With a car, you have an interchange (number 13) on the A26 motorway (from Calais to Reims)
There are regular train services from Paris, leaving from Gare du Nord. As of July 2012, prices from Paris to Laon average about €23 one way (second class). The way to Laon from Paris is covered in 1½ hours. There are also regular trains from Reims, or Amiens. The train station in Laon is in the new town, at the foot of the medieval city which is on top of a hill.
- 1 Laon railway station (Gare de Laon), Place des droits de l'Homme.
Walking from the new town to the medieval part of the city is certainly doable, but only if you're fit and don't have heavy luggage with you—the 300 ft climb is a steep one. The line N of the local bus service goes from the railway station to the medieval city every 20 minutes from Monday to Saturday. If you're bringing a car with you, you should probably park it in the new town, as there is very little parking available in the medieval Haute Ville.
The fine early Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Laon is one of the finest in France, with openwork towers and a four-storey nave elevation. Its architecture influenced many other medieval European cathedrals, including that of Notre Dame in Paris. The interior is extremely light and spacious. The west towers feature an octagonal top storey with square turrets at the angles on top of the square bottom storey. They are decorated with the figures of 16 oxen, said to commemorate a miraculous ox that appeared to pull a cartload of stone to the hilltop site.
Nearby stand the Hotel Dieu (medieval hospital and almshouse), the cathedral chapter, and the town's museum. The museum in particular has a fine collection of classical antiquities, and the striking 'transi' tomb (showing the effigy of a decaying corpse) of 14th-century clergyman and royal physician Guillaume de Harcigny.
- 1 Templar Chapel. In the museum's grounds. A fine 12th-century octagonal, newly renovated. chapel
At the other end of the medieval town, the remains of the abbey of Saint-Martin-de-Laon include its church and some of its associated buildings, including the cloister garden (now the city library's courtyard) and some of the chapter house.
It's worthwhile taking a walk around the old town, admiring the houses—almost all built between the 12th and the late 18th centuries—and the spectacular view from the town walls out across the Picard plain or hills.
Climb the cathedral tower. The tourist office (very warm welcome), in a twelfth century building next to the cathedral, arranges tours, and it is best to reserve your tickets before time as numbers are limited.
Visit the underground (see in tourist office)
Walk in the medieval city, marvellous.
Pave de Laon sweet pastilles.
A famous local cheese: Le Maroilles. Strong and tasty. If you buy one, provide a cooler
Les Arcades (place du Général Leclerc) is centrally located and good for people watching, but over-priced and the food isn't great. The service was also pretty indifferent.
Brasserie Le Parvis's (3 Place du Parvis Gaultier de Mortagne) main selling point is its location—sitting outside, you can have your meal while looking up at the cathedral. The service is better here but still a little distracted.
Brasserie Le Parvis (outdoor)
Also close to the cathedral in a pedestrian plaza called "Marché aux herbes": Créperie Agora (outdoor)
Hotel-Restaurant de la Banniere de France is just behind the Hotel de Ville in the historic centre of the city. Old and cosy hotel, appreciated by English travellers
The Hotel des Chevaliers, on the rue des Seruriers just beside the Hotel de Ville (town hall) is good for the budget traveller. The upstairs rooms have been tastefully renovated; the rooms on the first floor are in a little bit of a 1970s time warp but all are comfortable and spotlessly clean. The owner is very friendly, lots of good suggestions for places to go.
A cosy B&B: La Maison des 3 Rois Chambres d'hôtes, 17 rue St Martin, near the historic centre
Modern hotels also, but not in historic city: Campanile, Ibis, Ibis Budget, Hotel Saint Vincent, Première classe, Fasthotel. You need a car.
Little beautiful villages, around south of Laon: Bruyeres, Nouvion le Vineux, Presles, Urcel (old churches), or Bourgignon (village of the LeNain brothers, both painters)