A stroll through Thiers887a5834
©A stroll through Thiers|David Frobert

Thiers, medieval city and home of knifemaking

World-renowned knifeware capital Thiers wrote its history in the art and craft of knifemaking. Perched on its rocky outcrop, the town is home to a revered centuries-old knifecraft industry, and still today it fashions around 70% of all blades made in France, using ancestral knowhow passed down through generations.

Thiers, international capital cutlery

Thiers, cité médiévale et coutelière
Thiers, cité médiévale et coutelière
Thiers, cité médiévale et coutelière

Thiers-country knifemaking emerged seven centuries ago, in the Durolle valley, when the early knifemakers harnessed the hydraulic power of the Durolle river to drive ‘rouets’, a sort of grindstone millwheel used specifically to grind down and sharpen knife blades. Today, the Vallée des Rouets—which harbours the very last working ‘rouet’ grinding mill—welcomes visitors for a peek into this industrial-heritage past The Musée de la Coutellerie rounds off the experience by showcasing a vast collection of locally-made knives and retracing how the art of knifesmithing evolved over the centuries.

 

The old center of Thiers, with its medieval houses and sloping streets, offers a unique atmosphere. The covered passageways, known as ” pedde “, add to its charm. As you stroll along, you’ll discover historic cutlery stores and a variety of arts and crafts. Thiers’ rich industrial and artistic past is clearly reflected in this protected area.

The historic old town of Thiers, with its hefty medieval houses and steep streets and alleys, has its own unique feel, and the covered passageways—called ‘peddes’ in local dialect—only add to its charm.

As you wander the town, you will come across historic old artisan knifeware shops and an array of art studios and boutique craft shops. This part of Thiers is a protected conservation area, as its reflects the town’s richly-textured industrial and arts-crafts heritage.

You can’t visit Thiers without trying to fashion your own knife, and there are a number of immersive knife-art experiences in studios around town where you can assemble and polish your own blade—even etch your name into it. It makes for a great family-forward experience and you really get to see just how much finesse knifemaking requires.

Out and about  around knifeware capital Thiers

Want history and culture ?

There are essentially two options for visits around Thiers. Vollore castle at Vollore-Ville has held a place in Auvergne history since the 6th century. Today, though, it has calmly been in the same family and for more than two centuries. The stately home lives on as Auvergne-based residence of General La Fayette’s descendants, but it is equally an absolutely remarkable site to behold.

At Sermentizon, Aulteribe castle is widely renowned as one of the best-furnished estates in all of France. It also holds a finely-curated collection of important artwork and objects, along with pieces of furniture stamped with names of some of the finest Parisian cabinet-makers of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Learn about the story behind the Maison de l’Aventure Industrielle interpretation centre, staged in the historic Usine du May, formerly a major cutlery factory, in the Vallée des Usines [‘Valley of the mills’] industrial heritage site just a few kilometres away. Also in close vicinity is an important contemporary art centre to explore, dubbed Creux de l’Enfer

Want more great outdoors?

The high Bois Noirs forest, with its rugged mountainscapes stretching out across magnificent landscapes, demands to be walked or mountain-biked. More seasoned hikers will want to set off from Vollore-Ville to hike the Grün de Chignor and get a spectacular 360° view across the region—if they make it, because the 15.8km 5½-hour climb to the summit takes in 664 metres of ascent.

Staying in the Bois Noirs, but this time on the Celles-sur-Durolle side, the 12km4½-hourPuy de Montoncel walk runs through forest cover up to the highest point of the Bois Noirs, at 1287m a.s.l.

For an experience at the other end of the exertion spectrum, Les Bois Noirs spa offers a deeply cleansing sensory water-therapy space featuring sauna, hammam, and massages. Earn the right to relax by first tasting a herbal infusion as your contemplate the view over Prades lake.

Tours and activities in the town of Thiers

Stuff to do and see in knifeware capital Thiers
knives Thiers means

Head out to the knifeware museum. Here you can see an impressive collection of knife pieces and follow demonstrations by master knifemakers, which makes it an excellent opportunity to understand the local knifesmithing art and craft.

For an unique experience, attending a knifemaking workshop at the Robert David craft cutlery centre or with Inserfac, and get to hand-craft your own Le Thiers® pocket knife to take home as a unique souvenir.

Coutellia, 18 & 19 May 2024

Every year in May, the one and only international knife art and artisanship festival—  Coutellia— draws the knifecraft crowds to Thiers. Coutellia is the big headline event for professionals and amateurs alike, drawing over 230 master knifemakers and art knife creators from around the world, along with feedstock material and hardware suppliers. The festival is given 2,500m² of exhibition floorspace to host a major trade fair, plus a knifeware design competition for the pros and a raft of activities for the amateur enthusiasts attending.

The Vallée des Rouets

For a breath of fresh air, we invite you to explore the Vallée des Rouets interpretation trail that winds for two kilometres along the Durolle river. It’s just a 6-minute drive, or a far more interesting 12-kilometre hike from the Creux de l’Enfer to the grinding mills. The walk, in a calming natural setting, takes you in the footsteps of the original bladegrinders. Further upstream, but still running alongside the Durolle river, you can join the Vallée des Usines interpretation trail, on open-air museum celebrating the secret life of the papermakers, tanners, and knifemakers who forged the medieval city. Stand before historic sites like the Saint-Jean district, Pont de Seychalles bridge, and the Creux de l’Enfer. The walk is more like a hike, with a fair amount of ascent, so make sure you are ready and equipped with solid footwear.

And now.., hit the water!

There are three bathing sites that all have Blue Flag status near Thiers.

1

Les Prades recreation lake at Saint-Rémy-sur-Durolle

Learn more
  • Take the plunge with friends or family in Les Prades recreation lake at Saint-Rémy-sur-Durolle. This country park holds official leisure resort status and features two developed recreation beaches and a summer splash pool for kids to play in. The beach has lifeguard supervision in summer, but the site also caters to tennis, electric-assist mountain bike hire, hiking, fishing, and much, much more. There is a special space purpose-adapted to people living with disability, including an adaptive water wheelchair.
2

Iloa country park leisure centre

Learn more
  • Iloa, just 7 km from Thiers, is a combination of leisure centre lake and Natura 2000 conservation area, open all year round. It makes a perfect base for a day or a stay, offering wild swimming, fishing, pool, picnic areas, playparks, orienteering trails, and in the summer season it also offers organised activities and an on-site snack bar.
3

Aubusson d’Auvergne lake

Learn more
  • Know that Aubusson d’Auvergne lake is the biggest leisure centre in the whole Livradois-Forez, spanning over 100 hectares of country-park space. It stages a massive range of activities: supervised swimming, playgrounds and playparks, pétanque terrains, football, handball, table-tennis, basketball, orienteering trails, hiking, and fishing. There is also on-site canoe, pedalo, or self-balancing scooter hire, as well as a range of commodities and entertainment.
Did you know? Châteldon sparkling mineral water

In the Livradois-Forez, we don’t just swim in the water, we also bottle it! Head to Châteldon. Stroll along the freshly-remodelled riverbanks of the bubbling Vauziron and take in the winegrowers’ residences with their freshly-renovated frontages… it just makes lovely carefree walk! Go in a café, ask for a bottle of Châteldon sparkling water, and listen to them tell you its (theoretically) magical properties.

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