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Stunning setting

Le Puy-en-Velay, the capital town of the Haute-Loire department in the Auvergne region of southern central France, is a town with a truly stunning setting. It lies at the feet of two dramatic extinct volcanoes, towering bare rocks which both dominate and define the city below.

Statue and church overlooking Le Puy-en-Velay

Upon one rock stands the statue of the Virgin, which is believed to have been responsible for much of the town's rise to prominence when it began to be an important pilgrim site. Upon the other is a beautiful Romanesque church, the St Michel d'Aiguilhe Church.

Old lace and lentils….

Although lace making is no longer of the same importance to the town that it used to be long ago, it is impossible to walk through the town without being aware of the tradition. The craft is apparent in the many fine examples which are on sale in the shops, and displayed in the historic areas as well as the Musée Crozatier, which is worth a visit. The lentils, also responsible for the fame of Le Puy-en-Velay, are the Lentilles Vertes (green lentils) or Puy Lentilles, so beloved of cooks throughout France, and indeed, throughout many countries of the world.

What to see in Le Puy-en-Velay

The Notre Dame Cathedral is officially recognised as a world heritage site, and is of both religious and historic importance. If you go inside, you can see the statue of the Black Virgin, unless, of course, you happen to be in town on August 15th, when the statue is paraded through the streets. It is at this cathedral that pilgrims on the Santiago de Compostela trail are blessed before setting out on their journey.

St Michel d'Aiguilhe Church and the statue of the Virgin

Then if you are feeling energetic, climb the steps (too many to think about!) to the Church of St Michel d'Aiguilhe, the church on the rock. Stunning to look at, you have to wonder about the engineering problems which must have been faced during the building of this wonderful place, perched as it is upon a needle-shaped extinct volcano, high above the town. On the top of the other rock, at around 500 feet (152 metres) high, is the bronze statue of the Virgin, another point of attraction for pilgrims.

The modern city

Like many old French cities, Le Puy-en-Velay is made up of two distinct parts, the old city and the modern city.The more modern part of the city lies at the base of the rocks, and is a very attractive and unspoiled place. It offers, of course, all the facilities you would hope for from a major city, but manages to do so without presenting them with that frenetic air seen in so many other towns and cities. Buildings are generally in sympathy with the surroundings and older parts of the town, and the pace of life is relaxed and pleasant.

Facilities on offer

Diners can find a variety of good restaurants and shops are plentiful and varied. Necessities such as supermarkets, health services and education are all covered.

Out and about

Sports fans will find plenty to do too, and walkers and photographers in particular will enjoy discovering the delights of this amazing region. Dramatic valleys and gorges offer a spectacular sightseeing opportunity, and also are ideal for those keen on the more white knuckle sports such as rock climbing and zip wire gliding. Motorcyclists too will love the region, as the twisty roads are made for their enjoyment and demand a high degree of skill and concentration to negotiate.

How to get there

Air travel to Le Puy-en-Velay is possible, with the airports of St Etienne and Rodez, both served by budget airline Ryanair, within reach. Rail travel enthusiasts will be able to find train travel via Lyon, which is a direct trip on the TGV from Lille or Paris.

Property prices and availability in and around Le Puy-en-Velay

As the region has been one of France's best kept secrets, property has remained at very reasonable prices for some time. Slowly, however, the region is being opened up to the foreign market, and with Ryanair offering flights to Rodez and St Etienne, this looks set to change.

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Le Puy-en-Velay AT A GLANCE

WHERE IS Le Puy-en-Velay?

Le Puy-en-Velay is situated in southern central France in the volcanic Auvergne region. It lies slightly to the south of the centre of the Haute-Loire department.

Le Puy-en-Velay Property Map

IN THE REGION OF AUVERGNE

Auvergne Guide

Auvergne Property Map

IN THE DEPARTMENT OF HAUTE-LOIRE

Haute-Loire Guide

  Haute-Loire Map


Population: 30,000


Access: By air: Fly to St Etienne or Rodez with Ryanair. By rail: There is a TGV station at Lyon with direct trains from Paris or Lille.


Economy: Traditionally the economy was that of lace making, and the town is still famous for this today. Other significant factors include production of green lentils, leather industries and brewing.


Interesting fact: The inhabitants of Le Puy-en-Velay are known as Ponots.


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