We randomly ended up visiting Alencon during our last trip to France. What took us there? It was conveniently located between Brittany and Paris, hence between our two families. But there are many more reasons why you should consider visiting Alencon.

Is Alencon worth visiting?

Not necessarily. If you’re only in France for a limited time, Alencon is not worth visiting. I admit there are better towns to explore. Rouen, Reims, Dijon or the Loire Valley, for example, are closer to Paris or easier to access (see a few ideas of day trips from Paris by train for inspiration). But if you’re looking for a new place to explore for a weekend or for a break as you’re driving west, then Alencon could be a fantastic option!

Here’s why you should visit Alencon:

Basilica in Alencon

1. Alencon is only 200km away from Paris

It takes 2.5hrs to drive the 200km from Paris to Alencon. It’s a reasonable distance for a weekend. You’ll mostly take the N12, the national road which is a nicer drive than the motorway.

2. Alencon has a stunning historical town centre

You’ll find a mix of Medieval, Gothic and Renaissance architecture as you walk around town.

The Basilica has original touches from English influences. It was built during the Hundred Years War when Alencon was occupied by the English.

But you can go back in time even further in Alencon. The Maison d’Ozé, now transformed into a tourist office, was built in the 1450s. The Stall House (10 rue Porte de la Barre) is a 15th-century home. A bit further, rue de la Chaussée, parts of a castle founded in the 1100s remain.

3. You can stay somewhere special

Because Alencon is not in a popular touristy area, some impressive accommodations are available at a reasonable price. It was what took us there in the first place.

If you’re after a remarkable architecture or a romantic getaway, you can stay in a castle from the 16th century (Chateau de Villiers*), 17th century (Chateau de Saint Paterne*), 18th century (Chateau de Sarceaux*) or 19th century (Château des Requêtes*).

Or if you’re a bigger group, you can rent a full cottage like this one in Laleu*. We were lucky that this house with a sauna and outdoor jacuzzi* was available when we visited! There are also many options for villas on Airbnb*.


4. Alencon made it to the UNESCO list

The UNESCO recognises the expertise of Alencon for lace-making.

Alencon lace-making craft expertise started in the 17th century when Colbert, Louis XIV’s dynamic minister for enterprise, opened a factory there. He brought specialists from Venice, the only producer at that time. Alencon’s lacemakers adapted the Venitian style to create their own. The French court would use lace from Alencon a lot until the Revolution.

The unusual craftsmanship of the lace was added to the UNESCO list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010.

The Museum of Fine Arts and Lace is the best place to admire fine pieces of lace-making and learn more about its history.

5. The nearby village Saint Ceneri le Guerei is one of the most beautiful villages in France

Saint Ceneri le Guerei is a lovely village. At the end of the 19th century, it was home to a school of impressionist painters. Its chapel from the 15th century, surrounded by green grass in a cleared field, is picture perfect.

6. You’ll support regional tourism

Alencon isn’t in the list of France’s most visited places. Going off the beaten path can be an excellent way to support the economy of a region. We avoided the supermarkets and bought delicious local products at the small shops in the town centre: the butcher, the fruit and vegetable shop, the bakery, the chocolate shop…

7. There are many nature-based activities nearby

You don’t need to go far to find green space in Alencon. In town, the Parc des Promenades hosts a small menagerie with goats, rabbits and peacocks. For larger natural areas, check out the Ecouves Forest and the Park of Perche.

8. There are delicious local products to try

Normandy is famous for its cider. It’s been brewed in the region for more than 2,000 years. It has a special taste and, although it’s not my favourite, it’s worth tasting. I much preferred the beers.

Camembert is a town 70km north of Alencon. It can make an excellent trip to taste and learn more about the worldwide famous cheese. We stayed closer to Alencon and visited a goat farm (Les Biquettes du Plantis, around half an hour drive from Alencon) where they’d prepare the “Trèfle du Perche”, a block of local goat cheese with a special shape. Not only did they make delicious cheese, but they would also take time to answer all the questions as we visited their farm.

We didn’t get the opportunity to try the local dish Teurgoule. Locals describe it as a rice sweet pudding.

Trefle du Perche goat cheese

9. It’s the birthplace of Sainte Therese

Catholics may be interested in visiting the house where Sainte Therese was born (rue Saint Blaise). It’s been kept as a shrine. Sainte Therese was baptised in the Basilica.

10. It may have the best climate in Normandy

Alencon is away from the coast and in the south of the region. Compared with the rest of Normandy, the climate in Alencon is drier and – except in winter – usually warmer.

Where is Alencon?

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Eloise is the creator and writer of MyFavouriteEscapes.com. She writes about her experiences exploring exotic destinations and finding hidden gems closer to home. Her goal is to share tips and stories to inspire and encourage others to go on their own adventures. She loves outdoor and nature-based activities like scuba diving, hiking, kayaking, and sailing. She grew up in France and has lived in England and Turkey before calling Australia home for the past decade. So let's get ready for another adventure!

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