Auvergne Tourism – Visit the Auvergne region of France

Auvergne is a region located in central France, on the Massif Central, home to some of the wildest, most unusual and beautiful landscapes in France. The least densely populated region in France (and one of the least populated in all Europe), Auvergne gives visitors a view of a part of the country that even many French are unfamiliar with. The terrain is largely made up of extinct volcanoes, most of which have left plugs of hardened magma forming dome-shaped hilltops called puys.

Clermont-Ferrand is the largest and most easily accessible city in Auvergne, with a metropolitan area population of just over 400,000. Surrounded by industry and the Chaine des Puys, the city is famous for hosting one of the world’s top international short film festivals, Festival du Court Metrage de Clermont-Ferrand. It is also the home to Michelin’s headquarters.

The city’s main rail station, Gare de Clermont-Ferrand, connects to Lyon, Paris, Saint-Etienne, and others. The A71 motorway connects the city with Bourges and Orleans, and other highways connect with Saint-Etienne, Montpellier, and Bordeaux. There is also an airport, the Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne Airport, which serves flights mostly within France. Within the city, a new tramway can be used to get around, though walking and cycling are popular too.

Clermont-Ferrand is host to many cultural festivals celebrating music, dance, film, and theatre. The city has been nicknamed “France’s Liverpool” because of its cultural relevance in France. Clermont-Ferrand also is home to two famous churches, Clermont-Ferrand Cathedral, which is a Gothic cathedral built from the 13th to 19th centuries, and Notre Dame du Port, a Romanesque structure built in the 11th and 12th centuries. Notre Dame du Port is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Vichy, with a population of over 80,000, is another popular city in the Auvergne region. A spa and resort town, it functioned as the capital of Vichy France during the 1940-44 Nazi occupation. Though it has no airport, Vichy is served by rail links to Paris, Lyon, Clermont-Ferrand, and Pont-de-Dore/Arlanc. Vichy has a bus network and an on-call transportation service for getting around within the city.

A major modernization project by the city of Vichy and its economic partners resulted in many improvements to the city, including a large pedestrian zone in the city center, hotel upgrades, restoration of the thermal baths, redevelopment with emphasis on Vichy’s architectural heritage, and restoration of the Opera, the Grand Marche (covered market), train station, and the Rue de Paris, a main street in the center of the city.

Auvergne, with much of its area rural and rugged, is a terrific destination for those who enjoy outdoor sports such as cycling, mountain biking, hang gliding, paragliding, rock climbing, and hiking. The region is dotted with hostels catering to those on foot or on bicycles, and are often located in rustic stone buildings surrounded by stunning geography. A vacation in Auvergne lets the traveller experience a completely different side of France from the France of Paris, Nice, and other major French vacation hubs. It is off of the beaten track, but well worth the time taken to visit.

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