With fascinating heritage and a picturesque natural environment, the Alençon area in Normandy is well worth a trip and promises a few surprises along the way!
Ideally located in the south of the Normandy region, just 2h30 from Paris, 1h10 from Caen and 30 minutes from Le Mans, Alençon Destination Normandie is easily accessible. Take the time walk the path of history and recharge your batteries, surrounded by nature, for a weekend or a short getaway.
1. Be surprised by an abundant and authentic heritage
Alençon, former City of the Dukes and a city classified as a “Remarkable Heritage Site”, boasts unique preserved historical monuments from its glorious and prosperous past. The castle, the basilica, the houses and the cobbled courtyards of the Saint-Léonard district and the Halle au Blé testify to that golden era. Not far from Alençon, you can find vestiges of these historic times in several towns such as Saint-Denis-sur-Sarthon or La Roche-Mabile.
2. Discover a world unique craftsmanship
Alençon lace is listed as intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO. Since the 17th century, the know-how of lacemakers has been transmitted through traditional oral and gestural teaching. About 10 years are needed to master this exclusively handmade art. Inimitable, the Point d’Alençon is famous throughout the world for its finesse, its narrow stitches and its many details. It is “unveiled” at the Museum of Fine Arts and Lace in Alençon. You can purchase small pieces of intricate laced art in the Tourist Office shop.
3. Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of a shrine town…
…and follow in the footsteps of the Martin family. Three saints in the same city, that’s an extremely rare occurrence! In Alençon, you will discover the life of Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of Saint Thérèse, the most famous Saint in the world! Visit her birthplace, go back in time and let yourself be carried away by the story of this ordinary family with an extraordinary destiny.
4. Stroll through the flowery streets of Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei
Located 15 km from Alençon, in the heart of the Alpes Mancelles, this uniquely charming village, listed as one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France, will leave you speechless! Its chapel hidden in a meadow, its Romanesque church and its pretty stone houses seduced many painters at the end of the 19th century. The village still hosts many artists’ studios and exhibitions today. It is also a starting point for beautiful hikes to do with family or friends.
5. Get off the beaten track and enjoy an enchanting natural setting
On the border of Maine and Normandy, contemplate the exceptional landscapes of the classified site of the Alpes Mancelles. Marked by the steep-sided valley of the Sarthe River, the site is conducive to outdoor activities such as canoeing, hiking, mountain biking or dog-hiking.
6. Hike the many trails in the area
Take advantage of the greenways and the two long-distance trails, the GR® 22 and 36, that dot the destination. For young and old, many routes are available for a day or half-day hike. To find out about all the possible circuits, get a hiking guidebook from the Alençon and Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei Tourist Offices.
7. Explore the area by bike
Pedal at your own pace while admiring breathtaking heritage and landscapes on the cycle routes of La Vélobuissonnière and La Véloscénie. Along the route, make sure to stop to admire to the pretty town and village squares that will enhance your journey.
8. Get active on the circuits of the Massif d’Écouves trail station
In the heart of the Massif d’Écouves, starting from the Radon Trail Station, the most athletic will find several circuits of 7 to 31kms. Beginner or confirmed, set off to climb the highest point in the Normandy region: the Signal d’Écouves. A nice way to reconcile activity in the heart of nature and discovery of the local heritage
9. Visit unusual places
Take a detour to the “La belle échappée” bicycle museum and discover a place as original as it is surprising that you absolutely must not miss! Created 20 years ago by an inveterate collector, the museum brings together a unique collection in France of fabulous bicycle models, accessories and posters of the Tour de France, from 1870 to the present day.
10. Marvel your taste buds
When you hear Normandy, you hear gastronomy and terroir! Alençon and its region are full of gourmet addresses, producers and artisans. Stroll through the markets of Alençon, it’s the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in a friendly and authentic atmosphere. Book in the best restaurants of the area for the greatest pleasure of your taste buds!
Lead photo credit : Alençon's castle © Pascal Beltrami
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