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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
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

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    £26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

    Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

    Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

    Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

    Day In a Page

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral