Capital of the Drome department, Valence is a sleepy city overlooking the Rhone River. An hour from Lyon and Grenoble and in close proximity to vineyards producing Crozes Hermitages, St Joseph and St Peray wines, the city makes a wonderful stop off for
The much-loved Kiosk De Peynet stands on the Champ de Mars and is one of the highlights of this small city - and a good place to start your visit. This ornate bandstand with beautiful views of the decorative gardens and fountains of Park Jouvet below, the Rhone and further Chateux Crussol high up in the distance inspired the artist Peynet to base his romantic love story here.
For those interested in the more historical sights, Valence old town boasts the Maison de Tetes, a 16th century house whose facade, corridor and inner courtyard are decorated with the sculped figures including heads of Ancient Greek nobility and, on the facade, the winds, time and fortune as well as law, theology and medicine are represented.. Close by are also the roman cathedral of St Appolinnaire containing features unique to the Rhone region and The 'Pendentif', an ornate funeral monument to Canon Mistral erected in 1548. A walk along Grand Rue and its surroundings takes in all of these sights and offers a wonderful chance to view the quaint cafes and boutiques that line the narrow medieval streets.
Despite it’s large student population, Valence nightlife is notably quiet. However, from the more traditional (if touristic) restaurants around Place des Clercs serving Provencal dishes and Drome specialities, to the more varied tastes such as Greek, Indian, Tex Mex and Chinese around Place de la Pierre and Place St Jean, there is always something to satify your apetite.
Enjoying a leisurely lunch in the sunny market square is a must. Valence is also home to the gastronomic experience that is Pic, a 3 star restaurent owned by internationally renowned chef, Anne Sophie Pic. A wide selection of cafes and bars are scattered throughout the centre, along with 2 small nightclubs.
For those in search of something more unusual, a short journey should be made to the surroundings of Valence to the Jean Perdrix park. At the centre of this large green space are the two giant ‘Water Castles’, standing at over 50 metres above the water. These award winning examples of 1970s architecture are one of the lesser known features of Valence.
In addition, the Vercours, the mountain range overlooking Valence and the entry point to the French preAlpes, contain a whole host of activities to explore.
Finally, no trip to Valence is complete without sampling the tasty tradition of ‘The Swiss’. Found in almost every bakery of Valence, this sweet orange-flower flavoured pastry created in the shape of a Swiss guard commemorates their presence in Valence in the 1800s as the guardians of the remains of the exiled Pope Pious VI.