Welcome to Vichy, a charming spa and resort town located in the heart of France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. Founded by Roman legionaries over two thousand years ago, Vichy has a rich history and has been a popular destination for centuries. Today, it is best known for its famous baths and its architectural testimony to the popularity of spa towns in Europe from the 18th through 20th centuries.
One of the highlights of any visit to Vichy is the many thermal springs that exist in and around the town. These famous mineral springs are rich in trace elements such as lithium and fluorine, and high in sodium bicarbonate. The temperatures of the spring range from 73 degrees C at Antoine Spring to 14 degrees C at Lafayette Spring. In total, about 289 springs have been charted in Vichy and its surroundings, making it a premier destination for those seeking relaxation and rejuvenation.
Vichy’s architecture is also a major draw for visitors. The town boasts a mix of styles, from Roman ruins to Belle Époque buildings. During the 19th century, Vichy was a station à la mode, attended by many celebrities. However, it was the stays of Napoleon III between 1861 and 1866 that were to cause the most profound transformation of the city. Recreational pursuits were not spared; in view of the park, a large casino was built by the architect Badger in 1865. The Emperor would be the catalyst of the development of a small rail station, which increased the number of inhabitants and visitors tenfold in fifty years. After the Second French Empire, the Belle Époque marked the second large construction campaign in Vichy. In 1903, the Opera House (lOpéra), the Hall of Springs and a large bath designed in the eastern style were inaugurated. Many private mansions with varied architectural styles were erected during the first half of the 20th century.
During World War II, Vichy was the capital of Vichy France from 1940 to 1944. The term Vichyste indicated collaboration with the Vichy regime, often carrying a pejorative connotation. However, the town has since moved past this dark period and has become a peaceful and welcoming destination for travelers.
In 2021, Vichy was included in the transnational UNESCO World Heritage Site under the name Great Spa Towns of Europe, cementing its status as a must-visit destination. Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or simply relaxing in natural hot springs, Vichy is a destination that should not be missed.