The town of Issoire is located on the banks of Couze river, not far from its junction with the Allier, to the south of Clermont-Ferrand, and well-placed on the fertile plain of Limagne.
During the Wars of Religion in the 17th century, Issoire suffered badly, and much of the town was destroyed. Today, pride of place goes to the elaborate Abbatiale St-Austremoine, formerly the church of a 12th-century Benedictine abbey, and one of the largest Romanesque churches in the Auvergne. There is an agreeable and quite relaxing provincial ambiance about the place, especially along the compact and narrow shopping streets that lead out onto large open squares. Issoire rewards even the shortest break, and anyone passing within striking distance would do well to consider spending a little time here.
Surrounded by boulevards, the town is appealingly bright, refreshing, and a joy to explore, not least its remarkable Renaissance clock tower, formerly the town belfry, from the top of which there is a splendid panoramic view over the town, the Limagne Plain and out to the distant Monts Dore and Livradois mountains ranges.
It was a native of Issoire, Austremoine Bohier, financial administrator to Charles VII and Louis XI, who instigated the building of the belfry. It was transformed in 1840, and now houses a scenographic display of local life throughout the turbulent Renaissance period.