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For a long time, Rouen was the second city of France (after Paris) and the undisputed capital of Normandy. During the Middle Ages it was a thriving city which can still be seen in the historical center. The French freedom fighter Joan of Arc was sent to the stake here by the British in 1431. The sentence was executed on the old market square.
The city itself has approximately 110,000 inhabitants, but Rouen forms part of a metropolitan area where over half a million people live.
Rouen is located in the northwest of France, on the River Seine. It's the capital of the Seine-Maritime department. Rouen lies approximately 135 kilometers northwest of the center of the French capital Paris.
Not much is left of the prosperity of the Middle Ages. Until the middle of the twentieth century, Rouen was an industrial center, but many industries have disappeared. Chocolate factory Ferrero and the Italian coffee maker Segafredo are, however, headquartered here. Rouen is also an educational center with a university and several business schools. Unemployment is relatively high.
Rouen Airport (in French: Aéroport de Rouen-Vallée de Seine), is situated approximately 10 kilometers southeast of the center. At the moment and only in summer months, there's only a connection with Figari on Corsica. The nearest larger airports are Le Havre-Octeville Airport and Beauvais-Tillé Airport, both over 70 kilometers from Rouen.
Rouen's public city transport is good. The network consists of two streetcars (also called subway, because they run underground in the center) and an extensive network of buses. There are also good bus and train connections with other places in Normandy and other departments, like Le Havre and Paris. High-speed trains (TGV) connect Rouen with Lyon and Marseille.
Cars are prohibited in many streets in Rouen's center. It's also a fairly busy city, where it may be difficult to find your way around. There are several parking lots and garages around the center where you can park your rental car. Parking facilities are clearly signposted. The Autoroute de Normandie (A13) runs south of the city, making it easy to reach other attractions in Normandy by rental car.
Rouen has a reasonable, but not overwhelming, choice of accommodations. You won't find truly luxurious hotels; most fall in the budget and midrange category. There are also basic guesthouses and bed & breakfasts (chambres d'hôtes). Unless you want to stay at a specific hotel, you don't have to book your accommodation in advance.
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