Forming part of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Great Spas of Europe, Vichy lies along the banks of the Allier River in central France. It became fashionable with the rich and famous in the 19th century on the recommendation of Napoleon III, who was responsible for many of its iconic buildings and parks.
Things to do in Vichy
In the heart of Vichy is the Parc des Sources, a leafy green space that was originally laid out in 1730 as a place for spa visitors to stroll. It’s home to the Grand Casino and the Art Nouveau-style Vichy Opera House, which was designed by Charles Lecœur. In the north of the park is the Hall des Sources, where you can sample the local spring waters and learn about their mineral content.
A short walk from the park is the Église Saint-Blaise, a church of 17th-century origins that was transformed into an Art Deco masterpiece in the 1930s. Gaze up at the concrete tower and dome before stepping inside to admire the ceiling mosaics, painted columns and stained glass windows created by the Mauméjean brothers.
For a cultural fix, visit the Art Museum of Africa and Asia, which occupies an elegant residence where missionaries receiving long-term spa treatments once stayed. Guests would bring treasures from far-flung corners of the globe and the museum boasts more than 4,000 objects from former French colonies. In addition to precious coins and musical instruments, period furnishings are also on display.
Getting around Vichy
Vichy is two hours’ drive from Lyon and about an hour from Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne Airport, which has flights to destinations across France. Trains connect to Vichy railway station and buses travel throughout the city. The centre of Vichy can easily be explored on foot.