La Sarthe: Le Mans & surroundings

Do you want to take a trip back in time to the Middle Ages … Walking through Le Mans will transport you!

I have visited this city several times and I have seen the sun just during one of them, but the historical part is really worth of seeing , rainning or not! We will also discover through this article some of the villages and castles that are in the surroundings of the Sarthe.

Cité Plantagenêt

The center is a inherited jewel from the Middle Ages … Around the Cathedrale Saint Julien-Le Mans, also by the Rue de la Reine Berengere ,you will see those houses, different from each other. The details of the doors and walls, the small sculptures carved in wood or those stones that decorate the street and come from that past …So interesting! . This entire medieval area surrounded by a Galeo-Roman wall is known as “la Cité Plantagenêt“. Several movies of knights and sword fights have been shot through its alleys.

Cité Plantagenêt

The “Maison du Pillier Rouge” is where the Tourist Office is located today. It is a building known as a Historical Monument and was built between 1400 and 1500. This house has a history and a hidden legend about an executioner … . (I will not tell you about it in case you visit it one day so it will be a surprise). Another charming walk is along the river from which you can see the outside of La Cité or inside the Botanical Garden.

In the surroundings of the city, I recommend making a stop to contemplate a very beautiful castle called “Chateau de Vauloge”. It cannot be visited since it is a hotel but it is worth it to see it only from the outside.

Chateau de Vauloge

About 40km from Le Mans, there is a town that will make you fall in love: “Asnières sur Vegre”. For one year, he represented his region, the “Pays de la Loire”, as a candidate to win the “The most beautiful village in France” contest that is held annually. It is one of my favorite corners because even if it is small, its streets full of flowers and country houses around a bridge that crosses a stream seem like something out of a story.

Asnieres sur Vegre

Solesmes is about 8 km away and its Monastery located on top and on the banks of the river de la Sarthe is impressive. Inside this monastery called “Abbaye Saint Pierre de Solesmes”, the life of the monks continues active and gives a mysterious atmosphere to the town. Crossing the bridge, the monastery can be seen in almost its entirety and the walk on both sides of the river is very peaceful, along with the boats and trees that decorate the passage of the water.


The town known as the “Venice of the West” is located in this area. Its name is actually La Ferté-Bernard, and it has this nickname because several rivers run through it and it has two artificial lakes.

La Ferté-Bernard

The beginnings of the town were of a castle or “forté” built on the marshes. The area came under the control of a family known as “the Bernard family” for about three centuries and hence the name “La Ferté-Bernard”.

As this area was disputed between the kings of England and France, La Ferté-Bernards served as a meeting place for Henri II Plantagenet and Louis VII, for example.

La Ferté-Bernard

Another town with its castle is Nogent le Rotrou or Saint Suzanne. The latter was not only a candidate but was chosen as the “Most beautiful town in France” and is of medieval architecture.

History of Le Mans

The Royal Family of the Plantagenêt was very powerful. Henri II et d’alienor d’Aquitaine had a son, Richard the Lionheart who inherited the crowns of England, Normandy, d’Anjou and du Maine (former province that depended on the government of Le Mans and no longer exists today).

In le Mans there is the Museée de la Reine Berengere de Navarre, who was the first daughter of Sancho the Wise (or Sancho VI of Navarre). She was born in 1165 (during the reign of Alfonso II of Aragon) and married the English King Richard the Lionheart.

The Galician Roman wall of La Cité was built in the 3rd century and the Gothic-Roman Cathedral was built between the 1060 and 1430 centuries.

Today, the Sarthe is renowned for hosting the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s most important endurance race for motorcycles, which has been held since 1923.The circuit has a large back straight that is called the Straight des Hunaudières, in which cars reach very high speeds, reaching almost 400 km / h (kilometers per hour) and more than one car car has flown in the air!

For those who understand French, here is a link with a video about the history of the city.

Gastronomy of la Sarthe

  1. I recommend the “Auberge des 7 plats”, with traditional cuisine in the historic center. Changing to something non-local, the Corsican restaurant “Libertaà” has a nice decoration as well as original pizzas.
  2. The Ricordeau Hotel in Loué. Both for the restaurant and for the hotel. The decoration is refined and the exquisite dishes are worth a visit. gastronomic stop.Loué is community known for Poultry Farming.
  3. Try the typical Rillettes of the city.
Hotel in Loué

Others adresses

1.The “Hotel LePrince” is very well located in the city center. The decoration and the service are good quality regarding to the price (it is not expensive for a four star hotel).

2.Another would be the “Domaine de la Groirie”, a 17th century castle located on the outskirts and that totally changes its style and atmosphere( you can relax easier in a space where you can stroll into).

Domaine de la Groirie

3.Le Mans is where the association of “Petites Cités de Caracteres” is located, which is in charge of identifying charming villages throughout France that help them to become known and promote tourism. I have learned as I have been visiting France that they are usually towns with a charm that makes them worth a visit. A little information maps:”>

4.To sleep in Solesmes, the “Grand Hotel de Solesmes” right next to the Monastery.

5. To sleep in Asnieres,I suggests the “Manoir de la Basse Cour” in Asnieres sur Vegre.

Manoir de la Basse Cour

6.The “Chateau de Craon”, is a castle near Laval where you can sleep at a moderate price. The breakfast is very well presented and the decoration refined. The welcome is familiar and warm by the owners and, if it is sunny, a walk in the surroundings is mandatory before leaving.

7. Not far from La Ferté-Bernard, there is a cosy and peaceful bed & breakfast. The owners are very friendly and good hosts. The name of the house is “Domaine de la Haute Poignandière” in Saint Germain de la Coudre.

Domaine de la Haute Poignandière

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