Visit Le Puy-en-Velay (Auvergne, France)
Le-Puy-en-Velay, in the heart of the Massif central, is a historical town in an impressive setting surrounded by high hills and the famous conical volcano forms of the region.
This isolation does make Le Puy a bit difficult to reach, but it is a journey worth the trouble. The town is a major attraction with visitors, despite its relative isolation and receives more than 700,000 visitors each year.
Explore Le Puy-en-Velay
Le Puy is above all famous for being the starting point of one of the main pilgrimage paths in France that lead to Santiago de Compostella, and the religious monuments that are a result of this important historical role. The most important historical monuments to visit in Le-Puy-en-Velay are:
The Chapel Saint-Michel d'Aiguilhe
A remarkable site perched high on a rocky pinnacle, the chapel was built in the 10th century. Hike up the (many) steps to the Church of St Michel, and be glad that you are not carrying the material for its construction with you. Its construction was a remarkable feat completed in the 10th century by the Bishop of Le-Put to celebrate his return from his pilgrimage.
The chapel also contains the treasury, and some impressive frescoes.
Le Puy en Velay Cathedral and cloisters
The cathedral is the starting point for the long pilgrimage path (1600 km), and each morning there is a blessing for those about to set off on the journey.
The cloister is very attractive, with an unusually decorative design in white, red and black mosaic around the arches. In a room off the cloisters there is a large fresco, and upstairs there is a small 'treasury' room containing historical artefacts of interest.
Head to the cabinet at the far end for my personal favourites: an 18th century black virgin with a scary looking character peering from her dress and a very early painted statue called the 'petite pieta' (mother and child) - very small and simple and very beautiful.
The Corneille Rock bearing the statue of Mary and baby Jesus
Visible from many parts of Le Puy en Velay, this pink statue was erected in 1860. Interestingly it was made using the metal obtained from hundreds of cannons that had been seized during the Crimean war and were given to the town by Napoleon III.
The path up the rock to the statue is a peaceful stroll, leading to fine views across the town and surrounding region.
Note: the three sites above each have an admission charge - if you are visiting all of them, buy a combined entry ticket at your first port of call to save significantly on the total cost of entry. The cathedral and cloister is a listed National Monument in France.
The Crozatier Museum
This museum, established in the second half of the 19th century, is located in the pleasant Henry Vinay Park (in the southern end of the town) and features a very wide range of items from fossils to fine arts.
Other sites of interest
The historical town centre in Le Puy-en-Velay is also very attractive, with narrow streets to follow and a very impressive number of interesting buildings to discover around each corner. You will spend a lot of time just wandering and absorbing the atmosphere.
In the lower part of the old town the number of shops and boutiques starts to increase - note there are many lace shops because lace was historically a big industry in the town. There is a substantial museum dedicated to lace in the region at the 'Atelier Conservatoire National de la dentelle de Puy en Velay'.
There is a large square to the south of Le Puy-en-velay (towards the Henry Vinay Garden) called Place de Breuil where markets are held and there is a tourist office (pick up the useful map of the town here before setting off exploring).
Overall, Le Puy is an attractive, not overly-commercialised, town and well worth the effort to get there, as much for its setting and general ambience as its individual sights of interest. The cathedral in Le Puy en Velay is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the town is listed as a 'Ville d'Art et d'Histoire.
Places to visit near Le Puy en Velay
One place very nearby that is worth seeing is Polignac, where a fortress has been built on a great rock that provides an extraordinary natural defence (just north of the town).
See also the Cascade de la Beaume, a very picturesque waterfall near Solignac, a little way to the south of Le Puy-en-Velay and reached via a 20 minute walk through a tranquil wooded valley (starts near Agizoux).
The town is also an excellent base for exploring the scenery of the Allier gorges.
Photos of Le Puy-en-Velay
Click any picture to start the gallery
Tourist classifications for Le Puy-en-Velay
Le Puy-en-Velay has received the following tourist classifications: recommended detour town (plus beau detour); historical protected town centre' (secteur sauvegardé); listed town of Art and History
Address: Puy-en-Velay, Haute-Loire, Auvergne, 43000 || GPS: latitude 45.043, longitude 3.8852
Map of Le Puy-en-Velay & places nearby
Highlights close by
Allier gorges 31km
La Chaise-Dieu 34km
Suggested tourist attractions to visit near Le Puy-en-Velay, France
- Le Puy-en-Velay cathédrale Notre-Dame (monuments on French pilgrim routes) - heritage site
- Le Puy-en-Velay Hotel-Dieu St Jacques (monuments on French pilgrim routes) - heritage site
- Prieuré de Saint Julien (Saint-Julien-Chapteuil) - religious monument (13km)
- Eglise de Saint Georges (Saint-Paulien) - religious monument (14km)
- Lac du Bouchet - site of natural beauty (17km)
- Arlempdes - most beautiful village (20km)
- Pradelles - most beautiful village (30km)
- Jardin de l’écomusée - remarkable garden (39km)
- Cascade du Ray-Pic - site of natural beauty (41km)
- Lavaudieu - most beautiful village (42km)
Market days in Le Puy-en-Velay: Regular market(s) are held in Le Puy-en-Velay each Wednesday & Saturday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)
The French version of this page is at Le Puy-en-Velay (Francais)