Today the object of our excursion was the hill of Gergovie, interesting from its geological phenomena, as well as from being the scene of Caesar’s repulse by Vercingetorix and the Arverni, the only serious military check ever sustained by the great Julius.
– Sir David Wedderburn, 3rd Baronet
No visit to Auvergne would be complete without a visit to Gergovie, an airy plateau whose renown dates back to the days of Ancient Rome. Located in La Roche-Blanche, an upland village in the department of Puy-de-Dôme, Gergovie is — according to tradition — the fated spot where Julius Caesar and his soldiers tasted defeat at the hands of a local chieftain named Vercingetorix. Vercingetorix was a major leader of the Arverni — a Celtic tribe that ruled over much of what is now modern-day Auvergne. In 52 BC, the young warrior succeeded in uniting other disparate Gaulish tribes in a revolt against Caesar’s forces. Their resistance was spectacular, but the battle of Gergovie was just a battle, and Rome — tenacious to the end — ultimately won the war, forever changing the face of Western Europe.
Anyone can get up and close with this fascinating history today at the Gergovie Museum (also known as the Archaeological Museum of the Battle of Gergovia). Only a twenty-minute drive from downtown Clermont-Ferrand, the museum invites you to conjure up your inner Indiana Jones. In addition to a substantial collection of Gaulish and Roman artefacts, it features a number of seasonal exhibitions and interactive displays. There really is something for the whole family.
Visitors to the museum, which is usually open on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, can also dine at the nearby La Hutte Gauloise restaurant. If you decide to make a day of it, Lake Aydat — popular since Roman times as a refreshing montane retreat — is only ten minutes away. For culture and leisure buffs, it’s hard to imagine a better deal: A little history, some al-fresco dining in the windy heights above Clermont-Ferrand, and a dip in a lake known to the well-to-do of Roman Gaul.
For more tips on must-see attractions in Auvergne, click “Trip Ideas” below.