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Things to Do in Le Mans
Whether you're looking for a hotel near Le Mans race track, passing through on a business trip, or looking for a family hotel with bed and breakfast as your base for exploring the castles and countryside of the Pays-de-la-Loire region, you'll find the option to suit your needs among our selection of the best places to stay in Le Mans, France.
Around Le Mans
Begin your walk around Le Mans by climbing to the hilltop old town and the Cathedral of Saint Julian of Le Mans, a soaring edifice mixing Romanesque and Gothic architecture and supported by elaborate flying buttresses. Step inside to admire the vivid stained-glass windows, some almost 1,000 years-old, and the ceiling fresco depicting 47 musician angels. Outside, leaning up against a wall of the cathedral, you'll find a prehistoric standing stone, or menhir, a pagan fertility symbol. Perhaps the most iconic of Le Mans' attractions is its time-capsule old quarter, the Cité Plantagenêt, a warren of cobbled streets, Renaissance mansions and half-timbered houses bearing evocative names, including the Maison du Pilier Rouge ("house of the red pillars"), where you'll find the Le Mans tourism office. Another houses the Museum of Queen Berengeria, Le Mans, with displays of regional folk art. The Cité Plantagenêt has provided the period setting for countlessfilms, among them "Cyrano de Bergerac" (1990), starring Gérard Depardieu, and is still protected by its Gallo-Roman walls, punctuated by several watchtowers. It's the soft red hue of these walls that gives la ville rouge its other affectionate epithet. Make sure to take in the views across the Sarthe River from the bastion. Among the opulent edifices of the city centre, the Palace of The Counts of Maine, now the city hall, was the seat of the counts of Anjou and Maine, who gave birth to the famous Plantagenet dynasty – Henry II, the future king of England, was born here in 1133. Steps away, the Jean-Claude-Boulard-Carré Plantagenêt Museum illuminates more of the city's history, while at the Tessé Museum, housed in a former mansion, you can admire a major collection of Old Masters, as well as Ancient Egyptian relics, including a life-size replica of Queen Nefertiti's tomb. Le Mans' botanic garden, the Jardin des Plantes is a lovely spot for a break from sightseeing – stroll among the rose gardens, or stretch out on the grass next to the pond, in the shade of towering oaks. The site of a former power station on the Île aux Planches in the Sarthe River has recently been reborn as the Planches Island Park Le Mans, with willow-lined paths, an amphitheatre and quiet corners for sunbathing. Even if you're not among the round 250,000 fans visiting for the big race in June, a visit to the Museum of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a must, with well over 100 legendary cars from the world's most famous endurance event, as well as photos and memorabilia from around a century of races. You can also take a behind-the-scenes tour of the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit.
Dining in Le Mans
Venture outside the city centre and you'll find a host of outdoor activities in Le Mans. A visit to Spaycific'Zoo is one of the best things to do with kids, with lots of rare species and plenty of opportunities for close-up encounters. You can rent a canoe or a bike to explore the forests of the vast Arche de la Nature reserve, as well as petting farm animals and learning about local wildlife with the help of hands-on exhibits. Nearby, the Royal Abbey of L'Epau, founded in the 13th century by Queen Berengaria – wife of Richard the Lionheart and the only English queen never to set foot in the country – displays a recumbent statue of Berengaria and also hosts concerts and exhibitions. Fancy taking to the water? You can don your sailor's cap to explore the Sarthe River aboard an electric boat departing from the Port Le Mans.
Best Hotels in Le Mans
Restaurants in Le Mans cover the spectrum from sleek Michelin-starred establishments serving inventive modern cuisine to cosy bistros and convivial brasseries offering regional specialities and French classics. One of the local delicacies that pops up on lots of menus is Loué poultry, outdoor-reared in the wooded local countryside – it's the main ingredient in marmite Sarthoise, a hearty stew. Rillettes is a famed Le Mans speciality: slow-cooked pork preserved confit-like in fat and enjoyed on toast or a fresh baguette – pick some up for a picnic at farmers' markets like the thrice-weekly one at Place du Jet d'Eau. The Cité Plantagenêt is a good place to start if you're looking for a cosy wine bar in Le Mans – be sure to try the local drop, fruity, golden yellow Jasnières.
When to Visit Le Mans
Our portfolio offers you a wide choice of accommodation in Le Mans, whatever the reason for your visit. Choose our upscale hotel in the city centre in an elegant 19th-century building, or one of our stylish budget options. If you're here on business, we have hotels with space for meetings and coworking, including two hotels near Le Mans train station. A great family choice is our 4-star Le Mans hotel with river views near the Arche de la Nature reserve. For an overnight stop, you'll find Le Mans hotels near the motorway, but still within easy reach of the centre. In town for the big race? We have Le Mans hotels near the circuit.
Getting to Le Mans
Of course, the highlight of the Le Mans events calendar is the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in June – so pick another time if you're not a motor sport fan. Another big drawcard is the MotoGP motorcycle race, held at the Circuit Bugatti in mid-May. The cathedral, the Gallo-Roman Walls of Le Mans and other monuments are the canvas for spectacular illuminations during La Nuit des Chimères in July and August.
Paris's Orly and Charles de Gaulle are the nearest international airports to Le Mans. Drive time from Paris averages around 2.5 hours, while the fastest trains take a little over an hour. If you're coming from Calais, the drive to Le Mans takes around 4.5 hours, and it's around 2.5 hours' drive from the ferry ports at Saint-Malo and Le Havre.