Alençon is located in the Orne department and in the Lower Normandy region. With 28,500 inhabitants, called the Alençonnais, the town is the administrative centre of the department; it is also the third largest town of Lower Normandy (after Caen and Cherbourg.). Traditionally, Alençon is the centre of the Pays d’Alençon, which is an area that spreads over the Orne and the Sarthe departments.
The town used to be powerful during Middle Ages, and vestiges of this glorious period can still be seen through monuments in town. Alençon also stands out for its lace activities, especially with the Alençon point lace. It is renowned for it since the 12th century and it makes a town of excellence, creativity and quality.
The situation of Alençon, in the south of the department and the region and at the border of the Sarthe department, has made difficult for the town to find its own identity, culturally divided into two different regions. However, since the last century the town has managed to become an incontrovertible tourism site, which stands out above all for its natural regional parks and its cultural heritage.
Since the national average for house prices in 2009 is €3,197 /sq m, prices in Alençon are rather affordable with only €1,500 /sq m in March 2009. This is understandable, as the whole Orne department is considered to be a quiet cheap department with only €1,540 /sq m in 2009. It is true that if we compare Orne with the two other Lower Normandy departments, Manche and Calvados, Orne displays less attractive assets, for instance it does not have a seafront. However, it boasts other assets, such as two regional national parks, and proximity to Paris and other regions.
Since prices are low in Alençon, it is a good place to invest. It is located at the door entrance of Pays de la Loire and the Centre region. It is then an excellent investment for a buy-to-let, as the three regions attract plenty of tourists. Do prefer to buy a gîte or a farmhouse if you want to let it, as tourists research this kind of property in the area.
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Culture, art and historical heritage: Alençon is characterized by its cultural and historical heritage. Many powerful people dwelt in the town, which helped it to develop and to gain all the beautiful monuments it boasts nowadays. Do not miss especially the Dukes castle, the current remains represent only 10% of what used to exist; the town hall, built during the 18th century, the Maison d’ozé, current tourism office; the Halle aux Blés, and the library which used to be a church and which gathers, between others, medieval documents. You can also walk in the town and follow the path of the time.
Tourism: Alençon main attraction is probably lace workshops and museum. The lace tradition exists in the town since the 17th century. You can visit the Art and Lace museum where you will find out about Alençon label as well as its history. Alençon also offers green tourism. Indeed as the town is located between two regional natural parks, Normandie-Maine and Perche ones, you can easily go foy a walk in the beautiful countryside.
Location: Alençon is at the south end of the Orne department, at the border of the Sarthe department. For long time this situation was a disadvantage for the town, as it felt apart from the Orne department; however, nowadays Alençon has established itself as the administrative centre of Orne, and it also takes advantage of its situation at the crossroads of Pays de la Loire, Centre region and Lower Normandy.
Cider and Calvados: Normandy is worldwide renowned for its cider and Calvados. While apple cider is made all around the world, Normandy is the only one to make the Poiré, which is like a cider made with pears. As regards the Calvados, it is a brandy made with distilled cider and/or poiré. Depending of the AOC, it is made 100% with cider, or 70% with cider and 30% with poiré.
Stone houses: as houses in Alençon and its surroundings are built with local materials, it is not surprising to find mainly stone houses. They are farmhouses, but also townhouses, manors, castles, etc. Stone is used in all kind of dwellings. Usually the roof is made with slates and is gently sloping. As Alençon is located in a rural area, houses most of the time come with a piece of land or a garden.
Apartments: in the town itself you will be likely to find an apartment as they represent 58% of the dwellings. However, even if the town is not very big, apartments are comfortable and rather large. You will not have problem to park the car as you will have a private parking. The main asset of this kind of dwellings is that they are close by all amenities.
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