CITY GUIDE OF THINGS TO DO IN LE MANS
There are lots of exciting things to do in Le Mans; it earned its place on the map long before the launch of its intensely competitive endurance race or the release of Steve McQueen's cult motor racing film. This charming town on the banks of the Sarthe River was first occupied by Ancient Rome and its friendly residents will happily regale its rich and varied history to visitors.
Today, from the hand painted shop signs to the winding cobbled streets, Le Mans oozes rustic charm. You'll wander past medieval timbered houses and shopfronts, where street-side chalkboard menus wait ready to accommodate the morning's freshest specialities. This beloved town is a hub of activity throughout the year, with various festivals, food markets and celebrations spilling out onto the peaceful streets. Whether you're looking for a stop en route or a new holiday destination, you'll find plenty of fantastic things to do in Le Mans, France.
Explore the Historic City of Le Mans
One of the exciting things to do in Le Mans is to visit the Cathedral. Wherever you go in this beautiful city you'll be reminded of days gone by. Wandering through the centre you'll find remains of the Roman walls and baths, where a light show celebrating the city's story so far takes place every year. Featuring sky-high stained glass windows, the towering Le Mans Cathedral is a superb example of Gothic architecture dedicated to Saint Julian, the city's first bishop. The 12th-century Abbaye de L'Épau on the outskirts of the city is another peaceful stop with rotating exhibitions throughout the year.
Le Mans Guide to Museums & Galleries
The Musée de la Reine Bérengère was named after Queen Bérengère, wife of King Richard the Lionheart, and is a collection of artefacts and artworks from the region housed in a beautiful 15th-century building. Discover the area's natural history at the Musée Vert, or take in the incredible collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities and some magnificent paintings dating back to the 14th century at the Musée de Tessé. Of course, the city is renowned for its motor racing history, and the purpose-built Musée des 24 Heures du Mans is a must-see for any fans of the sport. The museum has a fantastic collection of vehicles from the city's motorsport heritage, from dinky slot cars to the real race winners.
24 Hours of Le Mans
The ultimate test of man and machine, the city's name became renowned worldwide for its historic race across the dusty summer streets. An unforgettable experience thing to do in Le Mans is to visit the 24 Hours race track. It first took place in 1923, making it the oldest endurance race that continues to this day. Created in response to the trend for Grand Prix-style racing, the early days of Le Mans were a more rough and ready affair, with each competitor given 24 hours to drive as far and as fast as they could. The race has encouraged innovative designs from some of the world's largest car brands from the off, so the modern automotive industry likely has a lot to thank the city for.
Things To Do In Le Mans Outdoors
Away from the gritty roads that have come to define the area, Le Mans is home to some of the most beautiful green spaces in the region. While 15 minutes' drive from the centre and open by appointment only, the blissful Arboretum de la Grand Prée is one of the most charming parks in the area, with trees and shrubs from all across the world. For an easier break, head to Le Jardin des Plantes, a colourful botanical garden located right in the city centre that's perfect for a midday picnic. At the end of each summer, Le Mans is transformed into a celebration of the natural world, with the Entre Cours et Jardins festival bringing flower displays, food markets and giant woodwork sculptures.
Ready to book your French holiday? To travel to Le Mans, take a ferry from Dover to Calais with P&O Ferries.
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