Alençon, the capital of the Orne county, is known the world over for its fine lace.
© Pierre Jeanson
Formerly known as the "City of the Dukes", Alençon owes its international renown to its UNESCO-listed "Alençon needle point lace" which has been famous since Colbert created the Royal Manufactory. The town is on the edge of the Normandy-Maine Natural Park, leading from Pertseigne en Andaine and Ecouves to the "Alpes Mancelles" (the hilly countryside in the Sarthe region) ... lovers of riding, fishing and hiking will particularly appreciate the magnificent, peaceful forests of the Orne region. You will enjoy discovering charming chateaux, manors and other monuments in the course of your explorations, and at the end of the day, savouring the delicious gastronomic specialities which continue to make Normandy a region of good living, as they always have done.
Worth a visit
- Musée des Beaux-Arts et de la Dentelle (Museum of Lace and Fine Arts) : The technique of Alençon Needle-Point lace is unique, and the secret was carefully kept for many years. This lace is a fundamental part of the town's identity, and represents a certain idea of excellence today. Alençon is proud of its exceptional heritage, and displays its lace on such unusual supports as street furniture and post cards, which bring this delicate craft to the attention of all. The Musée des Beaux-Arts et de la Dentelle, housed in the former Jesuit College, brings together Alençon's heritage of
painting, lace, and Cambodian ethnographie. Created in 1857, this collection highlights the history of lace across Europe and France.
- La préfecture (rue Saint-Blaise) : the administrative centre is housed in the former town house of the de Guise family, built around 1630 in a pure Louis XIII style, with pink bricks and bonding courses in granite from nearby Hertré (website in French).
- The hôtel de ville (place Foch) : the town hall was built from 1783 to 1788 by the architect Delarue, in an elegant arc of a circle (website in French).
- Notre-Dame church (website in French) : the XVth century nave has a magnificent gothic great door dating from the beginning of the XVIth century, and very fine stained glass (1530). The choir and bell tower were rebuilt in the mid-18th century, following a fire. The porch, composed of three arcades has three finely worked gables : the middle gable carries seven statues depicting the Transfiguration. That of St John has its back to the street.
- The Maison d'Ozé (Place Lamagdelaine) : the Tourist Office now occupies this XVth century house which formerly belonged to the le Coustelier family (website in French).
- The Château des Ducs (XIVth and XVth centuries) : situated on the Place Foch, the still imposing remains of this fortress are now the town prison, whose door is framed by the two great towers. The unusual crowned tower can be glimpsed within the walls (website in French).
- The Commercial Court (rue du Bercail) : this elegant building with its polygonal tower dates from second half of the XVth century, and was the office of the Financial Bureau from 1640. Balzac describes it in "The collection of antiquities".
- The Municipal library (rue du Collège) : it is in the former chapel of the Jesuit College. The XVIIIth century panelling inside comes from Val Dieu Abbey (website in French).
- La Halle au Blé (website in French) : the former grain market is an impressive circular monument built between 1811 and 1819.
- The Saint-Léonard quarter : this is the old Alençon, which developed in concentric circle from the Etaux crossroads. Visitors on foot can admire the many old facades, windows, spiral stairs, and wrought iron balconies that give such charm to these old streets.
- the Notre-Dame de Lorette Chapel (website in French) : in the Montsort quarter, dating from around 1680, this chapel is well worth a visit.
- Musée de la Dentelle "au point d'Alençon" (website in French): the "Alençon needle point Museum" presents the history of Alençon needle point and has a display of all the French types of lace.
- The Birthplace Sainte-Thérèse de l'Enfant Jésus (rue Saint-Blaise) : the bedroom where Thérèse Martinwas born on 2nd January 1873, and the Chapel next door, are open to visitors (website in French).