Located partway between Lyon and Avignon, Valence lies on the left bank of the Rhône River in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. It’s been nicknamed the “Gateway to the south of France” and is on the doorstep of the Archaeological Site Soyons, which reveals findings from the prehistoric, Celtic and Roman periods.
Things to do in Valence
You can delve into the local history at the Musée de Valence, which explores life in the Middle Rhône Valley over the last 4,000 years. Admire the mosaics, sculptures and taurobolic altars on display in the archaeology galleries before getting up close to paintings by Eugène Delacroix, Camille Corot and Hippolyte Bellangé in the fine art collection.
One of the most impressive architectural landmarks in Valence is the Cathédrale Saint-Apollinaire, which was originally established in the 11th century and suffered extensive damage during the French Wars of Religion. Also of note is the elaborate Maison des Têtes, a 16th-century building decorated with sculptural heads symbolising law, theology and medicine.
Escape the bustling streets of Valence during a picnic beneath the exotic trees of Parc Jouvet, which offers impressive views across the Rhône River. A short stroll away is the 19th-century Peynet Bandstand, an Art Nouveau structure that inspired illustrator Raymond Peynet to create his two “Amoureux” characters. They became instantly popular when they appeared in the 1940s and were featured on French stamps in the 1980s.
Getting around Valence
Valence is just over an hour’s drive from Lyon and Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport, which has flights to destinations across Europe and North Africa. Regular trains connect to the Gare de Valence Ville from cities throughout France while buses travel within Valence. The centre of Valence is compact enough to explore on foot.