The Allier department is located in the region of Auvergne. Situated just south of the centre of France, the department is named after the river Allier and has three other main rivers running through it, the Loire, Cher and Sioulé. The Allier and the Sioulé are tributaries of the Loire.
The main cities are Montluçon, Vichy and Moulins which is the capital of the department. The department in general is sparsely populated.
Whilst Vichy is best known for its water which is exported throughout most of the world, Allier as a department is the most productive agricultural area of the Auvergne. The landscape is fairly flat but diverse, with oak forest in the north east through to vineyards at the centre.
Why you should visit Allier for your next holiday in France
Allier is the most prosperous of the departments in Auvergne. There is plenty of countryside to explore and discover, consisting of meadows, fields, forests, rivers and lakes as well small, market towns. The spa towns are well worth a visit and are both pleasing on the eye as well as offering relaxing therapies.
Being so flat, the area is popular with golfers. There are many walking and cycling trails and most sports are catered for from sky diving to rock climbing. Horse riding is available in the Troncais forest where you can discover the forest on horseback.
What to see in Allier
Montluçon is located on the river Cher in a valley amongst the Combraille hills. The old town sits up on the right bank of the river and is made up steep, narrow, winding streets with some buildings dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. The lower town in across the river and is the area where commerce and industry are located.
The church of Notre-Dame dates from the 14th century with parts of the church of St Pierre dating from the 12th century. Overlooking the town is the castle of Montluçon which was rebuilt by Louis II, Duke of Bourbon, which has wonderful views of the area. The town hall houses a library and is on the site of an old Ursuline convent. There are two other convents which now house a college and a hospital.
The main industries are iron and steel production, glass and chemicals. On a gentler note, a few miles away to the south east is Neris which has thermal springs to offer.
Vichy is located on the banks of the river Allier which runs from the Massif Central mountain range which is only a few miles to the south. Probably best known for Vichy water which is exported worldwide, Vichy is also a spa town and offers thermal baths. Pamper yourself at one of the many luxurious spas. The thermal springs have attracted visitors since Roman times. In addition Vichy also has much architecture of interest and wonderful parks and gardens to visit.
Moulins is located close to the river Allier. The translation of its name is windmill, but it is in fact not famed for windmills, but many places of interest which include the beautiful cathedral and the Jacquemart belfry. Named after the towns original bell ringer, the Jacquemart bell tower is probably the most interesting building to visit and the town’s claim to fame. At 45 metres high, the belfry was built between 1451 and 1455 of pink sandstone. The belfry has survived two fires, the worst in 1946, when much of it was destroyed. The bells ring every 15 minutes.
The historic quarter is an interesting area and offers numerous wonderful restaurants for dining out. The area is known for its volcanic rock and the land is very fertile due to the underlying extinct volcanoes.
How to get to Allier
Internal flights go to Clermont Ferrand and there are also airports at Tours, Limoges, St Etienne and Lyon which take flights from the UK.
The area has good road connections and is served by the E11 (A71) E62 and E70 (A62) motorways.
There is a TGV service via Paris which services the area.