Laval, Mayenne

France

Laval is a town in western France, about 300 km (190 mi) west-southwest of Paris, and the capital of the Mayenne department. Laval was before the French Revolution part of the province of Maine, now split between two departments, Mayenne and Sarthe. Its inhabitants are called Lavallois.

The counts of Laval developed a textile industry around 1300 and made Laval a significant centre for the French Renaissance a century later. The linen industry remained the principal activity in Laval until the 20th century, when milk processing became more profitable.

Laval developed around a promontory, on which the castle was built, and along the river Mayenne. The Laval metropolitan area is a small economic centre in western France, particularly active in the industrial sector, dairy production, electronics and chemicals.

CountryFrance
RegionPays de la Loire
DepartmentMayenne
Canton3 cantons
Government
 Mayor (2020–2026)Florian Bercault (PS)
Area134.2 km2 (13.2 sq mi)
Population (2017-01-01)49,728
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (CET)
 Summer (DST)UTC+02:00 (CEST)

Geography

Location

The Mayenne river in the town centre.

Laval is located at the geographical centre of the Mayenne department, on the road which connects Paris to Brittany, between Rennes and Le Mans. The town is situated on the middle course of the Mayenne, a river which has its source in Normandy and runs towards the Loire crossing the Mayenne department from North to South.

Laval is, in fact, a hilly town, marked by a rocky promontory dominating the valley of the Mayenne river. The castle was built on this promontory and the medieval centre spreads around.

The town is surrounded by agricultural land essentially made of large fields. The traditional bocage with its old hedgerows is still partially visible. Laval is also surrounded by several forests, such as the Forêt de Concise, with c. 600 hectares, and the Bois de l’Huisserie, with 254 hectares. Both are located south of the town.

The Mayenne river in the town centre.

Urban morphology

The oldest streets and buildings in Laval are located around the promontory where the castle stands. This old core is today the main shopping area, with several pedestrian streets and little shops. Several medieval half-timbered houses are still visible, but most of the buildings are dating from the 18th and 19th centuries and are made of tufa.

The eastern bank of the Mayenne was also settled in the Middle Ages, along the street that leads to the bridge crossing the river. The old faubourgs surrounding the town centre date from the same period and are mainly composed of individual houses.

The 20th-century suburbs comprise some council estates but individual houses are much more common. Some shopping centres and several industrial areas are located on the outskirts of the town.

The medieval town is still encircled by several portions of city walls.

Green areas

Laval is a small town and nature is not far away from the centre. The town manages 25 hectares of parks and gardens, and 200 hectares of green areas in total.

The largest park is the Jardin de la Perrine, located in the centre, at the top of a rocky promontory. Formerly a private garden, it encircles an 18th-century mansion and comprises a French and an English garden as well as a rose garden, an orangery and a small menagerie.

Apart from the Jardin de la Perrine, the main green areas in the centre are the Square de Boston, refurbished in 2012, and the Square Foch, located on the place du 11-Novembre, which is the central point of the town.

The commune of Laval owns the Bois Gamats, a 25 hectares wood located on the southern hedge of the town.

Perrine garden

The Jardin de la Perrine, the ideal place for a family walk!

Botanical garden, play areas for children, animals and ponds, all year round come and admire the diversity of the flowerbeds composed by the gardeners of the city of Laval throughout the seasons.
You will find a wide variety of tree species (gingko, cedar, sequoia, magnolia, holm oak, …) and a magnificent rose garden.

The Jardin de la Perrine pays homage to famous Laval residents, through monuments and museums (Espace Alain Gerbault, Ambroise Paré lantern, Henri Rousseau’s tomb), and offers a beautiful panorama of the city of Laval.

Jardin de la Perrine

Anne d’Alègre promenade

The Anne d’Allègre promenade was built in the moat of the southern rampart of Laval. At the beginning of the 13th century, the development of the city encouraged it to equip itself with its own fortification system.

Over 1,100 meters long, this wall was flanked by 27 towers and pierced by 3 carriage doors (including the Beucheresse Gate) and 2 posterns.

In the 15th century, the restoration of the city walls following the passage of the English was accompanied by the development of a walkway on machicolations crowning the curtain walls.

Promenade Charlotte d’Aragon

Economy

The town is historically a manufacturer of fine linens, but there are also foundries. Laval is also home to the Laval and Mayenne Technology Park, where firms working in electronics, computing and peripherals, food technology, veterinary pharmaceuticals, virtual reality, audiovisual productions, patents, marketing and a resource centre are all to be found in modern buildings.

It is also an important centre for the dairy industry and produces cheeses, ultra-high-temperature processing milk, and yoghurt. It is the headquarters of Lactalis.

There is a market in the town centre every Tuesday and Saturday, held near the former Palais de Justice.

Education

The city counts 27 primary schools (écoles primaires), 8 middle schools (collèges) and 7 high schools (lycées).

Some institutions also provide higher education in Laval like :

  • ESTACA
  • ESIEA (university)
  • Le Mans University
  • Catholic University of the West

Cultural

Main sights

  • Medieval Château de Laval (tower and building)
  • Significant remains of the town walls and of a town gate. The town came together around the foundation of the castle in 1020 in its position in the march, the border lands between France and Brittany. At first the town was composed of scattered settlements such as the bourg cheverel and the bourg hersent. However, from the time of the new castle, it grew rapidly. It was enclosed in ramparts from the 13th century. There were five gates in the walls of which the sole one remaining is the porte Beucheresse or gate of the woodcutters.
  • Cathedral of the Trinity (La Trinité). Pre-Romanesque and Romanesque characteristically, it has rich wall paintings and figurative stone carving but the general architectural style of the buildings is restrained. The architecture shows best at Grenoux, and Avesnières; while the stone carving is well displayed in the zoomorphic column capitals at Avesnières.
  • The Jardin botanique de la Perrine, a botanical garden and park
Cathedral of the Trinity

Transport

Railway

The railway station offers regional connections with Le Mans, Rennes, Angers, Nantes and long range connections to the main cities of the country like Paris, Strasbourg or Lille with TGV.

Roads

The motorway A81 passes just in the north of Laval, linking the city to Paris and Brittany. Several other main roads cross in Laval which gives the city direct roads to Rennes, Le Mans, Angers, Tours and Nantes.

Laval also has a bicycle-sharing system called Vélitul.

Sport

Stade Lavallois, is the local professional football side. Lavallois plays its home matches at the Stade Francis Le Basser located in the city of Laval.

Contact

CITY OF LAVAL
email
town hall@laval.fr
address
Place du 11 novembre
phone
+33 2 43 49 43 00