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Since the 15th century, the medieval city of Thiers in the Auvergne's Puy-de-Dôme area has developed unrivalled know-how in the field of cutlery-making, aided by the relentless power of the Durolle River's water-wheels. The town has become what it is today thanks to a long line of craftsmen, who expanded Thiers around the rocky spur on which the ancient heart of the town was originally built. Visit the cutlery museum or one of the kinfe maker's workshops.
The medieval city of Thiers is divided into the upper and lower towns. Make your way to the top, to the Rue Terasse for an incredible view of the Chaîne des Puys and the Limagne Plain. Walk along the narrow, sloping streets and discover the unique half-timbered houses including the Hôtel du Pirou which now houses the tourist office. Nearby, take a look at the "House of the Seven Deadly Sins" with sculptures depicting each one. And don't miss the Romanesque Saint-Genès church, dating from the 11th century.
Still today, the town of Thiers is responsible for two-thirds of the French cultery production. Learn more at one of the many "coutellerie" workshops or at the Musée de la Coutellerie. The cutlery factories were originally built along the Durolle River, using mills as power. There are also two interpretive walking trails along the river to discover this unique heritage. The Vallée des Usines walk in the lower town passes by the Usine du May interpretive center and the Creux de l'Enfer contemporary art museum.
Further up the river, the Vallée des Rouets is a 3km walk mixing nature and cutlery heritage.
In the lower town, near the start of the Factory walk is the L'Orangerie interpretive centre promoting environmental awareness. The large greenhouse shelters species of tropical plants.
Just outside Thiers is the Chateau Chassaigne, which each year puts on an exhibition. The unique English gardens are a highlight of the visit.
For knife enthusiasts, the Coutellia trade fair in May brings together more than 100 exhibitors from around the world and includes workshops and demonstrations.