Alèir (Occitan)
Prefecture building in Moulins
Prefecture building in Moulins
Unofficial flag
Unofficial shield
Location of Allier in France
Location of Allier in France
Coordinates: 46°20′N 3°10′E / 46.333°N 3.167°E / 46.333; 3.167
 • President of the Departmental CouncilClaude Riboulet[1] (UDI)
 • Total7,340 km2 (2,830 sq mi)
 • Total334,872
 • Rank69th
 • Density46/km2 (120/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Department number03
^1 French Land Register data, which excludes estuaries, and lakes, ponds, and glaciers larger than 1 km2

Allier (UK: /ˈæli/ AL-ee-ay,[3] US: /ælˈj, ɑːlˈj/ a(h)l-YAY,[4][5] French: [alje] ; Occitan: Alèir) is a department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region that borders Cher to the west, Nièvre to the north, Saône-et-Loire and Loire to the east, Puy-de-Dôme to the south, and Creuse to the south-west. Named after the river Allier, it had a population of 334,872 in 2021.[6] Moulins is the prefecture; Montluçon and Vichy are the subprefectures. Its INSEE and post code is 03.

Before 2018, the inhabitants of the department did not have a demonym. The inhabitants of the department have officially been known in French as Bourbonnais since 2018, a reference to the historic province of Bourbonnais. Until then, the unofficial term Elavérins had been used.[7][8][9]


Château de Billy

Allier department is composed of almost all of the former Duchy of Bourbonnais. It is part of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.

Principal communes

The most populous commune is Montluçon; the prefecture Moulins is the third-most populous. As of 2021, there are 5 communes with more than 10,000 inhabitants:[6]

Commune Population (2021)
Montluçon 33,342
Vichy 25,789
Moulins 19,343
Cusset 12,909
Yzeure 12,598

The department also includes the spa towns Bourbon-l'Archambault, Néris-les-Bains and Vichy.


Bourbonnais bocage covers most of the western and central parts of the department (including the Forest of Tronçais), followed by the Bourbonnais Sologne in the east north-east, the Bourbonnais Mountain (near Vichy) which is the highest point of Bourbonnais together with Montoncel (peaking at 1,287 metres), and finally in the south of the department, the Bourbonnais Limagne, which extends from Varennes to Gannat, and is the breadbasket of the department.

The Bourbonnais Bocage

To the north and just over 500 metres above sea level, the Bourbonnais Bocage occupies one-third of the department, with two parts: the centre and the west (for the part between the Val de Cher and western boundaries of the territory). The bocage is especially remarkable for its rich forests and woodlands including the Forest of Tronçais but also the forests of Moladier Bagnolet, Civrais, Soulongis, Grosbois, Dreuille, Lespinasse and Suave.

Almost all of the southern area consists of Combrailles which is sometimes called High Bourbonnais, in an area that goes beyond the departmental boundaries of Creuse and Puy-de-Dôme. This area of the department rises to 778 metres at Bosse. The rivers Sioule, Bouble, and Cher have carved the most picturesque gorges in Allier.

The Bourbonnais Sologne

To the east, between the Val d'Allier and the borders of Nièvre and Saône-et-Loire, the Bourbonnais Sologne has a nice balance between pastures, crops, woods and ponds: the balance between agriculture and semi-wilderness constituting a very favorable setting for fauna and flora.

The Bourbonnais Mountains

In its southern extension, the Bourbonnais Mountain rises from the Puy Saint-Ambroise (442 metres) near Saint-Léon and then extends to the massif of Assise and the Black Woods at the edge of Puy-de-Dôme and Loire which is marked by the Puy de Montoncel (1,287 metres) – the highest point in Allier.

The Bourbonnais Limagne

Commonly grouped under the name of Val d'Allier, the Limagne and Forterre extend on both sides of the river between Vichy and Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule with an essential quality of fertility. Limogne, together with Sioule and Allier, is part of the Gannat / Escurolles / Saint-Pourçain triangle while Forterre covers the Canton of Varennes-sur-Allier ending near Jaligny.




A transition zone in the middle of the country, Allier is actually a free zone between north and south. The department is wide open to Atlantic influences and enjoys a mild and humid climate dominated by westerly winds which helps a little to differentiate it from other parts of Auvergne. The weather variances coincide with the diversity of Bourbonnais territory such as: flat regions, low altitude Bourbonnais Sologne and large floodplains, the hill country, the average altitude of 300 to 600 metres, the central part of the department, and the semi-mountainous southern townships bordering the Combraille and Forez between 700 and 1,200 metres.

There are two periods of maximum precipitation in June and October and a minimum in January and February with average of 694 millimetres in Montluçon (altitude 207 metres), 763 mm in Moulins (245 m), 778 mm in Vichy (251 m), 791 mm in Lapalisse (285 m) and nearly 1,200 mm in Assisi (1,050 m). As noted Atlantic winds are dominant from the west, northwest, or southwest. The influence of topography, especially in the valleys of Cher and Allier, also contributes to the south and north variance.

Town Sunshine





National average 1,973 770 14 22 40
Vichy[11] 1,862 780 18 26 35
Paris 1,661 637 12 18 10
Nice 2,724 767 1 29 1
Strasbourg 1,693 665 29 29 56
Brest 1,605 1,211 7 12 75
Climate data for Vichy
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 7.4
Daily mean °C (°F) 3.5
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) −0.4
Average precipitation mm (inches) 46.8
Average precipitation days (≥ 1 mm) 9.8 8.3 8.4 9.8 11.6 8.7 7.6 8.6 8.3 9.6 10.0 9.0 109.7
Mean monthly sunshine hours 78 95 154 175 203 225 249 238 184 128 77 56 1,862
Source: Meteorological data for Vichy – 249 m altitude, from 1981 to 2010 January 2015 (in French)


The history of Allier corresponds to the Duchy of Bourbon (Bourbonnais) with which it shares almost the entire territory.

Allier is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790. It was created from parts of the former provinces of Auvergne and Bourbonnais.

In 1940, the government of Marshal Philippe Pétain chose the town of Vichy as its capital. Vichy also became the department's second sub-prefecture in 1940, since the department now found itself split by the demarcation line between the occupied and (relatively, at least initially) free zones of France.


Arms of Allier
Arms of Allier
The arms of Allier are also those of the former province of Bourbonnais and are the arms of the third house of Bourbon of Robert de Clermont, sixth son of Saint Louis, who married Beatrice of Bourbon and was recognized as Sire of Bourbon in 1283.

Azure, Semé-de-lis of Or with a bend of Gules.


Map of Allier

On 1 January 2017 the population of Allier was estimated at 337,988 inhabitants which represented an average density of 46 people/km2.[12] Many areas have a density less than 20 people/km2. Because of its low population density, it is considered to fall within the empty diagonal.

Since the early 1980s Allier has faced many demographic handicaps. The ratio of older people is important and with low fertility rates the natural growth is negative. Net migration was negative between 1968 and 1999, and slightly positive between 1999 and 2017.[12]

Allier has three major cities: Montluçon, Vichy, and Moulins by size. The rest of the department includes some small towns and villages, scattered mainly along the rivers. The few villages are far from one another, and it is generally a sparsely-populated department. Until the end of the 19th century, however, the population was increasing because the development of its cities (industries at Montluçon and Moulins, spas in Vichy) compensated by the rural exodus. The department then passed 420,000 inhabitants. After losses of the First World War, the population stabilized and grew a little again in the 1960s. Since then, the continuing rural exodus and especially the decline of old industries has made the population decrease and age steadily, from 386,533 inhabitants in 1968 to 337,988 in 2017.

The population of the department is approximately equal of the country of Iceland.

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
1791 267,126—    
1801 248,864−0.71%
1806 260,046+0.88%
1821 280,025+0.49%
1831 298,257+0.63%
1836 309,270+0.73%
1841 311,361+0.13%
1846 329,540+1.14%
1851 336,758+0.43%
1856 352,241+0.90%
1861 356,432+0.24%
1866 376,164+1.08%
1872 390,812+0.64%
1876 405,783+0.94%
1881 416,759+0.54%
1886 424,582+0.37%
1891 424,382−0.01%
1896 424,378−0.00%
1901 422,024−0.11%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1906 417,961−0.19%
1911 406,291−0.56%
1921 370,950−0.91%
1926 370,562−0.02%
1931 373,924+0.18%
1936 368,778−0.28%
1946 373,481+0.13%
1954 372,689−0.03%
1962 380,221+0.25%
1968 386,533+0.27%
1975 378,406−0.30%
1982 369,580−0.34%
1990 357,710−0.41%
1999 344,615−0.41%
2007 343,114−0.05%
2012 342,911−0.01%
2017 337,988−0.29%
2019 333,065−0.73%
Graphs are unavailable due to technical issues. There is more info on Phabricator and on
Source: SPLAF[13] and INSEE[12]

Politics and administration


Valérie Hatsch is prefect of Allier since 28 March 2022.[14]

Jean-Luc Marx, the prefect of Lot, was named the prefect of Allier on 1 June 2011, replacing Pierre Monzani who was appointed Prefect of Seine-et-Marne on 25 May 2011.

Monzani had been prefect of Allier since 14 January 2009. Born on 12 May 1958 in Villerupt (Meurthe-et-Moselle), he holds a civil service agrégation in history and a DEA in history and civilization. A former student of the École Normale Supérieure (Saint-Cloud) and of École nationale d'administration (ENA), since August 2006 he has been director of INHES (National Institute of Advanced Security Studies).[15]

Two senators

After 2020 Senate elections, the two senators of Allier are Bruno Rojouan and Claude Malhuret.[16]

In the Senate elections in 2008 the left took one of the two Senate seats in Allier formerly held by the right. Mireille Schurch, PCF Mayor of Lignerolles, was elected:

Representatives in the National Assembly

The elections of 2007 returned three Socialists (Bernard Lesterlin for Montluçon, Jean Mallot for Saint-Pourçain, and Guy Chambefort for Moulins) and one PRG (Gérard Charasse for Vichy).

The current representatives are:

Constituency Member[17] Party
Allier's 1st constituency Yannick Monnet French Communist Party
Allier's 2nd constituency Jorys Bovet National Rally
Allier's 3rd constituency Nicolas Ray The Republicans

Departmental Council

Main article: Departmental Council of Allier

The current President of the Departmental Council is Claude Riboulet, elected in 2017.[18][19] In the 2021 departmental election, the Departmental Council of Allier was elected as follows:[20]

Party Seats
Miscellaneous right 20
Socialist Party 6
Centre-right 4
French Communist Party 2
Right 2
The Republicans 2
Left Radical Party 2

In the local elections of March 2008, Allier department was won by a majority of the left. The URB (Republican Union for Bourbonnais, right) had headed the department between 2001 and 2008, with the last year with only one vote majority. From 2008 the left coalition was in control also with a majority of one vote (10 PC, 6 PS, 2 PRG, 18 seats in total), facing 17 councilors from the URB.

History of the left in Allier

The department was distinguished by communist votes in early voting which continued until after the Second World War with the two major political parties of the left being the PCF and the SFIO which have now become the Socialist Party.

The small town of Commentry has the distinction of being the first town in France[21] to elect a socialist mayor in 1882: Christophe Thivrier. Another local figure, Pierre Brizon, an MP in 1910, was typically a member for sharecroppers.[22]

Earlier, Ledru-Rollin achieved a very good result in 1848 (14%) with Democratic and socialist candidates in the following year (44% of the vote, against 35% for all of France).[23] Similarly, resistance to the coup of 2 December 1851 was important after an attempt to support the uprising in June 1849.[24] Republicans were in the majority in 1876 and held all six parliamentary seats.[21] After neighbouring results of 15% of enrolled voters from 1893 to 1906 the Socialists rose to 31% of enrolled votes (42% of those cast) in 1910 and maintained this in 1914[25]

Allier remains a land of rural communism (still 14.66% in the 2004 regional elections – the second best result for the party after Somme) in a sometimes difficult cohabitation with the Socialist Party.

For the causes of their success it may be noted that historically Allier has been a department where vast properties were combined into sharecropping. Sharecropping only spread in the 15th century[26] and was not disturbed by the sale of national assets to the Revolution.[27] In the 19th century large properties (100 hectares or more) occupied about half of the land, and even more than 70% in the north of the department. In the south, small properties dominate.[27]

Sharecropping continued as a form of land development and it involved 40% of the land in 1892 (only 7% overall for France).[28] Adverse conditions made sharecroppers promote the creation of rural unions between 1904 and 1911 (the third greatest number per department in France after Hérault and Landes). Despite poor results the mobilization was important and promoted the election of left-wing candidates.[29]


The industries most represented are the food industry, wood and furniture, chemical, foundries and metalworking, rubber, machinery and electrical equipment, automotive, weaponry, textiles, building, and the spas.

According to studies by INSEE agriculture would be about 7 to 8% of departmental gross domestic product.


Marked by the imprint of the Dukes of Bourbon, Allier is a land of rivers, bocage, and small mountains. Landscapes such as Bourbonnais bocage, the gorges of the Sioule, and the Forest of Tronçais are places suitable for the practice of outdoor activities: hiking, fishing, and white water sports. Hydrotherapy is one of the leading sectors of Bourbonnais tourism with the international spa at Vichy.

This nature preserve also features over 500 castles, Romanesque churches and a number of houses which represent the heritage of the Bourbons.[citation needed] Bourbon cuisine reflects the history of the province and provides a number of local products, including Pâté aux pommes de terre, Charolais beef, wines from Saint-Pourçain AOC, Charroux mustard, and Vichy pastilles.[citation needed]

Among the tourist sites to visit are:

Churches and abbeys

Gastronomy and viticulture

The pâté aux pommes de terre is one of the specialities of the Allier, as well as of the neighboring Limousin region. The river Allier is one of the rare places in Southern Europe where the freshwater grayling (Thymallus thymallus), known in French as ombre des rivières, occurs in a natural habitat.[30] This fish is much valued in French gastronomy for its fine and delicate texture and is best eaten along with a light wine.[31]

Pompe aux grattons or brioche aux griaudes, a kind of brioche-like bread with cracklings, is a specialty of the Bourbonnais.[32]

Saint-Pourçain AOC wine is produced in Allier and the oak from the forest of Tronçais is one of the most favoured in the construction of wine barrels.[33]

Second homes

In 2020 the quantity of dwellings in the department which were second homes was 7.2%.[34] The table below shows the main communes of Allier with second homes and which exceed 10% of total housing.

The department has attracted many foreigners, English, Belgian, Swiss, and Dutch, and they have acquired many second homes. Therefore many communes have become "European", such as Pouzy-Mésangy, which today has many English and Swiss residents.

Communes with population over 1,000 and more than 10% of second homes in 2019[35]
Town Municipal population Percentage of
secondary homes
Néris-les-Bains 2,570 30.3%
Cérilly 1,305 16.4%
Ébreuil 1,270 14.5%
Bourbon-l'Archambault 2,572 13.5%
Buxières-les-Mines 1,026 13.5%
Le Mayet-de-Montagne 1,384 10.0%


Sister Regions

The Conseil Départemental of Allier co-operates with the following foreign administrative units:[36]

Regional languages

Allier is traversed by the border between Occitan and French.[37]

For a long period the people of Allier did not speak standard French but one of the following local languages:


See also


  1. ^ "Répertoire national des élus: les conseillers départementaux"., Plateforme ouverte des données publiques françaises (in French). 4 May 2022.
  2. ^ "Téléchargement du fichier d'ensemble des populations légales en 2021" (in French). The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies. 28 December 2023.
  3. ^ "Allier". Lexico UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 29 December 2019.
  4. ^ "Allier". Collins English Dictionary. HarperCollins. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  5. ^ "Allier". Dictionary. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  6. ^ a b Populations légales 2021: 03 Allier, INSEE (in French)
  7. ^ Cooke, Virginie (9 October 2018). "Les habitants de l'Allier vont officiellement s'appeler les Bourbonnais" (in French). France 3 Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  8. ^ Ména, Stéphanie (18 October 2018). "Les habitants de l'Allier auront officiellement un nouveau nom ce jeudi : les Bourbonnais !". La Montagne (in French). Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  9. ^ "ALLIER". (in French). SARL Patagos. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  10. ^ Paris, Nice, Strasbourg, Brest
  11. ^ Data from the Station at Vichy from 1981 to 2010 (in French)
  12. ^ a b c Population en historique depuis 1968, INSEE
  13. ^ Historique de l'Allier, SPLAF
  14. ^ "La préfète - Valérie HATSCH". (in French). Prefecture of Allier. 31 March 2022. Retrieved 29 November 2022.
  15. ^ "HCFDC Pierre Monzani" (PDF).
  16. ^ "Résultats des élections sénatoriales 2020". (in French). Retrieved 29 November 2022.
  17. ^ Nationale, Assemblée. "Assemblée nationale ~ Les députés, le vote de la loi, le Parlement français". Assemblée nationale.
  18. ^ Delacou, Antoine (25 September 2017). "Claude Riboulet succède à Gérard Dériot à la présidence du conseil départemental de l'Allier". (in French).
  19. ^ "Claude Riboulet succède à Gérard Dériot à la tête du Conseil départemental de l'Allier". France 3 (in French). 25 September 2017.
  20. ^ Résultats des élections départementales 2021: Allier (03), Ministère de l'intérieur
  21. ^ a b Agnès Roche, A favourable breeding-ground, Études rurales 3/2004 (No. 171–172), p. 111 (in French)
  22. ^ Agnès Roche, A favourable breeding-ground, Études rurales 3/2004 (No. 171–172), pp. 108–109 (in French)
  23. ^ Agnès Roche, A favourable breeding-ground, Études rurales 3/2004 (No. 171–172), p. 109 (in French)
  24. ^ Agnès Roche, A favourable breeding-ground, Études rurales 3/2004 (No. 171–172), pp. 109–110 (in French)
  25. ^ Agnès Roche, A favourable breeding-ground, Études rurales 3/2004 (No. 171–172), pp. 111–112 (in French)
  26. ^ Agnès Roche, A favourable breeding-ground, Études rurales 3/2004 (No. 171–172), p. 105 (in French)
  27. ^ a b Agnès Roche, A favourable breeding-ground, Études rurales 3/2004 (No. 171–172), p. 106 (in French)
  28. ^ Agnès Roche, A favourable breeding-ground, Études rurales 3/2004 (No. 171–172), p. 107 (in French)
  29. ^ Agnès Roche, A favourable breeding-ground, Études rurales 3/2004 (No. 171–172), pp. 107–108 (in French)
  30. ^ "The grayling zones of rivers and their tributaries" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 February 2009. Retrieved 14 January 2009.
  31. ^ "Les accords vin-poisson – Célébration d'un mariage réussi!". Archived from the original on 27 November 2012. Retrieved 14 January 2009.
  32. ^ François-Régis Gaudry, Let's Eat France, ISBN 1579658768, p. 382
  33. ^ Robinson, Jancis (1999). The Oxford Companion to Wine. Oxford University Press. pp. 13, 495. ISBN 0-19-866236-X.
  34. ^ Logement en 2020: Catégories et types de logements, INSEE (in French)
  35. ^ "Statistiques locales: Part des résidences secondaires, population municipale". INSEE.
  36. ^ "Les coopérations". Conseil Départemental de l'Allier. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  37. ^ Charles de Tourtoulon and Octavien Bringuier (1876), Study on the geographical limits of Occitan and French (with a map), Paris: Imprimerie Nationale [reprinted 2004, Masseret-Meuzac: Institut d’Estudis Occitans de Lemosin/Lo Chamin de Sent Jaume] (in French)
  38. ^ Guylaine Brun-Trigaud (1990), The Crescent:the concept and the word. Contribution to the history of the French dialect of the 19th century (Thesis), coll. Série dialectologie, Lyon: Centre d’Études Linguistiques Jacques Goudet (in French)
  39. ^ E.g. Nicolas Quint, The marchois speech of Saint-Priest-la-Feuille (Creuse) (in French)
  40. ^ Marcel Bonin, (1981), The dialect of Langy and of Forterre (region of Varennes-sur-Allier), Cagnes sur Mer: Cahiers Bourbonnais (in French)
  41. ^ Simone Escoffier (1958), The meeting of langue d’oïl, Occitan and francoprovençal between Loire and Allier: phonetic limits and morphologies (Thesis), Mâcon: impr. Protat [éd. identique de la même année: coll. Publications de l’Institut de Linguistique Romane de Lyon-vol. 11, Paris: Les Belles Lettres] (in French)