Welcome to Clermont-Ferrand!
Deep in the heart of the dark, volcanic, and gloriously mountainous Auvergne region, Clermont-Ferrand, France, is one of the country’s oldest cities, dating back to the 2nd century AD, and evokes an incredible sense of history and excitement. Black volcanic stone gives the city a moody, gothic feel which is entirely at odds to the lively, good-humored and welcoming attitudes of the residents. This a beautiful, vibrant place is home to the Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival, and it’s well worth ditching the more famous French destinations, like Nice or Bordeaux to discover what’s offered in the Massif Central.
Many travelers know of the popular attractions and activities, but instead of following the typical plans, ditch the itinerary, follow this insider’s guide and travel like a worldwide local. This inside access will allow you to learn and experience all the hidden gems this destination has to offer.
Where to Begin
It is worth starting your journey in the heart of Clermont Ferrand, at the Place de Jaude. Right in the middle of the square, is an imposing statue of Vercingetorix, a Gaulish chieftain who (briefly) defeated the Romans in AD52, and a strong link to the city’s ancient history. There are bars, restaurants, and cafes galore. In addition, there are tables spilling out into the square itself, and it is a wonderful place to sit and people-watch.
Worldwide Local Tip: When in France, drink...Australian coffee? The Australian Coffee House is two minutes from the Place de Jaude and serves a mean flat white, as well as homemade pastries and killer breakfasts.
The Famous Clermont-Ferrand Cathedral
The iconic sight of Clermont-Ferrand is its jet-black cathedral, constructed out of volcanic rock from the surrounding chain of semi-dormant volcanoes. It’s a genuinely astonishing sight that’s over 700 years old, with soaring towers and eye-catching frescoes.
Worldwide Local Tip: Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade from Clermont-Ferrand in 1095, and there’s a statue of him in the adjacent Place de la Victoire. The square itself makes the perfect place to recover from climbing the cathedral’s Bayette Tower, and unwind with a glass of wine in the shadow of its Gothic silhouette. Bar D’O has an exceptional wine list and a lovely terrace.
For the Car Enthusiast
Clermont-Ferrand has no shortage of excellent museums and art galleries, which might make recommending a Museum of Tyres seem like an odd choice. However, L’Aventure Michelin is a fascinating exploration of the history of innovation in transport, and as Clermont-Ferrand is the home of Michelin Tyres, it’s the perfect setting. Of particular interest are some of Michelin’s early vehicles like the Michelin Railcar, Eclair, and Breguet Biplane.
Worldwide Local Tip: While on the Michelin theme, Clermont-Ferrand boasts a two-star Michelin restaurant in the form of young chef Xavier Beadiment’s Le Pre, a short drive from the city center. With a bold single menu, entirely sourced from local producers, this is a must-visit for connoisseurs and gourmands.
Spend a Relaxing Day in a Park
For a breath of fresh air and a moment of calm away from the lively atmosphere of the city center, Jardin Lecoq is a picturesque English-style park, full of rare trees and seasonal flowers. The French word for “weather” is météo; Clermont-Ferrand boasts a lovely climate. It’s a wonderful place to relax and unwind, surrounded by nature.
Worldwide Local Tip: Jardin Lecoq is also home to a bevy of remarkably bold swans. Beautiful to look at, but be mindful, as they are known to raid unsuspecting picnickers!
Enjoy Your Stay!
Clermont-Ferrand offers a beautiful and lively alternative to the traditional French tourist destinations. It’s set deep in the heart of the wild and stunning Auvergne. Wandering the cobbled streets as a worldwide local will guarantee a marvelous and unforgettable experience.