Laon, Aisne: tourism & sightseeing

Photo of Laon in North East France (Picardy region)

Visit Laon (Picardy, France)

Laon is a town in the Aisne department of Picardy between Saint-Quentin and Reims. Often overlooked as a destination by visitorstravelling to the south of France, if you are looking for somewhere interesting to stop and explore en route the Laon, which has several interesting monuments to discover, is a good choice.

Exploring Laon

Your visit to Laon will include one of the finest cathedrals in France, the Church of Saint-Martin and the Templars Chapel, as well as substantial parts of the town's medieval ramparts including two imposing gateways through the walls.

Cathedral in LaonCathedral Notre Dame of Laon

The cathedral in Laon is one of the earliest gothic cathedrals to be built in France, and dates from the 12th and 13th centuries. The chapter-house and the gothic style cloister are very impressive examples of early 13th century architecture. The facade is gothic in style and both the two towers and the entranceway are ornately decorated with numerous stone carvings.

The towers of the cathedral are visible for miles around, and since Laon sits on a hill it also has good views across the surrounding countryside. The brightly coloured stained glass windows in the cathedral are a particular highlight.

You can also see the chapel adjacent to the cathedral, while the medieval episcopal palace, also found next to the cathedral, is now a court-house. The Hotel-Dieu is another part of this ensemble of historic buildings, and one of the oldest hospitals in France (12th century).

Ramparts and gateways

Substantial parts of the original defensive walls are still intact in which you can see impressive gateways such as the Porte des Chenizelles, Porte des Soissons and the Porte d'Ardon*, an original drawbridge, carving on the wall where the armoury once stood, additional fortified elements such as the Morlot Laon Battery and the narrow slits through which soldiers could shoot in relative safety, and towers including a watchtower and the leaning 'tour penchée.

Part of the walk around the ramparts passes along tree-lined pathway outside the walls, and the walk also has nice views across the town and countryside.

* As you walk through the Porte d'Ardon you might remember that you are following in the footsteps of King henry IV, who entered through this gate after besieging the town in 1594.

Carved head from Cyprus in museumOther monuments

The 13th century church and 17th century monastic buildings of the Abbey and Church of Saint-Martin are another highlight of a visit (and now home to Laon library), as is the smaller 12th century Templars Chapel, all that remains of an important 12th century templar settlement here.

The town around the cathedral has many other medieval buildings such as the Hotel du petit-Saint-Nicolas (Rue du 13 Octobre) and the Hotel du Petit-Saint-Martin (Rue Saint martin) and is well worth exploring.

Unexpectedly, the town also has a mini tram-metro system, recently put in place to replace the original tram system.

The Museum in Laon has an extensive collection exploring both regional history, but also with many ancient items from around the Mediterranean region, and also an extensive collection of fine arts. Highly recommended, with many unexpected and interesting items on display.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Aisne guide and the Picardy guide.

See also:

Map of Laon and places nearby

Visit near Laon with France This Way reviews

... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Aisne

Tourist classifications

Laon has received the following tourist classifications: historical protected town centre' (secteur sauvegardé); listed town of Art and History

Address: Laon, Picardy, 2000, France || GPS: latitude 49.56, longitude 3.62

Plan your visit to Laon, Aisne

Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby

  • Vivaise: ville fleurie 4* (8 km)
  • Réserve naturelle des Landes de Versigny: site of natural beauty (15 km)
  • Réserve naturelle du marais de Vesles-et-Caumont: site of natural beauty (17 km)
  • Chateau Coucy: national monument (22 km)
  • Ebouleau: ville fleurie 4* (22 km)
  • Jardin de Bosmont-sur-Serre: remarkable garden (26 km)
  • Soissons: town of art and history (29 km)
  • Eglise de Berzy-le-Sec (Berzy-le-sec): religious monument (33 km)
  • Gauchy: ville fleurie 4* (39 km)

Market days in Laon, France

Regular market(s) are held in Laon each Thursday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)

The French version of this page is at Laon (Francais)