If you are looking to visit an irreverent small town in central France, Romans-sur-Isère might just fit the bill. The city is famous for its shoe museum, and with large statues of shoes displayed all over town. This is definitely a town that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Now, given all the Roman history in the area, with Roman cities like Lyon, Valence and Vienne right next door, you may be surprised to know that Romans-sur-Isère has nothing to do with Julius Caesar’s army.
The town was actually established over 900 years after the Romans left France, as a religious town by Barnard, the Archbishop of Vienne in 838 AD.
A commune in the Drôme department in southeastern France, the town is located on the banks of the Isère river. (This should not to be confused with the Isère department which is right next door!)
The surrounding region is an ideal destination for nature lovers and hikers, as it is surrounded by breathtaking landscapes and natural beauty. And a quick stop to wander around a small town in France is always a welcome break!
The city is home to around 34,000 people and is considered a gateway to the Alps. With nearby attractions like Grotte Chauvet, Grotte Cheronche, and Pont-en-Royans, you can easily spend a few days on holiday in the area. So let’s see what there is to do in Romans-sur-Isère, shall we? Allons-y!
Things to do in Romans-sur-Isère
1. International Shoe Museum of Romans
The one thing that is immediately apparent when you arrive in Romans-sur-Isère are the giant models of shoes all over town. With various designs that are both artistic and quirky, you will want to see more in the city’s International shoe museum.
Known as the Musée de la Chaussure (“Museum of the shoe”), the museum holds 16,500 collectors’ exhibits from antiquity to the modern day, covering 4000 years of history.
The reason the museum is in Romans is because in the mid-19th century, Romans-sur-Isère underwent a major change with the development of the shoe industry. The original ramparts of the city were destroyed, and new factories and docks built to develop the burgeoning shoe industry.
These days, the shoe industry in Romans has been ravaged by foreign competition, but it remains loyal to its shoe origins. Inside the museum, you can see a vast variety of shoes dating back in time, but also more recent concept works, such as a shoe reshaped as a fish.
Entry to the museum is around €6 per adult, with children under 18 being allowed to enter for free.
2. Collégiale Saint-Barnard Benedictine abbey
The collegiate Saint-Barnard is named after Saint Barnard, the Archbishop of Vienne, who founded Romans-sur-Isère by building a church and monastery in the area.
Dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, this Benedictine abbey suffered significant damage and was reconstructed several times throughout its history.
From Normans raids in the 11th century, the wars of religions, fires, and revolutions, it is a testament to the town’s people who persevered and rebuilt the abbey as the historic monument it is today.
3. Have some Pogne brioche
Pogne or Pogne Romans is a type of brioche or sweetbread, that is shaped like a crown. A local speciality in Romans-sur-Isère, it is made from flour, eggs and butter and flavored with orange blossom.
Dating back to the 14th century, it was also traditionally only made for Easter, like the Suisse biscuit from Valence. You can eat it by itself, or slathered with a fruity jam or nutella. There is even a small museum in Romans-sur-Isère, if you would like to know more about the history of the Pogne.
4. Tour Jacquemart
Constructed in 1174, Tour Jacquemart was originally part of the ramparts surrounding the Romans-sur-Isère.
It was part of the gates of entry, when it was repurposed into a clock tower in 1422. One of the symbols of the city, the top part surrounding the bell was originally carved in wood, before it was recovered in tin metal to protect it from degrading.
5. Walk through the old town
The center of Roman-sur-Isère is made up a handful of narrow streets that have been pedestrianized.
Lined with shops, bars, and restaurants, there are plenty of boutiques to wander into to find that perfect souvenir.
6. Taste the Raviole du Dauphiné
If you like Italian ravioli, you will like Raviole du Dauphiné. Also known as ravioles de Romans, it is a smaller type of ravioli, made with wheat flour, eggs and water, and a filling of French comté or emmental cheese.
It was first created in Romans-sur-Isère, with the name Dauphiné being the old historic region of France that has since been combined into Auverge-Rhône-Alps.
You will find it served locally in many different ways such as cooked in with a pasta sauce even as a toasted topping on a salad.
How to get to Romans-sur-Isère?
Romans-sur-Isère is easily accessible by train, however you will need a car to get around the area. From Paris, you can take the high-speed TGV train to Lyon, before switching to a TER train to Romans-sur-Isère.
The closest international airport is in Lyon.
How many days should you spend?
About 1/2 a day is sufficient in Romans-sur-Isère, unless you want to spend more time exploring the shoe museum. 😉
Where should you stay?
I recommend staying in nearby Valence or Lyon, and visit Romans-sur-Isère as a day trip.
- €€€€ – Hôtel de France
- €€€ – Le Phénix Hôtel
- €€€€ – MiHotel Vieux Lyon
- €€€€€ – Villa Florentine (modern with spa)
- €€€€€ – Cour des Loges (old world charm)
If you enjoyed that article, you may like to read more about traveling around the region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alps. A bientôt!