Only 2 hours from Paris, the bustling city of Le Mans is a strategic crossing point between the Loire Valley, Normandy, Brittany and the South-West of France.
In addition to the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of France’s most important motor racing events, the city will amaze you with its rich architecture, gardens and medieval heart.
It is the ideal destination to include in a Loire Valley itinerary.
Little known to mass tourism, Le Mans boasts an incredible historical and cultural heritage, which is concentrated within its marvellous historic centre.
Thanks to its treasures and its liveliness, Le Mans is a pleasant town to live in and enjoy in peace.
The old town of Le Mans, the Cité Plantagenet, is an intricate maze of narrow alleys of medieval origin, framed by charming half-timbered houses. Despite being heavily damaged during the bombings of World War II, the old town centre has been well restored to its former glory: today it sparkles with beauty after so many years of total neglect.
The most charming corners are hidden in the labyrinth of narrow streets that we recommend you discover unhurriedly, along with the numerous craft workshops that dot the centre. Here, in fact, you will not find the big international chains, but only small independent shops such as bookshops, ceramists, lute-makers, artists and craftsmen.
St Julian’s Cathedral is an imposing half-Romanesque, half-Gothic building: its monumental dimensions place it among the largest cathedrals in France.
Its interior impresses visitors with the beauty of its frescoes, particularly those in the Chapel of the Musical Angels, whose vault is covered with a superb painting of angels playing music.
Also not to be missed are the ancient city walls, among the best preserved in all of Europe. This architectural treasure was designed to resist barbarian invasions: the walls embraced the entire city for 1,300 metres connected by 26 fortified towers.
Throughout history, the wall has suffered several attacks, from Bretons, Normans and Vikings, resulting in severe structural damage. Completely restored, today only 11 interconnected towers and 3 monumental gates remain.
This museum of fine arts has dedicated an entire section to the Egyptian civilisation, the most interesting part. More than 125 pieces dating back to the 4th millennium BC can be admired.
In addition, the tombs of Queen Nefertari (wife of Ramses II) and Governor Sennefer have been reconstructed using a series of photographs taken by the Kodak-Pathé Foundation and donated to the museum.
Among the most important items in the collection is a real mummy from ancient Egypt.
The Visitation is one of those hidden places that make all the difference when visiting a city. Housed in a former convent, the building has been completely renovated and converted into an urban space at the service of citizens: you will find restaurants and cafés, a hotel, a contemporary art gallery and many shops by local designers.
A lovely place for a break on the terrace or a snack in the cloister, browsing through the boutiques of local artisans.
This is the large urban park of Le Mans, 500 hectares of trails for nature walks, horse riding or orienteering sessions.
To explore the forest in less time, we recommend renting bicycles and moving around the park with ease.
If you have time to spare and children in tow, we recommend visiting three conservation and environmental education facilities:
Motoring enthusiasts will not miss the opportunity to visit the Circuit de la Sarthe, which hosts the famous automobile race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Founded in 1906, the 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit is one of the longest tracks in the world, with 13.626 kilometres of track. It is used about ten days a year for competitions, including the Le Mans Classic (a classic car race) and the Michelin Le Mans Cup.
The Automobile Club de l’Ouest has opened a museum dedicated to the 24 Hours of Le Mans: you can admire more than 140 vehicles of world-famous brands such as Porsche, Ferrari, Jaguar, Bentley, to name but a few.
The 6500 square metre exhibition will take you into the world of the competition: you will find pictures, objects and anecdotes from the history of the car, the circuit, the race, behind the scenes and its heroes. True fans will also be able to freely visit the circuit and discover the infrastructure that makes it unique, such as the Dunlop gangway or the 9 bridges that have become part of motor racing legend.
The majestic Epau Abbey is one of the best examples of Cistercian architecture in France. After 50 years of restoration, the monastic complex has returned to its former glory.
You can visit the cloister, the church, the monks’ dormitory and the chapter house: a silent place full of atmosphere.
Approximately 40 km from Le Mans, Asnières sur Vègre deserves a diversion for its ancient and elegant charm: classified Petite Cité de Caractère, it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful villages in Sarthe.
With its old stone buildings, medieval bridge and flower-lined streets, the village is a charming postcard of rural France.
Although it is little known, Le Mans is a fun and bubbly city, all to discover but above all to experience, with a food and wine scene to savour in the lively cafés of the centre.
To visit Le Mans in an unusual and fun way, we recommend hiring a small electric boat: they are quiet, easy to drive (no driving licence required), environmentally friendly and perfect for observing the city from a different perspective.
This old distillery is worth a guided tour: the focus is on protecting biodiversity, thanks to an organic orchard that allows the distillery to make its products with exclusively local ingredients.
You can taste different ranges of spirits including their famous brandy Rillette.
Charming and cosy microbrewery in the new part of Le Mans, built in a former industrial building and furnished in an urban way, while maintaining a warm and cosy atmosphere.
You can taste many types of amazing beers and listen to the detailed stories about their creation from the voice of the owners.
The Bubble Bookshop specialises in comics and is the perfect place to mingle with the locals and discover editorial gems. The shop is beautifully decorated and invites the curious to come in and admire the interior.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
To enjoy all the charm and atmosphere of the city’s evenings, we recommend you choose a hotel in the historic centre: you can walk out in the evening and admire the city in its nocturnal splendour.
Le Mans is easily accessible by car or train, as it is one of the main towns in the Loire Valley.
Le Mans is only 2 hours and 30 minutes from Paris. After landing at Paris Orly Airport and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. By taking the A11 motorway, you will reach Le Mans in approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes, depending on traffic.
As for the train, the city is served by several TGV, Ouigo and TER lines. In particular, you can get to Le Mans using the high-speed TGV trains from Paris Montparnasse, St. Malo or Marseille St. Charles.
What's the weather at Le Mans? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Le Mans for the next few days.
The sparkling city of Le Mans is located in the Sarthe department in the Pays de la Loire region, next to the neighbouring regions of Brittany and Normandy.