At the meeting point of Franche-Comté and Alsace, where France, Switzerland and Germany come together, between Vosges and Jura, at this crossroads of art and industry, the Territory of Belfort has retained its own unique identity. The monumental Lion of Belfort symbolically guards the fortified citadel. The town is renowned for its rock festival, the Eurockéennes de Belfort as well as its Festival International de Musique Universitaire (FIMU) which showcases the talents of international student musicians in a varity of genres.
The fearsome Lion hewn from Vosges sandstone which has become such a symbol of Belfort, is "tormented, cornered and terrible in his fury", according to his creator, Frédéric Bartholdi (to whom we also owe the Statue of Liberty in New York). When all of the towns of Alsace (Belfort became part of Franche-Comté in 1921) were invaded by Prussia, the town of Belfort heroically resisted for 103 days. As a result of this bravery, the town remained French after 1871 (unlike Alsace and Lorraine), leaving a little postage stamp of land called the Territoire de Belfort. The famous lion commemorates this resistance. This, in fact, is not the only lion in Belfort commemorating the town's heroic stand. 150 other lions are scattered across the town - see how many you can spot.
Vauban built the Citadel of Belfort in the late 17th century, on the foundations of a medieval castle. Follow the path up to the citadel, and discover the ditches and bastions which protected the city during the 103 day attack. By night, the stones gleam like jewels around the neck of the town of Belfort.
If you're visiting Belfort with the family, the kids can let off steam at the Lac du Malsaucy (around ten kilometres from Belfort) which is within a nature reserve. You'll find a watersports centre there and plenty of land activities too. Cycle along the banks of the lake: it's a haven of peace and tranquility. Somewhat less tranquil, each July the lake echoes with the sound of rock music at the Eurockéennes de Belfort: a four day rock fest with a host of international stars on the line up.
The protected national site of the Massif du Ballon d'Alsace (20 km from Belfort) towers at an altitude of 1247 m, in the mountains of Vosges and is as wild and untamed as the Belfort lion. Explore the mountainside on foot in summer or on skis in the snowy months. hangliding, archery and orientation sessions will ensure fun for all the family. The Acropark will delight your mini Tarzans and Mowglis, who can swing from tree to tree to their heart's content.
20 km from Belfort, you'll find a masterpiece by contemporary architect Le Corbusier. On the 8th September you can join the 3000 pilgrims (and architects) in a procession to his chapel Notre-Dame-du-haut - Chapelle de Ronchamp which looks rather like a giant mushroom. In spring the famous Festival International de Musique Universitaire (FIMU) brings 2,700 amateur musicians and singers together to represent their institutions.
Come and hear the Belfort lion roar...
Station to station