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348km (216 miles) S of Paris; 53km (33 miles) NE of Clermont-Ferrand; 174km (108 miles) NW of Lyon

This world-renowned spa on the northern edge of the Auvergne, in the heart of Bourbon country, is noted for its sparkling waters, which reputedly alleviate liver and stomach ailments. It looks much as it did a century ago, when princes and industrial barons filled its rococo casino. (The casino you'll visit today isn't the one that thrived during the spa's 19th-c. heyday. That edifice, at 5 rue du Casino, now functions as a convention hall.)

Since 1861, when Napoleon III was a frequent visitor, much has been done to add to the spa's fame. During the 1980s, the hotels and baths of Vichy underwent a modernization program to keep up with the times and the other baths of France, much to the pleasure of their clients and their ever-changing tastes.

The Perrier craze that has swept most of the world has aided the city's reputation for health and relaxation. The Perrier Company has a contract to bottle Vichy water for sale and runs the city's major attractions. Vichy is a sports and recreation center, boasting a casino, theaters, regattas, horse racing, and golf. The Parc des Sources, a promenade with covered walks, is the center of Vichy's fashionable life, which is at its peak from May to the end of September.