Belley, Ain: tourism & sightseeing

Photo of Belley (Rhone-Alpes region)

Visit Belley (Rhone-Alpes, France)

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The town of Belley is towards the southern border of the Ain department in the Rhone-Alps, north-west of Chambery.

The quiet town that we see today gives little clue to its long and active past, first as capital of the ancient province of Bugey, then as part of the Saint-Empire romain germanique (the so-called First Reich) in the 10th century before falling within the territory of the Savoy Counts from the 11th century onwards.

In 1385 a great fire destroyed almost all of the original town of Belley, although it was rebuilt soon after.

Explore Belley

France This Way comment: although the individual monuments in Belley are of limited importance, taken together they make the town quite interesting to explore.

The heart of Belley is focussed around the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist and the Place des Terreaux, and the adjacent side-streets, and it is here that you can see the most interesting buildings, with some of the houses dating back as far as the 15th century and having interesting architectural features such as arcades and external staircases.

renaissance windows in Belley

Belley Cathedral

The Cathedral of Saint-John in Belley dates from the middle of the 19th century, having been built to replace an earlier (12th - 16th century) cathedral that had been damaged during the revolution and then further damaged by an earthquake in the early 19th century.

The cathedral is neo-gothic in style and only retains very small parts of the original building (part of the choir and a part of the original cathedral entrance). The main facade is dominated by a central square tower and a statue of Saint-John the Baptist.

The most interesting aspect of the cathedral is the interior, richly decorated with paintings and frescoes. There is also an 18th century statue of the Virgin Mary, which was apparently left undamaged during the revolution because the revolutionaries thought it looked more like a classical statue, perhaps representing the 'goddess of reason', than a statue of the Virgin.

Autres points forts

Particular highlights in Belley include the 18th century Episcopal Palace on Rue des Cordeliers with an imposing classical style facade, and a couple of grand townhouses such as the 18th century Hotel Dallemagne on Boulevard de Verdun and the 16th century Hotel du Bailliage on Grande Rue, which now holds the Belley Tourist Office.

There are a good number of other monuments to see if you are an enthusiast of 16th-18th century architecture so be sure to ask for a map at Belley Tourist Office when you arrive. The Tourist Office also offers various guided tours of the town such as 'Historic Belley' and 'hidden monuments'. Among the monument of interest are:

  • the Hôtel des Ducs de Savoie, with its octagonal stone tower
  • the arcades in the facade of the Hôtel Brillat-Savarin
  • the 18th century Belley Town Hall (now private property) with an ornate insignia to the Chambre des Notaires who later occupied the building
  • the Hôtel Brillat-Savarin with a stone tower in the middle of the facade, at 62 Grande rue
  • the entrance to the Maison du Gouverneur
  • the Vieille Porte on rue Sainte-Marie, which is actually not an ancient town entry as you might think, but a raised passageway built to enable monks to get from their monastery to their garden without needing to cross the public road

After exploring the town we must suggest that you don't leave until you have sampled the highly reputed local cheese, the Tome de Belley!

main street in Belley town centre

Attractions nearby

The countryside around Belley, halfway between the Rhone and the Jura mountains, has numerous lakes, woodlands, waterfalls and valleys to explore with cycling, walking, fishing and canoeing among the popular activities. Among the most visited is the waterfall at Glandieu, a few kilometres south-east of Belley.

In the small Rothonne Forest, just south of Belley, you can follow one of the marked trails through the woodland.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Ain guide and the Rhone-Alpes guide.

See also:

Photos of Belley

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  • main-street
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  • tourist-office
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Map of Belley and places nearby

Visit near Belley with France This Way reviews

... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Ain

Address: Belley, Rhone-Alpes, 1300, France || GPS: latitude 45.766667, longitude 5.683333

Plan your visit to Belley, Ain

Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby

  • Aquarium du Lac du Bourget: aquarium (18 km)
  • Walibi Rhone Alpes: theme park (18 km)
  • Les jardins du Prieuré: remarkable garden (19 km)
  • Morestel: ville fleurie 4* (20 km)
  • Aix-les-Bains: ville fleurie 4* (20 km)
  • Nances: ville fleurie 4* (22 km)
  • Chambery: secteur sauvegarde (29 km)
  • Gorges du Fier: site of natural beauty (31 km)

Market days in Belley, France

Regular market(s) are held in Belley each Saturday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)

The French version of this page is at Belley (Francais)