Mayenne, Pays de la Loire: tourism & sightseeing
Visit Mayenne (Pays de la Loire, France)
Mayenne is a small town on the Mayenne river in the north of the Mayenne department. It is about halfway between Le Mans and Rennes and north of Angers. This is the only town in France which has the same name as the river and the department - this interesting fact, as you can imagine, leads to a fair amount of confusion…
The town is known for its castle and riverside walks, and the surrounding area for its cider, its dialect (the French language spoken here causes purists to turn pale!) and its British population.
The town itself has two distinct parts. To the west of the Mayenne river, the Notre-Dame area is named after the impressive basilica, and to the east of the river the Saint-Martin area is named after the church. From a tourist’s point of view, the river was quite unfair when it split up the town, because Notre-Dame got the better deal with the basilica itself, the castle and most of the interesting shops.
However, many locals prefer Saint-Martin, which is borne out by the fact that on this side of the river there’s hardly an empty shop to be found. St-Martin suffered from heavy bombing at the end of the German occupation during World War 2, consequently the buildings have slightly less character than those on the opposite bank.
Mayenne castle and museum
The castle is Mayenne’s main must-visit attraction. The restoration which had been in progress for as long as most inhabitants can remember has finally been completed, and the long-awaited museum opened in May 2008. The castle ramparts are also perhaps the best place for a birds-eye view across the Mayenne rooftops.
The museum is excellent, a modern-style attraction which fits perfectly within the medieval castle. The majority of the information is translated into English, and the lifts make the whole building accessible for those with reduced mobility. A visit can be thoroughly recommended and you should allow at least an hour to have a good look. Even if you can manage the stairs, don’t miss a trip in the lift with its panoramic view of the river.
Elsewhere in the town
The town centre is centred around Place Cheverus, an attractive square surrounded by some imposing 18th century townhouses. Another important square is the Place de Hercé with a 12th century Duke's Palace.
Among religious monuments in Mayenne you will want to visit the basilica Notre-Dame, which was started in the 12th century but modified many times over the following centuries, and the Church of Saint-Martin with 11th century origins. On a much smaller scale, the 17th century Chapel des Calvairiennes would prbably go unnoticed from the outside, but inside there is an impressive 17th century marble altarpiece and - of more interest to most visitors - the chapel is now used for exhibits of contemporary art.
You’ll find a good selection of shops in the town, some of the chain variety that you find everywhere, but some far more unusual, such as Monsieur Bizeray’s beautiful home-made chocolate shop. Don’t leave without sampling his wares!
Mayenne tourist office is set on stilts on the St-Martin bank of the river, and below it you can hire bikes and motor-boats in season.
Riverside walks in Mayenne
If you come to visit Mayenne on a sunny day be sure to find time for a stroll along the river, with pretty views cross the river and bridge to the castle and basilica. A towpath starts from here that goes all the way to Laval (30 km south) and beyond. You can also take a boat trip along the river from here.
To get the most attractive walk with the least amount of effort however, drive towards Laval, past the hypermarket. Turn right at the Campanile hotel, and follow the road down and to the left, by the Beau Rivage hotel. If you start your walk from here and follow the towpath downstream away from the town, you can enjoy beautiful countryside views during your peaceful stroll. (The part of the towpath between Mayenne town and this point is much less pretty.)
All along the towpath are the old lock-keepers cottages, some of which have been turned into little shops. During the summer months, the locks are manned, mainly by students.
Map of Mayenne and places to visit
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Mayenne is classified as a listed town of Art and History
Address: Mayenne, Mayenne, Pays de la Loire, 53100, France || GPS: latitude 48.312, longitude -0.618324
Plan your visit to Mayenne, Pays de la Loire
Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby
- Saint-Loup-du-Gast: ville fleurie 4* (8km)
- Jublains: town of art and history (11km)
- Saint-Fraimbault: ville fleurie 4* (20km)
- Parc et jardin de Clivoy: remarkable garden (21km)
- Evron: town of art and history (24km)
- Laval: town of art and history (29km)
- Sainte-Suzanne: most beautiful village (31km)
- Normandie-Maine: regional natural parc (35km)
Market days in Mayenne, France
Regular market(s) are held in Mayenne each Saturday & Monday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)
The French version of this page is at Mayenne (Francais)