Vichy (Occitan: Vichèi) is a city in the Allier department of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes in central France, in the historic province of Bourbonnais.


Vichèi  (Occitan)
October 2008 aerial view of Vichy

Coat of arms
Location of Vichy
Coordinates: 46°07′40″N 3°25′36″E
CantonVichy-1 & Vichy-2
IntercommunalityVichy Communauté
  Mayor (2017–2020) Frédéric Aguilera[1]
5.85 km2 (2.26 sq mi)
  Density4,200/km2 (11,000/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (CET)
  Summer (DST)UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
03310 /03200
Elevation243–317 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.

It is a spa and resort town and in World War II was the seat of government of Vichy France from 1940 to 1944. The term Vichyste indicated collaboration with the Vichy regime, often carrying a pejorative connotation.[3]


Vichy is the French form of the Occitan name of the town, Vichèi, of uncertain etymology. Dauzat & al. have proposed that it derived from an unattested Latin name (Vippiacus) referencing the most important regional landowner (presumably a "Vippius") during the time of the Roman emperor Diocletian's administrative reorganizations and land surveys at the end of the 3rd century AD.[4]

The name Vichy may be pronounced /ˈvɪʃi/ or /ˈvʃi/ in either American or British English;[5][6] its usual French pronunciation is [viʃi]. The pronunciation of the Occitan name Vichèi is [viˈʃe].

In French, the present demonym for residents of Vichy is Vichyssoise for women and Vichyssois for men or mixed groups. Until the 18th century, it was also common to use Vichois(e), which derived from the Occitan name of the town.


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.


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 249 metres (817 feet) above sea level — that the climate is more continental than mountain. Rainfall is moderate around Vichy, averaging about 779.5 millimetres (30.7 in) annually.

Paris1,797 hr/yr642 mm/yr15 dy/yr19 dy/yr13 dy/year
Nice2,694 hr/yr767 mm/yr1 dy/yr31 dy/yr1 dy/yr
Strasbourg1,637 hr/yr610 mm/yr30 dy/yr29 dy/yr65 dy/yr
Vichy1,880 hr/yr790 mm/yr... dy/yr... dy/yr... dy/yr
National Average1,973 hr/yr770 mm/yr14 dy/yr22 dy/yr40 dy/yr
Climate data for Vichy (1981–2010 averages)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 19.2
Average high °C (°F) 7.4
Average low °C (°F) −0.4
Record low °C (°F) −26.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 46.8
Average precipitation days 10.0 8.9 9.0 10.8 12.2 9.5 8.1 8.8 8.7 10.4 10.3 10.0 116.7
Average relative humidity (%) 84 80 75 74 77 76 73 75 78 83 84 85 78.7
Mean monthly sunshine hours 78.1 94.8 153.7 175.4 203.4 225.0 248.9 238.3 183.5 128.1 76.7 55.9 1,861.7
Source #1: Météo France[7][8]
Source #2: (humidity, 1961–1990)[9]


Roman era

The first known settlement at Vichy was established by Roman legionnaries in 52 BC. Returning south from their defeat at the Battle of Gergovia by the Gauls under Vercingetorix, they found the hot mineral springs beside the Flumen Elaver ("River Allier") and established the township of Aquae Calidae (Latin for "Hot Waters"). During the first two centuries AD, Vichy became fairly prosperous because of the supposed medicinal value of the thermal springs.

Middle Ages

On 2 September 1344, John II of France ceded the noble fiefdom of Vichy to Peter I, Duke of Bourbon. On 6 December 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

Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, 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 up 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. However, it was the stays of Napoleon III between 1861 and 1866 that were to cause the most profound transformation of the city: dikes were built along the Allier, 13 hectares (32 acres) of landscaped gardens replaced the old marshes and, along the boulevards and the streets newly laid out, 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 that 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 that development.

Vichy France—seat of the French State, the Nazi collaborationist government

Following the armistice signed on 22 June 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 1 July, 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.[10]

On 1 July, 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 9 and 10 July, 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 de facto capital of the French State. Paris was still the official capital. This government is often called the Vichy Regime. 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 III 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 (10 June 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 from 1989 to 2017. 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 surroundings. (2009)
  • restoration of the "Rue de Paris", a main street in the city center. (2010)


List of Successive Mayors[11][12]
October 2017Frédéric Aguilera[1]LR
March 1989 to September 2017Claude MalhuretUMPPhysician
September 1967 to March 1989Jacques LacarinPhysician
August 1950 to August 1967Pierre CoulonIndustrialist
April 1949 to July 1950Pierre-Victor LégerPharmacist
May 1945 to April 1949Louis MoinardTrader
August 1944 to May 1945Jean BarbierDirector of College
May 1929 to August 1944Pierre-Victor LégerPharmacist
December 1919 to May 1929Louis LasteyrasJournalist
May 1912 to November 1919Armand BernardShareholder
May 1900 to May 1912Louis LasteyrasJournalist
21 May 1893 to 20 May 1900Ferdinand DebrestPharmacist
15 May 1892 to 21 May 1893Gabriel NicolasLawyer
June 1879 to May 1892Georges DurinLawyer
January to September 1878Alfred BulotLawyer
1876 to 1878Antoine JardetPhysician
1874 to 1876Ernest JaurandPhysician
1870 to 1874Antoine JardetPhysician
15 September 1865 to 9 September 1870Joseph BousquetLawyer
7 May 1860 to 15 September 1865Norbert LeroyNotary
7 May 1857 to 7 May 1860Antoine GuillermenHotel owner
20 August 1853 to 7 May 1860Victor NoyerSurgeon
August 1848 to 1853Victor PrunellePhysician and Waters inspector
1843 to 1848Claude Ramin-PrêtreHotel owner
1833 to 1842Christophe BulotShareholder
1831 to 1832Louis ChaloinHotel master
1822 to 1831Baron LucasPhysician and Waters inspector
26 October 1815 to 1822Antoine Fouet
21 May 1815 to 26 October 1815Jean-Joseph Gravier
17 March 1814 to 21 May 1815Antoine Fouet
1809 to 10 March 1814Godefroy de Bardon
29 March 1805 to 1809Gilbert Chocheprat
November 1802 to 29 March 1805Godefroy de Bardon
13 July 1800 to November 1802Louis-Antoine Sauret
1798 to 1800Jean-Joseph Gravier Du Monceau
1791 to 1795Jean-Joseph Gravier Du Monceau
2 February 1790 to 13 November 1791François-Claude Chocheprat



Historical population


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 two most important employers of the city belong to the public sector: the hospital (1,120 employees), and the town hall (500[13]).

Since 1989 Vichy has been one of the 7 sites of the European Total Quality Institute (Institut Européen de la Qualité Totale).[14]

The Pôle Universitaire et Technologique Lardy, 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 "Le Grand Marché" (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 (opened at early 2008), the construction of a new aquatic stadium including 5 basins (opened since 2008), and motorway connection (opened at early 2015).


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.


Highway access

This city is accessible from departmental road (RD) 2209, former route nationale 209 (from the towns of Gannat or Varennes-sur-Allier), the RD 906e, former RD 906 from Thiers, the RD 1093 from Randan or the RD 6 from Charmeil.

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

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 opened 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 is a loop to the north of the city created to limit traffic jams (access to Creuzier-le-Neuf, afterwards by the RD 907, 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.[18]

International relations

Twin towns – sister cities

Vichy is twinned with:[19]

City Region Country
Wilhelmshaven  Lower Saxony  Germany
Bad Tölz  Bavaria  Germany
Rhein-Neckar-Kreis  Baden-Württemberg  Germany
Dunfermline  Scotland  United Kingdom
Logroño La Rioja  Spain
San Giuliano Terme  Tuscany  Italy

See also


  1. "Frédéric Aguilera (LR) est le nouveau maire de Vichy" [Frédéric Aguilera (The Republicans) is the new mayor of Vichy]. La Montagne (in French). 6 October 2017. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  2. "Populations légales 2016". INSEE. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  3. vichyste on French Wiktionary.
  4. Dauzat, Albert; et al. (1963), Dictionnaire Étymologique des Noms de Lieux en France [Etymological Dictionary of Names of Locations in France] (in French), Paris: Guénégaud.
  5. "Vichy, n.", Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1917.
  6. "Vichy", Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 2019.
  7. "Données climatiques de la station de Vichy" (in French). Meteo France. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  8. "Climat Auvergne" (in French). Meteo France. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  9. "Normes et records 1961–1990: Vichy-Charmeil (03) – altitude 249m" (in French). Infoclimat. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  10. Best of France: Sights, Hotels, Restaurants. Petit Futé. 2012. p. 202. ISBN 2-7469-6008-7.
  11. "List of mayors of Vichy". (in French). Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  12. Carteret, Alain. "Ils ont fait Vichy [They made Vichy]" (in French). Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  13. "MAIRIE DE VICHY". (in French). Vichy Val d'Allier Développement. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  14. "European Total Quality Institute". (in French). Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  15. "Site de l'église protestante réformée de Vichy".
  16. "Consistoire -".
  17. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 December 2018. Retrieved 24 August 2019.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. "En avion" [By avion] (in French). Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  19. "Jumelage". (in French). Vichy. Retrieved 16 November 2019.
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