Jura: tourism & sightseeing
Visit Jura, FranceCar Hire Villas
The Jura department, which together with Doubs to the east makes up the Franche-Comté region of eastern France, has a great deal to offer the visitor with lakes and mountains, castles and picturesque villages among the highlights.
Jura, Franche-Comté tourism
The Jura department is not the most visited in France but the intrepid explorer will discover a great deal of interest, especially for those who like to explore the natural environment and for outdoor sporting enthusiasts. Below we summarise the main highlights in the Jura department although you will discover others as you explore...
France This Way comment: you might conclude that Baume-les-Messieurs is an unmissable highlight of visit since it appears in all three categories, having a historic monument, an impressive natural setting and waterfall, and also being a scenic village. Combined with a trip to nearby Chateau-Chalon this is one of our favourite days out in Jura!
Natural environment and outdoor activities
The principal pleasure for visitors is the chance to enjoy the scenery and there are various popular highlights among the lakes, gorges and waterfalls of the department. As you would expect hiking, fishing and cycling are all very popular activities here and there are many places that offer spectacular viewpoints.
- Several important lakes are to be found in Jura, including the two lakes at Clairvaux, Chalain Lake and Vouglans Lake, the Lac d'Ilay and Lac de Bonlieu, the Lac de Coiselet... There are also many smaller lakes here in the centre of the department, and the area is known as the 'Région des lacs du Jura français'. The Lac de Vouglans is the largest and most popular of the lakes with visitors.
- Close to Doucier in the heart of the department you can follow a lovely path passed the Cascades du Hérisson series of waterfalls, best seen after recent heavy rain
- The cirque around Baume-les-Messieurs is very scenic and includes a small but very lovely waterfall.
- The journey along the Gorges de la Lemme to the east of Jura (at Saint-Laurent-en-Grandvaux) is also exceptionally scenic, with various waterfalls along the route.
Cycling the Jura: as a keen cyclist I have to say the Jura is almost the perfect French department to explore by bike, with endless miles of quiet roads passing through woodlands and next to lakes and if it isn't practical to bring a bike with you there are bike hire centres in many of the towns. See Jura cycling routes for loads of suggested cycling routes
- The Abbey of Saint-Pierre occupies much of the centre of the village of Baume-les-Messieurs
- The roman style abbey at Gigny in south-west Jura is one of the oldest Benedictine monasteries in the world
- The 16th century Collegiale Church in Dole is the most imposing church in the region
- Other imposing churches can be seen at Clairvaux-les-Lacs and at Saint-Hymetiére.
Although the castles in Jura are generally rather low key, the hilltop ruins of medieval Chateau d'Arlay and its gardens are interesting (north of Lons-le-Saunier), and at Chateau Pécauld in Arbois you can visit the Museum of Jura Wine ('Musée de la vigne et du vin du Jura'). The Chateau du Pin in south-west Jura is another notable medieval castle.
The Chateau de Syam, really an Italian style 19th century villa rather than a castle, is near Champagnole in south-east Jura and is centred around an impressive domed gallery area. The garden around the villa is officially listed as a 'remarkable garden'.
Towns and villages
Both Chateau-Chalon and Baume-les-Messieurs are listed among the 'most beautiful villages in France'...
- The town of Lons-le-Saunier is the principal town in the Jura department
- The riverside path and the historic centre of Dole are both dominated by the collegiale church in the centre of the town
- The town of Salins-les-Bains was an important centre for salt production (with the Royal saltworks at Arc-et-Senans in nearby Doubs) and the historic factory is now a UNESCO listed monument
- There are several interesting monuments in Arbois and close proximity to various Jura scenic highlights
- In a valley surrounded by high cliffs, Baume-les-Messieurs is a small very traditional and unspoiled village
- Overlooking the vineyards in the valley below, the small village of Chateau-Chalon is very pleasant to stroll around
- In the town of Poligny you can see several important churches and convents.
- Les Rousses, on the south-east border of the department, is the main ski station in the Jura. Others include Métabief, Bellefontaine and Foncine-le-Haut.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Franche-Comte guide.
Map of Jura and places nearby
See more places, tourist attractions and local markets at visiting Jura
See an index of all Jura communes
French version: Jura (Francais)