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As soon as France’s second-largest fair (Foire Saint-Romain) closes its doors, another popular event is about to start in the old Ducal town of Rouen, Normandy, as part of the Christmas festivities: the Rouen Christmas Market. Let’s find out why you should visit it!

 

The “Frosted” Rouen Christmas market

Rouen Christmas Map

The Christmas market is the most important event during Advent in Rouen. With the Christmas event called “Rouen givrée” (Frosted Rouen), the Normand city offers several cultural events: games, concerts, music and shows for children. You can explore the streets of the old town under magical lights while visitors and locals alike have fun at the ice-skating rink on Place de l’Hôtel de Ville or the Ferris Wheel on Place du Vieux-Marché.

The Rouen Christmas Market is open from 24 November to 25 December 2022.

 

Street lighting

Gros Horloge by night, Rouen © Davitof, Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Gros Horloge by night, Rouen © Davitof, Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

 

More than 80 sites and streets in Rouen are magically lit up for Christmas.

The pedestrianised street of Rue du Gros Horloge, which connects Place du Vieux-Marché to the Place de la Cathédrale, is Rouen’s main shopping area and forms the spine of the town. You’ll find some fine half-timbered houses around the monumental astronomical clock (the “Gros Horloge“).

Rue du Gros-Horloge © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Rue du Gros-Horloge, Rouen © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 

Other places lit up are the Place Gaillarbois and the Rue du Bac.

Over 150 street performances are organised during Advent in the old town of Rouen.

 

Place de la Cathédrale

From the square, the lofty Gothic Cathedral of Rouen appears in all its glory, with the Tour Saint-Romain to the left and Tour de Beurre to the right.

Rouen Christmas Market © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Rouen Christmas Market © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 

An inviting Christmas village is located at the foot of the church. In 2012, the Christmas market was organised by a private initiative and revamped. In 2022, no less than 80 white-painted chalets will become the Christmas market of Rouen, spilling over Rue des Carmes and Rue du Change.

Rouen Christmas Market © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Rouen Christmas Market, Place de la Cathédrale © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 

Many offer local produce from Normandy (cheese, cider…) as well as traditional handicrafts, jewellery, santons (crib figurines) and Christmas ornaments.

Rouen Christmas Market © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Place de la Cathédrale, Rouen © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Marche de Noël Rouen © Barnie 76
Marché de Noël Rouen © Barnie 76
Rouen Christmas Market © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Rouen Cathedral © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 

Place de l’Hôtel de Ville

This large square is bordered by the classical façade of Rouen’s City Hall and the lofty Saint Ouen Abbey with its 82 m tall-high bell tower.

Rouen Christmas Market © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Rouen City Hall © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 

Every year since 2009, a 400 m2 ice-skating rink has been set up on the square. This famous “frozen lake” (lac gelé) welcomes more than 20,000 people during the four weeks of Advent. The site also includes a fun 35 m sledge track.

Rouen Christmas Market © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
The Frozen Lake even in front of Rouen City-Hall © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 

Esplanade Marcel Duchamp

The Jardin des Neiges (Snow Garden) is located on the vast wooded esplanade in front of the Fine Arts Museum. Set up as an enchanting village, it hosts several activities for children, such as storytelling and creative workshops.

 

Place du Vieux-Marché and Place de la Pucelle

With its picturesque half-timbered houses, restaurants and the modern church of St Joan of Arc, Place du Vieux-Marché is one of Rouen’s main squares. Initially set on Place de la Cathédrale, the tall and trendy Ferris wheel is back in Rouen in Advent 2013 after a two-year absence. The view from the Ferris wheel offers a breathtaking panorama over the roofs of Rouen, the bell tower of Gros Horloge, the Cathedral and the Gothic churches of St Maclou and St Ouen.

Very close to the square lies the little yet charming Place de la Pucelle, bordered by half-timbered houses painted in bright colours. The square used to host a Christmas market in the past, and it is unsure whether the chalets will be back in 2013.

 

About Rouen

The city of Rouen, sprawled along the River Seine, has remained an important trading centre between Paris and the English Channel.

The historic city centre of industrial Rouen is surprising for the first-time visitor who can stroll through its fascinating heritage made up of gothic churches and mansions, restored half-timbered houses, and well-maintained public gardens… nicknamed the “City of 100 bell towers” by French writer Victor Hugo, the capital of the Dukes of Normandy has undergone a costly upmarket restoration of its old town centre, largely pedestrianised.

Rouen Christmas Market © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Christmas in Rouen © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Rouen Christmas Market © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Street in Rouen at Christmas © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Rouen Christmas Market © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Rue Jeanne-d’Arc, Rouen © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Rouen Christmas Market © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Rue du Gros-Horloge, Rouen © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Rouen Christmas Market © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Christmas lights in Rouen © Frédéric BISSON (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 

Find out more about the sites and monuments to discover in Rouen.

 

How to get to Rouen

 

By train

There are approximately 15 daily trains from Paris Gare Saint Lazare to Rouen, taking only 1.10 hours. Travelling by train from Paris is the easiest way to discover Rouen on a day trip.

 

By car

Rouen can also be easily reached from Paris (135 km) by the Autoroute de Normandie (motorway A13) within 1.40 hours and from the harbour town of Le Havre, from where ferries link Southern England.

 

By air

If you are travelling from Australia or America, the best way to reach Rouen is to take a flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport and take a train from Paris Gare Saint Lazare or to hire a car and drive from there.

 

English-French Vocabulary

People from Normandy traditionally say in the local patois: “Bouon Noué” (Merry Christmas!)

(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin, (adj) for adjective and (v) for verbs

  • Advent = Avent (m)
  • cathedral = cathédrale (f)
  • city-hall = hôtel de ville (m)
  • chalet = châlet (m)
  • Christmas = Noël
  • Christmas Eve = veille de Noël (f) / réveillon (m)
  • Christmas lighting = illuminations de Noël (f,p)
  • Christmas market = marché de Noël (m)
  • Christmas Tree = sapin de Noël (m), arbre de Noël (m)
  • craftsman = artisan (m)
  • Father Christmas = Père Noël (m)
  • Ferris wheel = grande roue (f)
  • holiday season = période de Noël (f), temps des fêtes (m)
  • ice-skating rink = patinoire (f)
  • merry-go-round = manège (m)
  • Normandy = Normandie (f)
  • Santa = Père Noël (m)
  • square = place (f)
  • street = rue (f)

 

Many of the pictures are from Frédéric Bisson’s Flickr account, which you can find here.

Featured image: o1559kip via Envato Elements

About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of the Discovery Course on the Secrets of the Eiffel Tower and the Christmas book "Voyage au Pays de Noël".

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