Craving a French break without the bustle of Paris
? The regions of Auvergne and Limousin are packed with nature’s beauty and history’s relics: rolling green hills, small villages, extinct volcanoes and centuries-old chateaus. You’ll love taking a hike (and some pictures!), chowing down on sensational food and visiting vineyards in this very French and very beautiful part of the country.
Auvergne and Limousin are two of France’s 27 regions, and two of Europe’s least populated. In fact, Limousin has the smallest population in France. Auvergne was a historic province that took its name from the Arveni, a Gallic tribe that fought hard against the Roman Empire. These days, it’s a big area for industry and the birthplace and home of Michelin, the tyre company that also awards stars to great restaurants.
Things to do
The Chain des Puys is a 32km long stretch of over 80 volcanic cones with trails like Puy Du Pariou, which winds past natural landscapes and mountain views to a crater you can walk into on top. Puy de Sancy is the highest mountain in France’s Massif Ranges, while Lac Pavin is a stunning volcanic crater full of blue water. Check out Vulcania, Auvergne’s volcano-themed amusement park, where you can find out what descending into a volcano is actually like.
In Limousin, you’ll find the huge and stunning man-made Vassiviere Lake. Limoges Cathedral is an elaborate Gothic masterpiece that took centuries to build, and you can also check out castles from the Middle Ages like Chateau de Montbrun and Chateau de Rouchechouart.
Clermont-Ferrand is the capital of Auvergne. Every year, the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival shows new films by French and international filmmakers in venues all over the city. If you’re a cinema buff, come on down to catch some bright new talent.
Shopping and dining
Auvergne has restaurants with traditional French cuisine and heaps of local produce. Appropriately, there are some Michelin-starred restaurants too. Auvergne produces about a quarter of France’s cheeses, which you can pick up from town markets and fairs (also good places to shop for clothes). Visit one of the area’s wineries to taste the fruits (so to speak) of its volcanic soil. Head to Clermont-Ferrand’s Place de Jaude for beautiful buildings and stacks of food and shopping.
Getting here and around
Check out our flights to France
to get you there. Clermont-Ferrand is three hours away from Paris and two hours from Lyon
by train. Although a hire car is the easiest way to see the region (including the small villages), Auvergne also has a decent bus service. Book your Auvergne and Limousin accommodation with us, brush up on your basic French, and enjoy the simple pleasures of France at its most down-to-earth.
Image credit Fabien1309 under Creative Commons