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City break Le Mans
Did you know that Le Mans has a beautiful historic centre?
Indeed this is the city where ‘the 24 hours of Le Mans‘ is held annually, since 1923, a sports car endurance race over a 13 km long circuit. The contest lasts no less than 24 hours.
Le Mans is located about 200 kilometres south-west of Paris. It is not a city that I would visit for a weekend break, but it is a cool place to pause on your way to your (summer) destination.
The combination of cars and a well preserved medieval city is precisely what makes Le Mans a family destination for a stopover.
The men can marvel at the cars in the ’24 hour museum’, whilst the women in your company can enjoy a glass of wine outside on one of the many convivial terraces in the Cite Plantagenet.
Museum 24 hours Le Mans
Yes, I know the above paragraph depicts a typical gender-biased view on life. Let’s say, each to its own. If you are the one enjoying cars and your partner prefers to sip a glass of wine instead, fine with me.
The 24 hours Le Mans museum is surprisingly women-friendly.
Famous racing drivers
When entering one of the first things you see is a gallery of beautiful men immortalized in life-size pictures.
Steve McQueen, Olivier Gendebien, Briggs Cunningham, Louis Rosier, Jacky Ickx, Tom Kristensen and other fine examples of the male gender welcome the visitor with a smile. A pleasant way to start a visit.
Unfortunately our Dutch pride – yes, I am from the Netherlands in case you were wondering – Max Verstappen is nowhere to be seen in this display of handsome men. Not because of his looks. Apparently, he races in another type of competition, at least that my partner’s explanation.
Oldtimers and racing cars
Of course in a museum dedicated to la voiture, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of cars in all shapes and sizes on display.
Shining vintage cars with leather covers, copper lamps and mirrors from the olden days. Curiosities such as Ettore Bugatti ’s suitcase and other paraphernalia dress up the place.
Furthermore, you will see famous cars used in movies, racing cars, toys, futuristic models and a motorcycle or two.
Race circuit de la Sarthe
A visit to the 24-hours museum is, of course, only complete with an inspection of the Circuit de la Sarthe, popularly known as a stretch of asphalt. To enter one has to buy an additional ticket for € 3.50 per person. For the true aficionado, a visit to the circuit is, of course, worth every penny.
Entry to the museum will set you back € 8.50 and a combination of museum and circuit ten euros. Children under the age of 9 may enter for free.
The grounds and museum are wheelchair friendly.
The museum is outside the city. It is difficult to get there by public transport. So either drive there with your own car or take a taxi.
We stayed at the Novotel in Le Mans, not the most beautiful hotel in the Accor chain, but a family friendly place with a swimming pool.
The hotel is located just outside the city. The tram to the centre stops in front of the hotel. There is plenty of parking space and it is for free.
If you have an understandable minimal interest in cars then it is nice to know that Le Mans has more to offer. In addition to a world-famous race circuit, there are also pleasant terraces, paved streets with cobblestones, half-timbered houses and historic buildings.
The historic centre, the Cite Plantagenet, is named after the former illustrious inhabitants of the city, the Plantagenets. The most important sights are the Roman wall, cathedral and the Romanesque church Notre Dame de la Couture.
The city centre covers only twenty hectares and is therefore easily walkable. Mind you, it is on a hill, so if you have difficulty walking or pushing a pram, it might be a challenge.
In the summer – from July to August – the old centre is illuminated in a special way with a sound- and light show. This is especially entertaining for the little ones.
You can find the program and the route of the light show here.
This is an excellent place to enjoy French cuisine. You will find large escargots. In addition, the city centre boasts two restaurants with a Michelin star.
- Auberge de Bagatelle is located at 489 Avenue Bollée and has parking space in front of the door.
- The beautiful Beaulie is located on the Place du Republique.
- Le Maison Blanche is located above the 24-hour circuit at the Porsche Experience Center Le Mans with views over the circuit.
Do you prefer to eat something different or do the children only want pizza? Also, no problem, you will find plenty of Mexican, Italian and Asian restaurants here.