The gateway to the South of France and the capital of Drôme, Valence is a charming city in the Rhône Valley. Thanks to its sunny climate, location by the river and City of Art and History label, this is an attractive city in all respects. With its many café terraces, pleasant pedestrian squares, shopping streets and listed monuments, the old city offers a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
Valence has some beautiful buildings, the oldest of which, the Cathedral of St. Apollinaris, dates from the 11th century. Its decorations are made of polychrome stones and its white stone bell tower contrasts with its molasse structure. At the heart of the cathedral's old cloister stands the Pendentif, a surprising funerary monument in the Renaissance style, dating from 1548. Also unmissable is the magnificent House of Heads on 57 Grande Rue, which is thus named after the many carved heads adorning its façade and inner courtyard. Built in the early 16th century, it marks the transition between the Flamboyant Gothic and Renaissance styles. Inside, a permanent exhibition tells the story of the city.
Don't forget to go and admire the elegant façade of the 19th-century Mauresque House, on Rue Gaston Rey, with its Orientalism-inspired architecture. Then there's the Church of St. John, with its beautiful Neo-Romanesque porch bell tower from the 19th century, and its carved capitals from the old medieval Romanesque church. The monumental fountain dating from 1887, designed by Eugène Poitoux and installed at the heart of the city, on Boulevard Bancel. Or the 13th-century Draper's House, the oldest house in Valence, built from stone and tucked away in the Saint-Jean district.
For a spot of culture, the Valence Museum of Art and Archaeology, installed in the old episcopal palace, has an archaeological section telling the story of the civilisations that once occupied the Drôme and the middle of the Rhône Valley through a display of over 1,500 objects. The Art collection, meanwhile, has a collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures and decorative arts on the theme of landscapes, from the 16th century to the contemporary era. Don't miss its belvedere on the top of the building, which offers an exceptional viewpoint over the city and the surrounding landscape.
Did you know that 10% of Valence's population is of Armenian origin? Head to the Armenian Heritage Centre to discover its permanent exhibition about the history of the Armenian genocide and exile.
The many parks have earned Valence its status as a green city. Right in the city centre, the Jouvet Park covers 7 hectares and is home to over 700 trees, some of which are listed as remarkable specimens. The canals that run through it and the menagerie make it an ideal place for walks with the family. Le Champ de Mars overlooking the superb public park is also an unmissable part of the city, in particular due to its fountains and its bandstand made famous by Peynet's Les Amoureux cartoon. Popular with the locals, this vast esplanade offers fabulous views over the Jouvet Park, Ardèche and Crussol Castle.
At the southern exit from the city, don't hesitate to stop by Valence harbour. The biggest river marina in France, it is located within the Épervière Park, a vast green space of 7 hectares featuring an arboretum, orchard, flower meadow, fun sports trail for children and a water fun centre.
Above all, don't leave Valence without having tasted its delicious speciality, the Suisse. This little shortbread man, flavoured with candied orange peel and orange blossom, is the ideal accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee!