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Discover Besançon

Irresistible Besançon

(The Doubs and the Citadel)

With its exceptional natural setting, Besançon is a capital of many different faces, from the charm of its old quarters to a surprisingly dynamic cultural life.

At the foot of the Citadel: an old town centre full of history
From the Battant quarter, formerly the winegrowers' district, to the Cathédrale Saint-Jean, Besançon is a place of constant surprises. Inner courtyards with staircases decorated with wrought iron banisters or wooden balustrades, tinkling fountains and carefully maintained parks and gardens confirming its reputation as the greenest town in France. A number of squares lie along this historic route, including  Place Pasteur and Place Victor Hugo, and commemorate celebrities who were born or spent time in Besançon.

But Besançon is primarily about Vauban because it was here more than anywhere else that Louis XIV's great engineer excelled in his art. After the signature of the Treaty of Nijmegen in 1678, Franche-Comté became permanently French and Besançon was appointed the capital of Franche-Comté. Vauban was tasked with upgrading the fortifications by the king.
A city wall interspersed with bastion towers parallel to the meander of the Doubs protected the town, while on the right bank Fort Griffon stood guard over its approaches and was used for surveillance of the newly conquered town.

(Bastion tower)


In 2008 the fortifications of Vauban were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. Besançon is part of the Network of Major Vauban Sites, in total a series of twelve sites fortified by Vauban which represent an outstanding universal value.

(Museum of Fine Arts)

Le musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie de Besançon
(Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology)

This Museum houses one of the richest and oldest public collections in France. Its reputation is based on paintings by famous masters such as Bellini, Bonnard and Courbet. Its Drawing Collection contains 5,000 works and is considered to be one of the most important in France.
For more information


(Clock and Watch-making Museum )

Le Musée du Temps (Watch-making Museum)

A museum of history, watch-making and science, the Musée du Temps is located in a magnificent Renaissance palace and celebrates watch-making history and traditions in Besançon.
For more information

(Parc Micaud)

A spa town

The salt deposits lying close to Besançon were first worked in 1866 and the salt water transported to the town resulted in the creation of a spa complex. The Compagnie des Bains then built a centre for taking the waters, casino, entertainment room and hotel, thus making Besançon the top spa destination among its rival neighbours.


A town of time
The history of the Franche-Comté capital is intimately linked with the measurement of time and watch-making know-how. The watch-making story began in Besançon in 1793 with the foundation of a National Watch-making Factory. Under the Second Empire, around 400 watch-making workshops were set up in the town. The creation of a watch-making college and observatory at the end of the 19th century ensured that this specialist knowledge was handed on and led to the development of industrial-scale activity. Besançon became the capital of French watch-making.


A wealth of festivals from spring to late summer

The Besançon-Montfaucon Early Music Festival puts on concerts by internationally famous artists in historic venues.
In September, the prestigious Besançon International Music Festival organises a young conductors competition every two years.Throughout the summer, Besançon beats to the rhythm of the F’estivales: the most popular tourist areas of the town are transformed into venues for concerts and musical performances.
For further information on the Besançon-Montfaucon Early Music Festival
For further information on the Besançon International Music Festival

Find out more about Besançon