Land of volcanoes, Auvergne is surprising and fascinating!
With the Cantal massif, Europe’s largest volcano, the Chaîne des Puys -faille de Limagne listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the puy Mary and puy de Dôme classified as “Grands Sites de France”, Auvergne has an outstanding natural and geological heritage.
The unique beauty of its landscapes is a permanent invitation to travel, on foot, by bike or by car. Between Moulins, Vichy, Clermont-Ferrand and Le Puy-en-Velay, you will find a succession of remarkable castles, jewels of Romanesque art, art towns and villages, including 11 classified as “Most Beautiful Villages in France”.
A natural paradise with a multitude of hiking routes, including the emblematic ways to Santiago de Compostela, Auvergne is a favourite destination for all walkers.
Auvergne volcanoes, a unique natural treasure in Europe
Appreciated for its vast natural spaces and the beauty of its landscapes, Auvergne is a unique destination in Europe. Unique witnesses to geological history, its volcanoes are an essential and exceptional feature.
While the Chaîne des Puys-faille de Limagne with its 80 volcanoes is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the puy Mary and puy de Dôme are classified as Grands Sites de France. At the origin of the largest regional nature park in France, this extraordinary heritage also includes the Cantal massif, reputed to be the largest volcano in Europe, and the Puy de Sancy, the highest point of the Massif Central.
The territory's volcanic activity is the origin of the beauty and diversity of its landscapes. The numerous natural lakes are among the countless treasures. The Servières and Pavin lakes are havens of peace and quiet, ideal for fishing. Meanwhile, other lakes such as Chambon and Aydat or Lac du Bouchet are ideal for swimming and aquatic activities.
Nature is this region's primary asset, and it is a favourite destination for hikers.
Clermont-Ferrand, traditional and contemporary
Located just 15 km from the Puy de Dôme, the city of Clermont-Ferrand is rooted in Auvergne's volcanic landscape. With its black walls made of Volvic stone (a local volcanic rock), the Gothic cathedral, which takes centre stage in the city, reflects this strong identity.
Another heritage jewel, the Notre-Dame-du-Port basilica, is a perfect expression of Auvergne Romanesque art. From its medieval influence to its industrial glory, with the invention of the Michelin tyre, the city has never stopped innovating. Here, the heritage of the past meets contemporary activities and realities, providing visitors with an attractive and lively portrait.
Unmissable masterpieces of Romanesque art
With more than 600 buildings dating from the 11th and 12th centuries, Auvergne is recognised as an outstanding centre of Romanesque art. The Auvergne school of architecture has left its mark on five major churches in the region: Notre-Dame-du-Port in Clermont-Ferrand, the most influential, Saint-Austremoine in Issoire, the largest, Notre-Dame de Saint-Saturnin, the church of Saint-Nectaire but also the basilica of Notre-Dame d'Orcival. These remarkable buildings all have the same unity, the same iconographic language.
Romanesque art outlines a harmonious path to discovery, combining heritage, history, spirituality, geometry and poetry!
Leisure parks to learn and have fun
Within the Auvergne Regional Nature Park, Vulcania is an entertainment park dedicated to the discovery of volcanoes and the Earth. 3D film, giant screen, special effects, interactivity. The equipment quality and the educational ambition of the tours guarantee the success of all the experiences.
For its part, the PAL is an animal reserve, an amusement park and a place to stay. It is the only one in France to combine 30 attractions, 700 animals, animal shows, educational activities and accommodation. An original positioning combining entertainment and environmental awareness.
Le Puy en Velay, the European capital of the Way of Saint James
Among the five main ways that converge from France towards Santiago de Compostela is the famous Voie du Puy, the Via Podiensis.
A stopover for a day or a more extended stay, a city of art and history, Le Puy-en-Velay represents the beginning of this mythical route. A jewel of Romanesque art and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cathedral is the symbolic starting point.
Cities of water, cities of art
Auvergne is a wellness destination par excellence, with 9 thermal spas renowned for the diversity and benefits of their waters. With an unrivalled architectural heritage, precious relics of a flourishing past, they all compete with each other in charm and elegance.
Mont-Dore’s splendid neo-Byzantine thermal baths or those of Bourbon l'Archambault, known as one of the most beautiful thermal baths in Europe (classified as a historical monument), are a good example. Another example is the town of Royat-Chamalières with its Belle-Époque atmosphere and, of course, Vichy, the unbeatable! A prestigious showcase of Art Deco, this legendary place has nevertheless preserved a great diversity of styles. Second Empire chandeliers, Art Nouveau arabesques, and the carefree spirit of the Roaring Twenties give the air a taste of the splendour and idleness of yesteryear.
The secrets of the city of Moulins
The city of Moulins contains unsuspected treasures. Capital of the Bourbonnais region, a crossroads of the arts since the 15th century, it shines through its diversity.
The historic district has retained its medieval character with its cobbled streets, half-timbered houses, the Jacquemart tower and Notre-Dame Cathedral, housing the famous triptych by the Maître de Moulins.
At the Grand Café, listed as a historical monument for its Art Nouveau décor, Gabrielle Chanel was baptized "Coco Chanel” before becoming the most prestigious figure in Parisian haute-couture!
The Centre national du costume et de la scène places Moulins at the heart of the entertainment world. This unique place highlights its collections of more than 20,000 costumes, accessories and sets during temporary exhibitions.
Situated only 30 minutes from the centre, in Lurcy-Lévis, the Street Art City is an original place dedicated to urban art and graffiti. Artists worldwide are invited to cover its walls, offering 7000 m² of frescoes to visitors.
The heart of Auvergne, its "Most Beautiful Villages of Franc®"
The 11 "Most Beautiful Villages of France®" in Auvergne offer timeless stopovers.
The ancient fortified town of Charroux, the village of Montpeyroux overlooking the Allier or the medieval town of Salers are all well-preserved places that confer an authentic character on the destination. Volcanic stones or blond stones, lauze or tile roofs, keep, ramparts, cobbled streets all contribute to the singular charm of these villages.
Everywhere craftspeople and producers perpetuate recipes and traditions, multiplying the sites for visits or tastings. Charroux mustard, Salers PDO cheese, Carré de Salers and other specialities enrich the circuit with many other attractions.
The Historic Route of Auvergne Castles
From fortresses to castles, from parks to gardens, Auvergne has a succession of great sites. Places of memory or museums, these prestigious witnesses to history take visitors on an exciting journey through time.The Historic Route of Auvergne Castles is made up of no less than 36 castles.
The remains of the former defensive residence of the Lords of Bourbon at Bourbon-l'Archambault or the castle of Val, which is perched on a rocky spur, testify to the strategic importance of these fortresses. Each visit is the promise of a new experience. While the meticulous reconstruction of the castle of Murol brings back to life the atmosphere of the seigneurial life in the 15th century, the Lafayette castle in Chavaniac pays homage to the famous General, letting the memories of a whole life melt into the magnificence of the decor and the splendour of the gardens.
Animations, events, exhibitions, concerts are a thousand and one reasons to enjoy this castle life.