What to Do and See in the Auvergne
From cultural activities and museums to gastronomy and knife-making, the Auvergne has it all and in picture-postcard nature
Over the summer, Le Puy-en-Velay invites light artists to illuminate the historic buildings around town, every evening after dusk. The façade of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame du Puy provides one of the more impressive backdrops.
Here’s a festival that’s perfect for film buffs with short attention spans: every February, Clermont-Ferrand hosts the International Short Film Festival, with movies shown at various venues all over town.
In August, the town of La Chaise-Dieu hosts its Festival de Musique, when around 25,000 classical music fans descend on the region. It’s all centred on venues in La Chaise-Dieu but there are many concerts to enjoy in the surrounding towns as well.
Also in August, in Aurillac, the provincial capital of the Cantal, the intriguing art of street theatre is celebrated at the Festival d’Aurillac. Mid-September sees Le Puy-en-Velay’s old town burst into colour as the Roi de l’Oiseau festival comes to town. It’s a four-day celebration of all things Renaissance, so you can expect amazing period costumes, archery, sword-fighting, banqueting, wenches and mead.
Next door to the enormous Michelin factory is L’Aventure Michelin, a shrine to all things rubber. Here you’ll discover how the Michelin empire has contributed to motoring, aviation, railways, maps, GPS technology and restaurants, of course. Clermont is also home to the Musée d’Art Roger Quillot. Housed in a former Ursuline convent, it features 750 or so paintings, sculptures and other works of art, dating all the way from the Middle Ages to the 20th century.
If you’ve ever thought about hiking the Way of Saint James, you ought first to visit the museum in Le Puy-en-Velay dedicated to the mighty pilgrimage, called Le Camino.
The town of Thiers is world-famous for its knife-making industry, with over 100 manufacturers based in the town. At the Atelier de Montage du Couteau, for €30, you can even create your very own knife, all under the watchful eye of a master knife-maker. For the less adroit, a visit to the Musée de la Coutellerie might be a safer option. It traces the social and economic history of cutlery in Thiers, from its beginnings when it was made by skilled local artisans to the start of its industrialisation.
Louis XIV had a bit of a penchant for Saint-Nectaire cheese, and the manufacturers of this Auvergne speciality have been dining out on that fact ever since. Or rather, the rest of us have been dining out on the Appellation d’Origine Controlée cheeses produced from cows grazing on a special area south of the Monts-Dore. To get an insight into the two types available (fermier and laitier), head for the Maison du Fromage, in the town itself.
Thanks to naturally heated volcanic waters, there are many spa towns across the Auvergne,Vichy being the most famous of them. Sip healing mineral water at the Hall des Sources (in the Parc des Sources) or at Source des Célestins (on Boulevard du President Kennedy), and get the full spa treatment of massage, sauna, steam and mud at Les Célestins or at Thermes de Vichy.
The Massif Central does not have the altitude of the Alps or the Pyrenees, so snowy slopes are not guaranteed. But if you visit in mid-winter, in a cold year, there are some good opportunities for downhill skiing at Station du Mont-Dore and Super Besse. Cross-country skiers, meanwhile, should schuss over to Espace Nordique Sancy.
From France Today Magazine
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Lead photo credit : Le Puy-en-Velay celebrates all things Renaissance at the Roi de l'Oiseau festival ©Auvergne Rhônes Alpes Tourisme
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