In Clermont-Ferrand, the skyline is as moodily Gothic as the ambience is sunny and good-humoured. Dark volcanic stone gave the city its distinctive hue, layered into its 18th-century townhouses, dozens of fountains and the magnificent twin-turreted cathedral at its cobblestoned heart. As the Auvergne's largest city, Clermont-Ferrand is a hub not only for business but cuisine, with plenty of restaurants serving modernised cuisine auvergnate, and culture (in the form of fizzing art, film and live-music scenes). Beyond the winding lanes of its old town, the Auvergne’s capital is an industrial powerhouse, home to the Michelin automotive empire.
This free-spirited city is a convenient base for trips to the slumbering volcanoes of the Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d'Auvergne, as well as to neighbouring towns such as Thiers and Riom.