A Town of Art and History, once appreciated by the writer Victor Hugo who sang its praises, the medieval town of Laon, flanked by seven kilometres of ramparts, contains over eighty listed or classified historical monuments.
Its splendid Gothic cathedral, topped by five mighty towers, majestically dominates the whole upper town. Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, the Cathedral of Our Lady has a harmonious west façade, with doors adorned with sculpted tympanums, and its west towers have unusual life-sized statues of bulls, a reference to an old local legend. Once inside, admire the grandiose elevation of the nave, as well as the magnificent rose stained glass windows of the choir and north transept...
Around the cathedral, take a walk along the ramparts and medieval streets and discover the monuments and buildings of the fortified town: the old bishop's palace, now the Courthouse; the 12th-century Hôtel-Dieu, the headquarters of the Tourist Office in Laon country, and its Gothic room with rib vaults; the citadel build on the orders of Henry IV; the Roman Chapel of the Templars, whose walls enclose the cadaver tomb of Guillaume de Harcigny, doctor to Charles VI; the Ardon Door, dating from the 13th century... Walk along the ramparts and you can also enjoy untrammelled views of the lower town and the landscapes of the surrounding plains. The tour of the upper town continues westwards, with a look at the Soissons Door and leaning tower, relics of the medieval era, along with the Abbey of St. Martin with its old 12th-century Abbey Church of the Prémontrés, 18th-century cloister with a medieval garden, and convent buildings, which nowadays are home to the municipal library.
Lovers of art and archaeology should go to Laon Museum, based in the old Commandery of the Templars, to see its collections of Greek, Egyptian and Cypriot antiquities, regional archaeology and 15th to 19th-century paintings from the French, Italian, Flemish and Dutch schools.
When it comes to festivities, try the Médiévales in June, with a medieval market, camps and street activities; and Laon Festival in September and October, dedicated to classical music.