Located in the Seine Maritime and in the Haute Normandie region, Rouen is also called the "One hundred steeples town". With 110,280 inhabitants, called the Rouennais in the town itself and 412,700 inhabitants in the agglomeration, it is the administrative centre of both the region and the department.
Since it used to be one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe, and also one of the capitals of the Anglo-Norman dynasties, which ruled both England and large parts of modern France from the 11th century to the 15th century, Rouen has a huge historical, cultural and architectural heritage.
Rouen was created during the end of the Celt era, or the beginning of the Gallo-Roman era. Rouen former name was Ratomagos or Ratomagus, which comes from the Celt Roto and Magus, the latter one meaning ‘plain’. The city was created on the right side of the Seine River, during August reign, and was the second most important city after Lugdunum ( Lyon ). From the 3rd century AD Germanic invasions took place, then replaced by Vikings invasions. Hence, in 841, Rouen was in part destroyed by this people, before it became in 843 the capital city of the Normandy Duchy. In 945, the coalition between the overseas French King Louis IV, the Germanic Emperor Othon the Magna, and the Flanders Count failed to assail the city, being repelled by Richard 1er, Duke of Normandy, and called “Richard no-fear”. This memorable victory has marked Rouen history and was written on a memorial stone at Rougemare Square.
In 1203, Normandy was annexed to France, and the ducal castle in Rouen was destroyed and replaced by Bouvreuil castle. In 1419, during the 100 years old, Henry V, King of England, annexed Normandy to the English Kingdom. In 1431 Jeanne d’Arc was burnt in Rouen. After the 100 years war came the Renaissance, and with it a prosperous period for the city which expended and developed quickly. It was the second most populated city in France after Paris, and benefited from renowned architects and artists who built the city.
Nowadays, Rouen is a prosperous city which managed to take advantage of both its cultural and historical heritage and its dynamic flourishing companies. Owing to its natural beauty and its proximity to England, Normandy is a key destination for British people.
Rouen is divided into 14 quarters on both sides of the Seine River. Since the national average for house prices is €3,197 /sq m, Rouen, with €2,660 /sq m, is an affordable area. However, comparing to the department average (€2,300 /sq m), Rouen is more expensive. This is logical as the department is quite rural and prices are always more expensive in towns. Thanks to its proximity to England and affordable prices, Rouen can be a good place to buy a second-home; however, since rental prices are also lower than the national average (€11.80 /sq m /month against 12.20/ sq m /month in France) and since 70% of residents are tenants, it is also an excellent investment for a buy-to-let.
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Culture, art and historical heritage: thanks to its impressive historical heritage, Rouen has been listed as Art and History City. Victor Hugo used to call it the "One Hundred Steeples City£, and Stendhal the "Gothic style Athena". Rouen is amongst the four first cities in France, as far as the number of listed historical monuments is concerned, and the first one when it comes to their age. Some incontrovertible monuments include: Notre Dame Cathedral, a Gothic style monument, 151metre high (the highest in France). Inside the cathedral you will find some of Dukes of Normandy graves, and among them, Richard the Lionheart’s heart. The Big Clock is not to be missed either. It works with a 14th century mechanism and a 16th century face. It is the symbol of Rouen wealth and power. The tourist information office building is the older Renaissance monument of the city. The list could go on and here are some important ones: The Palais de Justice, a Gothic style monument, the Bourgtheroulde mansion, the Saint Maclou Church, the Old Market Square, the Jeanne d’Arc tower, etc.
Tourism – sights: in Rouen you do not need to visit museums to understand the city history and past. Just strolling in the old quarter will bring you centuries ago and you will be amazed by all the impressive monuments. However, if you are a museum lover you will not be disappointed. Rouen has also some interesting museums that are worth visiting. The Beaux-Arts museum gathers paints from Caravage, Velazquez, Delacroix, Gericault, Modigliani, Gerard David, and of course Monet and Sisley, both from the city; the Antiquity museum describes the Gallo-Roman and Merovingian archaeology, and houses a Medieval collection of objects, stained glass windows, etc; the Flaubert and Medicine history museum.
Tranquillity and scenery: in Rouen you will find many greeneries, parks and gardens where you can rest and enjoy the tranquillity. Among others stand the Plants Garden (85,000 sq m), Antoine de Saint Expery Park, Grammont Park, Pasteur Park, Verdrel Square, etc. You might also enjoy walking along the Seine River, enjoying the view of the 7 bridges.
Architectural style: Rouen stands out for the diversity and the wealth of its urban architecture. You can find houses belonging to different periods, from the 13th century until the contemporary time. Its originality also lies on the heterogeneity of the materials used: timber frames, stone, brick, concrete for buildings built after WWII, but also of the shapes and colours. This city inspired many poets and writers, such as Victor Hugo for who Rouen represented the romantic model of a city. Despite the destructions of WWII, the city still gathers more than 2,000 half-timbering houses, half of them having been restored. In contrast with the old quarter stands the archive tower. It is a modern building, 104metre high and made of reinforced concrete. In 2007, the tower was enlightened and in 2008 won the first prize at the Light Contest.
Location – transport links: Normandy location, next to Paris and England, makes it a very attractive destination for British people. Rouen is only 135km from Paris and is linked to the capital city by the A13 motorway. From Dieppe (62km from Rouen) you can take the ferry to Newhaven and from Le Havre (94km) to Newhaven and Portsmouth. For international airports however you will have to go to Deauville ( Calvados ) or Cherbourg ( Manche ), both flying to England. Moreover, it is interesting to know that the Seine Maritime department has developed a bus network, which allows to travel in the entire department for only €2.
Apartments: as this kind of dwellings represent 79% of housing, you are likely to find one of them in Rouen. As already mentioned, Rouen stands out for its heterogeinity in the architecture. This is also true for the appartments. You can either find appartments in old buildings, such as Renaissance style buildings, either in brand new buildings. The first ones are usually huge appartments, they come with 3 bedrooms, a big living room with an old fireplace and parquet floor. The kitchen has usually been restored, but has kept its traditional style. The other kind of appartments have all the features of modern dwellings: american kitchen, double living room, 2 or 3 bedrooms, bathroom and separated WC, balcony, and a private parking. The main advantage of this dwelling is that it is closed by all amenities.
Town houses: they can either be semi-detached or terraced house. Some of them have a traditional architecture, with timber frame and colombage. They usually come with 2 or 3 bedrooms, a moderm kitchen, a living room, a bathroom with separated WC. Sometimes there is a courtyard behind the house, allowing you to leave your bike or to have a small garden. They also come with a parking. As the appartments, they are close by all amenities.
Click here for more info about the Architecture in Haute Normandie.
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