Clermont-Ferrand is one of the oldest cities in France, being around since the days of Roman Gaul in the 2nd century AD. It is famous for its history, culture, and volcanoes, and all three are prominent, as you’ll see, in The Culture Trip’s list of the 10 best things to do and see in Auvergne’s capital.
Michelin are headquartered in Clermont-Ferrand, and this museum tracks over a century of the company’s innovations in the field of transport. The development, manufacture, and applications of the rubber tire are given particular focus. On display are a Michelin railcar, developed in the 1930s to run on the invention; the Éclair, which participated in the world’s first ever automobile race; and a Bréguet plane, a World War I biplane bomber which was produced by Michelin. Interactive exhibits and video presentations contribute to an experience both educational and entertaining. Address & telephone number: 32 Rue du Clos Four, Clermont-Ferrand, France, +33 4 73 98 60 60
Puy de Dôme
To the west of Clermont-Ferrand lie the Chaîne des Puys, a 25-mile long range of dormant volcanoes whose highest point is the Puy de Dôme, at 4,806 ft. Located only a few miles from the city limits, you can drive, hike, or take a scenic train journey up to the peak. Aside from the spectacular vistas available at such an elevation, the Puy de Dôme is also home to a visitor center, which offers information about the range, and the ruins of a temple dating back to the Roman era. It is also a prime spot for para-gliders to launch from. Address & telephone number: Puy de Dôme, Clermont-Ferrand, France, +33 4 73 62 21 46
Place de Jaude
Cafés, bars, restaurants, hotels, and shopping malls abut onto this public square, a cultural hub for the city that is decorated with fountains and flowerbeds. The space is dominated by the mounted statue of Vercingetorix, a Gaul chieftain who defeated Caesar’s legions in 52 BC in a battle staged not far from Clermont-Ferrand, thus driving the invaders out of the region. Facing Vercingetorix from the opposite end of the plaza is the statue of another local military hero, General Louis Desaix, an Auvergne native who died in battle in 1800. Address & telephone number: Place de Jaude, Clermont-Ferrand, France, +33 4 73 98 65 00
An imposing Gothic structure made entirely out of black lava stone, Clermont-Ferrand’s cathedral has understandably been decreed a national monument. Work began on the structure in 1298, at the historic center of the city. Its 108-meter tall twin spires tower over those who approach it, and its interior is equally breathtaking. The majesty of the architecture, embellishments, and religious iconography are enough to inspire awe even in non-believers. Watch out for the preserved frescoes that adorn the walls, and climb the tower of Bayette to gain a bird’s-eye view of your surroundings. Address & telephone number: Place de la Victoire, Clermont-Ferrand, France, +33 4 73 98 65 00
Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival
The world’s first festival dedicated exclusively to short films, the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival has been held annually since 1979 and is second only in France to Cannes in terms of number of visitors. As well as national and international competitions, the “Lab” category focuses on experimental and avant garde submissions that showcase innovation in genre and technology. Although the festival takes place only for one week a year, the La Jetée Resource Centre is open year-round. Here the archive of all 42,000 short films that have been submitted are available, as well as film publications and viewing facilities. Address & telephone number: 6 Place Michel de l’Hospital, Clermont-Ferrand, France, +33 4 73 91 65 73
Parc de Montjuzet
This hilltop park overlooking the city offers magnificent views of Clermont-Ferrand, its distinctive sable cathedral rising high above the neighboring houses, and the volcano range in the distance. Steps wind up the hillside toward the 26 hectares of well-landscaped lawns and a Mediterranean garden, filled with cypress and olive trees, lavender, and rosemary. Montjuzet is a park which those of all ages can enjoy, with playgrounds provided for children and plenty of green spaces for picnicking or a tranquil stroll. Address & telephone number: Rue du Parc de Montjuzet, Clermont-Ferrand, France, +33 4 73 31 17 43
Musee d’Art Roger Quillot
Almost 2,000 works of art from the Middle Ages to the present day are on display in this 6,000 m2 gallery. Modern architecture has been combined with that of a 17th century convent, with the main section designed around a central glass-roofed atrium that allows light to pour in. Light and space have been expertly manipulated to enhance the viewing experience of the art here, which includes painting, sculpture, photography, and even historical artifacts. Among the works are a portrait of King Louis XVI and a collection of the Expressionist Bernard Buffet’s pieces. Address & telephone number: Place Louis Deteix, Clermont-Ferrand, France, +33 4 73 16 11 30
Less solemn and forbidding than the city’s cathedral, this sandstone basilica is still a structure of great beauty and historic importance. Designated a part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Romanesque church dates back even further than the cathedral, although both had been destroyed prior to their current iterations. Information on the origins of the church and its construction is available inside, while its carved capitals – decorated portions of columns – are found throughout its interior. It is also known for its unusual black Madonna, housed in a subterranean crypt. Address & telephone number: Rue Notre Dame du Port, Clermont-Ferrand, France, +33 4 73 29 29 73
Materials related to the textile arts are exhibited here: its carpets, tapestries, clothing, and furniture originate from as far afield as the Near and Middle East, Central and East Asia, and North and South America. Also on show are the archaeological artifacts of ancient societies local to the region, from prehistory to the Gallo-Roman period. Its Documentation Center contains over 2,500 books and the archives of a dozen journals, all relating to archaeology and the textile arts and free for visitors to browse through. The Neoclassical pillars flanking its entrance are sometimes outfitted in yarn as a nod to the collections inside. Address & telephone number: 45 Rue Ballainvillier, Clermont-Ferrand, France, +33 4 73 42 69 70
If city life has become a tad too oppressive then this 5-hectare English garden provides a perfect place to escape from it in a botanical retreat home to wildlife, thousands of seasonal plants, and hundreds of rare trees. Here you’ll find topiaries and pergolas, lawns and flowerbeds, sculptures and fountains, and an ornamental pond, all of which contribute to a pleasing aesthetic and peaceful atmosphere. Its location means it’s a good place to socialize, and the park also delivers free WiFi for the more technologically inclined. Address & telephone number: Boulevard François Mitterrand, Clermont-Ferrand, France, N/A By Josh Wright
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