Even though it doesn’t have Paris’ Eiffel Tower, or Bordeaux’s great wine, or even Nice’s coast, but the gorgeous city of Clermont-Ferrand still manages to be one of the best cities in France that you ought to have it on your bucket list.
The city’s history is not only from ancient times, but there is also a more recent impressive one as well. Clermont-Ferrand is actually the hometown of the renowned mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal who tested a hypothesis concerning the influence of gas pressure on liquid equilibrium.
The enchanting city of Clermont-Ferrand is encircled by a 40-kilometre-long chain of 80 volcanoes. However, the last eruption that took place in the area was 8,000 years ago.
Small yet spellbinding, Clermont-Ferrand has a wide variety of exciting and unique activities that any visitor will surely love in this hidden gem. With some enthralling locations, and volcanoes that will blow your mind, there are such great things to do Clermont-Ferrand and many places to explore.
Set in the Port quarter of Clermont-Ferrand, the masterwork Basilique church Notre-Dame-du-Port has been around since the 6th century when it was founded by the Bishop of Clermont, Saint Avitus. The church was actually burned down by the Normans, and it was rebuilt in the 11th or 12th centuries.
Being one of the most divine Romanesque churches of Auvergne, the Basilique Notre-Dame-du-Port has uniquely beautiful geometric mosaics on its exterior walls of the apse and radiating chapels. Make sure to get a good shot of the church’s exterior walls; we promise you the photo will garner tons of likes on Instagram!
Once inside, you will get to see the mind-blowing 250+ Romanesque capitals, including the ones decorated with narrative scenes, and the statue of the nursing Virgin and an Annunciation of Philippe de Champaigne.
That Spectacular Puy de Dôme, Though!
Puy de Dôme is a lava dome, and it is the highest of the Chaîne des Puys, a 25-mile-long range of dormant volcanoes located on the west of Clermont-Ferrand. Besides its killing view, the 1,465-metre volcano overlooks a set of 80 other volcanoes.
The road to this 11,000-years-old piece of art is quite easy; with it being only a few miles away from the city, you can drive, hike, or take an electric rack railway to the summit. There is also a visitor center, where you can get information about the summit and everything inside.
Once you reach the peak, you will have the chance to enjoy a wide range of activities. You can stroll around the paths or continue to explore. There are three walking paths at the top that you can choose from.
One of the activities we highly recommend doing when you reach the summit is exploring the Temple of Mercury that was built in the 2nd century on the summit of the dome. Also, make sure to pay a visit to the Clermont Observatory of Terrestrial Physics, which is one of the thirty stations of reference around the world concerned with observing the climate’s evolution.
If you are looking for a more thrilling activity, then you must take a plane or a hot-air balloon and enjoy the breathtaking view of the Chaîne des Puys volcanoes from up in the sky. This is the best thing to do for aerial sports enthusiasts and professionals. A visit to Puy de Dôme is one of the most fun things to do in Clermont-Ferrand.
Taking you to another unforgettable period in history, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption is an architectural treasure that has all the key elements of a Gothic church.
Entirely made out of black lava stone, the Cathédrale is quite distinctive with its 96.1-metres-tall twin spires that you can easily see from far away. Visiting the Cathédrale is undoubtedly one of the top things to do while in Clermont-Ferrand.
The building of the French national treasure Cathédrale took around seven centuries to be completed. With its one-of-a-kind stained-glass windows and mural paintings, the Cathédrale will absolutely blow you away with its beauty and would make the perfect background for some memorable photos!
Montferrand, Mon Cheri!
For all the admirers of the Medieval Ages, you must make a stop at the Medieval district of Montferrand. The neighbourhood was founded in the 12th century, and its streets still have that charming medieval imprint in them.
Surprisingly, Montferrand was actually the rival city of Clermont-Ferrand for a long time, until the two got united in 1630. However, their union hasn’t been a smooth one, as Montferrand has petitioned for independence four times, the last of which was in 1911. Can you believe it!
The district is only a few kilometres northeast of the cathedral, and a stroll in its streets that are full of churches, arcades, and merchants’ mansions made from Volvic lava will leave you in awe. While there, we recommend passing by the captivating Romanesque Maison de l’Elephant, from the 13th century on Rue Kléber; it is a fantastic piece of work!
Musée d’Art Roger-Quilliot
Another central appreciable touristic spot in the city of Clermont-Ferrand is the Musée d’Art Roger-Quilliot. The gorgeous museum of art was opened in 1992. The museum has a modern three stories-high atrium lit by a glass roof.
Musée d’Art Roger-Quilliot includes many notable artefacts from different periods of time, like the Romanesque wooden sculpture “Notre Dame d’Usson” and the capitals from churches in the region. There is also the renaissance section, where you will get to see sculptures and furniture by the early Dutch painter Cornelis Engebrechtsz.
Last but not least, there is the Grande Galerie that contains those compelling 19th-century French art, with contributions by Delacroix, Gustave Doré and Camille Claude. The tour inside the museum is something you must do while in the city.
Place de Jaude
Place de Jaude is Clermont-Ferrand’s main square, and it is impossible to make it to the city without passing by it. However, this serves in your favor, as soon the square becomes a central point for an improvised map to make going around the city a lot easier.
The square hosts many significant events like the Europavox Music Festival or the well-known The Summer Contre-Plongées. If you are in the city around the time of any event, we highly recommend you attend it, and it would be an exhilarating experience that you won’t regret!
The square is a beauty to behold; it is encircled with fountains, laurel, tulip and American sweetgum trees, and cafes with such a fascinating view…. What more would we need?! Place de Jaude includes a piece of work by famous sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, who made the Statue of Liberty, which is the Gaulish leader Vercingetorix statue. Make sure to take a good photo there!
One of the top things to do while in Clermont-Ferrand is paying a visit to the Bargoin Museum. The museum was inaugurated in 1903 in the heart of the city. Bargoin Museum is divided into two major departments, with each of them featuring a specific field of knowledge.
The first department is the archaeological one, which features a collection of artefacts of ancient societies from the region dating back to prehistory, protohistory and the Gallo-Roman era. The other department is the Carpet and Textile Art department, which is entirely focused on textiles with items like carpets, tapestries, clothing, and furniture coming from the Middle East, Central and East Asia, and North and South America.
This is for the ones who love to start their day with a refreshing morning walk, and there is no better place to do that than in the Parc de Montjuzet. Parc de Montjuzet is a beautiful Mediterranean garden with lavender, rosemary, olive trees, cypresses and pines, and playgrounds for children.
As tranquil as you can imagine, the garden is the perfect spot for a lovely picnic with Clermont-Ferrand’s central attractions in the backdrop.
Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival
If you make it to Clermont-Ferrand around the time of the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, then you are lucky! Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival is the world’s first festival dedicated exclusively to short films.
The festival has been held annually since 1979, and it brings nearly 150,000 people to Clermont-Ferrand each year, and the movies are open to the public. Who needs Cannes’ when you have the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival!
If you are a cheese lover, like most of us, you will definitely fall in love with Clermont-Ferrand. The whole Auvergne region is known for producing the best cheeses in France. Make sure to try the national favorites like Cantal, Salers, Bleu d’Auvergne and Saint-Nectaire……Oh, Cheese!
With so many fun things to do, Clermont-Ferrand is France’s best-kept secret where you won’t be bothered by hordes of other tourists who would make it impossible to truly enjoy the city and all the great things you can do there. Make sure to add Clermont-Ferrand to your bucket list; it is a trip you don’t want to miss!