Vichy (03 Allier, ARA) celebrates its Napoleon III Festival (Vichy Fête Napoleon III )- 14 – 16 June 2024

Le Lac d'Allier, Vichy
Le Lac d’Allier, Vichy

Vichy has been tied to the Bonaparte family since 1799, when the mother of Napoleon I came to the spa town for a treatment. It was under this empire that the Parc des Sources was created.However, it was the nephew of Napoleon I, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, or Napoleon III, that truly transformed the city. He came to Vichy five times for treatments, and ordered the construction of a new park, roads, a dyke along the Allier River, a church and a city hall. Napoleon III also brought the railway to Vichy and inaugurated the Opera-Casino in 1865. These improvements in infrastructure helped him in his goal of making Vichy a world class spa destination, the “Queen of the spa towns”, to rival the great spas of Europe.


To give homage to Napoléon III’s efforts for the town, hundreds of participants dress in period costumes and take over the city of Vichy. The opening of the festival is at the Opera-Casino with a lyrical concert highlighting the songs and dances of the time period. For more info see
The town of Vichy is truly honored during the festival with dramatized guided tours and horse drawn carriage rides, allowing visitors to discover the unique architecture of the spa town and its Imperial history.
Also on the programme are presentations of military relics and parlour dancing demonstrations in the Parc Thermal. Be sure not to miss one of the highlights of the weekend: the parade through the streets of Vichy with over 300 dancers and musicians.
For an unforgettable evening, there’s dinner and dancing at the Opéra-Casino, with a traditional meal prepared by local chefs (in traditional costumes of course!). The historical monument is the perfect setting for discovering the music and dances of the Second Empire.

Some place names conjure up an image automatically – e.g. the Somme and World War One and Vichy, the ignominious seat of a disgraceful regime during the occupation of France by Hitler.

Yet get behind those images – and, for example. the Somme is a delightful landscape of rolling hills, sandy beaches and a haven for wildlife!

Similarly Vichy (03 Allier, ARA) is a pleasant and elegant spa town. It was apparently chosen by Marechal Petain as the seat of government because it had plenty of hotels which could be taken over for ministerial offices and accommodation for the bureaucrats. And because it was the site of the collaborationist Petain government in World War II the city was not bombed or otherwise damaged during the war – hence its architecture was preserved including many art deco and art nouveau treasures!

It seems remarkably isolated compared to other cities in the so-called “free zone” – such as Lyon or Clermont Ferrand. And that situation, being off the major routes, makes it peaceful and relaxing.

The town possesses many fine hotels – and the Hotel de Ville – of the late 19th Century – but nowadays there are plenty of modern buildings to house tourists or those who come for the beneficial effects of the Spa – Thermes – and the waterfront alongside the river/lake (the Allier) offer more energetic pursuits.

Hotel de Ville, Vichy
Hotel de Ville, Vichy

To reach Vichy from the north take the A77 autoroute to Nevers and Moulins and beyond.

Eurostar train

There is a train service direct from Paris Gare de Lyon

Self-catering apartments Residence le Palm Beach, Vichy
Self-catering apartments Residence le Palm Beach, Vichy

B&Bs, self-catering apartments and Hotels in Vichy including the self-catering Residence Le Palm Beach, in the centre of the town but with a balcony view of the lake and less than 1km from the Baths.
The locals are called Vichyssoises – also the name given to a classic cold leek and potato soup – so-named by the creative chef who lived near Vichy. Also known for Vichy Water – an effervescent mineral water which has been bottled in the region for many years.

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