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EDITOR'S NOTE: We know watching some MHz Choice programs is a great way to capture a glimpse of a new place or recapture the feeling of visiting a gorgeous destination. To expand upon this glimpse, we worked with travel writer Sophie Nadeau to take you on a tour of France region by region. This series of articles will explore the hidden gems and adventures within a different region of France.

If you’re looking to head a little off the beaten tourist track during your time in France, then Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes should be on your radar. After all, between snowcapped peaks, dormant volcanoes, mouthwatering cuisine, and dazzling lakeside towns which seem as if they’ve been plucked straight out of a storybook, there’s certainly something for everyone when it comes to exploring this lesser-visited region. Here are some of the best must-see places and hidden gems of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.

As its name would suggest, this area of France covers the former regions of Auvergne and Rhône-Alpes, which were merged in 2016 following an administrative shakeup. Both former regions have their very own mountain ranges, with part of the Alps contained within the former Rhône Alpes, while dormant volcanoes and mountain peaks (including parts of the Central Massif) cover large swathes of Auvergne.

The area occupies central southeast metropolitan France and has a population of just over 8 million residents.

What is Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes known for?

The region is home to a number of mountain ranges, meaning that it is one of the go-to French destinations for alpine sports. Snowshoeing, skiing, and snowboarding are all popular winter pursuits, and of course this is also the home of après-ski (after ski), and all that that entails.

Following a long day of hitting the slopes, the good times don’t end after the sun goes down and instead continue well into the night, where delectable dishes are paired together with local wines and even better company. The idea is to rest your body while filling up on good food and spending time with friends before heading out for another day of snow sports.

One of the most popular dishes served for dinner after a day out in the snow is fondue. Also known as Fondue Savoyarde in French, this popular cheese dish consists of melted cheeses such as Emmental, Comté, and Beaufort, as well as a good dose of white wine (and that doesn’t include the lashings of wine which are served alongside fondue!). Typically, fondue is served with day old cubes of baguette which are dunked in the cheese together with charcuterie (cold meat cuts).

Speaking of wine, it’s worth mentioning that the area is pretty well-known for its wines, and there are no fewer than 10 Appellation d’Origine Protégée vineyards. Among the many wines produced in the region, you’ll find Beaujolais, Savoie, and Côtes-du-Rhône. Lesser-known wines from the region which are also worth checking out if you get a chance at your local caviste include Côtes du Vivarais and Côtes d’Auvergne.

AUVERGNE lyon city view
Lyon City view

This is also the land of mineralised water, where the smattering of settlements scattered across the region read much like a bottled water menu. The brands Evian water from Evian-les-Bains and Aix water from Aix-les-Bains both hail from the region and source their water from the mountainous slopes.


The capital of the region is none other than lovely Lyon, a town occupied as far back as Roman times when it was considered an important city of trade and commerce. Though it’s one of the largest cities in France (third only to Marseille and Paris), today Lyon has much more of a small-town feel, though remnants of its illustrious past can be found around every turn.

AUVERGNE lyon france
Lyon, France

One of the best places to see traces of Roman Lyon (which was then known as Lugdunum and founded in 43 BCE) is the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière, which once seated around 10,000 spectators. Today, the ruins are free to visit and open air events are held throughout the year  in this unique space.

Situated at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers, other highlights of Lyon include dining in one of the local hole-in-the-wall restaurants which are fondly referred to locally as ‘bouchons’ and wandering through the ‘traboules’, passageways which were once used by those working in Lyon’s silk trade.

Lyon is a hilly city and so you’ll want to wear your most comfortable walking shoes. One of the districts where this is most evident is La Croix Rousse, an area which was once filled with weaver’s workshops when Lyon’s population made much of its money from the silk trade (during the 17th and 18th centuries).

Now, the hip and trendy neighborhood boasts street murals, chic coffee shops, and a handful of museums. Those who wish to learn more about Lyon’s silk weaving history would do well to head to Maison des Canuts.


Despite its fabulous concentration of well-preserved Roman ruins, Vienne remains somewhat off the beaten path and is not as frequented by tourists as its nearby neighbors. Though the city is easy to visit as a day trip from Lyon (train journeys between the two cities take under half an hour), you’ll want to set aside a few days of your precious France trip to soak up the ambiance, stroll around the sun-drenched streets, and snap photos of its pastel hued architecture.

AUVERGNE vienne france
Vienne, France

In Roman times, Vienne was known as Vienna (Vienna in Austria was known as Vindobona) and was one of the most important cities in what was then Gaul. One of the most impressive Roman monuments in town is the Temple of Augustus and Livia.

This well-preserved 1st Century BCE built temple still boasts Corinthian columns and is set within a pretty square. In the summer months, you can sit at the terrace of a nearby café, soak up the sun, and watch the world go by, all in the shadow of the historic monument. Nearby, the ancient theater once sat up to 13,000 spectators and is still used for performances today.

AUVERGNE temple of augustus and livia vienne
Temple of Augustus and Livia, Vienne

Those who wish to learn even more about the Roman history of Vienne and its surroundings would do well to head to Musée Gallo-Romain-en-Gal. This sprawling site displays the remains of plenty of Roman buildings, as well as displays detailing what life would have been like two millennia ago.


If a mountain retreat in a lesser-visited location is the kind of thing you love, then put Besse-et-Saint-Anastaise on your radar. This sleepy little town lies in the heart of the Central Massif Mountain range and is almost entirely constructed of the volcanic lava stone which is a testament to the region’s geologic past.

There is not much to see in town by way of attractions and instead the charm of Besse is simply to stroll around and soak up the historic atmosphere. When visiting by car, then it’s likely that one of the first sights to greet you in Besse-et-Saint-Anastaise will be the remains of the former 15th-century town wall complete with belfry (constructed to defend the town from the English during the Hundred Years’ War).

Besse-et-Saint-Anastaise is also just a short drive away from the Super-Besse ski resort. Though most popular during the winter, the resort town functions all year ‘round, and one of the most popular things to do during the summertime is to take the cable car up to Le Grand Sancy, where you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of lush green grass carpeting a chain of dormant volcanoes. From there, you can go hiking, snap photos of the view, and breathe the fresh mountain air.

AUVERGNE le grand sancy
Le Grand Sancy

Evian les Bains

The spa town of Evian-les-Bains lies alongside Lake Geneva, featured in Murder In…:Lake Geneva episode, is tangibly close to Switzerland (Lausanne is located on the other side of the lake). As you might have guessed from the town’s name, this is the home of none other than Evian water.

Watch a Swiss and French detective duo in Murder In…: Lake Geneva

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Indeed, the water which flows freely from the fountains scattered across town is none other than the very same water that you’ll find in Evian branded bottles. Particularly rich in nitrates, the quality of the water is such that Evian-les-Bains has been a spa town for hundreds of years.

Water aside, Evian is filled with beautiful Art Nouveau architecture and so strolling around the town feels akin to taking a step back in time. Those who wish to get a glimpse of another European country need only to hop on a ferry to Lausanne. The journey time between Evian and Lausanne is just 35 minutes!


Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes certainly doesn’t lack in waterside destinations and yet another place to visit in the region if you love water-inspired escapes is Annecy. Beautiful to visit year ‘round thanks to its abundance of winter and summer sports, as well as its sheer beauty, Annecy sits on Lake Annecy and is best-known for its crystal-clear water.

As well as beautiful nature in and around Annecy, there’s a quaint old town to explore. Like many European destinations, this little slice of history is best explored on foot and so comfortable shoes are a must. As well as the lake, there are enough little waterways which carve their way through the town that Annecy is actually dubbed ‘Venice of the Alps’.

Highlights of the old town include the restored Château d’Annecy which has been transformed into a museum and Le Palais de I’Île, a former prison which has also since been transformed into a museum. For a bird’s eye view of the town, you should be sure to head to Basilique de la Visitation, where you can even climb the bell tower on certain days of the year.

A final note

Simply summed up, the region is all about outdoor pursuits, wine, and city breaks. Those wishing to get away from the bright lights of Paris will find a cozy refuge among the many hills of Lyon, or alternatively in one of the smaller cities close by such as Annecy or even Vienne.

Foodie enthusiasts should not miss out on the wines and cheeses of the region, while winter sports enthusiasts will find everything their heart desires come the coldest months of the year. For an even greater glimpse of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, check out all of the Murder In… episodes set in the region.

Episodes featuring Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes on MHz Choice

auvergne rhone alps collection

About the Author
Sophie Nadeau is a British Canadian travel writer currently residing in Paris with her French husband. She has been lucky enough to have lived in several different countries and has run her travel blog,, full time since 2017. With a particular interest in history and culture (especially if there’s a château visit involved), she spends her spare time painting, reading, cooking up vegetarian recipes, spending too much looking up dog photos online, and researching new hidden gems to discover.
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