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671km (416 miles) SE of Paris; 100km (62 miles) S of Lyon

Follow the Rhône river south from Lyon and you’ll reach this grey market town whose identity is now inextricably linked to its star attraction: Anne-Sophie Pic, France’s only female three-star Michelin chef. A former Roman colony, it later became the capital of the Duchy of Valentinois, set up by Louis XII in 1493 for Cesare Borgia. Today Valence is a market town and distribution point for Rhône Valley fruit and vegetable producers. It’s fitting that François Rabelais, who wrote of gargantuan appetites, spent time here as a student. Valence is a convenient day trip from Vienne or stopover on your way further South to Provence. 

Gastronomy is the essential draw of Valence, but we’d recommend visiting the Musée de Valence Art et Archaéologie, place des Ormeaux (www.museedevalence.fr; tel. 04-75-79-20-80), that has been tastefully renovated by architect Jean-Paul Philippon. A fusion of ancient and modern architecture, the museum focuses on landscapes, with collections spanning 16th-century to contemporary art. The newest wing is topped by a 360-degree panorama over the Rhône valley towards the Vercors mountains. Open Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm (Tues from 2pm); admission to permanent collections is 6€ adults; free for children under 18.
 
It’s unusual for a small market town to have a Michelin-starred restaurant, but Valence has three: the intimate Flaveurs, 32 Grande Rue (tel. 04-75-56-08-40); the well-regarded La Cachette, 16 rue des Cévennes (tel. 04-75-55-24-13); and the world-famous Maison Pic. Check out Anne-Sophie Pic’s Scook, 243 av. Victor Hugo (www.scook.fr; tel. 04-75-44-14-14), a cooking school and shop selling kitchen utensils, cookbooks, and aprons—ideal souvenirs from this gastronomic hub.