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Rhône-Alpes Travel Guide
Mont Aiguille, Vercors Plateau
Mont Aiguille, Vercors Plateau.


Rhône-Alpes is France's second largest and second wealthiest (in GDP per capita) region after the Île-de-France. Almost exactly the size of Denmark and slightly more populous (6.2 million against 5.5 million inhabitants), Rhône-Alpes is the 6th largest economy of any European region.

Its capital, Lyon, is only second to Paris in size and is often acclaimed as the gastronomic capital of France (at least outside Paris), which also makes it one of the best places to eat in the world. In Roman times, Lyon (Lugdunum) was the capital of Gallia Lugdunensis, a province stretching from Brittany to the Alps.

Rhône-Alpes is composed of the former Duchy of Savoy (annexed to France in 1860), of the historical province of Lyonnais, of the southern part of Burgundy and the northern half of Dauphiné. The sparsely populated, laid-back Alpine region contrasts sharply with the hustle-bustle of the Rhône Valley.

The traditional Franco-Provençal and Vivaro-Alpine languages have virtually disappeared since King Francis I tried to impose Parisian French as the only official language of the kingdom. Most of the 50,000 Franco-Provençal speakers left in the region today are in Savoy (Savoie and Haute-Savoie departments), which did not become French until the late 19th century.

Famous people from Rhône-Alpes include (chronologically): the writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the celebrity chef Paul Bocuse, the ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet, and the composer Jean Michel Jarre.


Culinary specialities from the Rhône Valley include quenelles (a mixture of creamed fish, chicken, or meat), grattons (pork grilled in fat), caillette au épinard (spinach quail), gras double (tripe cooked with onions), barboton (lamb stew with potatoes and carrots), salade lyonnaise (lettuce with bacon, croutons and a poached egg), soupe à l'oignon, poulet au vinaigre, civet de porc, tête de veau sauce verte,, and poulet de Bresse aux morilles (Bresse chicken with morels).

Culinary specialities from the Alps include gratin dauphinois, Savoy cheese fondue, ramequin (a sort of cheese fondue), raclette, tartiflette (potatoes cooked in reblochon cheese, lardons and onions), polenta, œufs à la Monteynard (rice mixed in soft-boiled eggs and cheese), and matafan (a salty crêpe with potatoes).

The better known cheeses of the region are Abondance, Beaufort, Bleu de Bresse, Bleu de Gex, Bleu de Termignon, Bleu du Vercors, Cervelle de canut, Fourme de Montbrison, Picodon de Crest, Reblochon, Saint-Marcellin, Sarasson, Vacherin, and various kinds of Tomme.

Desserts include bugnes lyonnaises (angel wings), coussins de Lyon (sweets made of chocolate and marzipan), marrons glacés, matefins (thick apple pancake), nougat, poire à la beaujolaise, pommes caramélisées, tarte à la Cuerde, tarte aux citrons meringuées, tarte aux pralines, tarte bressane, tarte au sucre, and tarte flambée.

Rhône-Alpes has four wine-growing regions: the Beaujolais in the north, the Côteaux du Lyonnais around Lyon, the Côtes du Rhône in the south, and Savoy in the east. The town of Voiron, in Isère, makes the green and yellow chartreuse liqueur. The Evian and Badoit mineral waters come respectively from the Haute-Savoie and Loire departments.


Vercors Regional Nature Park
Vercors Regional Nature Park, Rhône-Alpes (© gui00878 -
outstanding A relatively small nature reserve at the confine of the Drôme and Isère départements, the Vercors regional park is set upon a limestone plateau south of Grenoble. Its two main peaks are...Read more.

Département de la Loire

good Firminy
good Saint-Étienne

Département de l'Ardèche

Ardèche Gorges
Pont d'Arc, Ardèche Gorges (© Robert Paul Van Beets |
must-see The gorges of the Ardèche River form a spectacular canyon over 30 km between Vallon-Pont-d'Arc and Saint-Martin-d'Ardèche. The gorges are great for hiking and bathing. Particularly...Read more
Saint-Montan, Rhône-Alpes (© george kuna -
outstanding A charming medieval stone village nestled in the Ardèche mountains between Montélimar and Orange...Read more

Other attractions

good Aubenas
outstanding Aven d'Orgnac Caves
very good Balazuc
good Boulogne Castle (ruins)
very good Joyeuse
very good Labeaume
good Largentière
very good Lalouvesc
very good La Voulte-sur-Rhône
outstanding Mounts of Ardèche Regional Nature Park
    very good Mount Gerbier de Jonc
    very good Ray-Pic Falls
outstanding Païolive Wood
very good Peaugres Safari
very good Privas
good Tournon-sur-Rhône
good Vals-les-Bains
very good Viviers
very good Vogüé

Département de la Drôme

Ideal Palace in Hauterives
Pérouges, Rhône-Alpes (© Thomas Pozzo di Borgo -
outstanding Postman Cheval's Ideal Palace in Hauterives is one of France's queerest attractions. Regarded as an extraordinary example of naïve art architecture, the palace was built between 1879 and 1912 by a French postman...Read more

very good Grignan Castle
good Montélimar
very good Suze-la-Rousse Castle
very good Valence

Département du Rhône

Lyon, Rhône-Alpes (© raoulgalop -
must-see Ancient capital of Gaul, silk capital of Europe in the Renaissance, then industrial powerhouse, Lyon now likes to style itself as the capital of gastronomy in France...Read more

Département de l'Ain

Pérouges, Rhône-Alpes (© Thomas Pozzo di Borgo -
outstanding Pérouges is a splendid fortified town with cobblestone streets and harmonious 15th and 16th-century stone houses...Read more

Other attractions

very good Bourg-en-Bresse
very good Cerveyrieu Waterfall in Artemare

Département de la Haute-Savoie

Annecy, Rhône-Alpes (© L.Bouvier -
must-see Annecy is an enchanting medieval town of canals, bridges and arched alleyways on a backdrop of Alpine peaks. Located 40 km south of the Swiss border, Annecy was the capital of the County...Read more
Castle of the Dukes of Savoy, Chambéry, Rhône-Alpes
outstanding Chambéry was the capital of Savoy, then of the Kingdom of Piedmont and Sardinia.
Mont Blanc
Ibex in the Mont Blanc massif, Rhône-Alpes (© Leroy Julien -
outstanding At 4,810 m (15,782 ft) the Mont Blanc is Europe's highest mountain. Lying at the Franco-Italian border, the French side is accessible from Chamonix, the French capital of Alpinism and..Read more

Other attractions

very good Courchevel
very good Évian-les-Bains
very good Megève
very good Thonon-les-Bains
very good Val-d'Isère

Département de la Savoie

Vanoise National Park
Vanoise National Park, Rhône-Alpes (© Steeve ROCHE -
outstanding Vanoise National Park.

Other attractions

very good Aix-les-Bains

Département de l'Isère

Vizille Castle
Vizille Castle, Isère (photo by Pierre Bona -  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
outstanding The Château de Vizille is one of the most sumptuous castles in the French Alps. It was built in the 17th century by the Duke of Lesdiguières, governor of the Province of Dauphinée and close friend of King Henry IV. Bequeathed to the French state in 1924, the castle was used as a presidential retreat until 1960. It now hosts the Museum of the French Revolution of Vizille.
Pont-en-Royans, Rhône-Alpes (© gui00878 -
outstanding Pont-en-Royans is a lovely, quaint village of colourful houses suspended over a rocky protuberance along the river. It located near the Vercors regional park, half-way between Grenoble and Valence...Read more

Other attractions

good Chamrousse
very good Grenoble
good L'Alpe d'Huez
very good Vienne
good Villard-de-Lans

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