Anchors Away! The Rouen Armada Sets Sail to Return

by Maddy Piggott

If you are spending a summer in France, now is the time to start marking your calendar with all of the fabulous events of the season. The perfect place to start is with an event that only occurs once every four years, the Rouen Armada, which sees this city in France’s Normandy region laid siege by a battalion of ships, boats, barges and submarine’s of all shapes and sizes. This is no act of war, but rather a spectacle celebrating the anniversary of the Statue of Liberty crossing the Atlantic in 1855!

The next edition, from June 8 to 18, 2023, is sure to be an event not to miss. Each year millions of visitors have the opportunity to delight in the many daily events, capped by the impressive Great Parade along the Seine Maritime on the final day as the ships set sail for the estuary between Honfleur and Le Havre, where the ships finally set off to sea.


The idea to create an event first took the form of a transatlantic boat race between Rouen and New York. Now the celebration sees some of the world’s most beautiful ships converge in Rouen and lay anchor along the banks of the Seine, in what has become a regular and highly anticipated event.

Photo ©

The Armada’s star-studded lineup boasts some of the most legendary ships in the world, each with a fascinating story to tell. Keep an eye out for Le Belem, the last French three-masted square-rigger still afloat, or L’Hermione, a meticulously reconstructed 18th-century frigate. And who can miss the Krusenstern, the world’s second-largest sailing ship, or the inspiring Tenacious, a three-master custom-built in the UK for people with physical disabilities, including the blind, visually impaired, and those confined to wheelchairs. Each ship has its unique charm and history, making the Armada an unforgettable experience for maritime enthusiasts and curious travellers alike.

Rouen Armada
Photo ©

At night, the city comes alive with concerts and fireworks lighting up the sky over the Seine. Thousands of sailors from across the world fill the streets of Rouen – they say touching the red pom-pom on a French sailor’s cap brings good luck, so visitors are in for a treat! Armada week also sees the various neighborhoods of Rouen and the city’s metropolitan communes dress in the colors of the different nationalities of the arriving ships

Rouen Armada
Photo © Normandy Tourism

As well as a celebration of nautical history, attending the Rouen Armada is also an excellent opportunity to discover the culinary culture of Normandy. The region is particularly known for its delicious cheeses, such as Camembert and Livarot, and its famous apple-based products like cider and calvados. The local cuisine is a delightful blend of French and Norman flavors, with fresh seafood and meats being staple ingredients.

So, whether you’re a sea – or seafood–  lover, history buff, or simply someone who loves a good spectacle, the Rouen Armada is an event that you shouldn’t miss.

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