Normandy: French Property Location Guide

Normandy: French Property Location Guide

Sweet-toothed Leah Rottier takes us on a tour of the property market in Orne, stopping off at three renowned gourmet confectionary makers…

Normandy is known throughout the world for its magnificent D-day beaches and its impressive landmarks. Tourists flock here every year to climb the winding streets of Mont-St-Michel, marvel at the white cliffs of Étretat and visit the majestic cathedral in Rouen. Gastronomy is a passion here, and the apple and cider production is sizable, with over 800 apple varieties grown in the region. But away from the big cities and crowded beaches, there’s a small area of Normandy, in the department of Orne, that is a gastronomical paradise all on its own.

The area around the Forêt des Andaines isn’t just a haven for nature lovers with its long, leafy trails and densely wooded forests. It’s also the ideal place to find decadent macarons, traditional sablés and artisanal chocolates. Once coveted by Parisians and visitors seeking second homes, the area is now also sought after by those looking for affordable primary residences in this peaceful corner of Orne.

Macarons are Bagnoles’ speciality, Photo: Shutterstock


This jewel in the heart of the Andaines Forest has long been known as a thermal spa town with its rejuvenating treatments. With a beautiful Art Deco casino dating from the 1920s, a magnificent château in a public park and a stunning lake, this lively town is picture-postcard perfect.

Visitors come here to stroll through the compact town centre and dine alfresco in one of the restaurants overlooking the lake, before heading off to the shops to indulge in the local treat… macarons! Henri Lenoir introduced his artisanal macarons to Bagnoles-de-l’Orne in 1946, using his ‘meringue à la française’ base. They quickly became a huge success and his traditional recipe was passed down from generation to generation. Locals and visitors alike were tempted with mouth-watering flavours, including pistachio, coffee, lemon and chocolate, and the macarons soon became the ‘gourmand’ symbol of the town. People continue to come here from all over the world to stock up on their favourite sweet treats at Maison Casati. Bagnoles-de-l’Orne is not a big town by any means – its population rarely surpasses the 3,000 mark – but it is surprisingly full of activities for all ages. From nature trails in the woods and acrobatic circuits in the trees, to art exhibitions in the château and summer jazz evenings in the park, there is something for everyone in this lovely town.

Laure Lefeuvre of Agence Bagnoles Immobilier credits the range of activities for Bagnoles’ popularity, as well as the town’s charm. “People come here to live in a very pleasant environment with lots of nature, including the huge forest,” she says. “There’s also a casino, the iconic lake and lots of shops, not to mention the town now has fibre internet. Bagnoles is a station thermale and as more and more people are interested in wellness since Covid, many choose to live here for that reason.” There is a wide variety of property available in this picturesque town, ranging from apartments in the centre to Belle Époque houses behind the park and château. Prices are still affordable too. You can find a one-bedroom apartment in the sought-after La Résidence du Lac complex, next to the lake, from €70,000, detached houses to renovate between €100,000 and €130,000, and an immaculate three- bedroom detached house for approximately €200,000.


La Ferté-Macé is a bustling market town with an amazing leisure park, Photo: Shutterstock

Follow the departmental road just 10km from Bagnoles-de- l’Orne and you’ll find more gastronomical delights in La Ferté-Macé. The town is home to one of only 10 shops authorised to make and sell the famous étriers normands throughout Orne.

These decadent delights were created back in 1986 in homage to the ubiquitous horses and stud farms in the department. Each chocolate is a luxurious mix of praline and nougatine, coated in dark or milk chocolate, bearing one of two symbols: a horse’s head or a horse’s head inside a stirrup. The chocolates are now one of the department’s main gastronomical delights and their name has even been trademarked.

The town of La Ferté-Macé itself is bustling and lively. In contrast to its quaint neighbour Bagnoles, this is a working town and far less touristy, with all the commodities necessary for a larger population: primary school, collèges and lycées, a hospital and clinics. The outskirts have also been heavily developed in recent years to include commercial centres with all the major stores.

There is a wide range of things to do here too, including an 18-hole golf course, a large aquatic centre and an amazing leisure park – spread over 65 hectares, it’s a perfect blend of lush green open spaces and wooded areas, a shimmering lake and a magnificent beach. Here, you can play mini golf, go kayaking on the lake, or enjoy a barbecue in the picnic areas. It’s a popular spot for both locals and visitors alike.

Every Thursday morning, the streets of the old town come alive for the weekly market, filled with local vendors chatting away merrily with each other and their customers. Heavenly aromas of sizzling sausages, sugary crêpes and fresh brioche fill the air, and people sit chatting outside the cafés watching passers-by and putting the world to rights over fresh coffee and croissants.

This is a sought-after town due to its proximity to the tourist mecca of Bagnoles- de-l’Orne and its access to Caen (just over one hour’s drive) and Paris (three hours’ drive). Karine Chenel of SAFTI Immobilier explains why there is such a demand for property here. “Everything is beautiful and green,” she says. “With the forest, the water… there’s so much to do outdoors and everything you need to feel rejuvenated. There’s a wide range of activities as well as a choice of property for sale – something for everyone whatever their budget.”

For around €60,000 you can find a small, two-bedroom house (approximately 70m²) in the town centre. If you’re looking for a traditional stone property, popular in this area, expect to pay between €160,000 and €180,000 for a large house (approximately 150m²) with four bedrooms and no work needed. Those looking for a renovation project will also find plenty to choose from in this area. Prices start at around €55,000 for a basic house with a surface area of 100m² in the countryside surrounding La Ferté-Macé.

Étriers normands – chocolate heaven!, Photo: Shutterstock


The 11th-century abbey dominates the centre of Lonlay-l’Abbaye, Photo: Shutterstock

Head west from La Ferté-Macé and drive along the shaded forest road for just 30km and you’ll reach the glorious commune of Lonlay-l’Abbaye. This small village may have just over a thousand residents, but it has enormous character. A magnificent abbey dating back to the 11th century dominates the centre, and its cobblestone entry and magnificent gardens complete the stunning surroundings. The commune is home to all you need for daily life with banks, a bakery, butcher’s, pharmacy and a superette all in the centre.

But visitors don’t just come here to take photos of the abbey and marvel at its splendour. They also come for one of Orne’s finest exports… the Lonlay sablé. This crunchy biscuit has been made here in Lonlay for over one hundred years, and due to an ever- increasing demand, the biscuit factory was opened just outside the town centre in 1964. Still a family business, using regional ingredients to produce all the sablés locally in Normandy, this delicious biscuit bearing an imprint of the Lonlay abbey, is now recognised and enjoyed worldwide.

The Biscuiterie de l’Abbaye is open to the public; tourists flock here to take a tour of the factory and sample the renowned sablés. It’s often said that once you’ve visited this tiny corner of Orne, you won’t want to leave, and Suzanne Jenkins-Pearce of Suzanne in France Estate Agency testifies to the high demand for properties in this area. “It is popular with international buyers,” she says. “There is a good selection of terraced houses in the centre and a nice village atmosphere. On the outskirts there are more substantial detached houses, many with a good-sized garden or large plots of land.”

She explains that property prices have reduced here over the last year, but are currently stable. However, Lonlay- l’Abbaye is a small commune with a limited number of houses for sale and a high demand from both locals and second-home purchasers. This means that many buyers look at the surrounding villages for houses to renovate. This is a good option for DIY lovers as prices can start as low as €30,000 for a house of 100m² with land (1,000m² and more) with a full renovation required. A renovated, four-bedroom, 180m² home in the centre of Lonlay-l’Abbaye is priced at €300,000. Large family homes like this can be very hard to find in this commune, so many buyers look to the nearest town, Domfront-en-Poiraie, instead. Just a 7km drive away, it has long been sought after by both locals and those looking to buy second homes.

This medieval town is a beautiful mix of winding, cobbled streets which lead you up to the ruins of a château dominating the hilly landscape and modern commercial zones full of supermarkets and big chain stores. There is more choice of property here and the prices are very affordable. For €120,000 you can expect to find a traditional stone house of 120m² with four bedrooms and a small garden on the outskirts of the town centre. For the same budget, you could choose instead to live in the town centre and purchase a small bungalow (approximately 85m²) with three bedrooms. If you’re looking for a large country house ith space and land, you’ll need a budget of €250,000-€300,000 for a four- bedroom house, over 160m², with two or three hectares of land.

Laure Lefeuvre explains that many people choose this town for its affordability and amenities. “Domfront has a good choice of shops, with everything from large supermarkets to small, artisanal gift shops,” she says. “House prices are still reasonable in this area and many British families have chosen to settle here for the good schools and safe neighbourhoods.” If you’re looking for a tranquil corner of a rural department in Normandy, then this sector is worth serious consideration. Here, you’ll find small towns and villages full of amenities, yet close to nature and with a rich, gastronomical history. Properties range from apartments overlooking glimmering lakes to traditional stone farmhouses in the hamlets scattered throughout the Forêt des Andaines. Whatever your budget and whatever your project, you’ll feel right at home in this cosy corner of Normandy… with enough walking trails and cycle paths through the forest to help you burn off any excess of sugary treats!

Domfront-en-Poiraie is a popular medieval town near Lonlay-l’Abbaye, Photo: Shutterstock

Looking for more French property advice?

The unique mix of legal, financial and tax advice along with in-depth location guides, inspiring real life stories, the best properties on the market, entertaining regular pages and the latest property news and market reports makes French Property News magazine a must-buy publication for anyone serious about buying and owning a property in France.

Lead photo credit : The spa town of Bagnoles-de-l’Orne boasts an idyllic setting by a lake in the middle of the forest, Photo: Shutterstock

Share to:  Facebook  Twitter   LinkedIn   Email

More in Buying Guide, french property, Normandy

Previous Article France’s Fabrics: Toile de Jouy, Denim & more
Next Article Interview with a French estate agent: Dan Newton

Related Articles