it was a perfect city to just wander around in the sunshine. I imagine it is a lovely place to visit at any time of year, and would think that spring time would be perfect. You want to make the most of being outdoors and exploring in a city as pretty as Rouen.

Happy travels , Emma and the Wild Ones x

About the author

Hi I'm Emma, mum to two boys, ex-teacher, now on a new career path running my own business. I have always loved to travel and as a big history nerd, love a good city break. We try to travel and spend as much time outdoors as we can with our two little ones, and are passionate about exploring new places with them. Living in Devon provides lots of opportunity to explore, and we are keen to share tips and experiences of travel, days out and good eats. We are a bit obsessed with photography too so will probably have a few of those to share along the way...

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