Angoulême was the star of Wes Anderson’s brand new masterpiece, ‘The French Dispatch.’ He visited the city in 2018 and it is easy to see why he fell in love with the city, from the sloping streets, winding staircases and small squares, to the town hall and the stunning Romanesque cathedral. I am a huge fan of comics so I could not pass on the chance to visit Angoulême, the international capital of comics and a designated creative city by UNESCO. Just a 40 minute ride on the TGV from Bordeaux, the city plays host to the International Comics Festival, is home to the Museum of Comics which has the biggest library in Europe for comics and all the street signs are in the shape of cartoon bubbles plus there is a route you can follow where you will find comic art splashed across the walls. This city lives and breathes comics! In the following blog post, I have outlined the best things to do in Angoulême.
Things to do in Angouleme
1.Visit the local market – Halles d’Angouleme
The quaint, old covered market hall in Angoulême is the epicentre of culinary delights, discover some great fresh local produce and feel the pulse of the region’s phenomenal gastronomic scene. There’s something here to satisfy the palate of every food enthusiast, from organic vegetables, fresh seafood, the most fragrant delicious cheeses, delicacies like foie gras, pâtè and duck magret and so much more. Remember to look up and admire the architecture – a mixture of cast iron, glass and iron in the Baltard style, made to ensure the creation of a light-filled, airy space.
2. Museum of Angoulême
Located slap bang in Square Girard II, rubbing shoulders with the towering Angoulême Cathedral, is the Museum of Angoulême. A solid rectangle of a building, the museum is accredited to the Musée de France and is the repository of art, ethnographical (Africa and the Pacific being well represented) and most importantly archaeological collections. In 1838 François Ringuet donated ten pictures to the city and these formed the nucleus around which the museum was built. In 1920 the museum was shifted to its erstwhile location in the former rooms of the Bishop of Angoulême. Some things of beauty to look out for in the museum include the 17th century art collection from the Netherlands, stunning stained glass windows and ethnographic collections from Africa and Oceania. But the jewel in Angoulême’s crown is the Casque d’Agris – a stunning ceremonial Celtic helmet dating from 500 BC. Iron and bronze are gilded beautifully together along with gold and coral. Delicate Celtic designs and motifs grace the exterior. Found in a cave near Angoulême in the 1980’s, the helmet is a miracle of reconstruction and a Celtic masterpiece.
Address: Square Girard II, Rue Corneille, 16000 Angoulême, France
Cost: €5 for adults.
3. Musée de la Bande Dessinée
The Musée de la Bande Dessinée is a one of a kind art museum dedicated to the development and display of the Ninth Art – the art of comics. The collection, the largest in Europe has over 8,000 original drawings, 250,000 magazines and comic books and this makes it the largest comic book library in Europe. In the museums collection French language and American comics are very well represented. A space called my little museum enables children to discover the fun of comics through interactive games, costumes, reading and much more. Think of this museum as the Louvre for comics – and best of all – it is completely free to use. A day spent reading comics – what could be better?
Address: Quai de la Charente, 16000 Angoulême, France
Cost: Tickets cost €7 for adults and €3 for children between age of 10 and 18. Visitors have free access to the Vaisseau Mœbius exhibitions , library while on the 1st Sunday of each month there is the possibility of free self-guided or guided visits (except July and August).
4. Musée du Papier
Angoulême has a long drawn history with the art of paper manufacture and the Musée du Papier is one of the abiding reminders of an industry, now waning and petering out. Situated on the river Charente, a plentiful and constant supply of water was the reason for the flourishing of this industry in Angoulême. It’s fascinating to view the exhibits of old machinery used in the mill and the history of paper manufacture in Angoulême. From cigarette paper, writing paper, vellum and parchment – the fine and intricate process of paper manufacture is fascinating.
Address: 134 Rue de Bordeaux, 16000 Angoulême, France
Cost : Tickets prices are €3 for adults, €2 reduced price and it is free every 1st Sunday of the month
5. Angoulême Town Hall
The Angoulême Town Hall resides in the remnants of a previous opulent medieval castle. Two towers of the old castle, a polygonal dungeon built by Lusignan and a round tower known as the Tower of Valois have survived through the ages, and the rest of the Town Hall consists of a mishmash of Renaissance-Classical-Medieval architecture, providing an unusual flavour to the complex. When Paul Abadie (junior and senior) redesigned the building around 1840, they developed upon a grandiose design – creating the opulent staircase and grand ballroom. The Town Hall’s complex and eye catching design have caught the imagination of film directors like Wes Anderson. Some of the scenes from the move ‘French Dispatch’ have been filmed here.
Guided tours of the town hall and available on request and start from €8- Book your tour here
7. Angouleme Cathedral
Angoulême Cathedral is a Roman Catholic Church built in the grand Romanesque style. The Cathedral is dedicated to St Pierre. The detailed exterior is embellished with over 40 sculptures depicting scenes from either The Ascension or The Last Judgement. For all sculpture enthusiasts it is worthwhile spending some time to observe the stories they tell. The relief work depicts Christ, gloriously framed in a mandorla, an almond shaped crescent adding emphasis to his figure, characteristic of Romanesque and Byzantine art. The Cathedral prominently features a rounded Dome, reminiscent of the Orient and two bell towers. The western facade catches the light towards the fag end of the day, and the stone building glows up – almost honey coloured, highlighting its intricate sculptures. The interior of the church features a cruciform pattern and a long aisle-less nave. The Cathedral built in the twelfth century has gone reconstruction at many stages of its life, giving rise to multiple domes, towers and chapels.
8. Terra Aventura trail “Zegraff” (free app in English)
Zegraff is a free app – a Terra Aventura trail related to geocaching. This is a treasure hunt of sorts, using GPS co ordinates. While you are on the treasure hunt, it’s possible to discover the sights and sounds of the city, a wonderful and innovative tourism initiative. The app is free to download on a smartphone.
Where to eat in Angoulême
I loved eating at Au Jardin – everything here is prepared with fresh seasonal, local and organic products. The daily menu always has a soup of the day, (€4.50) a daily dish of the day, or you can create your own salad from €10.20) with a variety of ingredients ranging from walnuts, chorizo, chickpeas, beetroot, mushrooms, tuna and salmon with option of having them in a toasted wrap. They also offer some really nice homemade desserts, ranging from fresh fruit salads to carrot or chocolate cake and creme brûlée (prices starting from €4.50).
Afterwards, drop by Zezette et Marcel for their delicious gourmet coffee and a nice range of desserts and artisan chocolates.
This post is the 3rd in a series of features where I share with you some ideas and inspiration for visiting the region of Nouvelle Aquitaine, specifically the cities of Bordeaux, Angoulême, Cognac and La Rochelle. These guides and trip was made possible with the kind support of Nouvelle Aquitaine Tourisme and Atout France but the views expressed here, good and bad are entirely my own.