Le Mans old town
You might know Sarthe for one thing – Le Mans. But, there’s much more to this area than motor racing. Glorious countryside, chateaux, vineyards and historic towns galore. Here are our top tips for what to see and do in the department of Sarthe…
Musée de 24 Heures du Mans
Le Mans racing is the biggest draw in Sarthe and quite rightly, there is a museum dedicated to the sport. Discover the history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a collection of more than 100 vehicles including 11 winners of the 24 Hour Race. Exclusive film and photos bring the tale of this iconic race to life, plus there are working models and animated games.
Old town of Le Mans
Around a quarter of a million people visit Le Mans for the racing in June and around 99% of them are unaware of the old town a few steps from the legendary racecourse. Don’t miss out on the medieval town with its cobbled alleys and wonky half-timbered houses, once a Plantagenet stronghold (top photo). And, there are Roman ruins too! On the edge of the old town is the Cathedral of Saint Julian of Le Mans, the city’s first bishop. Built between the 6th and the 14th century, it features many French Gothic elements. From July to early September, the town puts on a sound and light show known as Nuits des Chimeres.
Royal Abbey of Épau
5 minutes by car or about 15 minutes by tram from Le Mans city centre you’ll find the Domaine de l’Épau and the Abbaye Royale de l’Épau, one of the finest examples of Cistercian architecture in France. It was commissioned in 1229 by Berengaria of Navarre, widow of Richard the Lionheart, who is buried there. There’s also a delightful café where they make delicious home-made cakes!
The Domaine de l’Épau, next to the abbey, is an area of outstanding natural beauty. It covers 600 hectares and hosts two restaurants and a bar, ideal for a taste of the countryside. There’s plenty to do for the whole family from canoeing to climbing.
Zoos and Chateaux
The Zoo de La Fleche is home to an impressive 1500 animals and is very popular with kids. The town of La Fleche is interesting to visit and has a lovely Sunday morning market. Close by is the impressive Chateau de la Lude which is still lived in but you can visit the Chateau and gardens. The Chateau at Baugé close by is also worth a visit with its ancient Plantagenet staircase and vaulted ceilings. Baugé is classified one of the “Most beautiful detours of France” for its pretty town, surrounded by wonderful countryside and vineyards. It’s also home to an incredible 17th century pharmacy and hospital museum and yes, it really is well worth a detour.
Follow the wine route
Chestnut and oak trees, forests, chateaux and grand houses, the river Loir, medieval towns, boulangeries and brasseries – welcome to the Vallée du Loir. We’ve all heard of La Loire with its famous Chateaux and fabulous vineyards but Le Loir, its neighbour is not quite so well known. Literally translated it means the Valley of the Dormouse.
The wines of this area are unique – peppery Côteaux du Loir and crisp Jasnières. You rarely see them outside of the area, so leave room in the car to stock up.
With more than 40 attractions, Papea Parc is the biggest amusement park in Pays de la Loire.
Located near Huisne, there are rides water games a Magic Show, circus and huge park just right for kids that need to let off steam.
Discover more at Sarthe tourism
Take a look at our lovely holiday home rentals in Sarthe, we love to help you make your holiday dreams come true…