In the south of Normandy’s Orne department, Alençon is a genteel town on the River Sarthe that many people will already know for its lace-making. In fact the town is often described as the “queen of lace”, and the trade here has won UNESCO recognition as “intangible cultural heritage”. You can investigate this side to Alençon’s past at the Museum of Fine Arts and Lace, while the town has a few other famous connections you might be aware of.
Sainte Thérèse was born here, and she was as close as you can get to a Catholic superstar in the late-19th century, while Marguerite de Navarre the sister of the fondly remembered King Henri IV had a home in the centre of Alençon in the 1500s.
Lets explore the best things to do in Alençon:
1. Museum of Fine Arts and Lace
For a thorough account of the techniques and history of Alençon’s lace industry look no further than this first-rate museum in a restored Jesuit college.
There are plenty of examples of lace to see from this town, but also pieces from other lace-making capitals like Chantilly and Le Puy.
At the start you can see a video that delves into the background of textiles in this part of Normandy, and then you’ll pass case after case of uncommonly intricate dresses and decorations.
Also here is an assortment of paintings from the Renaissance to the 19th century by some vaunted artists like Eugène Boudin, Nicolas Maes and Pieter Boel.