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Being at the very heart of France is just perfect: like a point of equilibrium, harmony, and well-being!
In the north of the Auvergne region, less than three hours from Paris, the Allier begins at the foothills of the Massif Central. The Allier is the crossroads of the medieval languages of Oc and Oil and the homeland of thermal luxury and lush oak forests. This department is a mosaic of exceptional towns, character villages and a charming countryside.
The Allier shares its name with the wild river that crosses its landscapes. The territory is also fissured by the gorges of the Sioule River and crossed by the Cher and Loire rivers, and offers a mosaic of contrasted and captivating landscapes such as the ancient trees in the superb Tronçais oak forest, the 'Montagne bourbonnaise', the 'Bocage bourbonnais' and the Combraille, all of which are preserved sites of natural beauty.
As well as this natural wealth there is a considerable historic heritage left by the Dukes of Bourbon. In this former Duchy of Bourbonnais, the Bourbon dynasty left its mark on French politics and on the area by having numerous castles, churches and manor houses built there. Over 500 castles including that of the famous Chateau de La Palice, to admire, visit and even stay in ('chambres d'hôtes'). Find out more about the Bourbon Dynasty in the Allier
Romanesque edifices and elegant spa towns (Vichy, Néris-les-Bains, Bourbon-l'Archambault) can be found throughout the Allier. Take in Vichy, with its spas, opera and shopping. Don't miss Moulins, with its museums and historical cafés, or Montluçon with its MuPop Music Museum.
A huge network of footpaths and trails for cyclists and horse riders allow visitors to explore this territory and discover its subtle charm. And youngsters too are spoilt for choice: instructive and fun amusement and animal parks such as Le PAL and Paléopolis.
And the fun doesn't stop when the sun goes down! The World Cultures Festival in Gannat, the Jean Carmet Film Festival in Moulins or the Festival of the Dukes of Bourbon in Montluçon, 'Jazz dans le bocage', 'Rock Préserv'à Broût-Vernet' or the Musical Days of Autumn in Souvigny are all great opportunities to celebrate, learn, and discover our heritage and sense of exchange, the value of people, openness, and music.
The best way to really get the measure of the Allier is by meeting our local tradesfolk, wine producers and farmers, making new friends, and sampling and savouring their local products. The AOC wines of Saint-Pourçain, Charolais beef and Bourbonnais chicken, the famous potato pie and Charroux mustard are just some of the 'ambassador' products to try in the many great restaurants in the Allier.