Montélimar is a town with culinary heritage that has been the home of French nougat since the 1700s. This fudge is made using old-fashioned techniques and tools in large modern factories and small studios. You can indulge your curiosity and fondness for sweets on a tour, where you’ll have the privilege of seeing the kitchen and tasting a variety of nougat for free.
Other than that, Montélimar isn’t exactly a tourist destination, but there’s a medieval castle that rules the town, along with some relaxing museums and the Provence, tree-lined boulevards and café terraces.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Montélimar:
1. Nougat Arnaud Soubeyran
The oldest candy maker in Montélimar is also the best nougat maker to visit.
The ideal time is in the morning, as this is the busiest time in the factory.
With an unobstructed view of the kitchen, no aspect of nougat production can be overlooked.
You can even see bees producing honey.
The factory tour is subtly integrated into the museum, with a video presentation explaining the birth of the brand and revealing how Montélimar became the nougat capital of the world.
The entire experience is completely free, as is the delicious sample at the end.
2. Musée Européen de l’Aviation de chasse
The museum at Montélimar Airport has got aviation fans excited, with dozens of planes stored in several hangars.
The attraction started in just one hangar in 1985, but the fleet of fighter jets and civilian aircraft has rapidly grown to more than 60. About half of these planes were built by Dassault, many of them from the post-war era to the Mirage 90s.
There are Migs, several de Havilland Vampires in the foreign planes, and the coolest is a Rockwell OV-10 Bronco in working condition and flying regularly.
3. Admar Castle
At the top of the town, a fierce Romanesque castle took shape in the 1000s on the orders of the Count of Toulouse.
It was later passed from Lord Rauchmaur to the Pope and was fought fiercely in the Wars of Religion in the 16th century.
After that, it was renovated by Louis Adhémar into a sumptuous Renaissance residence, so that despite its modest exterior, the interior is more attractive.
The inn has been turned into a contemporary art gallery with installations in a stately setting while you conquer the Tour de France in Narbonne with views of the Drôme countryside.
4. City Hall Museum
The town’s museum is housed in the chapel of the historic former hospital in Montélimar, with permanent and short-term galleries.
Recent temporary shows have been dedicated to perfume or vintage lovers.
But the permanent exhibition remains a spot-stealer: The Small World of Miniatures by Russian artist Anatoly Konkenko.
They are so small that they cannot be seen by the naked eye and in some cases require a magnifying glass or even a microscope.
You can squint to check out a set of chess against mosquitoes and camels that actually go through the eye of a needle.
5. Allées Provençales
Without a doubt, the most beautiful part of Montélimar is this kilometer-long boulevard between the old town and the public gardens.
There are cast-iron gas lights, an old-fashioned carousel for the young, wide sidewalks and lots of cafes and restaurants.
On hot days, five rows of plane trees provide ample shade, and the air is cooled by the fountain.
Allées Provençales is the stage for the Christmas market in December and the Couleur Lavande festival in summer.
This is probably the most touristy place in town, and if you’re flying around in Montelimar, there’s no shortage of nougat options.
6. Diane de Poytiers Nougat
Housed in a bright pink building on the main road to Montélimar, Diane de Poytiers is another stop on the Nougat Trail.
They have been in the nougat game since the 1920s, producing 50 tons a year in this factory.
This is actually a smaller scale than Arnaud Soubeyran, but you still get behind-the-scenes access to the work of the Candy Master for free.
You will learn about all the fresh local ingredients in their nougat, and your guide will introduce you to the various cutting and packing machines.
There is a large shop area and there is a sample of each variety of nougat, so you can choose a nougat to your liking.
7. Take a walk around town
Montélimar is an unassuming place without many striking landmarks.
Instead, look for some novelty on the streets of the old center.
Maison de Diane de Poitiers is just a name because this famous lady never lived here.
But it is a fine Renaissance building of that period, with mullioned windows.
The striking Porte Saint-Martin is an 18th-century arch on the site of the town’s old gate.
Then there’s the Place du Marché, with its old arcades, clusters of tables in bars and cafés, and a small market on Wednesday mornings.
8. Nougat Le Chaudron d’Or
The last nougat on our list is more family-friendly than the others, and on a much smaller scale.
In the Saint-Martin district, you can visit artisan workshops that employ only a few friendly staff.
They use antique equipment at Le Chaudron d’Or, including copper barrels and wooden boxes filled with roasted almonds and pistachios.
You’ll see skilled nougat masters mixing the batter and cutting the nougat after it has cooled.
In the store, the final product is presented in gorgeous Belle Époque-style cans, and like other factories, you can try a piece or two for free.
9. Garden public
The town’s park is a great place to stretch your legs, and it stretches seamlessly from the Allées Provençales to the train station.
It was landscaped in 1856 and has lawns, flower beds and a lovely old log cabin.
The lovely iron bandstand and pond with a rocky island in the middle date back to the 19th century, as do the many mature trees cedar and pine.
Parents with young children can come to the small zoo to say hello to mules, sheep, antelope, goats and peacocks.
10. Maison du Jouet Ancien
On a commercial property in Zhenbei, there is a Candy and Nougat Palace in a huge warehouse.
If you’re in a hurry, this is a convenient place to pick up some local nougat and other sweets.
But you have reason to spend a little more time in this building as there is a really great childhood museum there.
Maison du Jouet Ancien is a journey of memories with piles of antique toys that began between the two world wars.
There are rocking horses, train sets, a bunch of dolls, model planes, tricycles and board games, as well as retro video game consoles from the 80s and 90s.
Now just an ordinary town, Viviers once ruled Vivalais, a large area covering the modern Ardèche department.
Perched on a ridge, Viviers dominates the Rhone Valley, with an ancient network of streets surrounding its cathedral.
When the town is at its peak, it’s not difficult to exercise, as it has noble houses from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Maison Noël-Albert is a refined Renaissance house with reliefs, medallions and pilasters on its façade.
You can also walk into the cathedral and admire the choir’s rich work of art, where Gobelins tapestries adorn the walls.
There is an extremely ornate marble altar from the 18th century, and two rows of carved wooden stalls.
12. La Ferme aux Crocodiles
There is no other zoo in Europe like the “crocodile farm” not far from Montélimar.
It is also the most visited paid attraction in the Drôme department.
You’ll encounter around 350 crocodiles and alligators on the farm, from ten different species, including Nile crocodiles, dwarf crocodiles, caimans, Chinese alligators and American alligators.
Anyone concerned with animal conservation will be pleased to know that the zoo is involved in breeding programs and helps fund conservation projects in the Ganges and Burkina Faso.
On the way north to Valence is one of France’s “beautiful villages”, a rustic stone settlement cascading down a hillside.
Still surrounded by its defensive walls, Mirmande protects the winding streets and offers countryside views that will capture your heart.
The window frames and shutters are painted blue to contrast with the linen stone houses, and there are beautiful rock gardens on every street.
From the 1600s onwards, the development of Mirmande was attributed to silk cultivation, and when the industry failed in the 1800s, the village was almost abandoned.
But it was reborn in the early 20th century after the Cubist painter André Lott fell in love.
14. Couleur Lavande Festival
Nougat at Montélimar would not be the same without honey, which comes from the bees working in the vibrant lavender fields of the local countryside.
Around mid-July, when the plant is ready for harvest, Jardin Public and Allées Provençales will hold a two-day lavender celebration.
From morning to night, you can come to the seminars and lectures of those who make a living from lavender and its derivatives.
There is a market where you can buy lavender products and even grow small patches of lavender in the park for weekend use.
15. Food and drink
Just in case you weren’t paying attention, nougat is big news in Montélimar! It’s soft and chewy and consists of egg whites, honey, sugar, almonds, pistachios and vanilla.
Almost all of these ingredients come from the town’s fertile backyard, and if you’re interested in food sources, you can visit farm after farm.
There is a apiary producing Miel de Provence, a winery, an olive oil mill, an almond orchard and the Sylivie Guichard farm growing nectarines and apricots.
We didn’t even mention the delicious picodon goat cheese: this cheese is small round pieces that have a mild flavor and a soft texture when young, and thicker and thicker after a few weeks of ageing.
Where to stay: The best hotels in Montélimar, France
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