You have chosen the Massif Central as a setting for your holidays. Follow the guide to find out what are the 16 best places to visit in Auvergne!
Ah, Auvergne! At the heart of the reliefs of the Massif Central, this historic French region is composed of the departments of Cantal, Allier, Haute-Loire, and Puy-de-Dôme. Distinguished by its volcanic and hilly landscape, it is particularly pleasant to go on an adventure on its trails.
But visiting Auvergne also means discovering its breathtaking gastronomy: here, you can taste by the fire the great wines of the French terroir.
Not to mention its large towns of interest and picturesque villages home to many vestiges of the rich medieval era: a feast for the heart and the eyes. One thing is certain: you have something to do in Auvergne!
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The 16 Places to Visit in Auvergne – Tourist Spots and Things to do
1. The volcanoes of Auvergne
Let’s start with the most obvious: the Auvergne volcanic peaks that make the region famous!
Puy-de-Dôme is both the name of a dormant volcano and the region where it is located. For a visit to the Auvergne, the ascent of this peak is one of the must-sees on the schedule. In a lunar landscape, take the same path as the muleteers to get to the top to admire the panorama that is offered to you. The ascent is not difficult but still requires a pair of hiking shoes.
The Puy de Sancy
The Puy de Sancy is the highest peak in the Massif Central. You can climb on foot or take the cable car followed by a wooden staircase to reach the top. If you choose to hike, you will admire many waterfalls, steep valleys, and typical mountain fauna and flora. Once up there, enjoy the breathtaking panorama of the sharp reliefs of Auvergne.
On a human scale, this theme park has set itself the goal of offering attractions and animations on the theme of volcanoes and other weather phenomena of the planet.
In the heart of the Puy range, this science park is easily accessible from Clermont-Ferrand. It truly stages experiments on volcanoes and thus gives another face, playful and pleasant, to the science program. An exciting activity to do in Auvergne, for the happiness of children… And their parents!
3. The Cathedral of Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption
This obsidian monument in Gothic style dating from the thirteenth century stands proudly in the heart of Clermont-Ferrand. It dominates the city center from the full height of its walls made of volcanic stone drawn from the surroundings: a 100% Auvergne building!
The interior, huge, will offer to your eyes amazed many colorful stained glass windows as well as beautifully painted frescoes.
Have you decided to include Notre-Dame de l’Assomption Cathedral on your list of spots to visit in Auvergne? Take the opportunity to browse in the surrounding district: it has many houses dating from the Middle Ages as well as many restaurants where you can enjoy Auvergne delights.
It is also an opportunity to plan other must-sees of Clermont-Ferrand on the program, such as the frenetic Place de Jaude or the Notre-Dame-du-Port Basilica.
4. The Michelin Adventure
Another must-see in Auvergne! This time, it is a museum whose name is not even to be explained. Indeed, the headquarters of the eponymous industrialist has been located in the city since 1889. Today, it is his pride since the firm is nothing less than the second largest tire manufacturer in the world.
It is this virtuous success that the Michelin Adventure Museum is trying to tell the story of. Through a playful exhibition, it tells the spirit of innovation and successes but also the obstacles that have sown the path of the entrepreneur since its creation. This collection is suitable for Michelin enthusiasts as well as neophytes, including children!
5. Vichy sources
Why not visit thermal springs during your stay in Auvergne? And yes: if Vichy naturally carbonated water is invited on the tables of several dozen countries, it is not for nothing. Nine of the springs are reserved for cures during the winter season, open to the public all summer.
Blood circulation, muscle recovery, digestion: each has its own virtue! The beneficial flow of these warm waters has influenced tourism and urban planning in this city. If you are looking for what to do in Auvergne, go for a walk on the course of the sources. Remember to take your gourd to taste a little of this tasty beverage offered by the bowels of the Earth.
6. The Cézallier hike
Photo credit: Wikipedia – Romary
You would not make the most of your getaway in the region by omitting to plan a short hike to discover its green paths. The Cézallier is one of the best walks to do in Auvergne. Lovers of freedom and wide-open spaces will be delighted by this excursion through the meadows that stretch as far as the eye can see.
The departure is at La Godivelle where you will head towards Jassy and then go through La Motte. In the middle of the soothing hills that follow one another, you may have the chance to see Salers: but if, you know, these cows with the red dress that we imagine very well on a postcard of the region!
7. Le Puy en Velay
In the heart of Auvergne, Puy en Velay is among other things the starting point of one of the main routes of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela! A city of art and history, it is home to the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Hôtel-Dieu, buildings listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is also the ideal starting point to explore and visit the Auvergne massifs!
Speaking of Salers, you should plan a visit to the village of the same name, one of the prettiest villages in France. Planted in the middle of the mountain moors, it is remarkably well preserved.
The ramparts and church of this medieval town have retained all their robustness, and the turreted houses, pointed doors, and other stone facades embody a journey back to medieval times. In addition, the Salers breed of cow, with brown and curly hair, grazes there in all serenity before generously giving us meat and cheese.
In addition to feasting, you can discover the artisanal heritage of this breed in cheese factories and inns. Thus, the town is ideal for any gourmet or archaeologist looking to visit the Auvergne!
9. Local products
Cooking is always an integral part of a journey. Good news: it is impossible to miss the Auvergne gastronomy when you visit the Auvergne. Indeed, the link uniting this region to its roots and its natural heritage is very strong. The human is allied here with its terroir, to the delight of travelers and their gourmet taste buds.
If you are a fan of cold cuts and cheeses, your stay could well turn into a tasting route! Give it to your taste buds to heart by treating yourself to restaurant menus. On the AOP cheese podium are of course the famous Saint-Nectaire, his friend la fourme d’Ambert and Cantal.
As an accompaniment, a spoonful of terrine on a slice of good country bread will be welcome. Before leaving, also remember to try the famous mountain flavors that are the Auvergne potée and the aligot, a specialty based on potatoes, marbled butter, and fresh tome. We leave you with this suggestion because it is making us hungry!
10. The Castle of Cordès
Photo credit: Wikipedia – SiefkinDR
Enthroned at 900 meters above sea level in Orcival in the Puy-de-Dôme, this castle dating from the fifteenth century is a must to visit in Auvergne. A feeling of majesty will seize you when you arrive at the entrance of this feudal monument. The gardens of this feudal building classified as a historical monument, designed by the famous landscaper Le Nôtre, frame the palace in all beauty. Well-trimmed hedges and hornbeams occupy the space around the pointed towers of the castle. They follow one another in a geometry worked by even going as far as the labyrinthine composition.
A guided tour will allow you to learn more about this castle and thus about the historical heritage of the region.
Royat is the name of a small town overlooking that of Clermont-Ferrand. In this former priory is a Romanesque church dating back to the eleventh century which shows a remarkable state of conservation. The old Roman roads of the village testify to a prosperous situation at the time.
The city also has the particularity of being the refuge of a venerable guest: indeed, in its midst lies the oldest oak of France, aged 250 years! Royat is an ideal destination if you want to visit the Auvergne and more particularly the surroundings of Clermont-Ferrand.
12. The Chaudefour Valley National Nature Reserve
The Chaudefour Nature Reserve is located in the Sancy massif, in Auvergne. The eponymous valley was created 600,000 years before our era, following a heavy volcanic eruption. Its particular structure allowed the formation of a lake in its center. The framework of its ridges consists of magnificent volcanic devices, including the famous Dent de la Rancune.
Nowadays, the extraordinary landscapes of Chaudefour attract multiple visitors. The valley also offers many interesting activities, in addition to hiking. Also, the fauna and flora of this particular place are most fascinating, and you will quickly be amazed.
13. Lake Bouchet
Located in a huge crater, Lake Bouchet is taking shape and amazes visitors who want to swim there. The lake nestled in a green setting is an Auvergne jewel with an air of Canada. Surrounded by pine trees, the lake is suitable for swimming, multiple water activities but also fishing.
14. The fortress of Polignac
The Fortress of Polignac is a thousand-year-old building. The latter has stood the test of time and is today the witness of a rich past. A must-do in Auvergne, the fortress is an exceptional place! Perched on a volcanic chimney, its powerful dungeon dominates the Auvergne landscape.
In addition to the panorama, exceptional, we discover a place steeped in history. Its remains, its gardens, its fortifications… impressive to all visitors who go there.
15. The Gévaudan Wolf Park
If you love animals, don’t miss the famous Parc des Loups du Gévaudan! Within it, five different species of wolves: the Siberian wolf, the Mongolian wolf, the Canadian wolf, the Polish wolf and the Arctic wolf.
The Parc des Loups du Gévaudan offers visitors an exceptional encounter with this mysterious and fascinating animal that is the wolf.
Last but not least: Aurillac! If you are passing through the surrounding area, do not miss this charming picturesque city dominated by the Château Saint-Étienne.
Between small pedestrian streets, typical markets, and ancient monuments, Aurillac is a must to do in Auvergne!
How to go to Auvergne?
To visit the Auvergne, you can opt for the way of the air. If you choose to travel by plane, you can land at Clermont-Ferrand-Auvergne Airport, the largest and most central airport in the region. If you are leaving from Paris, you can also choose to land at Aurillac or Le Puy – Loudes airports.
Do you want to find a flight offer at the best price? So, it may be a good idea to use a flight comparator such as Skyscanner.
The large Auvergne municipalities are also well served by the rail network. It will be easy for you to reach Clermont-Ferrand, Aurillac, Montluçon, Moulins or Le Puy en Velay by train, to then visit the Auvergne and its jewels.
Once you arrive in Auvergne, explore its hilly landscapes at your convenience by bus, train or rental car!
To discover the green meadows and volcanic landscapes of Auvergne, the car is the preferred means of transport. Here are some indications of the routes to follow according to your starting point:
- West: via the A71 from Rennes (6h05), via the A85, and the A71 from Nantes (5h29).
- North: via the A28 and A71 from Caen (6h05), via the A1 and A71 from Lille (6h25) and via the A71 from Paris (4h20).
- East: via the A36 from Strasbourg (6h25), via the A6, and the A89 from Dijon (3h35).
- South-east: via the A89 from Lyon (2h10), via the A8 and A7 from Nice (6h30), via the A75 from Montpellier (3h35).
- South-west: via the A20 and A89 from Toulouse (3h50), via the A89 from Bordeaux (3h45).
Where to stay in Auvergne?
During your Auvergne explorations, you will have to stay! But, don’t panic, the area is full of accommodations. Clermont-Ferrand, Aurillac, Salers, Le Puy en Velay: refer to a hotel comparator to choose the best accommodation for your stay. You will always have the choice between Airbnbs, warm cottages, or rooms in central hotels.
Here you are unbeatable on the tourist sites to do in Auvergne! Now it’s time to pack your bags!