Halfway between Lyon and Avignon, Valence lies in a plain in the Middle Rhône Valley on the edge of the “pre-Alps”. The city is sometimes dubbed “La Porte du Midi de la France” (The gateway to the south of France), and you’ll sense Mediterranean influences creeping into the architecture and streetscapes in Valence. You’ll have enough on your hands for a weekend break, especially if you include the town of Romans, Valence’s close neighbour on the Isère right before it feeds into the Rhône.
You can find out about life in the western spurs of the Alps at the Musée de Valence, or head off on the banks of the Rhône and Isère for bike rides and drives through vineyards, woodland and pastoral villages.
Lets explore the best things to do in Valence:
1. Musée de Valence
Starting with prehistory, this superb museum deals with life in the Middle Rhône Valley in the course of 4,000 years.
There are more than 20,000 items in the collection, with interesting pieces from almost every stage of Valence’s evolution.
From Roman times there are altars on which bulls would have been sacrificed and a room full of mosaics.
For something really strange there’s a taxidermied goat kid with two heads in the natural history section.
The fine arts galleries meanwhile have paintings by Camille Corot, Hyacinthe Rigaud and the Dutch Golden Age artist Gerard van Honthorst.