Things to do

Things to see and do in Laval

On the banks of the River Mayenne, in north-western France, Laval is a little town with a big spirit.

Laval on the banks of the River Mayenne is a real gem. Here you will find art and culture imbued in everything from the buildings to the local delicacies. Wander the parks and museums in town, or venture a little further to the surrounding points of interest.

Driving to Laval from our Calais terminal

From the LeShuttle Calais terminal, Laval is a 4 hour and 50 minute- journey, via the A28. You can easily plan stops in places like Abbeville, Rouen, and Le Mans along the way.

The bay of Abbeville has beaches, medieval heritage, and impressive views to soak up on your stop over.

Laval also lies on the threshold of Brittany and is not far from Normandy and the Loire Valley, which is filled with vineyards ripe for exploring.

Beautiful garden filled with flowers trimmed shaped bushes and trees

About Laval

Laval is notably the birthplace of Henri Rousseau, a major Naïve painter, and the town has a museum dedicated to him and other Naïve artists. It also has plenty of historical architecture dating as far back as the Middle Ages.

Today Laval is a modern market town, complete with a science park, but history lovers are still in for a real treat around almost every corner.  

Exploring Laval

There’s a lot packed into the space in this town, so be sure to plan your trip around these highlights.

The medieval town centre

Laval’s centre-ville is filled with half-timbered houses from the 15th and 16th centuries, historic churches, and plenty of Renaissance and neoclassical mansions. There’s also the medieval bridge and banks of the river nearby, making plenty of picture opportunities.

The Rue de la Trinité was the historic main street through Laval and has a good number of interesting ancient houses, and on Grande Rue you can see the Maison du Grand Veneur with its ornate stone decoration

Walking and audio tours of this part of Laval can be booked at the town’s tourist office.

Large stone castle with a large round tower surrounded by ornate buildings under blue skies

Château de Laval

Laval’s 12th century castle and its Renaissance wing from the mid-16th century were both included on France’s original list of historic monuments.

The castle has a rugged circular tower dating to the 13th century. This can only be seen on a guided tour which includes the lower chapel. However, you can explore the château’s museum and the courtyard at your leisure.

If you love to visit castles, head south to the Loire Valley for over 100 châteaux open to the public, some of which have inspired stories and films.

Musée d’Art Naïf

Inside the château de Laval is the Musée d’Art Naïf with galleries containing everything from fine art to local archaeology.

There are three paintings by Rousseau at the museum, as well as pieces by other members from the modern art movement like André Bauchant and Camille Bambois.

Lactopôle André-Besnier

Laval’s surrounding countryside is filled with herds of dairy cows grazing in lush fields. That’s because one of the big employers in Laval is the dairy manufacturer Lactalis, and the brand’s headquarters is also a museum, La Cité du Lait.

Here you can learn all about Lactalis’ founder André Besnier and discover how dairy products are processed. There are antique churns from around the world, a display of vintage camembert labels, and of course a shop where you can choose from over 800 dairy products.

Jardin de la Perrine

Set against the banks of the river, this peaceful park will grant you great views across the city and of the castle. Be sure to see the giant sequoia and rare Chinese ginko tree as you explore.

Henri Rousseau’s tomb and a monument to Alain Gerbault are both set within the park. Gerbault single-handedly circumnavigated the globe in his Firecrest sailboat in the 1920s, which is also on display.

A stone arched bridge stretching over a river with a town on one side

Pont Vieux

The arched 13th-century bridge is one of Laval’s signature monuments, built on the exact site where the Roman road from Le Mans to Corseul once forded the Mayenne River. It once supported one of the city’s gatehouses.

Pont Vieux was damaged during the liberation of Laval in 1944 when it was partly blown up by the Germans, but it has been fully restored.

Place de Trémoille in front of the Château Neuf

There are a few different squares in the town centre but Place de Trémoille in front of the Château Neuf is particularly beautiful. The Trémoïlle family owned the county of Laval from 1601 to 1792, hence the name.

Here you can see a lovely 17th-century pavilion that stands as a regal entranceway to the old château and right next to it is Immeuble Maistre Julien Briand, a half-timbered house from the 1600s with colourful leaded windows.

Laval Cathedral

Possibly the town’s most visited landmark, Laval Cathedral is made up of architectural styles from different periods, making it fun to explore.

The oldest part is the nave, constructed in the 11th and 12th centuries with early Gothic vaulting. Be sure to see all six of the wonderful tapestries in the nave, woven in the 1600s and showing images from the Old Testament book of Judith.

The northern part of the cathedral, off the nave, is from the 1500s and designed in the Renaissance style, with delicate plasterwork in the ceiling of the dome. Elsewhere, try to find the only original altar that survived the French Revolution.

Imposing stone fortress walls surrounded by trees and green grass

Basilique Notre-Dame d’Avesnières

Complete with turret-like sanctuaries and an ornate steeply, the western half of this building is from the 19th century. However, its sanctuary and transept date all the way back to the 10th and 11th centuries. Inside, the columns around the ambulatory have fantastic Romanesque and Gothic carvings of mythical animals and leaves.

Attractions close to Laval

If you have time, these places close by make for a wonderful day trip or afternoon with minimal travel time from Laval.

Thermes d'Entrammes

Just 10km from Laval are these Roman thermal baths, perfect for an afternoon visit. See how the Romans used underfloor heating and various carved out pools to wash and socialise.

First uncovered in 1987, many rare relics have been preserved. These include 8.5-metre-high Roman walls, a row of four hypocaust-heated bathrooms, brick arches, and bell moulds.

The lovely riverside town of Mayenne

Mayenne was once the gateway to Normandy and the home of the Dukes of Mayenne from the 1500s to the French Revolution.

Mayenne’s high society built beautiful houses here throughout the 1600s and 1700s, which are wonderful places to visit today. A highlight of the town however is its castle, the Château de Mayenne which has towers to climb and a museum within its walls.

Large temple like structure with faces carved into the stone surrounding a pool of water

The hill-top settlement of Sainte Suzanne

Sainte Suzanne’s hilltop location provides unbeatable panoramic views of the nearby countryside. Although only a tiny village, it was the only French town capable of resisting attacks by William the Conqueror during his siege from 1083 to 1087.

On a neighbouring hill, is the Camp de Beugy, where William the Conqueror’s forces set up for their unsuccessful siege of the town which you can visit for free as well as the castle keep and ramparts.

Musée Robert Tatin

Tatin took inspiration from ancient civilisation and cultures from around the world to build strange monuments from coloured cement. We have an entire guide to this unique artist to help you make the most of your visit to the museum.

Explore Laval with LeShuttle

Ready to set off to Laval? Travel with LeShuttle to get from Folkestone, UK to Calais in just 35 minutes. From there you’re ready to set your own pace and venture into France or beyond.

Become a LeShuttle member

Become a LeShuttle member and securely store, manage and use your information for faster and easier bookings - also now available on iOS and Android! Find out more or create an account.

Explore Laval with LeShuttle

In this article

More to explore in the Loire Valley

Explore our tickets