Center City Rouen, France

The urban quality of Center City Rouen is as good as any American neighborhood/downtown hosting a very walkable mixed-use environment with lots of historic landmarks and destinations.. Rouen also preserves an incredible number of half-timber structures, probably one of the highest concentrations in all of France. It somehow managed to save much of its historic fabric even after extensive bombing during WWII. And what had to be rebuilt during the mid 20th century is still great urban form. The most notable landmark is the Rouen Cathedral, which also miraculously survived the bombing. The Cathedral’s gothic façade (completed in the 16th century) was made famous in a series paintings by Claude Monet. One these paintings is housed in the Rouen Museum of Fine Arts only a 1/4 mile from the cathedral.  This landmark is joined by several other notable churches that mark the skyline  (i.e. St. Maclou Catholic Church, Saint-Ouen Abbey Church, and  Hôtel de ville de Rouen).  Other famous sites in Center City including The Gros Horloge (an astronomical clock dating back to the 14th century) and the St Joan of Arc modernist church where Joan of Arc was burned at the sake.

Center City flows very nicely comprised of several well designed plazas, markets, squares, theaters, and landmarks all located with a 1/4 of mile of each other. This is exactly the type of urban environment that urbanist Jane Jacobs loved. Plenty of pedestrian streets or low traffic alleyways also fill Center City creating a very comfortable walkable environment. Center City also hosts a great array of retail and nightlife amenities all well connected by a couple light rail lines and a subway. One area in which Center City could see improvement is cleaning up its waterfront along the Seine. The area is choked by roadways and an abandonded rail line that should be converted into a recreational path. Tree canopy is also lacking here.

Click here to view my Rouen, France album on Flickr


* Some incredible landmarks including the Cathedral of Rouen, St. Maclou Catholic Church, Saint-Ouen Abbey Church, Hôtel de ville de Rouen, Le Gros-Horloge, Rouen Museum of Fine Arts, Donjon de Rouen
 Castle, St Joan of Arc’s Church and countless half-timber buildings.
* Lots of pedestrians ways, most notably the Rue du Gros Horloge
* Great historic architecture even with the bombing. Incredible what was able to be saved. Modern mid-century infill built after the war is generally quality urban form. Most architecture spans from the  16th-20th centuries. Lots of variety.
* Several nice plazas including Marche Saint Marc, Parc del’Hôtel-de-Ville Garden, Fontaine Sainte Marie, Place de Vieux Marche, Square Verdrel
* Extensive compact mixed-use area in Center City.
* A gentle rise on the northern edge of Center City creating some interesting elevation changes.
* Lots of narrow alleyways creating many interesting passageways and urban spaces.
* Great cultural amenities in Center  including many restaurants, several theaters, a cinema, lots of night clubs & bars, a couple live music venues, and tons of art galleries and museums.
* Good transit access dwtn; a mix of subways and streetcars


* Some blander modern architecture on the eastern edge of Center City but still good urban form.
* Tree canopy isn’t great.
* Limited dedicated bike lanes but plenty of low traffic alleyways to transverse.
* Poor waterfront access along the Seine. There is even an abandonded rail line that could easily be converted to a waterfront trail.