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2 Days in Rouen or Honfleur?

My family and I are spending a month in France next summer, mainly in Bretagne but have 4 days to spare that we are going to use up in Normandy as we're going from Paris to the South of Bretagne via Bayeux. With that said we'll be staying for 2 nights in Bayeux and have 2 more nights to "fill" in our calendar on our way from Paris to Bayeux. We are going with my in-laws and our two children (5 & 2). We've discussed both Rouen and Honfluer as options for our other nights but all I have been finding thus far is just the generic things to do like and see lists. Anyone out there have more concrete suggestions as to the better of the two? We are museum goers but with the kids are limiting how many we'll go too. We love to "Taste" France both through food and wine and are all very easy going. We are French speaking so language isn't an issue and we have spent most of our time in Bretagne so we are very comfortable there but am venturing into Normandy for the first time as a group (with kids). Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Also, if you have a suggestion of something other than Rouen or Honfluer we're open to anything. These days are just for exploring and enjoying all that is France!

Merci bien!

Posted by
12172 posts

Do you have a car?

Rouen is very convenient by train from Paris and has a really large medieval center, including where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake.

Honfleur is quainter and a port town on the coast (which appeals to me).

When I went through the area, I took a train into Rouen and rented a car there. After a half day wandering the medieval center, I headed to Etretat and Fecamp. The area has white cliffs that resemble Dover. After Etretat, I drove straight to Bayeaux before continuing south to MSM and on to Brittany. I skipped Honfleur only because I visited several port towns later in Brittany that seemed less touristy. I don't regret skipping Honfleur as much as I would have liked to visit Caen (I'll just have to go back).

Posted by
3 posts

Yes we'll have a car.

I've read some very impressive things regarding both places but am still really struggling as to which would be a better stop. We're going to try and not do the 1 night her and 1 night there technique only so as to make it easier to travel with the kids and packing and what have you.

Posted by
1340 posts

How active do you want to be? Honfleur is more about finding a café on the old port. Bot a lot to do there, about 3 muséums (the Satie being the best).

Rouen is a pretty large city. I spent a whole month there this summer. State of the art museums and the city has an amazing feel. The Joan of Arc museum is amazing

I loved both but got different things out of both.
Let me know if you need restaurant or hôtel recommandations.

Posted by
784 posts

We visited Rouen for about half a day. Interesting old town, nice lunch, impressive cathedral. However, I have stayed in Honfleur twice as well and stopped for lunch on another trip. It is one of my favorite towns in France. Very relaxed. You can park the car and walk to everything. The inner harbor is charming and the outer harbor is active with fishing boats. The Satie Museum is really worth a visit as is the art museum. The church is unlike any other in France.

If you are driving from Paris, I would stop in Rouen for a quick look around the old town, then press on to Honfleur for your two nights. We stayed at the Cheval Blanc on the outer harbor, which I believe is a Best Western.

Posted by
1340 posts

I disagree, Rouen offers more than a half day stop. There are four knock-out churches, the old town is sensational, and amazing museums.

Posted by
2008 posts

You can easily do daytrips from one of the two places. Nice for the kids is anyway the mary go round in Honfleur, have no idea if there is one in Rouen too. Just a few things I'm thinking about:

-A very lovely park for a stroll is Domaine de Villarceaux on the way from Paris to Rouen, free entrance. Further Lyons-la-Fôret and Andelys with Chateau Gaillard for a stunning view over the Seine Valley

-Not to miss Étretat

-Driving through Boucles de Seine between Rouen and Honfleur is what I enjoyed a few years ago. Follow D982 to Pont de Brotonne (toll free), to see the abbeys of St-Martin-de-Boscherville, Jumiège and Saint-Wandrille-Rançon, the latter houses still a community.

-Loads of Normandy style cottages driving through Vieux-Port and Marais-Vernier.

-Think worth checking out is Panorama XXL in Rouen to immerse yourself in a 360° panorama of old Rome and Rouen during Joanne of Arc’s era. Have to say didn't visit yet, but sounds interesting. http://www.panoramaxxl.com/en/le-concept/

Finally be aware that driving through the countryside there are a whole lot of villages and they have 30km/h speed limits keeping your average speed low.

Posted by
7061 posts

I tend to agree with Carolyn, if driving from Paris make Rouen a stop for lunch and a walk around the medieval center and a quick visit to the cathedral, then continue on for 2 nights in Honfleur. I've been to both but I think the kids would probably enjoy the coastal village feel of Honfleur. From there you could spend one day exploring the coast from Honfleur to Etretat and Fecamp, especially if the weather is good.

Posted by
8173 posts

I was going to recommend Honfleur with sidetrip to Etretat, but I am not sure I would take small kids to Etretat -- its main feature is a spectacular walk along the completely unfenced cliffs.

Posted by
4 posts

We just returned from France. We spent 3 nights in Honfleur and really enjoyed it. We had planned to drive to Rouen, but never got past the Abbeye de Jumiege.

We loved Honfleur – the scale of the town, the wooden cathedral, the Satie museum, the architecture, the shops, the restaurants.
You can visit the key sites in a full day, but is a good place to hang around if you want to relax. We went in November. It should be even better in the summer (well, it will surely be more crowded).

Posted by
362 posts

Take a look at Port en Bessin. Very small town, active commercial fishing boats , sailboats, locks in town to watch boats go through. Great family restaurants. We home based here seeing the WWII sights.

Posted by
6629 posts

I've been to both places, on different trips. For my money, Rouen is worth at least a full day, Honfleur at most half a day. So I'd base in Rouen and plan to spend time there, maybe with a day trip to Honfleur. But with little kids Honfleur might be a better base because of the harbor and surrounding scenery.

You have a good problem, no wrong answer really.

Posted by
131 posts

the answer is simple, take honfleur over rouen. honfleur is a charming small port town, lost of interesting shops and stores and waterfront restaurant, and tons of art galleries. if you're driving into the town, it can be a bit of a nightmare, but worth the stay, at least two nites. nicholas

Posted by
3 posts

First off, thank you for all the responses!

On a side note we have family in Dinan and Sarzeau (South of Bretagne) so we'll be visiting plenty of charming small port towns. With that in mind I have really been struggling to decide between the two (Rouen or Honfleur) I have read of the museums in Honfluer but beyond that and the old port it seems a little lacking for 2 days stay. Rouen seems a little larger but with more of a city feel so is that a better 2 day stay with kids? This is my struggle, I guess it is a pretty good struggle to have but either way this is where I'm at.
I truly appreciate al the suggestions so far as you are all helping myself and my family make the decision. Have to love the RS community.

Posted by
1340 posts

At the Office de Tourisme in Honfleur they sell a pass where you can go to most of the town's museums. In Rouen, the art museum is free. In fact, the only museum I remember paying for is the fantastic Jeanne d'Arc museum---and it was totally worth it
During my summer (where I spent the bulk in Rouen), I went to Honfleur for the last few days (and Le Havre after) for a quiet, restful 4 days.

Posted by
27362 posts

I think you'd enjoy both, so there's not a mistake waiting to be made here.

For me, personally, Honfleur would be a bit small for a 2-night stay. But I don't travel with children and spend a lot of time in museums. Obviously, if some in your family have a special interest in Jean d'Arc (I do not), that would be a point in Rouen's favor.

Posted by
2008 posts

It’s always hard to say how the weather will be during summer, but Honfleur has some beaches nearby you can escape to in case temperatures running high. In this respect a large place like Rouen will be less comfortable for outdoor activities to my opinion.

Posted by
1340 posts

This summer I stayed at the Mercure Hotel in Honfleur and I must say I was thrilled with my choice. Not only was it clean and well located, but it offered fantastic air conditioning.