A Traveler’s Guide to Romans sur Isère

Where the Quaint Meets the Current

If you’re looking for the quinessential “medieval” town, Romans sur Isère is it. Situated on the north bank of the Isère River, the town is part of the Drôme département in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of southeastern France. Over the years, it has gained something of a reputation for being the site of some major milestones in history and academy. Founded in the 9th century, Romans sur Isere’s first claim to fame was the transfer of Dauphine to France by Humbert II (1349). Fitting, then, that it was also the scene of the last meeting of the Estates of Dauphine some 400 years later  in 1788, right on the eve of the French Revolution.

But it’s also known as a center of shoe-making excellence, home to a fantastic shoe museum, and the site of a modern-day atomic research center. If your curiosity is piqued, you’re not alone. Come and experience Romans sur Isere for yourself using our guide as a starting point for your adventures.

The History and Culture of Romans sur Isère

As you arrive in the towns picturesque narrow alleyways, surrounded by 12th- and 14th century churches and buildings, you’ll feel like you’ve been plucked right out of time. Right away, the riverside church of St-Barnard, with its rustic Romanesque sculptures will take your breath away. Romans sur Isère has done a fantastic job up keeping its old-world facade and preserving its culture.

This includes an iconic and rather unique affinity for shoe brands, and, even today, major brands like Robert Clergerie, Stéphane Kélian and Charles Jourdan continue their manufacturing activities right here. If you count yourself a connoisseur of footwear, don’t forget to check out the International Shoe Museum. Experience over 4,000 years of “shoe history” in a single afternoon from countries all over the world. You can also enjoy the Italian-style gardens around the museum as a perfect post-tour rest and a chance to marvel at the museum’s impeccable architecture.

Romans sur Isère has been around since 837, when the Archbishop of Vienne, Barnard, built a church on the norther banks of the Isère. There it remained, used as a collegiate church until the 10th century. Eventually, a town sprang up around the church and, pretty soon, Romans sur Isère transformed into a thriving commercial hub for craftsman and artisans. As you visit today, you’ll witness  a charming blend of Romanesque and Gothic styles, which reflects its considerably lengthy architectural heritage. Take the time to experience the interiors of the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament, with its 14th century murals and its incredible Flemish tapestries such as the Mystery of the Passion. Woven through thread and dating back to the 16th century, this particular piece features the original Passion of Christ.

Must-See Spots and Must-Do Activities When Visiting Romans sur Isère

Lace up your walking shoes because Romans sur Isère is all about the “sights” and the “sites.” Start with a tour of Rue des Clercs, a beautiful street with old cobblestones and quaint little rowhouses. Next, head to Côte des Cordeliers and Marques Avenue, where you can access local shopping outlets with major brands at discounted prices, spy sprawling Renaissance mansions, and take in some elegant medieval houses.

Once you’ve had your fill, head to the Jacquemart Tower, right at the gates to the ramparts built in 1164. Next, make your way to the Presle district, where you can observe traditional tanners’ houses and their old wooden balconies. If you happen to arrive on Good Friday, you’ll be in good company. Visit the the Recollects’ Calvary, which marks the end of the Way of the Cross. It remains an important pilgrimage site for devotees.

Not for nothing, Romans sur Isère is also famous for its ravioli. Yes, the Italians are not the only ones who have mastered the art of gastronomy. Dig into its local delicacies, such as “pogne,” which is a crown-shaped brioche flavoured with young orange blossoms. Next, visit “Don’t miss ordering a plate of their fresh ravioli, delicate and flavourful as these pockets of cheese and parsley get! If you count yourself a lover of the “finer things,” make sure to visit La Baume Saint-Antoine, a truffle farm that offers a neat “truffle exploration” experience as well as the chance to dig into a truffle-inspired meal at the nearby farmhouse.

Finish your evening off with a peaceful stroll along the canal Martinette. If you’ve brought a bike along, you’ll be in luck. Rural walks and trails are easy to access in Romans sur Isere. You can take the  the cycling path of Vallée de l’Isère, which crosses the Drôme for 42 kilometers. To access all parts of Isère, use the three bridges which allow you to criss-cross both shores of the river, opening up new landscapes and diverse scenery.