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Le Mans

An annual car race, ancient history, theme parks and art are just some of the eclectic charms of this city in the northwest of France.

The annual 24-hour motor race put Le Mans on the map, but the city’s attractions extend far beyond its famous race circuit. There are medieval houses, gardens, theme parks and a well-preserved Roman wall.

Vieux Mans is the old town of Le Mans, part of which is surrounded by a Roman wall, which dates back to the third century. Reach it by walking up the stone steps and then venture down cobbled streets, past old timber houses from the Middle Ages to find Saint Julien Cathedral. This is one of the largest cathedrals in France and it was built between the 11th and the 15th centuries. Once inside, look for the tomb of the wife of Richard the Lionheart. One of her achievements was the 13th-century Cistercian Abbey on the outskirts of the city.

  Le Mans is most famous for the annual 24-hour motor race in June, which pushes cars and drivers to their limits. Learn about the history of the endurance event at the Museum of Le Mans 24 Hours. Race enthusiasts may want to head to the Saint-Nicholas neighborhood for the bronze plaques embedded with the handprints and footprints of winning drivers.

There is much for culture lovers to look forward to with a stay in the city. Explore the region’s natural history at the Musée Vert. Browse ancient Egyptian artifacts and fine art paintings at the Musée de Tessé and study regional folk art at the Musée de la Reine Bérengère.

Excite and entertain any children in your party with trips to nearby theme parks. Experience the water slides and thrill rides at Papea City and enjoy more water based fun in the swimming pools at the Centre Aquatique.

Le Mans is 130 miles (209 kilometers) southwest of Paris and is easily reached by car or train from the capital city. The train journey is less than an hour. In addition to the ancient architecture, cars and rich cultural heritage, take advantage of the city's rural surroundings by exploring the Loire Valley. Go on hiking trips and drive to picturesque villages.

Guide to Exploring Sarthe

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