What do you know about Clermont-Ferrand? Probably not much. But Clermont-Ferrand is one of the oldest cities in France and is a gem that awaits you. The central city of Auvergne sits roughly in the middle between Paris and the French Riviera, in the heart of France. Surrounded by the massive Massif Central mountain range of extinct volcanoes, historic villages and churches, lakes, and green forests, the little-known region of France has a lot to offer. But let’s start with Clermont-Ferrand as the city will likely be your first stop when arriving in the area. Wonder what to see: here are our Top Things to do in Clermont-Ferrand.
And if you wonder what’s our take on the city, well, Bruno grew up living in Clermont-Ferrand – Chamalières. That and the fact we visited his parents there means that we can say that we are rather familiar with Clermont-Ferrand and Auvergne! So much so that we certainly can’t fit it all in this post, and we have more articles about Auvergne coming up, but in the meantime, feel free to ask any questions in the Comment section.
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Things to Do in Clermont-Ferrand
From historic buildings to festivals, fantastic food, and hiking opportunities, Clermont-Ferrand offers plenty of things to do for all. Check our list for what to do in Clermont-Ferrand almost all year round. Have you been? Did we miss something? Feel free to let us know in the Comment section.
Officially called the “Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption,” the tall gothic cathedral from the 13th-century is Clermont-Ferrand’s most iconic sight as the spires stand at over 312 feet (95 meters) high above most of the city buildings. Made of the local black volcanic rock, the Clermont-Ferrand Cathedral is a must-see!
Click here for more photos and details of the Clermont-Ferrand Cathedral.
You most likely own or owned a pair of Michelin tires. Find out more about the brand history at the Michelin Group’s museum, which takes you through an interactive experience.
Parc de Montjuzet
For great views over Clermont-Ferrand and of the cathedral, head to the hilltop parc. Go for a stroll along the flower banks, watch the locals jogging or walking their dogs, kids having fun on the playground. An excellent place to hang.
Place de Jaude
The Place de Jaude is the commercial heart of Clermont-Ferrand, with malls, cafes, and restaurants, movie theaters, and the Ferry Wheel. The place is by the old part of town and is a great place to start your exploration of the city.
Probably the most famous character of Clermont Ferrand, the massive statue commemorates Vercingetorix, Celtic war chief that won a historic battle against Caesar’s Roman Army at Gergovie during the Gallic Wars some 2,000 years ago.
Musée d’Art Roger-Quilliot
Hosted in a 17th-century convent rebuilt with modern architecture, items from the Middle Ages to today cover painting, sculpture, photos, and sculptures.
The Romanesque church might be less visited than the Clermont-Ferrand Cathedral but is actually older, as the foundation date s back to the 6th-century even if it took 500 years to be rebuilt. A UNESCO World Heritage site as part of the Camino de Santiago churches, the Basilica is famous for its unusual black Madonna. While this basilica might not get as much attention as Cathedral, it’s definitely one of the top Clermont-Ferrand things to do.
Walk the old streets, watch for the arched doors already shops in Medieval times, marvel at the ancient designs. Old Montferrand was a separate town than Clermont, a rival city until the two united as one by royal decree in 1630 by edict of Troyes under Louis XV.
Place de la Victoire
This place de la Victoire is actually the historical heart of Clermont-Ferrand since its Gallo-roman time when the city was called Augustonemetum, which is said was built in the first century BE, and is considered to be the oldest part of town.
Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle Henri-Lecoq
One of the oldest museums of Clermont-Ferrand, the Henri-Lecoq Museum features an extensive collection of over 50,000 rocks, fossils, and minerals. One of the prized items is La Pascaline, which was invented by Blaise Pascal for calculations.
Another public garden which is also called “Jardin des plantes” featuring seasonal plants.
The 16th-century fountain offers an exciting mix of gothic and Renaissance architecture using the local volcanic Volvic stone.
Events in Clermont-Ferrand
Go to the Michelin Stadium to watch a rugby match the locals are fans. The ASM Clermont Auvergne team is considered one of the best in France and actually won the French Championship in 2010 and 2017.
Clermont Ferrand Christmas Market
The 30-year old annual event is held on the Place de la Victoire by the Clermont-Ferrand Cathedral from November 29 to December 29. The Marché de Noël features over 60 stands spread across different “villages.” “Le Coin des Lutins” is dedicated to children with a Santa Claus stand. The “Fabrique de Noel” is where you can find handicrafts and homemade food productions. Taste local specialties at the “Burons Gourmands”, while listening to live concerts (azz bands, pop rocks, and Gospel performances) on Fridays’ evenings for the perfect night at the Clermont-Ferrand Christmas market.
A Christmas Parade usually starts on the first day of the festivities and crosses from Place Delille through the Place de la Victoire and ends on the Place de Jaude. There, on Clermont’s most popular square, stand the Christmas Tree and Ferry Wheel.
Click here for more photos and details of the Clermont-Ferrand Christmas market.
How to Visit Clermont-Ferrand
Clermont-Ferrand is a highly walkable city, with many of the top sights within a short distance from one another. The city is safe, though as in any city, pay attention to your surroundings. Go wander by yourself, take your time to walk the narrow streets, and admire the medieval buildings. So if you are happy to explore by yourself, Clermont-Ferrand is a great city for such independent travel.
The ClermontPass will allow visitors to access several top Clermont-Ferrand attractions at a reduced price. Two options are available depending on the duration of your stay: a 48-hour and a 72-hour pass.
The ClermontPass includes :
- Ticket to the Panoramique des Dômes that will take you to the top of the Puy de Dôme
- Entrance to l’Aventure Michelin
- Entrance to one of the five metropolitan museums, and discount to the others
- Guided visit of Clermont-Ferrand
- Guided walk of the Volcan de Lemptégy (in the 72-hour pass only)
- Transport ticket valid 72 hours (for a small additional fee)
- Discounted tickets to Vulcania and Royatonic
- 20% off the entrance to the ASM Experience
- Discounts at several partner shops and restaurants
The list and discount level might change, double-check whether the ClermontPass makes sense for you and your trip.
Clermont-Ferrand Guided Tours
However, adding a knowledgeable always brings life to old stones, and narrate history through exciting stories. The city of Clermont-Ferrand offers different guided tours throughout the town, many free or for a small fee. A food tour is also offered, which will make you taste some of Auvergne’s finest cuisine and famous cheese.
Day Trips from Clermont-Ferrand
The famous dormant volcano is Clermont-Ferrand, another iconic sight, overlooking the city from its 1,464 m, and one of the many ancient volcanoes that compose the Auvergne region.
You can reach the top on foot by hiking along one of the two trails, either the former Roman road called the Sentier des Muletiers, or the Sentier des Chèvres, or take the small Panoramique des Dômes train that departs from the visitor center. Buy your ticket now.
Once at the top, visit the ancient ruins of a Gallo-Roman Mercury temple, pause for a coffee, or continue hiking to the nearby Puys of the Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Nature Park (Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d’Auvergne).
One way to enjoy the Puy-de-Dôme is going paragliding – check our video below!
A popular volcano theme park, Vulcania is an educational amusement park with a volcano, primarily known for its 4-D film The Awakening of the Auvergne Giants.
Puy de Pariou & Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Nature Park
The Puy is another popular destination, presenting a distinct shape created by the overlay of two strombolian cones and a tuff ring. But this Puy (or mountain) is one of the several in the Auvergne Volcanoes Park, which makes the area perfect for hiking. Within barely 20-30 minutes from Clermont-Ferrand, you can find an incredible landscape of rolling hills, away from the big city.
Looking for trail ideas? Check out our post about hiking in Auvergne Volcanoes Park.
Plateau de Gergovie
About 6 miles (10 km) south of Clermont-Ferrand, the plateau is named after the village of the same name. The site is known for being the place where Vercingetorix fought and won against Julius Caesar in 52 BC. Today, a tall monument, a new museum, and walking grounds are present.
Abbey of Saint-Pierre Mozac
The Mozac Abbey is a Cluniac monastery from the 6th-century in nearby Riom.
Basilique Notre-Dame d’Orcival
Built in the 12th century, the basilica is one of the five major Roman churches of Auvergne, together with the Notre-Dame-du-Port Basilic in Clermont-Ferrand, the Saint-Austremoine Church in Issoire, the Saint-Nectaire church in the town of the same name, and the Notre-Dame de Saint-Saturnin church. While the village is rather small, the basilica is a must-see!
Château de Murol
The first castle was built in the 12th century on a basalt hilltop in order to watch the different ways passing nearby. A second wave of construction in the 14th century reinforced the initial structure, with a keep, another chapel, and new buildings. A visit today will let travelers imagine how life was in the Middle Age, with most of the castle still standing. A light and sound show, as well as medieval appearances in the courtyard, provide for lively performances.
Auvergne Tour: 3 Days
Rent a car and enjoy a complete Auvergne experience. Combine Clermont-Ferrand with visits to the Chaîne des Puys (Volcanoes Park) and Château de Murol, among other Auvergne destinations.
Water & Springs of Auvergne
Auvergne is known for its curative waters. Mineral waters include the popular Volvic and lesser-known Rozanna, and mountain springs saw the foundations of spa towns where you treat yourself! Head to cities like Royat-Chamalières (Princess Flore Hotel), La Bourboule, Châtel-Guyon (Hôtel Spa Thermalia), et Le Mont-Doré (Grand Hotel) are amongst the most popular spa and thermal treatments.
Auvergne Food Specialties
Don’t leave Clermont-Ferrand without tasting some of the famous Auvergne Cheese. Of course, Bleu d’Auvergne (Blue Cheese) might be the better known, but St. Nectaire is the local favorite. Add Salers, Fourme d’Ambert, et Cantal at the minimum. Connaisseurs might want to add a creamy Gaperon.
Truffade, Potée Auvergnate, Petit Sale aux Lentilles du Puy, Soupe au chou, and plenty cured meats (Charcuteries Auvergnates) will surely have you come for more! So don’t miss your chance to try Auvergne cuisine during your stay.
Clermont-Ferrand is home to several Michelin-starred restaurants.
- One-star L’Ostal is known for using regional produce
- One-star Apicius: perfect downtown location at the Saint – Pierre market. However, we can’t say. we were impressed with our dinner. The meal was too modern cuisine for our taste, the mix of texture and taste not ideal.
- Two-star Le Pré is a real treat, with delicious meals beautifully prepared. Totally worth the slight drive from Clermont-Ferrand downtown.
Hotels in Clermont-Ferrand
You can stay either in the city center close to the Place de Jaude and the Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption Cathedral, where you will be able to walk the streets of the Old Clermont (Vieux Clermont), admire historical sites, explore shopping centers, restaurants, and bars. If you come in December, you will be a few steps away from the Christmas Market and Ferris Wheels.
Another area worth considering is the “quartier Salins”, one of the wealthy parts of town, features Sundays flea markets at the Place Gambetta. Les Salins, at it’s called locally, are at a short distance from the Old Clermont, which allows you to explore the old town.
Clermont-Ferrand being composed of two old towns, you might want to consider the Vieux Montferrand (Old Montferrand) which dates from the Middle Ages. Packed with museums, restaurants, and bars as well, the Vieux Montferrand can be reached via the public tram from the Old Clermont. The Old Ferrand has, however, a smaller selection than Clermont-Ferrand Old Town.
Two other parts of Clermont-Ferrand to consider are close to the train station and by the airport.
Here are some of the top recommendations:
- Old Clermont & Place de Jaude
- Old Ferrand
- Hotel Clermont Estaing. Click here to check availability
- Around Clermont-Ferrand Train Station:
- ACE Hotel Clermont-Ferrand. Check the latest prices.
- By Clermont-Ferrand Airport:
- BB Hotel Clermont-Ferrand: Reserve your room now.
- Treat Yourself in a Hotel Spa Clermont-Ferrand and around:
- Middle-age Royal Fortress
- Click here to experience “La Vie de Chateau” (Castle Life) at Château Royal de Saint Saturnin
Any other Auvergne destinations to add? Please comment below!
For other France travel ideas, check out our Quartier St. Martin, Paris Catacombs, and the Père Lachaise Cemetery Coming up soon: hiking in Mercantour, kayaking the Gorge du Verdon, and visiting Provence lavender fields from the French Riviera.
Stay tuned for more adventures
from our travel around the world!
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