Clermont-Ferrand and the day that changed its life

Clermont-Ferrand is a city in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alps region of France that is famous for being situated on volcanic soil. This area of the Massif Central was recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2018, making the whole of France very proud. The dark stone extracted from the volcanoes is the distinctive mark of the city, in addition to its industry and excellent cuisine.

Exceptional geological phenomena

The Department that is home to Clermont-Ferrand had been waiting for this for many years and finally achieved it in 2018: the volcanic park and the Puy mountain chain, only fifteen kilometres from the city centre, were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is the first natural location in France to be added to the list of exceptional geological phenomena alongside the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Grand Canyon in Colorado in the United States.

The city in central France is surrounded by over eighty dormant volcanoes, the most famous being the Puy de Dôme, which you can ascend on foot or by a cog railway. From the summit you can make out Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, on a clear day. You can also see the whole of the volcanic chain, follow various hiking trails and even sample local delicacies in the panoramic restaurant, Epicure, a meeting place for lovers of good food and quality products.

Location: Puy de Dôme

Between two cities

The capital of Auvergne had its origins in the union of the ancient city of Clermont and medieval Montferrand, hence the name Clermont-Ferrand.

The oldest building you will find in the city is the Romanesque Basílica of Notre-Dame-du-Port in Clermont. This pale sandstone church, dating from the twelfth century, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been classified as a Historic Monument of France since the nineteenth century. Inside there is a black Virgin, attracting a large number of pilgrims every year.

The black lava stone known as Volvic gave the rest of the city its distinctive hue, seen in the narrow cobbled streets, the houses, the mansions (Fontfreyde, Savaron and Chazerat), the shops, the fountains, the City Hall, and the magnificent Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption with twin towers from the nineteenth century.

Stroll through old Clermont, full of antique and book shops and, of course, enjoy the atmosphere of the expanse of the Place de Jaude, the setting for the statue of Vercingetorix on a horse (a great hero for the French as he fought against Julius Caesar’s troops when the Romans invaded Gaul) and the heart of the lively shopping and meeting area. You can stay, as we did, at the big hotel there, the Hotel Mercure in the Accor chain, a group very focussed on sustainable and responsible tourism.

Visitors often forget to visit the historic centre of Montferrand, but although it is smaller and more residential, we found it prettier and more pleasant and charming than its big sister.

Location: Historic centre of Clermont and Montferrand

The restaurants of Auvergne

In Auvergne you can enjoy delicious traditional cuisine, especially cheap, nutritious country food based on pork, potatoes and vegetables. Saint-Pourçain wine, beef from Mézenc, green Puy lentils and the five denominations of origin of its cheeses (Cantal, Salers, Bleu d’Auvergne, Fourme d’Ambert and Saint Nectaire) will also make your mouth water. We were able to try them in the AOC, Les Canailles and La Gourmandine restaurants, all very centrally located in Clermont.

And for those with a sweet tooth, we night mention millards (cherry cakes), pompes (apple cakes), fouasses (milk buns), cream desserts and fruit sweets.

Location: L'AOC (4 Rue des Petits Gras), Les Canailles (6 Place Marché aux Poissons) and La Gourmandine (8 Rue des Minimes)

The most international of tyres

Get a pen and some paper, there is a really long list of museums! The Rugby Museum (the sport par excellence in this city), the Fine Arts Museum (from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century), the Natural History Museum,... but if there is one that really stands out it has to be the Michelin Museum. The internationally famous tyres made by the Michelin family began in Clermont-Ferrand in the nineteenth century and the business is still today a benchmark for the sector.

From the origins of the business to the present day there has been continuous experimentation with shape and adaptation to changing times, while always staying true to company values. It was also involved in the business of travel, producing the popular maps, travel guides and prizes such as the Michelin Stars. And in addition, the Michelin brothers built schools, health centres, stadiums and homes for their employees in the French city.

In the museum, located in the district between Clermont and Montferrand, you can learn and discover a lot with an entertaining, interactive experience for children and adults in a 2,000 square metre space.

Location: 32 Rue du Clos Four

FRAC brings culture to everyone

Another museum you must not miss is the Regional Contemporary Art Fund (FRAC) of the Auvergne, which defines itself as a platform for reflection where artists committed to this French province are invited.

The building is located very close to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption and puts on around twenty free exhibitions every year (almost 1000 works in thirty years), enabling a large audience to discover internationally famous artists and offering many activities to schools. We were fortunate to see the Denis Laget exhibition.

Location: 6 Rue du Terrail

Coopérative de Mai - Catherine Ringer concert

For the finale of your trip, we recommend you investigate the programme of the Coopérative de Mai because it presents such interesting concerts, festivals and artistes. We had the good fortune to see a performance by Catherine Ringer, a great French singer, songwriter and actress. You should also be able to find your favourite artiste among the 130 concerts performed here every year.

The venue always chooses diversity and originality; it brings together local, national and international artistes, both emerging and established, and it supports the aesthetic of the marginal, the innovative and the popular through a quality programme for all sectors of society.

You can reach the “Coopé” by tram (Line A - Les Vergnes station to the "1er Mai" stop) and by bus (lines 3 and 4)

Location: Rue Serge Gainsbourg

Hotel Mercure Clermont-Ferrand Centre Jaude

Location: 1 Avenue Julien, Centre Jaude 2
Hotel Mercure Clermont Centre Jaude >> (External link)