Brioude is the capital of the Brivadois area in the north of the Haute Loire department. The town and surrounding area are particularly rich heritage area, with a superb natural environment and a fine collection of historic monuments and small museums. This is a great area for anyone looking for a destination that is both off the beaten track, and has plenty to offer - a rare combination.
Brioude is a delightful small town, very much "South of France" in its feel. Its narrow streets are clustered around the magnificent St. Julian's Basilica, the biggest Romanesque church in Auvergne, and remarkable for its mural paintings and its unique mosaic floor.
The town also has a lace-making museum and an aquarium. South of Brioude, the river Allier runs through a picturesque valley, with historic castles and churches. There are fine bridges over the Allier at St. Ilpize and Chilhac (old suspension bridges), and Lavoute-Chilhac (an old stone arched bridge).
The whole area is classed as an "Art and history area". It is also particularly rich in wildlife, both flora and fauna, and is popular with ornithologists. At Lavoute-Chilhac, the Maison des Oiseaux is an interpretive centre explaining the remarkable local bird life.
The area is popular with hikers and cyclists (mountain bikers), and there are two or three places hiring out canoes and kayaks on the River Allier