Visiting small towns such as Fougères, has always held a special place in my heart while traveling through Europe. They are simple, charming, and less traveled. Fougères is all of that, and on a warm summer day when the sky is clear a stroll through the old town, and castle can make for a glorious day in Brittany, France.
Fougères is located on the edge of Brittany, Maine, and Normandy, it is a small quaint town with a population of about 20,500 inhabitants. The area surrounding Fougères comprises approximately of 88,000 inhabitants, and is currently growing unlike the town center. If you keep to the town center, you will get a sense of Fougères allure through its medieval architecture, winding cobblestone streets, and lush green hills.
Historically, the area of Fougères has suggestions that it was inhabited during the Neolithic era (5000 to 2000 years BC), with the presence of several megalithic monuments, specifically in the Forrest of Fougères. Although, the creation of Fougères can be dated back to the Middle Ages when at the time it was a simple wooden fortification, that was located on a rocky ridge.
Over the centuries the town of Fougères remained small, and was barely mentioned. Its economic livelihood came from crafts, which included the craft of tin. Glassware production factories were also prominent from the time of the arrival of Italian glass masters in the 16th and 17th centuries. One factory being La Cristallerie Fougeraise, which was founded by the local Abbot. Industry since the 1970s had been diverse with furniture making, food processing, electronics, robotics, and mechanical. It has been for centuries a small town, with a small town atmosphere.
Last century, Fougères had taken a horrible blow during a British and American bombing on June 8, 1944, during Operation Overload. It destroyed most of the public and industrial facilities killing 300 people, and injuring twice as many. Since then, Fougères has been a town with a drive towards tourism, thanks to their impressive medieval castle, and historic districts. Due to the town’s small population and minimal industrious growth, Fougères remains a quaint and pleasurable location to visit while in France.
I adore Fougères, and I am sure you will too. It is a hidden gem in Brittany, and would be a lovely addition to your visit to the Normandy region – Bon Voyage!
Things to do in Fougères
This lovely public park is built on three levels following the slope of the land, and linking the left bank of the Nancon to the hillside. It is a beautifully combined English garden, French garden, and botanical garden. Fougères public garden is located adjacent to the Church of Saint-Léonard at Rue des Vallees.
The Notre Dame Gate
The Notre Dame gate and ramparts lead to the 13th century Medieval castle. There were originally four gates, but this lone gate is the last one standing.
This impressive fortified castle is one of Europe’s largest medieval fortresses, with an impressive thirteen towers. It was built on a rock emerging from a swamp, and is surrounded by a loop of the Nancon river, which acts as a natural moat.
The Church of Saint-Léonard
This ancient church was built in the 12th century, although it was rebuilt between the 15th and 17th centuries. Then being enlarged in the 19th century. Saint-Leonard is built in the Romanesque-style of the late Middle Ages, and is considered a fine example of religious architecture in Upper Brittany. It has also been listed in the supplementary inventory of Historical Monuments.
Fougères Old Town
Nestled in the center of Fougères, this Old Town is an absolute charmer. The cobble stone streets, and old European architecture are a lovely backdrop to its tasty cafes, and local shopping. Instead of sitting at a café, I grabbed a jamon and fromage baguette and explored Old Town, one bite at a time!
Église Saint-Sulpice de Fougères
The church of Saint-Sulpice de Fougères is closely linked to the birth of the town, and the construction spanned nearly four centuries, from 1380 to 1760. It is built in the Classic Flamboyant Gothic style, with beautiful intricate stained glass windows throughout the interior. The church is located at the foot of the castle, just outside the city walls.
I would gladly live out of a suitcase, if it meant I could see the world…
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📸 All photos are taken by me and are my intellectual property – Trixie Navarre
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