Gems of Paris by French Moments

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.


Christmas in Rouen

Rouen Christmas Map

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


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. It is lined with some fine half-timbered houses and spanned by the monumental astronomical clock (the “Gros Horloge“).

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.

An inviting Christmas village is located at the foot of the church. In 2012, the Christmas market was organised by a private initiative and was totally revamped. In 2013, no less than 70 white-painted chalets will become the Christmas market of Rouen spilling over Rue des Carmes and Rue du Change.

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


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 towering 82 m tall bell tower.

Every year since 2009, a 400 m2 ice-skating rink has been set up on the square. This popular “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.


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 a number of 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 very popular 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 a major 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.

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 by far 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)

Featured image: Marche de Noël Rouen © Barnie 76

Gems of Paris by French Moments
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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