Laval ([la.val] ( listen)) is a town in western France, about 300 km (190 mi) southwest of Paris, and the capital of the Mayenne department. Laval was before the French Revolution part of the province of Maine, now split between two departments, Mayenne and Sarthe. Its inhabitants are called Lavallois. The commune of Laval proper, without the metropolitan area, is the 13th most populous in northwestern France and the 119th in France.
A part of the traditional province of Maine, Laval is also lying on the threshold of Brittany and is not far from Normandy and Anjou. It was thus an important stronghold in northwestern France during the Middle Ages. Laval became a city during the 11th century, and was the cradle of the House of Laval, one of the most powerful families in Maine and Brittany. The counts of Laval developed a textile industry around 1300, and made Laval a significant centre for the French Renaissance a century later. The linen industry remained the principal activity in Laval until the 20th century, when milk processing became more profitable.
Laval developed around a promontory, on which the castle was built, and along the river Mayenne. The Laval metropolitan area is a small economic centre in western France, particularly active in the industrial sector, diary production, electronics and chemicals. Laval is economically oriented towards Rennes, the administrative capital of the region of Brittany, and located only 80 km west.