La Bourboule and Le Mont-Dore, Belle Époque charm in a stunning mountain landscape

Why visit?

Plunge into Belle Époque and the heyday of mountain thermal spas. Discover elegant Art Deco and neo-Byzantine architecture. Enjoy winter and summer sports in a majestic mountain setting. Find the source of the Dordogne River.

Who’s concerned?

History and architecture lovers, thermal spa enthusiasts, nature and mountain sports buffs, families.

Time needed at least

One day in each town.

Why visit?

Plunge into Belle Époque and the heyday of mountain thermal spas. Discover elegant Art Deco and neo-Byzantine architecture. Enjoy winter and summer sports in a majestic mountain setting. Find the source of the Dordogne River.

Who’s concerned?

History and architecture lovers, thermal spa enthusiasts, nature and mountain sports buffs, families.

Time needed at least

One day in each town.

Back to the source!

Travel back to the source—in more ways than one—with a visit to the towns of La Bourboule and Le Mont-Dore, nestled high in the rugged volcanic landscape of the Massif Central.

At the foot of the Puy de Sancy, you can discover the source of the Dordogne River, emerging where the Dore and Dogne streams meet. The origins of the name Dordogne can be traced back even further though, to the Celtic words dor (water) and dunia (deep).

This is also a land of sources chaudes (hot springs), whose waters have been channeled into public baths since ancient Roman times, and into elegant spas starting in the 19th century when water cures became a national craze.

The thermal water is known for its ability to treat skin ailments, rheumatism, and respiratory conditions, and “Mont-Dore” water was even bottled and sold in pharmacies and by mail-order until the 1930’s.

Today, many come to the spas simply to relax and rejuvenate as well, so it’s no wonder that the name La Bourboule is believed to originate from “Borvo”, the Celtic god of healing springs!

© Hervé Sentucq

Belle Époque architecture and beautiful mountain views

The small city of La Bourboule, built along the Dordogne River, has kept its Belle Époque elegance and charm.  During the golden age of thermal cures in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, luxurious hotels, villas, a casino, parks, and spas were built in the Neo-Byzantine and Art Deco architectural styles to entertain a rich and famous clientele. For a journey back to this era, don’t miss the Hôtel de Ville, Casino Chardon, Grands Thermes, Thermes de Choussy (the oldest in La Bourboule), and the Rozier patisserie (bakery). Other must-sees are the Saint-Joseph church and the Kiosque à Musique (bandstand).

In winter, La Bourboule offers a peaceful break from the lively bustle of the nearby ski stations. After a day on the slopes, you might enjoy a peaceful stroll along the banks of the Dordogne and a coffee or hot chocolate at the Comptoir Cyrano, a shining example of Belle Époque architecture. The city also offers many concerts, plays, markets and other events year-round.

Just 7 kilometers away, Le Mont-Dore is one of the oldest ski stations in France. The cable-car climb to the top of the Puy-de-Sancy (1885 m), the highest peak in the Massif Central, is not to be missed!
You’ll have to climb another 800 steps on a wooden stairway to get there, but the incredible 360° view is definitely worth it. Another highlight is the Funicular du Capucin, a cable-railway built in 1898 and the oldest in France. It offers spectacular views of the Dordogne Valley and the Grand Cascade.

Architecture lovers won’t want to miss the famous Thermal Establishment and its lavish neo-Byzantine style architecture. Like in La Bourboule, there are many other buildings harking back to the Belle Époque as well.

© Epidor

Winter and summer sports and nature

Both winter and summer sports buffs will definitely find their pleasure around these towns. In summer you can hike, mountain-bike, toboggan, fish, golf, ride horses, and more. And in winter you’ll find everything from downhill and cross-country skiing, to hiking and snowshoeing, to skating and ice-climbing! If you’re more into relaxing strolls on easy trails, there’s no shortage of those either.

Don’t forget your picnic!

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