Rouen (pronounced "roo-ehn") is an ancient city of 100,000 people in Normandy. It mixes magnificent Gothic architecture, charming half-timbered houses and contemporary bustle like no other city in France. Today's Rouen is France's fifth-largest port, Europe's biggest food exporter (mainly wheat and grain), and a popular tourist destination, but it was once an even greater city - second only to Paris until the 18th century.
Located on the Seine River near the coast, Rouen was a regional capital during Roman times and France's second greatest city in the Middle Ages. Rouen's wealth and power was based primarily on its wool industry and favorable position on the river. In the 9th century, the Normans chose Rouen as their capital, and William the Conquerer made it his home before moving to England. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen in 1431. In April 1944, Allied bombers destroyed half of Rouen, especially the industrial suburbs. Fortunately, most of the historic area survived intact, and the Gothic cathedral painted by Monet can still be admired today.