Travel: Le Mans for pounds 250

You have pounds 250 to spend on a break from the centre of London. Kate Mikhail recommends le weekend in Le Mans

Down payment

From Waterloo International you can go by rail all the way to Le Mans. Book early - not only to get the cheaper seats (pounds 99 on Eurostar, 0345 303030), but also to get the best connections at Lille, where you change to a French TGV (high-speed train).

Instant briefing

The French Travel Centre (178 Piccadilly, London W1V 0AL; 0891 244123) has a limited amount of information, which you can supplement in situ with material from the tourist office at rue de l'Etoile, 72000 Le Mans (00 33 2 43 28 17 22), for basic history and the local attractions.

Rest assured

There are a great number of small hotels clustered around the station. These are a good bet: reasonably priced (pounds 12-40) and about a 10-minute walk to place de la Republique (from which much of the city centre branches out), Le Vieux Mans and the tourist office. Most hotels have restaurants attached, with set menus from pounds 6 upwards.

If you're thinking of going for the Le Mans 24-hours race (6-7 June) and haven't yet booked, the tourist office may be able to find you a local B&B; all the hotels in and around Le Mans are already fully booked.

Must see

The medieval, cobbled streets of Le Vieux Mans, and the Cathedral of St Julien from which they spread out, are well worth getting to know. The houses date back to the 12th century and are still in good condition. The cathedral is made up of an unusual but successful combination of Romanesque and Gothic architecture.

Make sure you take a plan of the area, as it is easy to overlook important features in the 22-acre site that is packed with eye-catching museum pieces. Buildings to look out for are the Red Pillar House on Square Dubois, which has a precarious lean to it, and Adam and Eve's House in Grande Rue.

Old Le Mans is surrounded by 500 yards of 3rd-century Roman wall, said to be the best preserved in Europe. This has 11 chunky towers, all decorated with fancy brickwork and punctuated with arrow-slits to keep enemies at bay. The city is part of La Sarthe, a region packed with chateaux and picturesque villages, so if you have the time, hop on a bus and explore the surrounding countryside.

Must buy

Judging by the smart shop fronts and designer labels on show, Le Mans is a wealthy city - chic in the conservative French sense and the perfect place to buy good quality classics. Clothes aside, there is a branch of the ever-trendy FNAC store, already well established in Paris, which sells a huge selection of books, videos and CDs. This can be found in the Jacobins shopping centre opposite the tourist office.

Must eat

Le Mans is packed with cafes and restaurants, although if you're sticking to Le Vieux Mans, a wander down Grande Rue or around rue des Trois Sonnettes will give you ample choice, particularly as most restaurants have a tempting set menu at less than 100 francs. For something more simple but traditional, grab a waffle or crepe from La Gaufrerie as you cross place de la Republique.

Night moves

Rue des Ponts Neufs, south of place St Pierre, falls just outside the old city wall but maintains the quaintness and atmosphere of Le Vieux Mans and is filled with restaurants and bars. The road is a doll-sized, narrow lane with a surprising number of Italian restaurants, and is popular with the locals. You can grab a pint of Guinness here or head round the corner to Cafe Creme, which boasts DJ El Gringo playing a selection of "Rare Groove, House and More".

Suggested Topics
Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
techResearchers recover 100s of nude photos from second-hand smartphones
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Head of Digital Marketing,London

    To £58k Contract 12 months: Charter Selection: Major household name charity se...

    Network Support Engineer / Junior Test Analyst

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: A market leading, in...

    Key Account Manager, Medical

    £35000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent commission structure + Car: Charter Sele...

    Key Account Manager, Medical

    £35000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent commission structure + Car: Charter Sele...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice