What to see and what to do in the Montbéliard region?

The land of Montbéliard is of course the Peugeot factories. As well as the old residences of the historic center of Montbéliard and the impressive castle which dominates them. Or the pastures with the Montbéliardes, these beautiful and robust cows whose milk will be transformed into Morbier or Comté, succulent cheeses. What to see and what to do in the Montbéliard region? Here is my selection.

1/ The Peugeot adventure museum

Peugeot is one of the largest French companies. Do we know that beyond cars and bicycles, it has also produced a number of everyday objects? Not without surprise, I learn it at the Peugeot adventure museum in Sochaux. It retraces 210 years of the history of the lion firm. Which starts with… springs and saw blades. Eh yes ! Long before motor vehicles, Peugeot manufactured all kinds of objects. Through the windows, the full extent of the know-how is revealed: sewing machines, washing machines, radios, household robots… I am frankly surprised because I only knew the coffee grinder. And there I discover that there have already been 950 different models.

But Peugeot rhymes above all with cars. Adorned with the famous lion, here, they are all there. From the old steam engine to futuristic concept cars, including the 905 and 908 which distinguished themselves at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, there are 125 of them in these large halls. And five times more in the reserves. The ones I prefer are not the oldest or the rarest. These are the 403 and 504 – including the mythical coupé – that we often see in old films.

2/ A ride in a Peugeot 403

Precisely, the 403 with such a characteristic silhouette, I will have the opportunity to take a nice ride in it. A 1957 model, impeccably maintained and polished by Patrick, one of the pillars of the Club des Vieux Volants franc-comtois. With his collector friends, he takes tourists like me around with all sorts of old models. Thus Jean-Luc proudly lines up a Simca Aronde from 1957 and a Renault Prairie from 1953. With them, I discover the historic center, then the surroundings of Montbéliard. Neither too fast, you have to spare the old valves, nor too slowly, as I feared. Under the often admiring gaze of passers-by. Leaving the city, we take the direction of the fort of Mont-Bart by a pleasant road through the forest. It is located on a hill dominating the whole region, where the gaze carries far. Return via the river port, with its perpetual summer atmosphere, to the terrace of the castle of the Dukes of Württemberg. The final point is the aperitif taken on the surrounding walls. Nice, right?

Do you know someone who doesn’t like the county? Anyway, I love it! And how is it born? It’s not an easy task, I say to myself as I visit the Lomont cheese dairy. Located in the Jura mountains, it is one of the largest cooperatives in the region. To make this succulent cheese with a PDO (controlled designation of origin), you obviously need raw milk, produced by cows of the Montbéliard breed. Every day of the year, without exception, a fruit truck collects it from the 29 member farmers. The milk is processed within hours. Thus, every morning the cheese maker puts his hand in the vat to check the hardening of the curd, which is an essential phase. Then follow the pressing, the molding. It is both instructive and exciting. Spectacular too: the Lomont cheese dairy has nearly a thousand wheels – each weighs around 40 kilos – in stock in its cellars. Each is brushed and turned three times a week for 4 to 5 weeks before leaving for the refiner. I of course tasted it: frankly, a treat!

To read also on Burgundy Franche-Comté:

4/ Approach a Montbéliarde

Comté or Morbier -the other specialty of the region-, to have good cheese, no miracle: you need good milk. Produced by Montbéliardes, which graze on good pastures. This is the case of the Gaec “du soleil levant” farm, on the Blamont plateau, at an altitude of some 600 m, not far from the Swiss border. There, Michel and Nicolas Bucher, father and son, allow 180 Montbéliardes to flourish on their 120 ha farm. “She’s a rustic cow, explains Nicolas, who has a lot of character. Besides, she only has qualities! “. As a true enthusiast, Nicolas is unbeatable on the Montbéliarde, everything that touches him directly or indirectly, breeding conditions. Going well beyond the obligations, he pays particular attention to the well-being of his protégés. They experience, for example, shorter lactation periods than elsewhere. Efforts rewarded by a slew of distinctions collected in agricultural shows up to the highest level. All this, Nicolas is just waiting to explain to you. Its new facilities, under construction until early 2022, will indeed include a small interpretation center intended to welcome the public.

5/ Visit Montbéliard and its impressive castle

Peugeot obliges, the name of Montbéliard evokes above all factories. But I discovered a historic and absolutely charming city center there, which I enjoyed walking around. Old half-timbered houses, elegant private mansions, starting with the Beurmier-Rossel house from the early 19th century which has remained as it is with its furniture. Or, just opposite, the St-Martin church which is the oldest temple in France, the old halls dating from the 16th century… there is plenty to do! “Montbé” as its inhabitants affectionately say, has a lot to answer.

Resources for traveling

Here are some resources for planning your trip:

  • Find your travel guides on Amazonat Fnac or on Nostromo
  • To book your hotels, holiday rentals and gîtes, there is of course Booking but I also invite you to discover GreenGo (responsible accommodation in France), Feelingo (sustainable accommodation in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece) and Abracadaroom (accommodation unusual in France)
  • Compare the price of car rentals on Rentalcars or Autoeurope. Rent your van/campervan on Yescapa.
  • Compare flights with Skyscanner or Kayaking
  • Compare the price of your journeys by bus, train, ferry and plane with omio
  • Rent your photo equipment at Pixloc instead of buying it
  • Book an activity, tour or skip-the-line ticket with Civitatis Where Get Your Guide and your adventure or sports activity with Manawa.
  • Are you looking for insurance and/or assistance? I personally use the one from Chapka Assurance.
  • Send a quote request to a local English-speaking travel agency

It is still the imposing castle of the Dukes of Württemberg that impresses the most. Built on a rocky outcrop, flanked by two huge towers, it towers over the city from its height. The interior is a veritable labyrinth where all eras collide happily. The visit, because the castle is now a museum – with different centers of interest – I really liked it.

6/ Fall for verquelure…

What, you don’t know verquelure? A checkered fabric, as rustic as it is resistant, because it is made of cotton and linen – hemp used to be – that every family in the Montbéliard region used in one form or another: tablecloth, napkins, tea towels… Its origins go back a few centuries in back. But, for lack of a weaver to produce it, verquelure, known in Alsace as kelsch, has simply disappeared from the shelves. Until the tourist office of Montbéliard learns that a young weaver is once again rattling looms, old machines that he has bought here and there. And, in 2018, asks him to produce verquelure. In his small factory located in Etupes, Cédric Plumey therefore adds verquelure to his catalog, which up to now has consisted mainly of clothing fabrics. Today, Cédric, aged 29, is rubbing his hands. Because verquelure pleases. It comes in all forms: traditional, but also attractive decorative objects made by the seamstresses of an insertion platform. It’s cute as anything!

© Tourist Office of the Pays de Montbéliard

7/ … and bite into Burgundy snails

In Fesches-le-Châtel, a young couple took over in 2018 an artisanal cannery located on the banks of the Allan river specializing in snails, the Jacot-Billey house. Coming from a very different professional background, Murielle Grégoire and Yannick Gerome have transformed the family business created in 1935. Today, it is still the smallest in France in its field, but the only one to process live snails, at control the process from one end of the chain to the other, from shucking to buttering and canning. Handcrafted, with high quality requirements. The new owners, well supported by the previous ones, have modernized production. They have spread it over the whole year, which has led to a lot of job creation. The range of products, which can be tasted and purchased on site, has also expanded.

8/ Admire Fernand Léger’s stained glass windows in Audincourt

What wonder! And what a surprise to discover such a set of stained glass windows by an artist like Fernand Léger here, in this modest church of the Sacred Heart. Accompanying the influx of labour, it was built after the Second World War in a new working-class district of Audincourt. 17 stained-glass windows, bursting with color, designed by Fernand Léger at the height of his talent. He who did not hide his communist sympathies, did not hesitate to answer the call of the renowned artistic team that the priest of the young parish of the Sacred Heart had managed to constitute. Fernand Léger immersed himself in the Scriptures, immersed himself in them to describe the Passion of Christ in his own way. His work is a subtle marriage of colors playing on contrasts, shapes and themes, which imposes itself with incredible force. Undoubtedly one of the masterpieces of sacred art in the 20th century. Fernand Léger also designed the large tapestry that adorns the choir, and which he also offered to the parish.

Useful information

I’tourist office of the country of Montbéliard is also one of the essentials of a stay in the Doubs. In addition to its usual missions, to inform and indicate the good plans, it is here that one will be able for example to provide in verquelure. The office also offers an original virtual hot-air balloon trip.

Montbéliard has its station. The train journey takes less than 3h30 from Paris Gare de Lyon.

Good addresses

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What to see and what to do in the Montbéliard region?