399km (248 miles) S of Paris; 177km (110 miles) W of Lyon

This city in south-central France was the ancient capital of the Auvergne. Clermont-Ferrand has seen a long parade of history. It was created in 1731 by a merger of two towns, Clermont and Montferrand. The city is surrounded by hills, and in the distance stands one of the great attractions of the Auvergne, the volcanic mountain Puy-de-Dôme.

Today Clermont-Ferrand (commonly called Clermont) is hardly celebrated for its ancient appearance and medieval streets. Much of the town looks as if it were created in the stark 1960s and 1970s. It's not a town in which we'd choose to linger, but it's an important rail hub in this region and has a number of attractions that do bring in visitors. Its population numbers 150,000 for the city and 260,000 for the city and its surrounding region.