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Go back in time

In Mayenne, you don’t need a time machine to immerse yourself in history. The extraordinary is already before our very eyes. Prehistory, Antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and modern times are all intertwined. An open-air exploration ground for children.

Published on 16 June 2023

Un bond vers la Préhistoire

The valley of the Saulges caves

Pop into Saulges and you’ll be transported back to the Palaeolithic and Neolithic eras. The Prehistory Museum and the caves with their cave paintings will captivate the whole tribe. There are themed workshops for everyone to learn more about the life of prehistoric man. To make things even more real, there are plenty of interactive displays to help you fully immerse yourself in this fascinating period.

Practical info: Visits accessible to children aged 3 and over. Visits to the caves and events by prior arrangement. To preserve local biodiversity, the museum and caves are open from mid-March to mid-November. Bring warm clothes and good shoes to visit the caves. Some passages are narrow, so beware of claustrophobia.

The archaeo-farm of l’Étimbulle

If you want to discover how farming skills evolved from prehistoric times to mechanisation, the Étimbullearchaeo-farm is the place to go. At the heart of this multi-faceted, participatory and immersive site, everyone will have the pleasure of discovering this curious period through experimentation. Visitors can take part in the development of the site by building campsites and huts, artefacts or restoring hedgerows. Storytelling, plant painting workshops, pottery initiation, collective frescoes, encounters with farm animals and much more, also punctuate the season.

Practical info: Open from April to October. Themed workshops open to children aged 4 and over.

And that’s not all, 68 megalithic sites have been recorded in Mayenne. They are mainly to be found in the north of the department. You may be lucky enough to come across them on a stroll.

They are crazy those Romans !

The Ancient City of Jublains

Imagine your little one strolling through the remains of a Gallo-Roman city built almost 2000 years ago. Vertiginous, isn’t it? The Cité Antique de Jublains is extraordinary. It’s a great game of open-air exploration, on a loop of around 3.5km. Starting at the departmental archaeological museum, the remains and objects discovered during the excavations follow one another. The ruins of the fortress, thermal baths and theatre are a sight to behold. Sensory interpretation panels, a family activity pack, an interactive investigation on a tablet, creative workshops, re-enactments and historical shows: there’s a whole host of activities to help you get to grips with this very special period.

Practical information: the walking trail is suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs. Approximately 2 hours 30 minutes. Free for under-18s.

The Middle Ages and its impressive castles

The Château de Mayenne Museum

The Musée du Château in Mayenne is a treasure trove. This impressive fortified castle, built on the remains of a Carolingian palace, is one of the oldest in Europe. Its thick walls house an incredible collection of objects, models and temporary exhibitions. To help young explorers on their visit, a fun booklet is available from reception.

Educational activities are also on offer throughout the year, including a multi-sensory tour, an introduction to archaeology, an escape game, a radio workshop, a herbarium, creative workshops and a medieval lunch, all designed to help children immerse themselves in the Middle Ages at their own pace.

Practical information: Free admission for under-18s. Fun activities for children aged 3 and over, by prior arrangement.

The Château de Laval Museum

Let a passionate guide take you on a guided tour of the history of the Château de Laval. From the Middle Ages to the present day, this imposing building has undergone many transformations.

Practical information: guided tours on Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm and 4.30pm. Free for under-26s

The Château of Lassay

The fortified castle of Lassay, built in the 15th century, is located in a land of legends. It was in Lassay that Saint Fraimbault was buried, whose legendary life is said to have inspired Chrétien de Troyes to create the character of Lancelot du Lac. Young visitors are invited to discover the workings of a period military garrison and the furnished seigneurial dwelling. As a rare experience, the first and last visitors of the day have the privilege of raising and lowering the drawbridge. In June, the fortress comes back to life with an incredible reconstruction that is not to be missed.

Practical information: Open from June to September and during school holidays and long weekends in April and May. Allow 1 hour for an individual guided tour.

Heritage in all its forms

At CIAP of Sainte-Suzanne

The thousand and one facets of the local heritage are revealed at the Centre d’Interprétation de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine de la Mayenne. Located inside the 17th-century dwelling of the Château de Sainte-Suzanne, the CIAP has more than one trick up its sleeve to capture the attention of children.

Architecture, know-how, landscapes, flora and fauna come to life in a fun, sensory scenography. A series of immersive workshops also enhance the permanent tour. A guided tour, giant treasure hunts, stone-cutting courses, themed creative workshops: a world that will take the whole tribe on a medieval epic, but that’s not all.

Practical information: Free admission for under-18s. Fun activities for children aged 3 and over, by prior arrangement.

Investigations at the châteaux

Once upon a time, 15 castles, parks, manor houses and mills, dating from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, make up the Route des Joyaux de la Mayenne. With booklets, treasure hunts, escape games and other fun activities, young and old alike can enjoy a range of amusing experiences as they discover the historical and cultural heritage of Mayenne.

At the Château des Arcis in Meslay-du-Maine, young adventurers can enjoy a treasure hunt through the gardens, accompanied by Robin du Bocage. From riddle to riddle, the aim is to free the good Charles de Cerçon, Seigneur des Arcis, prisoner of the evil Pierre de Cornu. At each stage, there are three levels of questions to suit everyone. For an introduction to ornithology, there’s also a tour of the park. The birdy memory application makes identifying birds child’s play.

At Château de Craon, the land of horses, budding detectives will have to investigate to find the Cumberland Stallion. This fantastic saga will have them looking in every nook and cranny.

The little gardeners at Château de la Rongère, in La Roche-Neuville, are invited to search for the ingredients they need to uncover the famous recipe for fighting famine in the 18th century.

A precious manuscript on Renaissance gardens has been hidden at the Manoir de Favry in Préaux. Clue by clue, they will have to find it.

Understanding the past to build the present

The Mayenne Deported Memorial

A unique place of remembrance in the region, the Mayenne Deportees Memorialpays tribute to the deportees from Mayenne who were sent to Nazi concentration and extermination camps. The museum is divided into two areas: Memory and Vigilance. Objects brought back from the camps, permanent and temporary exhibitions and the wall of names are all on display. Beyond the memorial aspect, it is also a place for exchange, artistic expression, information and vigilance. Conferences, meetings with authors and film screenings are organised throughout the year.

Guided tours are adapted to the age of visitors, and a themed game of snakes and ladders is available on request. The scenography is simple and appropriate. However, it may be useful to discuss the content of the tour with the children beforehand.

Practical information: Visits recommended for children aged 10 and over. Average duration: 1,5 hours.

Some ideas for activities

Through child-friendly activities, the past is brought to life before their astonished eyes.

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