The chief building in Mantes is the church of Notre-Dame which dates in the main from the end of the 12th century. A previous church was burnt down by William the Conqueror together with the rest of the town, at the capture of which he lost his life in 1087. Modern bridges link Mantes with the town of Limay on the other side of the river.
Mantes was half way between the centres of power of the dukes of Normandy at Rouen and the kings of France at Paris. Along with most of northern France, it changed hands frequently in the Hundred Years War.
Louis XIV instituted the manufacture of musical instruments in Mantes, and it was chosen as the centre of brass and woodwind instrument manufacture. In the 19th century, painters were attracted to the town, particularly Corot, whose paintings of the bridge and the cathedral are celebrated. Prokofiev spent the summer of 1920 there orchestrating the ballet Chout.
Mantes today has light industry, focussed on cement and chemicals, but is inevitably drawn into the economic orbit of nearby Paris.