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Clermont Ferrand France Clermont Ferrand

Clermont Ferrand France

The town centre of Clermont Ferrand is built on top of an extinct volcano in the Massif Central region, a region characterised as inaccessible and steeped in history. Clermont Ferrand is the region's largest urban centre and is known for being the town where Michelin tyres are based rather than as a thriving student town. Incidentally, the Michelin guidebooks were originally dreamed up as a way to encourage people to use their cars for tourism, and thus promote tyres.

The buildings in town may look like they have been blackened by smog, but the stone has in fact always been the dark grey colour it is today because it is dug from volcanic quarries. The Cathédrale Notre Dame was begun in the 13th century on the highest point of the town using exactly this kind of black stone. The biggest attraction is of course the Puy de Dome (1464m), the 10,000 year old product of a volcanic explosion 15km from Clermont, with wonderful views of the Massif Central, sometimes as far as Mont Blanc, from the top.

Countryside around Clermont Ferrand

Clermont Ferrand has existed in some form since Julius Caesar was around, when Vercingétorix lead the Gauls to their only victory against the invading Romans outside the town. There were originally two towns that were ruled during the Middle Ages by the Comte d'Auvergne (Montferrand) and a bishop (Clermont) due to political and commercial divisions. They were united for administration purposes by Louis XIII in 1630 and in the 19th century they grew together during the industrial revolution.

Map of Clermont Ferrand

Clermont Ferrand airport information

The airport is 7km to the east of Clermont Ferrand, at Aulnat, with flights to Paris and other French cities, and to London during peak season. There is a bus to and from the airport to the gare SNCF on avenue de l'Union Soviétique and the gare routière on boulevard Francois Mitterand. The tourist office is on place de la Victoire opposite the cathedral (04 73 98 65 00) or there is a smaller one at the train station. The Passe Découverte is available at the main office and, for €9, gets you into all the museums in town once. The best of these include the Musée Bargoin (€4), with Roman domestic items, on the rue Ballainvilliers, and the Musée d'Art Roger Quillot (€4) in Montferrand with over 2000 medieval to contemporary art works.

The old town's place de Jaude is where you will find the Bartholdi statue of Vercingétorix and cafés galore, such as Le Suffren. For dining out try nearby Gérard Anglard at 17 rue Lamartine (04 73 93 52 25) with an €18 lunchtime menu, or the less exclusive Creperie 1513 at 3 rue des Chaussetiers opposite the cathedral. The gourmet restaurant in the Hotel des Puys d'Arvene, 16 place De lille (04 73 91 92 06) has menus from €14 44 and excellent rooms from €70 85. Cheaper options include the Ravel, 8 rue de Maringues (04 73 91 51 33) with Mediterranean style rooms from €30 40.