Clermont-Ferrand (pop 14,700) is the main city in the Puy-de-Dôme department and is surrounded by a chain of volcanoes and is visibly loomed over by the nearby Puy de Dome, the highest in the Auvergne region.  Clermont-Ferrand is a great metropolitan city that lies in a rather isolated and rural region. Much of Clermont-Ferrand’s development is owed to the establishment of the headquarters of the Michelin tyre company. The tyre manufacturing giants were set up here in 1889, by brothers Édouard and André Michelin who invented the removable pneumatic tyre after a passing cyclist could not repair his rim-glued version. The company’s success allowed it to employ thousands of Clermont-Ferrand residents. These days, Clermont-Ferrand has turned to tourism and education by setting up a university for its bread and butter; due to the decline of industrial sectors. Despite the heavy industrial influence, Clermont-Ferrand still has some historic structures and a beautiful surrounding, that makes it good base to explore the northern section of the Massif Central. 

The old city centre of Clermont-Ferrand is encircled by avenue des États-Unis, rue André Moinier and Blvd Trudaine. You can arrive here via domestic or European flights at the Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne airport (located a few kilometres east of the city). You can also hop on board a train that stops at the SNCF station [rue de 11 Novembre] or a regional bus that stops at 69 Blvd François Mitterand.



The mysterious beauty of the grand Gothic Cathedrale Notre Dame [see above photo, Place de Victoire,], is only enhanced by the black volcanic stone from which the edifice is carved. The Gothic cathedral was erected here in 1246, replacing an older Romanesque one, taking nearly 150 years to complete. However, its west façade remained incomplete (with Romanesque features); calling for renovations in the 19th century, which were carried out by Gothic Revivalist Viollet-le-Duc. The interior of the cathedral is airy and intriguing as its naves remain wide despite being upheld by slim pillars (achievable thanks to the strong yet light lava stone). The highlights of the cathedral interior are usually the ambulatory chapels that are located around the choir. These chapels house fine stained glass windows, as well as well-preserved medieval frescos. The crypt under the choir is the sole survivor of the Romanesque church that once stood here. The cathedral stands in the old city, amidst pale-coloured townhouses that sharply contrast with this strikingly black structure.

FRANCE AUVERGNE PUY DE DOME  Clermont-Ferrand  Basilica of Notre-Dame du Port
Northeast of the Clermont Cathedral, the Basilique Notre Dame du Port [Rue du Port] is a 12th century structure that is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. This equally grand church is completely different from the Clermont Cathedral in look and feel, as it is lightly-coloured and is constructed in a unique Auvergne-Romanesque style. The church has a stout transept and has four circular roofed chapels branching out of the ambulatory.

The history of this ancient city can be discovered in the Musée Bargoin [45, rue Ballainvilliers, +33 473426970, ad/ch €5/Free] and the Musée Lecoq [15 rue du Bardoux, +33 473423200, ad/ch €5/Free]. The Bargoin museum was created in the 20th century and it houses exhibitions that detail the archaeological and textile history of Clermont-Ferrand. The prehistory and Gallo-Roman sections are its highlights. The Musée Lecoq on the other hand is the only natural history museum of the Massif Central, housing displays of rocks, fossils and stuffed animals.

FRANCE AUVERGNE PUY DE DOME Clermont-Ferrand statue of Vercingétorix by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi
You can also head to Place de Jaude to see the inaugural statue of Vercingétorix -the legendary Gallic leader who ambitiously defended the region from Julius Caesar. The statue is designed by the same artist who designed the Statue of Liberty, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi.

Try heading over to the quaint Montferrand suburb (located just 2.5km northeast of Clermont-Ferrand). This area makes for a good stroll as you get to sight rows of houses that are built in distinct Gothic and/or Renaissance styles.



CLERMONT-FERRAND STREET MAP:   1. Tourism Office  2. Train station (east of map limits)  3.  Cathedrale Notre Dame  4. Basilique Notre Dame du Port  5. Musée Bargoin  6. Place de Jaude  7. Montferrand

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