The culinary heart of Angoulême (which lies about 120 km northeast of Bordeaux in western France) is the large 19th-century Les Halles market, a covered market showcasing regional products – cheese, foie gras, organic vegetables, shellfish – with street food diners offering seafood platters, duck duck breast, artisan pâté and sausages. It has come back to life in recent years and everyone meets there on weekends.

The hippest new restaurant is Le Lion Rouge, in a former hardware store – an art deco building with a glass atrium filled with plants. Run by a former photographer, it does Italian food and has the best pizza in town.

Illustration: Hennie Haworth/The Guardian

For the creatives bistronomic interpretations of Charente cuisine, discover Le St André. And two historic specialty shops not to miss are Biscuiterie Lolmède, which makes macaroons to die for, while chocolate addicts will love the comic book creations at Chocolaterie Duceau.


A mural titled La Fille des Remparts after a drawing by French designer Max Cabanes in Angoulême.
A mural titled La Fille des Remparts after a drawing by French designer Max Cabanes in Angoulême. Photography: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

It’s the Ville de l’Image in France, the capital of comic strips, with studios and universities dedicated to the so-called Ninth Art – there’s even a comic strip festival (from 17 to 20 March this year). You can study and produce manga and video games here, movie studios produce blockbusters like Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, and it’s all symbolized by more than 30 giant cartoon murals across the city.

I tell my friends to download the murals app and discover them on foot; my favorite is Memoirs of the XXth Heaven, by Yslaire. It inspired me to do a documentary with neighborhood kids, persuading them to look at these murals rather than taking selfies.


The neighborhood where everything happens is up high. It is known as Le Plateau, a labyrinth of medieval cobbled streets and squares, lined with bars, shops and bistros. I like to walk along the ancient tree-lined ramparts that encircle the city; the views stretch for miles across valleys and forests, and burst into color as the sun sets. Right next to the ramparts stands Saint-Pierre Cathedral, a monumental Romanesque building with a surprising secret: the contemporary artist Jean-Michel Othoniel has created an extraordinary installation in colored Murano glass from Venice. It’s not open all the time, so be sure to book .

Green area

The Charente river.
The Charente was once the industrial center of the city; now it’s great for walks. Photography: Leonid Andronov/Alamy

A wonderful walk along the bank of the Charente follows an old towpath from the port of l’Houmeau, once the town’s industrial centre. The waterfront promenade offers stunning views all the way to Angouleme from the top of a rock.

The riverfront, a long-forgotten part of the city, comes alive. It is the location of university campuses and museums such as the Paper Museum, chronicling Angoulême’s 500-year history of paper production (including Rizla cigarette papers). Hire a bike, preferably electric, as the climbs are steep here, and continue to what is called La Coulée Verte to explore the countryside, vineyards and medieval villages.

Night life

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Clubs may be few and far between, but Angouleme is a hotspot for festivals, with the town becoming one big party at events throughout the year. They range from the film festival to the Musiques Métisses, via the Gourmet Gastronomades and the Rallye du Rempart, celebrating a time when the Formula 1 circuit of Angoulême rivaled that of Monaco.

From spring to autumn, the cafés that line the esplanade surrounding Les Halles, such as Le Chat Noir and the Blues Rock Café, are teeming with students. Tucked away in a quieter lane, Café Chaud and Café Bulle are my favorites for a glass of local wine or a late night cognac. Throughout the year, jazz, electro and rock concerts are organized at Point Carré, a friendly community bar.

To stay

Known to locals as the Hotel de France, the Mercure Angoulême (doubles from €130 room-only) is housed in an imposing 17th-century mansion with lush gardens, just opposite the market.

Isabelle Fougère is an author, filmmaker and documentary filmmaker who grew up in Angoulême and returned after 30 years in Paris and traveling the world