Capital of the Franche-Comté region, Besançon (in the department of Jura) is primarily the city of Vauban's citadel, a stronghold which has survived four centuries intact and is a Unesco World Heritage monument. Besançon is also known for its abundance of greenery, making it a pleasant place to live, and for its large student population, with a high concentration of international students. This city sits on a loop of the river Doubs with the beautifully preserved historic old town nestling within this meander, protected by the citadel which sits 100 m above, on Mont Saint-Etienne.
The Citadel of Besançon was built by Vauban between 1668 and 1683, Louis XIV's military engineer. Fortress, barracks and prison: this fortified complex extends over 30 acres. Today the Citadel is an ideal place to go for a stroll and admire the view (once you've made it to the top of the hill). Explore the Citadel and discover its history, or relax and enjoy a bit of culture at the same time. Come, see and conquer the Citadel: in the Espace Vauban you can find out all about this man who designed this military masterpiece, and about the design itself. At the Musée Comtois you'll find an interesting ethnographic collection from the region which is one of the best in France. It's no coincidence that the Museum of the Resistance and of Deportation can be found here: around a hundred members of the Résistance were shot here at the Citadel during the Occupation. The Besançon Natural History Museum is also to be found within the Citadel. If you're visiting with the family, the kids are sure to be fascinated by the collections documenting the various aminals and insects which populate the earth (it comprises an aquarium, insectarium, noctarium, and the Zoological Garden of the Citadel). On the Chemin de Ronde, the Architecture Museum Space offers a fantastic panorama over Besançon. Admire the twists and turns of the bastions and walls, towers and turrets amidst the greenery. You can also see the Citadel in all its glory from a boat. Take a boat trip and you will pass through the legendary 375 metre long canal tunnel which cuts through the mountain beneath the Citadel.
By virtue of its proximity to neighbouring Switzerland, Besançon has become the French capital of watches, with brands such as Maty based here. At the Museum of Time in the old Palais Grenelle, you'll surely lose track of time in this engrossing exploration of all things temporal. Follow the sound of ticking… to the Cathedral of Saint-Jean in Besançon, where you will find a rather special 19th century Astronomical Clock, which is a veritable encyclopedia of time. Its 57 dials will inform you not just about the time and the day but also about planetary movement and eclipses.
The International Music Festival of Besançon- Franche-Comté is a major classical music event in winter, while the Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music in Franche-Comté takes place during the balmy summer months. It takes place in the old town in Besançon which is known as Le Battant or "beating", an apt name as this is truly the beating heart of this historic city.
De gare à gare