There is no bad time to visit the Auvergne. In winter (December to February), Clermont-Ferrand hosts festivals and markets, and the Auvergne region is as beautiful as ever, while winter sports are available to enjoy. Spring (March to May) sees the gorges an valleys becoming more colourful and offers some flight deals and accommodation bargains, while high summer (July and August) finds crowds visiting the city, but a huge range of activities to enjoy.
Surrounded by picturesque extinct volcanoes, and filled with beautiful medieval and modern attractions, Clermont-Ferrand is one of France’s most elegant cities.
The town is busting with historical sites to visit, from the Cathedral of Notre Dame (which took 800 years to complete) to the more modern memorial to the victory of the ancient Gauls over the invading Romans. Art lovers can also visit the superb Musee Roger-Quilliot, but everyone can enjoy wandering around the compact Old Town that is full of restaurants, bars and craft shops.
Clermont-Ferrand is also a visually stunning town. There is no better vantage point than an easy climb up to Parc Montjuzet near the centre of town, but more energetic visitors can tackle the spectacular Puy de Dome – a volcano that towers over the city (or they could take the bus to the top).
The city is also a thriving cultural and culinary centre. Dine on local specialities like Truffade – a kind of rich potato pancake cooked in goose fat – and attend thrilling events like the town’s Jazz Festival or the world famous International Short Film Festival held in winter.
Visitors to Clermont-Ferrand will also find that the gorgeous Auvergne region is on their doorstep. Hike through pristine mountain valleys, rent mountain bikes and tackle the region’s trails, try canoeing down the Gorges de l’Allier or ski in the winter on the slopes of the dormant volcanoes.
The Auvergne has plenty of attractions to offer as well. From its fascinating amethyst mines to dramatic hill-top chapels like the one at Le Puy-en-Velay and the nature theme park at Le Pal there will be something for all family members to enjoy, at any time of year.
The tram and bus network in Clermont-Ferrand is excellent. Buy batches of ten tickets to secure the best deal, but beware that bus services to outlying suburbs can be less frequent at weekends. While the centre of town is easy to walk around, to explore the Auvergne, visitors will want to rent a car. Cycling is possible, but the terrain around town is hilly, so it may only be for energetic cyclists.
Located 4 miles (6.5 km) from the city centre, the Clermont-Ferrand airport (CFE) is easily accessible by shuttle buses and taxis. Check that your hotel offers a special shuttle service, as many places do, or book your taxi before flying to ensure that hassle is minimised. There is also an airport bus which runs directly into the centre of town (and is extremely good value), while major car rental firms are represented.