As mentioned in my Besançon intro page this a magnificant place and I highly rate it as must see.
The Besançon Citadel was built between 1668 and 1711 playing an integral part of Vauban's border fortification system (other examples are for example Belfort, Neuf-Brisach or Saarlouis) against the Germans. It extends over 11 hectares and stands more than 100 metres above the old town of Besançon, which lies below almost entirely encircled by River Doubs. The view is breathtaking as you can imagine.
The Citadel is a fortress that has been restored to a remarkable high standard and is not a unique cultural and tourist attraction.
For me the very special thing about the Besançon Citadel is the combination of a historical site which hosts modern museums. For example there's a small zoo in the ditches of the Citadel.
In addition to the zoo the Besançon Citadel hosts the following museums and exhibitions:
- Vauban exhibition and the ramparts
- Franche-Comté Museum (regional)
- Museum of the Resistance and the Deportations (WW II)
- Noctarium (dark world of small nocturnal animals)
- Insectarium (world of insects)
During summer there are guided tours through the Citadel. You can also get audio guides.
The Besançon Citadel is open all year round with exception of January 1st and December 25 th. Museums are closed on Tuesday from November 1 st to Easter. No dogs admitted!
A miniature railway, a free bus from city centre (in summer), a café, snack bar, restaurant with panorama view over the city, a boutique, a bookshop and a seminar room can also be found there.
Prices (Citadel and all museums) 3,50 to 7 €
The church was completed in 1786 by the architect Bertrand from drawings by Victor Louis, but its origins date back to the 4th century.
The neo-classical facade with its Corinthian colonnade surmounted by a pyramid-shaped tower may strike a bizarre note, but inside the dominating impression is one of unity. The many works of art include the woodwork of the choir, the pietà by Luc Breton and the original Stations of the Cross.
You will find Saint-Pierre easily: It is just across Hôtel de Ville on Place du Huit Septembre. Be careful! Most tourist are in this part of the town, so only thieves are there (own experience!)
Built between 1569 and 1573, the Hôtel de Ville presents a sober, austere facade to the outside world. Above the porch, the Besançon eagle bearing two columns reminds us of the town’s long history (there's a nice story about this eagle, but our guide couldn't really explain it well enough in a language I understand, sorry).
On the right, an immense niche contained, up to the French Revolution, a bronze fountain representing Charles V astride a two-headed eagle; to this day it is surmounted by the town motto, Pleut à Dieu (“Pleasing to God”). The 15th century municipal aune (0.815 m) is on the extreme left of the facade.
L' Hôtel de Ville is located just across Saint-Pierre on Place du Huit Septembre. I refer to the warnings I included on that tip.
Anyway, Place du Huit Septembre offers some nice cafés and bars where you can sit outdoors. Especially in summertime a good and comfortable option. Prices are not too expensive (if you want to save money visit side roads)
The Doubs springs up at Mouthe (alt. 937 m). At times, it flows through lush limestone gorges, at times, it lingers through plains and meanders. It forms lakes Saint-Point and Chaillexon as well..
The loop it forms around the city of Besançon is very famous and therefore the river was very important for the founding of the city (see Citadel and overview page). For many centuries Pont de Battant (replacing the old Roman stone bridge which was part of the road connecting Italy with the Rhine Provinces) was the only bridge over the Doubs in Besançon.
The superb architectural sweep of the Quai Vauban punctuated by the arcades of the 17th century houses.
At Villers-le-Lac, the Doubs spreads out in large pools and soon turns into an impressive 27 meters waterfall, called Saut du Doubs (the Doubs Sault). Boat cruises are available from Villers-le-Lac.
The river gave its name to the Doubs department and makes its mark along its course. Its name (Doubs) originates in the Latin word "Dubius" meaning "doubtful". To achieve a distance of 90 km from its source to the point where it flows into the Saône river, it changes direction three times and flows 430 km with 190 km of navigable waterways.
In this building French writer and poet Victor Huge (1802 - 1885) was born. But actually he just lived for two weeks in Besançon, because his family just stayed in town to visit his grandfather who was garrisoned in Besançon.
In another house on Place Victor Hugo (northern end) Auguste and Louis Lumière (1862-1954 and 1864-1948) were born. They eventually invented cinematography.
You can see the "faces" of all these famous sons of Besançon in different windows at Place Victor Hugo.
There are many activity opportunities and many places to visit in Besançon.Hotel de Ville,Palais de Justice,Eglise St.Madeleine,Musée des Beaux Arts are some of place that should be visited.If you want you can do a tour around the city with a bateau-mouche.Citadel is also very attractive place.There is a zoo and botanic garden in it.In summer many spectacles and festivals are made in it.
You may go there by bus (from Place du Huit Septembre).Many festivals,concerts especially jazz&classic and competitions such as chess (le concours d'échecs) are taken place throughout the year.There are also many beautiful parks in Besançon.
Besançon is a very beautiful city that should be visited.It is a wonderful,historical green city surrounded by natural beauty.
Not the most renowned wine around, but excellent. Think about the red and white wines, but also the yellow wines and 'vins de paille' (very slow fermentation giving wines up to 17%). You must taste these!!!
Classification: Wine Tasting , Hiking , Photography , Site Seeing
The castle at the bottom of which can be found the Lion de Belfort, symbol of the city resistance in 1870-1871 which commemorates the 104-day siege of the Franco-German War; it was sculptured by Bartholdi. It is roughly 22 meters long by 11 meters high.
Classification: Photography , Site Seeing
Museum of the Resistance and Deportation
A poignant witness to this period of history
20 rooms spread over two floors examine, with the help of photographs,
writings, documents and original objects, themes linked to the
second world war; Nazism and its origins, the war and
the Vichy regime, the deportation, the resistance in
Franche-Comté, in France, Europe-wide and the Liberation.
Plan to spend one to two full days here.
One of the mayor works of Italian painter Fra Bartolomeo. He was born 1473 in Florentia and died 1517 in Pian' di Mugnone. As a member of the Florentine school he influenced for example Raphael.
Most of his other works can be seen in the Uffizi (Florentia), Galleria Borghese (Rome) and the Louvre (Paris).
Our guide didn't give us much information about this painting, so I'm afraid I can't tell you much about it.
You can find in the Saint-Jean Cathedral near the sacristy door.
The cathedral is unusual for its two apses and is probably Carolingian in origin.
The entrance is an 18th century side door on the north side. Inside, the Romanesque (12 th century) style of the great arches of the nave rubs shoulders with the Gothic (13th century)ribbed vaults.
Opposite the east apse (rebuilt by G.G. Boffrand (17th century) when the tower collapsed, the west apse is decorated with remarkable 12th century capitals.
Don't miss: the Renaissance tomb of Ferry Carondelet, abbot of Montbenoît, the “Rose de Saint-Jean (a circular white marble altar) and Fra Bartolomeo’s famous Virgin with Saints, situated near the sacristy door (see tip below).
Cathedrale St. Jean is predominantly 18th cntury. It sits just below the citadel on Rue de la Convention and houses the Horloge Astronomique (clock) which has 300 moving parts inside it.
There are 7 guided tours, daily. We opened a door and went inside... not realising that we were actually sneaking in because we were not on one of these tours and neither had we paid!
The house where the great French writer, Victor Hugo, was born is close to the centre of Besancon. Hugo wrote two of the greatest nineteenth century novels (and two of my all-time favourites) - Notre Dame de Paris & Les Miserables.
The cathedral was build in the 12th century and was rebuild several times throughout the times. The entrance to the cathedral is on the north side, and on the west side you will find the entrance to the Astronomical Clock. The church can be visited for free, but for the Astronomical Clock there are guided tours to visit it.
In some courtyards, you'll find staircases, outside the building, to save space. It's not easy to find them unless you know where to look. Also often the courtyards are behind a door and we weren't sure if we can enter it nevertheless. But we found one which easily can be viewed as the courtyard is open, it's in street "Rue des Granges", house number 75.
Here's a list of other houses that were mentioned in a guide about the Besançon:
Rue des Granges: number 16, 17, 21, 75
Grande Rue: number 53, 76, 103, 108