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Trace the River Seine north and you’ll eventually come to the Normandy city of Rouen. Medieval houses and Gothic churches pepper the cobblestone city, including Cathédrale Notre-Dame, which was famously painted by Monet.
Rouen isn’t a big city when compared to other French regional capitals, providing it with a small-town feel and more family-run restaurants, cafés and inns rather than large chains. Support local businesses by choosing one of these boutique properties, complete with picturesque courtyards and gourmet cuisine.
Hotel Le Cardinal faces the Notre-Dame Cathedral, a location that affords all 15 of its rooms a decent view of the Gothic structure from the window. Rooms are fresh and minimal with neutral tones, parquet floors and provide just the basics: WiFi, a small desk, and a flat-screen TV. Not that much time will be spent in the room anyway because its central location make it easy for you to discover all that Rouen has to offer. The hotel’s address is on a pedestrian-only street, meaning no noise from traffic at night.
In a classically Norman half-timbered house, Le Vieux Carré provides a homely, bed and breakfast feel in a serviced hotel. Its 13 rooms are each decorated with a different motif – some floral, some colourful, and others more subdued. Their salon de thé offers a tea service from a well-curated selection (rotated every six months) and home-made baked goods are served in their charming courtyard terrace from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm. If tea isn’t your thing, they have fresh pressed juices and hot chocolate on offer as well. There’s also a restaurant, open for lunch only, with an extremely well-priced menu and home-cooked dishes.
Les Initiés is a convivial spot combining a laid-back bar with inviting rooms, some of which are lucky enough to have a view of the neighbouring and ornate Palais de Justice. Owners Christelle and Phillippe provide a warm welcome, whether you’re just stopping by for a pint in the pub, a bite to eat on their street-side terrace, or looking for a place to spend the night. A continental breakfast is served daily as part of your stay.
Christine Wilson contributed additional reporting to this article.