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UNESCO logo The Besançon Citadel Protecting your assets

Emblematic of the city of Besançon, the Citadelle is a major cultural and tourist attraction. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this major work by Vauban is considered a universal asset to be carefully protected. Surprising and majestic, this three-hundred-year-old structure is nonetheless accessible to all those who wish to discover its secrets and the treasures it contains!

Photo of part of the Besançon Citadel

One of France's most beautiful citadels

From the top of its ramparts, three centuries look down on you... completed in 1684, this masterpiece of bastioned architecture created by Vauban is considered one of the most beautiful citadels in France. Overlooking the old town of Besançon from a height of over 100 metres, it is hemmed in by the meandering Doubs River, and also offers fine views of the surrounding hills. A vast area - no less than 11 hectares! - now dedicated to culture and tourism, the Citadelle has served over the centuries as a barracks, a training ground for future officers - "the cadets" - a state prison and a military penitentiary.

Side view of the Besançon Citadel

Stroll through the Citadel

To find out more about the Citadelle and its history, head for the Chapelle Saint-Étienne, at the heart of the site: a multimedia show takes you back in time and space, to discover the key moments that have marked Besançon and the monument - continuous broadcasting, three projections per hour.
The tour continues in the Bâtiment des Cadets, with the Espace Vauban: four exhibition rooms reveal all the keys to understanding the site.

With these fundamentals in mind, you'll appreciate the Citadelle with new eyes: climb the ramparts to enjoy the exceptional panoramic views over the city of Besançon and the surrounding natural environment. If you want to go further, follow the signs and educational panels along the way, or try out the tour and interactive games available to all on the MaCitadelle app.
Unless you're tempted by one of our many guided tours!

Enjoy breathtaking panoramic views and let yourself be overwhelmed by the magic of the Citadel and the surrounding countryside.
The citadel and the water

Focus on ...

The citadel and the water

At first glance, the citadel appears to be purely mineral. Yet water is, and has been, very present on this rocky site. Since the earliest human settlements, the Doubs loop has naturally protected the city of Besançon and shaped its urban development. Vauban also used the river to fortify the city in the 17th century. At the heart of the citadel, water became a vital element, as the fortress had to be self-sufficient in the event of a siege. Despite its original depth of 132 meters, the well did not supply drinking water, but the buckets brought up were used for the stronghold's other daily needs. The cisterns are the drinking water reserves. They collect rainwater, first by infiltration, and today thanks to a network of gutters. At the citadel, water is also available in frozen form. The now defunct ice-house was used to store food and drink, and to supply the governor with sorbets and cold drinks. For prisoners, the water diet was a punishment. For soldiers, on the other hand, eau de vie was a source of comfort, with each soldier receiving 1.5 liters a month. As for Vauban, he took part in a number of hydraulic projects, such as the Eure and Midi canals, and used water on numerous occasions in his defense systems.


To find out more, the Citadelle offers a tour entitled "La citadelle, du seau à la défense" ("The citadel, from bucket to defense").

Dates to discover on our calendar.

A remarkable heritage

In 2003, with the support of the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, Besançon initiated the project to have Vauban's work included on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Along with eleven other sites, the city forms the Network of Major Vauban Sites. They were all inscribed on the World Heritage List on July 7, 2008: a fine recognition of the universal value of Vauban's work, and of the need to protect it. The city's fortifications and the Citadelle are also the subject of an ongoing restoration program. To enhance the value of this fleuron of military architecture while preserving its original appearance, technicality and exemplarity are the order of the day. For example, craftsmanship skills are used extensively, encouraging their mastery and transmission. Every summer, the Citadelle invites a group of young volunteers to take ownership of this heritage by helping to safeguard it, as part of a work camp.

Eight other UNESCO properties to discover in Burgundy-Franche-Comté.

A remarkable heritage