Visit Besancon (Franche-Comte, France)
Besançon is found in the Doubs department, in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France. Wrapped in a loop of the River Doubs, Besançon is set in attractive forested countryside and low lying mountains.
The main appeal of Besancon lies in lots of little features - a Roman arch here, a fountain there, a handful of churches here and a brace of fortified towers there etc. rather than in any particular monument. These together makes Besançon quite an interesting and rewarding town to explore.
Besancon also maintains a good standard of living, is a University Centre of great renown, has excellent transport links, and is a modern and vibrant centre of international relations and cultural encounters (such as the 'Festival of classical music' and the annual 'Festival du Jazz').
Start your visit to Besancon at the 'Battant' bridge, a mighty work of the Romans with five arches - the middle arch reaches thirteen meters. The bridge was built along the road that connected Italy with the Province of the Rhine and with Vesontio.
Besancon Musée de Beaux Art
Take the Grand Rue to the Place de la Revolution where you can visit the Besancon Musée de Beaux Arts, which has a distinctive collection of paintings from the 15th to the 20th centuries, with some extraordinary works.
These include the Intoxication of Noah by Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516); the Nymph to the Source by L. Cranach the Elder (1472-1553); The Lament on Christ by Agnolo Bronzino (1502-1572), the Cannibals by Francisco Goya (1746-1828), and Le Café by Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) and the Head and Foot of a child by Rubens (1577-1640).
More recent works include 'Sleeping Woman' by Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and the Eternal Spring by August Rodin (1840-1917).
Palaces, Besancon Cathedral and architecture
Besançon has many palaces, built around the sixteenth century. Among them stands out the Granvelle Palace (first half of 16th century) with a Renaissance façade; the entrance is a massive arch between two pillars, adorned with many decorations (angels, flowers and dolphins) and an elegant arcade inside the courtyard.
Another structure of great importance is the Cathedral of Besançon, above all for the interior that is a work of great architectural and artistic value. Dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, the cathedral has a nave and two impressive aisles (26 meters in height). Dating from the beginning of the thirteenth century but it was rebuilt after a fire in 1237. Especially finely painted is the apse of the Saint Suaire with some paintings by Charles Vanloo, Charles Notoire and the 'Death of Sapphira and Ananias' by Tintoretto.
Next to the cathedral is the famous “Astronomique Horloge” (1860), indicating not only the hours but also the seasons, tides and movements of the planets (you can also visit the nearby “Museum of Time”). With a myriad of dials (57 apparently) and 30 000 parts it is one of the 'great clocks of the world' and is also a listed National Monument in France.
Among the other architectural curiosities there is also the famous Citadel fortified by Vauban, an imposing structure with three surrounding walls and some wells that reach a depth of one hundred meters deep with a width of about four meters.
For the best views across Besancon make the (steep) climb up to the Citadelle.
After the Citadel, another exceptional artefact is the Porte Noire, a triumphal arch once called the Gate of Mars and then later the 'Porta Nigra' (Black Gate). The arch has a height ranging from 12 to 36 meters and was built as a monument commemorating the battles fought in Gaul by the Romans and their allies, the Sequani - some scenes of the battles can be seen in the reliefs on the arch.
Besancon also has an impressive collection of museums - ranging from the Museum of Natural History to the Museum of the Resistance and Deportation, with several others in between to cater for all tastes.
Attractions near Besancon
The region around Besançon offers interesting natural excursions on the Doubs river, to the source of the Loue river, or in the forest 'de la Joux'. Nearby the chateau at Moncley, north-west of the town, merits a detour.
In these landscapes around Besancon find time to pause and enjoy the local dishes, especially the cheeses, such as the 'Comté', a cheese typical of the Jura and the 'Concoillette' (a kind of cream cheese to eat with bread, potatoes and vegetables). Try also the popular tartiflette and the 'Mont d'Or chaud', and, among the desserts, you can taste the typical Galette of Besançon.
See related article: the history of Besancon
Photos taken within 10 km
Tourist classifications for Besancon
Besancon has received the following tourist classifications: ; historical protected town centre' (secteur sauvegardé); listed town of Art and History ;
Address: Besançon, Doubs, Franche-Comte, 25000 || GPS: latitude 47.25, longitude 6.02
Map of Besancon & places nearby
Highlights close by
Suggested tourist attractions to visit near Besancon, France
- Astronomical clock of Besancon - national monument
- Besancon citadelle (Vauban fortifications) - heritage site (2km)
- Citadelle de Besançon - zoo or wildlife park (2km)
- Gouffre de Poudrey - site of natural beauty (22km)
- Lods - most beautiful village (29km)
- Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans - heritage site (30km)
- Parc de l'Etang - remarkable garden (35km)
- Salins-les-Bains - town of art and history (36km)
- Arbois - town of art and history (43km)
- Jardin à la Faulx - remarkable garden (44km)
Market days in Besancon: Regular market(s) are held in Besancon each Wednesday & Tuesday & Thursday all day & Sunday & Saturday & Friday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)
The French version of this page is at Besancon (Francais)