Stroll through the historical centre of Laval
The Lords of Laval dynasty spans French history: for a long time the town acted as a crossing point between the areas of Ile de France and Brittany. One thousand years ago, the first castle was founded by Guy I on what is now Place de la Trémoille. Then a stone building was built in the 12th century on the rocky spur that overlooks the Mayenne river. The 13th-century keep has become one of the town’s symbols.
Enter the Castle Courtyard
On your way there, greet Le Douanier Rousseau’s iron sculpture and visit the Musée d’Art Naïf et d’Arts Singuliers (Museum of Naive and Outsider Arts) that houses paintings by the master himself and other great world naive painters. During the guided tour of the building, you will also be surprised by Ambroise Paré’s trepanning instruments. He was another famous Laval native and the father of modern surgery. In the Jardin de la Perrine (Perrine Garden), you can follow the adventures of Alain Gerbault, a great traveller and another native of the area. In the town, you will also come across other great characters such as Alfred Jarry whose Père Ubu takes pride of place in the town hall.
The Musée d’Art Naïf et d’Arts Singuliers (Museum of Naive and Outsider Arts) is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Since 1967, Le Musée de Laval (Laval Museum) enthusiastically examines naive and outsider creations and has the most beautiful collection of naive art in Europe, in tribute to Le Douanier Rousseau, who was born here. Among others, the museum has works by Jules Lefranc, Séraphine de Senlis and many other outstanding artists. It makes an active contribution, has a varied programme and the stated intention of opening up to all audiences. The Laval Museum has become a national reference in the world of self-taught creators in plastic arts. To highlight its 50th anniversary, the museum has concocted a colourful programme: temporary exhibitions, events, creations, meetings, unprecedented visits, etc. With your family or friends come and participate in the festive atmosphere celebrating the 50th anniversary of the museum.
Imagine Knights’ tournaments in the Middle Ages
The tournaments took place on the other side of the river, near the Saint-Julien Chapel. Head up the Grande Rue, also known as “the Mountain” by the Marquise de Sévigné, due to its steep slope. Lower down, at the foot of the southern ramparts that used to protect the town, follow the Anne d’Alègre promenade... The Saint-Julien laundry boat. Built in 1904 for the launderer Alphonse Fouquet. The large wooden boat has two decks and is 28 metres long and 5.10 metres wide. With twenty or so washboards, protected by a zinc awning/porch, it flat hull was used as a wash house for around 40 washer women who washed and rinsed their laundry here. The two boilers that produced hot water for the tanks situated below, have been conserved in the central part. In addition to these large washtubs in which the linen was boiled, the upper floor houses the living areas for the launderer and his family.
Continue the walk
Visit the religious buildings constructed in the 11th and 12th centuries. Worth seeing: The Saint-Martin, Notre-Dame de Pritz and Notre-Dame d’Avesnières churches. There are also some good examples of flamboyant Gothic and Renaissance styles: Saint-Vénérand, not forgetting the Trinity and Cordeliers altarpieces!
Also worth a visit:
- La Cité du Lait® – Lactopôle which offers an amazing journey in the heart of dairy traditions with a unique collection (over 4000 items) across 5000 m². You will be surprised by the range of objects retracing the history of milk-related trades since the 18th century (churns, cheese presses, old moulds, yak butter jars and even African calabashes). Learn more on their website.
- Musée des Sciences - CCSTI (The Science Museum), formerly the Fine Arts Museum, it now houses scientific and technical exhibitions with interactive tools and experiences.
- The Musée de la Chouannierie et de la Révolution (The Chouan and Revolution Museum) in Saint-Ouen-des-Toits (Loiron area), retraces the rebellion led by Jean Cottereau known as “Jean Chouan”.
- Le Musée vivant de l’école publique (The Laval State Primary School Museum) is unusual with a 1900/1920s classroom, its library of several thousand school books and the thematic exhibition hall.
We love… The Public Baths
The need to promote personal hygiene in a city where having a toilet was quite exceptional, led the municipality to order a building for public baths from its architect Léon Guinebretière. Construction of the building started in 1925 and it opened to the public in 1927. It has a humble but modern exterior. Here the art deco atmosphere resembles that of the Vienna Secession. The geometric lines are softened using Egyptian patterns. In the bathroom that comprises 16 showers and six baths, blue mosaics are dominant. They were commissioned by artist Isidore Odorico, who also designed the Rennes swimming pool. The delicate mosaic pattern recurrent in each cabin is again inspired by Viennese art and plays on the contrast between blue and yellow, vertical and horizontal lines. The building was awarded the Patrimoine du 20ème siècle (20th Century Heritage) label in 2011. Opening in September 2017 following refurbishment.
Many tours are possible at our office, feel free to pay us a visit.