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Town hall
Town hall
Coat of arms of Vichy
Coat of arms
Vichy is located in France
Country France
Region Auvergne
Department Allier
Arrondissement Vichy
Intercommunality Vichy Val d'Allier
 • Mayor (2014–2020) Claude Malhuret
Area1 5.85 km2 (2.26 sq mi)
Population (2011)2 24,992
 • Density 4,300/km2 (11,000/sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 03310 / 03200
Elevation 243–317 m (797–1,040 ft)
(avg. 263 m or 863 ft)

1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Vichy (French pronunciation: ​; Occitan: Vichèi) is a city in the Allier department in Auvergne in central France. It belongs to the historic province of Bourbonnais.

It is known as a spa and resort town and was the de facto capital of Vichy France during the World War II Nazi German occupation from 1940 to 1944.

The town's inhabitants are called Vichyssois. Up until the 18th century they were more properly known as les Vichois which stems from the Occitan name of the town, Vichèi. The writer Valery Larbaud uses the term Vicaldiens after the Ancient Roman name for the community.

With 80,194 inhabitants, Vichy's urban area is the second largest in the Auvergne region behind Clermont-Ferrand.



The city enjoys an inland oceanic climate that incorporates some characteristics of a mountain climate because of the nearby Massif Central and Alps. Heavy snows in the Massif Central often make roads impassable, but Vichy is low enough — about 800 feet (240 metres) above sea level — that the climate is more continental than mountain. Rainfall is moderate around Vichy, averaging about 30 inches (75 centimeters) annually.

Town Sun Rain Snow Storms Fog
Paris 1,797 hr/yr 642 mm/yr 15 dy/yr 19 dy/yr 13 dy/year
Nice 2,694 hr/yr 767 mm/yr 1 dy/yr 31 dy/yr 1 dy/yr
Strasbourg 1,637 hr/yr 610 mm/yr 30 dy/yr 29 dy/yr 65 dy/yr
Vichy 1880 hr/yr 790 mm/yr ... dy/yr ... dy/yr ... dy/yr
National Average 1,973 hr/yr 770 mm/yr 14 dy/yr 22 dy/yr 40 dy/yr
Climate data for Vichy --Elevation 817 ft (249 m)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 7
Average low °C (°F) −1
Precipitation mm (inches) 48
% humidity 84 79 73 70 71 74 71 74 79 82 84 84 77


Vichy lies on the banks of the Allier River. The source of the Allier is in the nearby Massif Central plateau which lies only a few miles to the south, near the region's capital, Clermont-Ferrand.

The historical existence of volcanic activity in the Massif Central is somewhat visually evident. Volcanic eruptions have happened for at least 150,000 years, but all volcanoes there have been dormant for at least 112 years. Volcanic activity in the area is the direct cause of the many thermal springs that exist in and around Vichy.

Transportation and communication

Highway access

This city is accessible from route départementale 2209 (from the towns of Gannat or Varennes-sur-Allier), the RD 906 from Thiers, the RD 1093 from Randan or the RD 6 from Charmeil.

Vichy is situated 20 km (12 mi) from the autoroute A719 and 35 km (22 mi) from the autoroute A89 (ex-A72).

Currently, this city has no expressways. The expressway A719 (after lengthening) and the northwest and west loops will be the first to directly connect to Vichy. The inclusion of access to the A719 expressway, opened in 1997, in order to avoid the crossing of the town of Gannat, is expected in 2015.

In 2014, only regional two-lane highways (routes départementales) pass through the urban ring of Vichy. The RD 2209 is the principal axis of circulation for heavily loaded trucks, from the west (via Gannat) or the north (via Varennes-sur-Allier or Saint-Germain-des-Fossés) ; other important routes are the following (listed in the clockwise order) :

The RD 67 (Allier) is a loop to the north of the city created to limit traffic jams (access to Creuzier-le-Neuf, afterwards by the RD 907 (Allier), Lapalisse and the RN 7.

Rail transportation

Vichy is served by the following train lines: TER and Intercités (national trains, but booking mandatory) to destinations: Paris Gare de Lyon/Clermont-Ferrand, Clermont-Ferrand/Lyon Part-Dieu and by TER, Vichy/Pont-de-Dore/Arlanc.

Public transportation

MobiVie is the network of urban transport for 6 communes of Vichy Val d'Allier intercommunality. This network is composed of nine lines as of 2014.

"Mobival" is an on-call transportation service for Vichy and its neighborhood. This service offers the local communes a reliable transportation service for areas that are not served by the MobiVie network. Created in October 2004, it has 10 lines.

Air transportation

Vichy is 5 kilometres from Vichy — Charmeil Airport, and 90 kilometres from the larger Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne Airport.[2]


Roman era

In 52 BC, on returning from their defeat at the Battle of Gergovia by the Gallic legions of Vercingetorix, the Romans established a township at their crossing on the Flumen Elaver (Allier). These Roman settlers had acknowledged the therapeutic value of the springs in the area and were eager to exploit them. During the first two centuries AD, Vichy was very prosperous because of these thermal springs.

At the end of the 3rd century, the Roman Emperor [3] which, by phonetic evolution, became Vichèi in Occitan (and then, Vichy in French).

Middle Ages

On September 2, 1344, Jean II ceded the noble fiefdom of Vichy to Duke Pierre I of Bourbon. On December 6, 1374, the last part of Vichy was acquired by Louis II, Duke of Bourbon. At that point Vichy was incorporated into the House of Bourbon. In 1410, a Celestinian monastery was founded with twelve monks. A building located above the Celestinian Spring is still visible.

In 1527, the House of Bourbon was incorporated into the French Kingdom. By the end of the 16th century, the mineral baths had obtained a reputation for having quasi-miraculous curing powers and attracted patients from the noble and wealthy classes. Government officials, such as Fouet and Chomel, began to classify the curing properties of the mineral baths.

Vichy's thermal baths

The marquise de Sévigné, was a patient in 1676 and 1677 and would popularize Vichy's Thermal Baths through the written descriptions in her letters. The Vichy waters were said to have cured the paralysis in her hands, thus enabling her to take letter-writing. In 1761 and 1762, Adélaïde and Victoire of France, the daughters of Louis XV, came to Vichy for the first time and returned in 1785. The bath facilities seemed extremely uncomfortable to them because of the muddy surroundings and insufficient access. When they returned to Versailles, they asked their nephew Louis XVI to build roomier and more luxurious thermal baths, which were subsequently completed in 1787.

In 1799, Laetitia Bonaparte, mother of Napoleon, came to be cured with her son Louis. Under the Empire, Le Parc des Sources was arranged under the Emperor's orders. (Decree of Gumbinen of 1812).

Under Charles X, the great increase in patients wishing to be healed at the springs led to an expansion of the hydrotheraputic facilities. Princess Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte expanded the Janson buildings under the plan of Rose - Beauvais (work completed in 1830.) From 1844 to 1853, theatrical and poetry recitals were performed for the wealthy in the comfort of their own homes by Isaac Strauss.

Vichy in style

By the 19th century Vichy was a station à la mode, attended by many celebrities. But the stays of Napoleon III between 1861 and 1866 were to cause the most profound transformation of the city: dikes were built along the Allier river, 13 hectares (32 acres) of landscaped gardens replaced the old marshes, and along the newly laid out boulevards and streets, chalets and pavilions were built for the Emperor and his court. 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 multiplied the number of inhabitants and visitors by ten in fifty years.

After the Second French Empire, the Belle Époque marked the second large construction campaign in Vichy. In 1903 the Opera House (l'Opéra), the Hall of Springs and a large bath designed in the eastern style were inaugurated. In 1900 the Parc des Sources was enclosed by a metal gallery which came from the World Fair of 1889. 700 metres (2,300 feet) long, it is decorated by a frise de chardons and was completed by the ironworker Emile Robert. Many private mansions with varied architectural styles were erected during the first half of the 20th century.

Vichy welcomed 40,000 curistes in 1900 and this figure had risen to nearly 100,000 just before the onset of the First World War. La vie thermale had its heyday in the 1930s. The success in treating ailments that was attributed to the Vichy Baths led la Compagnie Fermière to enlarge the Baths again by creating the Callou and Lardy Baths. The Art Nouveau-style Opéra, inaugurated in 1903, accommodated all the great names on the international scene. Vichy became the summertime music capital of France, but the war of 1914 would put a brutal end to this development.

Vichy France—seat of the État Français, the Nazi collaborationist government

The Opera in Vichy. In this building, the parliament of the French Third Republic decided to grant full powers to Marshal Philippe Pétain, thereby terminating the republican regime and inaugurating Vichy France (July 10, 1940).

Following the armistice signed on June 22, 1940, the zone which was not occupied by the Germans took the name of the French State (État Français) (as opposed to the traditional name, République française or French Republic) and set up its capital in Vichy on July 1, because of the town's relative proximity to Paris (4.5 hours by train) and because it was the city with the second largest hotel capacity at the time. Moreover, the existence of a modern telephone exchange made it possible to reach the whole world via phone.

On July 1, the Government took possession of many hotels. Six hundred members of the French Parliament (Appointed Members and Senators) would come to Vichy for the meeting of the Chambers. On the 9th and 10th, in the main auditorium of the Opera House, the members of Parliament voted for the end of the Third Republic. The republican system was abolished, and the French State, with Philippe Pétain at its helm as Head of State, replaced it. Only 80 of the 600 members of Parliament voiced their opposition. Starting from this date, Vichy would be, for more than four years, the capital of the French State. This government is often called the Vichy Regime. The preferred term is "Pétainist Regime" or "Regime of the French State." The term "Vichyste," which designates partisans of this regime, should not be confused with "Vichyssois" which designates the inhabitants of the city. The latter term is sometimes used erroneously to designate Pétain's supporters.

Reine des villes d'eaux

The 1950s and 1960s would become the most ostentatious period for Vichy, complete with parading personalities, visits from crowned heads (The Glaoui, the Pasha of Marrakech, Prince Rainier of Monaco) and profits from a massive influx of North African French clients who holidayed in Vichy, spending lavishly. There were thirteen cinemas (which sometimes showed special previews), eight dance halls and three theatres. It was at this period that the station would take the title of "Reine des villes d'eaux" (Queen of the Spa Towns). From June to September, so many French-Algerian tourists were arriving that it almost seemed like there was an airlift set up between Vichy-Charmeil and the airports of Algeria. Mayor Pierre Coulon (1950–1967) decided to create Lake Allier (June 10, 1963) and Omnisports Park (1963–68), giving the city its current look.

Decline of Vichy

The war in Algeria, which led to decolonization, marked once again a halt in the prosperity of this city, which from then on had to deal with much less favorable conditions. The need to continue to pay the debts incurred by the considerable investments that had been made in more prosperous times obligated the new mayor, Jacques Lacarin (1967–1989), the successor of Pierre Coulon, to adopt a much more careful policy of management.

Modern revival

Claude Malhuret, former Minister of Human Rights, born in Strasbourg in 1950, has been mayor since 1989. He and Bernard Kouchner are the co-founders of Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières). The City and its economic partners started and concluded an important program of restoration and modernization. These projects include:

  • creation of a vast pedestrian zone in the city centre,
  • a program of modernization,
  • upgrading of hotels to the sector standards,
  • rebuilding and restoration of the thermal baths,
  • organization of a balneotherapy center dedicated to well-being,
  • development of the architectural heritage,
  • construction of a congress center within the old Casino, and
  • restoration of the Opera.
  • rebuilding of the covered market, called "Grand Marché" (2006)
  • restoration of the train station and sourroundings. (2009)
  • restoration of the "Rue de Paris", a main street in the city center. (2010)


List of Successive Mayors[4][5]
Period Identity Party Profession
since March 1989 Claude Malhuret UMP Doctor
September 1967 to March 1989 Jacques Lacarin Doctor
August 1950 to August 1967 Pierre Coulon Industrialist
April 1949 to July 1950 Pierre-Victor Léger Pharmacist
May 1945 to April 1949 Louis Moinard Trader
August 1944 to May 1945 Jean Barbier Director of College
May 1929 to August 1944 Pierre-Victor Léger Pharmacist
December 1919 to May 1929 Louis Lasteyras Journalist
May 1912 to November 1919 Armand Bernard Shareholder
May 1900 to May 1912 Louis Lasteyras Journalist
21 May 1893 to 20 May 1900 Ferdinand Debrest Pharmacist
15 May 1892 to 21 May 1893 Gabriel Nicolas Lawyer
June 1879 to May 1892 Georges Durin Lawyer
January to September 1878 Alfred Bulot Lawyer
1876 to 1878 Antoine Jardet Doctor
1874 to 1876 Ernest Jaurand Doctor
1870 to 1874 Antoine Jardet Doctor
15 September 1865 to 9 September 1870 Joseph Bousquet Lawyer
7 May 1860 to 15 September 1865 Norbert Leroy Notary
7 May 1857 to 7 May 1860 Antoine Guillermen Hotel owner
20 August 1853 to 7 May 1860 Victor Noyer Surgeon
August 1848 to 1853 Victor Prunelle Doctor and Waters inspector
1843 to 1848 Claude Ramin-Prêtre Hotel owner
1833 to 1842 Christophe Bulot Shareholder
1831 to 1832 Louis Chaloin Hotel master
1822 to 1831 Baron Lucas Doctor and Waters inspector
26 October 1815 to 1822 Antoine Fouet
21 May 1815 to 26 October 1815 Jean-Joseph Gravier
17 March 1814 to 21 May 1815 Antoine Fouet
1809 to 10 March 1814 Godefroy de Bardon
29 March 1805 to 1809 Gilbert Chocheprat
November 1802 to 29 March 1805 Godefroy de Bardon
13 July 1800 to November 1802 Louis-Antoine Sauret
1798 to 1800 Jean-Joseph Gravier Du Monceau
1791 to 1795 Jean-Joseph Gravier Du Monceau
2 February 1790 to 13 November 1791 François-Claude Chocheprat


The city was first noted for its thermal cures in Roman times. Its waters come from springs, including the Vichy Celestins and Vichy Saint-Yorre.

Vichy Pastilles (made in Vichy) are octagon-shaped candies made from soda contained in the spring waters.

The health and beauty business, with the laboratories of the L'Oréal company, also make it possible to publicize the city's name to a worldwide audience under the Vichy brand. (This French website discusses the history of this brand.)

Unlike the neighbouring communes on the Allier, such as industrial Montluçon and administrative seat Moulins, Vichy's economy is centred on the tertiary sector, with companies like the Compagnie de Vichy developing the health and well-being sector to mitigate the decline of medical hydrotherapy. The local market, open on Sundays, attracts shoppers from tens of kilometres around.

The closing of two important local employers, the Manurhin company and the Sediver company, has reduced employment in the Vichy basin. Job creation by developing companies such as the NSE electronics company or the Satel call center company does not probably compensate for the removal of jobs which will result from this, despite the Internet tour operator Karavel's ( establishment of a new call center in May 2005.

Nevertheless, the three most important employers of the city belong to the public sector; the hospital (1120 employees), the town hall (720) and the college of Presles (370).

Since 1989 Vichy has been one of the 7 sites of the European Total Quality Institute (Institut Européen de la Qualité Totale).[6]

Pôle University and Lardy Technology, born from a project of thermal waste land rehabilitation and launched during the mid-nineties, is an economic priority. This 9,000 m2 (2.2 acres) campus accommodates 600 students in the downtown area, in ten areas of study including the fields of biotechnology, international trade, multi-media and languages. The CAVILAM (Centre of Live Approaches to Languages and the Media), created in Vichy in 1964, is now installed with Pôle-Lardy.

The Palace of the Congresses is a venue primarily for the conferences of trade associations and learned societies. The structure is 1,800 m2 (19,000 sq ft) in area, including two plenary rooms and fifteen multi-use rooms. With 25,000 visitors yearly, the conferences must now carry the economic role once held by the hydrotherapy, which today counts only 12,000 patients each year. The hydrotherapy business will now have to reorganise itself to take a less strict therapeutic-only role, and re-orient itself for patients' stays shorter than the traditional 3 weeks.

Building projects

Under the authority of the local communities, much work is being done on building sites and projects, which will deeply modify Vichy in the years to come. The construction by the Hotel of the Community of Agglomeration in September 2005 on the old site of the "Commercial City" may precede the total restoration of the market hall (which would cost €5.9 Million) which would be delivered in September 2006. Other projects include the creation of a 12,000 m2 (130,000 sq ft) mother-child centre in the hospital complex, the restoration of the spa façade (removal of the metal boarding to uncover the original style of 1862), the transformation of the spa into a multi-use center, creation of parks with fountains in place of parking lots, the demolition and the transformation of the buildings in a congested area to create an enterprise center intended to create 800 jobs (opening of the site envisioned at the end of 2007), the construction of a new aquatic stadium including 5 basins (initially envisaged to cost €14.3 million but may end up costing €20 Million) whose delivery is envisaged with the autumn 2007, and finally motorway connection in 2011.

This French website gives key economic figures for the Vichy area.


Vichy was the birthplace of:


A wide variety of faiths are practiced. Various Christian denominations such as diverse Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches are found throughout the area along with adherents of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and others.

International relations

Twin towns – Sister cities

Vichy is twinned with:[7]
City Region Country
Wilhelmshaven[7]  Lower Saxony  Germany
Bad Tölz[7]  Bavaria  Germany
Rhein-Neckar-Kreis[7]  Baden-Württemberg  Germany
Dunfermline[7] Fife  United Kingdom
Logroño[7] La Rioja  Spain
Cluj-Napoca Cluj County  Romania
Saratoga Springs[7]  New York  United States

See also


  1. ^ "Historical Weather for Vichy, France". Retrieved December 20, 2008. 
  2. ^ "Vite à Vichy".  (French)
  3. ^ Albert Dauzat & Charles Rostaing (1963) Dictionnaire étymologique des noms de lieux en France, Paris: Guénégaud
  4. ^ "List of mayors of Vichy". (in French). Retrieved 1 November 2014. 
  5. ^ Carteret, Alain. "Ils ont fait Vichy [They made Vichy]" (in French). Retrieved 1 November 2014. 
  6. ^ "European Total Quality Institute" (in French). Retrieved 1 November 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "National Commission for Decentralised cooperation". Délégation pour l’Action Extérieure des Collectivités Territoriales (Ministère des Affaires étrangères) (in French). Retrieved 2013-12-26. 

External links

  • Official website (in French)
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