Whether you are passing through or just fancy a day out here tagged on to the beginning or end of a holiday nearby, Angouleme is well worth a look. Once famed for it’s paper production and now honored for it’s street art and comic museum, Angouleme is a beautiful walled city that shouldn’t be left unvisited!
Here are our Top 5 ideas for a day out in Angouleme!
1: Old Town Angouleme
Head for the Old Town in Angouleme and sip a quick coffee at Le Chat Noir. It occupies a great position on the square and is perfect for people watching and gathering thoughts for the day ahead.
It’s also opposite Les Halles, the brilliant covered Market. Here you’ll find a host of local producteurs of fab French food.
From greengrocers to wine makers, butchers to bakers, its all local, fresh, and artisan and you’ll be dying to try or buy everything!
Head right and you’ll find the narrow cobbled streets and alleyways of ‘vieille Angouleme’ are filled with wonderful boutiques. If you have money to spend or just like to pretend, this ticks all the boxes. Selling mostly clothes, home wares, books and art, it’s a great place for a mooch and finding lots of “lovely, gorgeous, little stylish things” as Patsy and Edina would say!
The streets between ‘Les Halles’ and the ‘Palais de Justice’ are just stuffed with small (and equally lovely) coffee shops, pavement cafes, wine bars and restaurants.
For a great lunch, head to Le St Andre on Rue du St Andre (http://www.le-st-andre.fr/en/). It’s a charming, modern restaurant on a lovely corner and serves a fine 3 course lunch of local produce for under 15€, what’s not to love?
2: Explore the Ramparts and Street Art
Occupied since the Bronze Age, Angouleme sits high on a plateau surrounded by tall medieval city walls known as ‘Les Ramparts’.
That said, once you are up in the original old town, you have no idea this is the case unless you set out to tour the city’s edges (done best on foot or by bike). There are some beautiful buildings to take in along the way including the Romanesque Saint Pierre Cathedral and the Town Hall complete with 13th century polygonal keep (do ask about the King John story).
Also not to be missed are the city’s 24 murals and trompe l’oiels painted on the side of houses and buildings.
Grab a map from the tourist office that pinpoints all the local places of interest and the wall art for you to discover on your trip. Finally stroll down the hill towards the river through Le Jardin Vert. Created in 1860 it’s full of lovely winding little paths and flower gardens. It’s also the best place to look back up and admire the vast city walls.
3: Musee du Papier
At the bottom of the hill, cross the road and just off the bridge that goes over to St Cybard, you’ll find the paper museum and lovely water mill housed in an old cigarette paper factory.
It’s still locally referred to as ‘Le Nil’ after the company that occupied the building for so many years. Angouleme was well known as a traditional paper-making centre.
Here you can find out just how important Angouleme was to the local industry and see historical examples of all different kinds of paper, machinery, photos, samples as well as lots of lovely old cigarette paper artwork, packaging and advertisements.
The shop also sells some great postcards and if you’re wondering what “Je ne fume que Le Nil” (seen everywhere around here), it means, “I only smoke le Nil” and was their famous advertising strapline. Open every afternoon except Monday, it’s only 3€ entrance fee or free on the first Sunday of every month! They also run various talks and origami workshops – check the website for more details. http://www.musee-du-papier.fr
4: La Cite International de Bande Desinee
Just over another small pedestrian bridge on the other side of the river from Le Nil, you’ll see a beautiful building that is in fact a converted old riverside distillery.
Here in the converted ‘chai’ (cognac warehouses) you’ll find the comic strip museum, an art-house cinema, a library and bookshop. Comics and cartoons are taken very seriously here and you may have already noticed the murals and streets art liberally spread around the city.
It is considered an art form in France and with it’s link to the paper industry, Angouleme has become known as the comic strip capital. In the museum you’ll find exhibitions with a wide selection of cartoons and comics through history including 12,000 original drawings. Open Tuesday to Sunday, the entrance fee is 7€ and is well worth a visit. http://www.citebd.org
There is also a fantastic selection of artistic workshops including lots for children. There’s a huge free car park to the side whilst the square at the front of the museum is home to lots of benches. Further picnicking spots can be found close by on the river paths should you have brought lunch with you or picked some up along the way.
5: Port L’Houmeau
Just a short walk away is the suburb of Houmeau.
If you didn’t know it was here, you’d miss it. But if like me, you don’t feel it’s been a proper day out without a boat excursion…..you’re in luck! For here on the banks on the river can be found plenty of fun in the sun.
If you want to let someone else do all the hard work, why not try a cruise with Charente Croisieres on Le Reine Margot. Check the website for the timetable which offers a simple 1.5hr return cruise to more elaborate 3hr lunchtime cruises that includes a set menu lunch with wine. http://www.charentecroisieres.fr
Another inviting eating place in the area is ‘La Very Table’ (nice French pun) a few streets back from the river on Rue de Paris where a set 2 course lunch is very good value at €12. http://www.laverytable.fr
If you’re feeling more adventurous, Les Bateaux Rouges offer electric boats, peddelos and rowing boats available by the hour or half day. You can also hire bikes – electric or traditional, with kids trailers too, if you fancy cycling along the river paths. For your return, they also have a stationary boat which operates as a pizza restaurant serving an interesting range, using locally sourced ingredients. There is also a bar on board selling cold beer, local wine and ice creams. http://www.lesbateauxrouges.com/-rubrique6-
Photo “Du Port L’Houmeau” Copyright © lacharente.com
Smiles all round and a good end to a great day out.
Q: Have you visited Angouleme before? If so please share your comments about your visit & any recommendations you may have that would benefit people visiting for the first time!