Tourist "Train" to the Citadel
This little train is supposed for those who have problems with the steep climb up to the Citadel. I didn't use so I can just refer to the information our guide gave us.
The train has one depart every hour from 10:00 on at Place du Huit Septembre (Hôtel de Ville, Saint-Pierre). Groups have to book in advance. As far I got it the price for the train is included for the Citadel, and you can buy tickets for both at the driver of the train. If unsure just ask him.
A plus of the train is that you arrive at the Citadel in a good shape and you avoid the traffic. Parts of the food path to the Citadel are on street roads, which is not that invitating.
- Theme Park Trips
- Museum Visits
How to get to Bescanson from Paris
TGV railway connections
To get to Franche-Comté by train :
Besançon-Paris (2 h 40) - 6 return trips per day
Besançon-Lille (3 h 35)
via Marne-la-Vallée and Roissy - 1 return trip per day
Mouchard-Paris (2 h 30) - 2 return trips per day
Pontarlier-Paris (3 h 15) - 1 return trip per day
Dole-Paris (2 h 00) - 4 to 6 return trips per day
Dole-Lille (3 h 15) - 1 return trip per day
Frasne-Paris (3 h 00) - 3 to 4 return trips per day
Railway connections without TGV
Vesoul-Paris (3 h 15) 9 return trips per day
Belfort-Paris (3 h 45) 9 return trips per day
Motorways A 36 and A 39
SAPPR (Toll motorway company)
Regional Office Alsace/Franche-Comté
F-25048 Besancon Cedex
Tel. 0 803 071 077
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
- Business Travel
Bridge of Chardonnet
This bridge across the Doubs is now reserved for pedestrians and cyclists, but it was originally built just before the Second World War as a single-track railway bridge to serve the commercial river port, which was still in use at that time.
The bridge was finished in November 1939 but was partly blown up by the French army just seven months later, presumably to prevent the German invaders from using it. During the German occupation it was repaired at least in part by the German construction company Züblin. After the war it was used as a railway bridge for several decades, until the commercial river port was gradually closed down in the 1980s. Then the bridge was given to the city, which removed the railroad track, renovated the bridge and turned it into a passerelle for pedestrians and cyclists.
Since the concert hall La Rodia was opened in 2011, the usefulness of the Bridge of Chardonnet has greatly increased for two reasons. First, people going to concerts at La Rodia can easily walk or cycle there, instead of being tempted to drive. Second, tourists wanting to visit the Citadel are being encouraged to park their cars in the free parking lot by La Rodia and take a scenic half-hour walk across the bridge and up the hill, instead of driving up to the Citadel, where parking is very limited and also rather expensive.
(When Vauban designed the Citadel in the 17th century, he of course had no way of knowing that hoards of people in the 21st century would want to drive up there in ugly metal and plastic boxes.)
As an alternative to walking, there is a bus that runs from La Rodia to the Citadel and back, but only between April and October.
Second photo: The Bridge of Chardonnet as seen from halfway up the hill.
Third photo: The Bridge of Chardonnet from upstream.
Directions: VéloCité bicycle station 14 (Jacobins) is near the west end of the bridge.
(This is actually a math problem, but it also tells the history of the bridge.)
Next: Cité des Arts
Safety rules for the new tramway
There are always safety issues when a new form of transportation is inserted into an existing system, so the authorities have mounted a large publicity campaign to inform people about how their habits will have to change.
This first slogan in the window of the House of the Tram says: “The tram always has the right of way.”
Second photo: This slogan, with a photo of an elderly couple, says: “One tram can conceal another. We remain vigilant.” This is a variation of that quintessential French road sign Un train peut en cacher un autre, a sign that used to be (and probably still is) posted at every grade crossing where a road crosses a double-track railway, warning motorists not to start up when a train has passed before checking to see that another train isn’t coming from the opposite direction.
See also: Un homme peut en cacher un autre ("One man can conceal another") on the second photo of my Paris tip Street of the Five Diamonds.
Third photo: This one says: “The tram is silent. I remain attentive.” The silence of the tram is indeed one of its positive and negative features, positive because it helps reduce the mind-boggling cacophony of our cities and negative because people have become accustomed to navigating the city streets by ear, instead of watching where they are going.
Bicycles are also silent, as I have discussed for example in my Amsterdam tip Watch out for (foreign) pedestrians!
Fourth photo: “The path of the tram is for the tram” (and no one else).
Fifth photo: “Objective: Safety.”
The urgency of the Besançon safety campaign was brutally demonstrated in the first week of operation of the new tramway when an 81-year-old man, a tourist from another part of France, was struck and injured by a tram in Besançon and later died of his wounds. Witnesses said he had tried to cross the tracks without looking to see if a tram was coming.
A few days later, a fourteen year old boy was hit and slightly injured by a tram as he crossed the tracks, wearing earphones, in front of his school.
Next: TGV station Besançon Franche-Comté
Since the TGV station Besançon Franche-Comté is located way out in the countryside, there is a shuttle train (navette) to get us into Besançon.
As of 2014, the shuttle train runs nineteen times a day in each direction, with the journey taking an average of thirteen minutes. Usually there is one stop along the way.
Second photo: Some long-distance tickets include the shuttle train, others don’t. This should be clear from the final destination given on your ticket, but if you are unsure you can ask the TGV conductor before you get off. If you need a separate ticket, be sure to “compost” it at this yellow machine before boarding the shuttle train. (Just shove it in until you hear a clicking noise.) This will validate the ticket for immediate use, but invalidate it for any future times.
(This “composting” sounds funny to us Anglophones, because it makes us think of re-cycling things by throwing them onto a compost heap.)
Back to my first Besançon review: Hôtel Vauban
Back to my Besançon intro page
Cycling by the river
From Besançon there are pleasant, paved, car-free bicycle routes along the Doubs River, leading both upstream and down.
Some of these are included in the long-distance bicycle route EuroVelo 6, which leads from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, starting at Saint-Nazaire on the Atlantic coast of France.
An unusual feature of this route is that it almost entirely follows almost entirely along rivers and canals such as the Loire, the Canal du Centre, the Saone and the Doubs in France, the Rhine in Switzerland and then the Danube through Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria.
Third photo: A EuroVelo 6 sign by the Doubs River in Besançon.
Next: The new tramway
Just as Paris has a small Autolib’ car sharing program to supplement its much larger Vélib’ bike sharing system, so Besançon has “autocité” as a supplement to “vélocité”.
In both cases, the similarity of names is meant to suggest that renting a small car can be just as simple and spontaneous as renting a bicycle – which it isn’t, but in both cities they have tried to make the process as simple as possible.
Second photo: The car-sharing system autocité in Besançon is now run by a non-profit cooperative called Citiz, which is attempting to set up a network of car-sharing systems in cities all over France. As of 2014, they have 22 French cities in their network.
This Citiz sign at the car-sharing station in front La City in Besançon reads: “You need a car from time to time? Reserve the model of your choice by telephone or by internet, for an hour or more. Have access to a car in self-service 24 hours a day with your subscriber’s card. Insurance, fuel, maintenance, everything is included.”
Address: 86, Grande Rue - Cour des Carmes - 25000 Besançon
Phone: 03 81 82 3000
Next: Cycling by the river
The new tramway
When I visited Besançon in May 2014 the new tramway had been installed but was not yet operational, as only two of the nineteen trams had been delivered. They were already doing some test runs, but I did not see any of these during my visit.
The new tramway is intended to be the backbone of public transportation for the entire “agglo” = agglomeration of Grand Besançon. All the bus lines will be rearranged to provide convenient transfers from the 31 new tram stations.
In Besançon itself, the tramway runs partly on the right bank of the river and partly on the left, and crosses four bridges to do so. If I have counted correctly, there are only seven or eight tram stops in the city of Besançon, and the rest are in the adjoining municipalities.
The new tramway went into full operation on September 1, 2014.
This is Besançon’s second tramway system. The first one operated from 1897 to 1952, when it was replaced by buses and cars.
Second photo: Tram tracks on the Canot Bridge. Near this bridge there is a tram station called Canot, located directly in front of the international student residence hall, the Cité Universitaire.
Third photo: As in other French cities which have installed new tramways in recent years, such as Strasbourg, Reims and Paris, the new tramway is part of a concerted effort to upgrade neighborhoods, calm traffic and provide a pleasant environment for pedestrians and cyclists. Here a new walkway has been built, transforming a formerly bleak stretch of riverbank into a promenade between the tram tracks and the river.
Next: House of the Tram
TGV station Besançon Franche-Comté
Like a number of other medium-sized French cities (such as Reims and Avignon, for example), Besançon has two railway stations: the traditional one near the center of town and a new TGV station on the outskirts.
Second photo: This TGV train has just arrived from Frankfurt am Main, Germany. (With me on it, by coincidence). After a very brief stop it will continue southwards in the direction of Lyon, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence and Marseille.
Third photo: Here it is leaving the station. Its next stop will be Chalon-sur-Saône.
Fourth photo: Like most of these new TGV stations, the station Besançon Franche-Comte has four tracks. The two in the middle are for TGV trains that don’t even stop here but just barrel on through at three hundred and some kilometers per hour. The two outside tracks have platforms for trains that stop here.
Fifth photo: Inside the TGV trains there are screens in each car which show how fast the train is going (319 km/h in this case) and how much of the distance to the next station has already been covered.
Next: Shuttle train
House of the Tram
In September 2011, three years before the tramway went into operation, this Maison du tram (House of the tram) was established in the center of Besançon, on rue de la République, to provide information about the project and prepare people for the changes that the tramway would bring.
Opposition to the tramway project came of course from the automotive lobbies and car fetishists, who feared (correctly) that the tram would be a step towards reducing the dominance of cars in the streets of the city and region. This is indeed one of the goals of the tramway project, to make the streets livable and not merely drivable.
Some left-wing groups opposed the tramway because they feared (also correctly) that real estate prices would rise near the new tram stations and that the ensuing urban renewal would eventually force poor people out of their homes. The tattered protest notices of these groups were still taped to lampposts when I visited Besançon in May 2014.
Second photo: This map in the House of the Tram shows the route of the new tramway, which runs roughly from northeast to southwest through the agglomeration of Grand Besançon.
As I have explained elsewhere, the word agglomeration does not have such negative connotations in French as it does in English. The French word agglomération means simply a city and its suburbs and nearby towns which have joined together to cooperate in various ways, without totally giving up their independence. (There is a national law which strongly encourages them to do this.)
Third photo: This brochure urges motorists, cyclists and pedestrians to “share the space” with the tram.
Fourth photo: This brochure says that the urban region will be “meTRAMorphosised”by the new tramway (a play on words with “metamorphosised”).
Fifth photo: This photo in the House of the Tram shows the tram named “Victor Hugo” crossing Battant Bridge in a test run.
Address: 24 rue de la République, Besançon
Phone: 0 800 71 24 25
Next: Safety rules for the new tramway
Before leaving home, I took out a seven-day subscription to VéloCité, Besançon’s bicycle sharing system, at their website http://www.velocite.besancon.fr/. This cost me all of two Euros – exactly one quarter of what it costs in Paris. (And I might add that a week on the Vélib’ bikes in Paris for eight Euros is still a tremendous bargain.)
VéloCité turned out to be very similar to Vélib’ in Paris and almost an exact clone of Vélo'v in Lyon. This is no wonder since it is run by the same company, JCDecaux.
In Besançon there are thirty VéloCité stations, mainly in the city center but also in the nearby districts of Battant and Chaprais.
As in Paris and Lyon, the first half hour of each ride is free, but in Besançon they advertise a unique feature, namely that after 25 minutes of use the bike supposedly “rings” to let you know that the end of the free period is near. This sounds like a great idea, but I must admit that I never heard one of the bikes “ring”, though I did have some rides that were longer than 25 minutes.
To find out how these bike sharing systems work, please have a look at the General Tips on my Paris page, where I have spelled it all out in considerable detail.
Second photo: The VéloCité computer and info column at station # 1, in front of the Viotte train station. Since this station is slightly uphill from the city center, it is designated as a Bonus Station, meaning that if you start from a lower station, ride uphill and dock your bike at this station, your account is credited with an extra fifteen minutes for one of your future rides.
See also: Vélib' Plus at higher altitudes on my Paris page.
Third photo: VéloCité station # 14, Jacobins.
Fourth photo: VéloCité station # 20 at Place de la Révolution. This is a station I used quite often, since it was not far from my hotel. My one and only problem with VéloCité happened here, when I tried to dock a bike and a red light came on, showing that the return of the bike had not been registered. This had happened to me once before, in Paris, and happened again a few months later in Bordeaux. My theory is that this happens when the metal tongue on the bike has been bent in some way, but it could also be that I just hadn’t shoved it in hard enough. In any case, I phoned 01 30 79 28 88 and told them what had happened. They wanted to know the station number, the bike number and the dock number. Soon they fixed the problem and the light on the docking point turned green. If this happens to you, it is important to call them right away, so you don’t get charged for the bike. (They also have English speaking operators, in case you don’t feel like explaining it in French.)
See also: Returning your Vélib' bike on my Paris page.
Fifth photo: VéloCité station # 12 at Place Granvelle. The poster at the front of the station shows a VéloCité bike with the text: “1 million rides, 1 million bravos, 1 million thank-yous.”
Phone: 01 30 79 28 88
• The red and white Velo-Antwerpen bikes in Antwerp, Belgium.
• Bern rollt, free bicycles in Bern, Switzerland.
• Metropolradruhr in Dortmund, Germany.
• DB Call-a-Bike in Dresden, Germany.
• NextBike in Dresden, Germany.
• StadtRAD in Hamburg, Germany.
• NextBike in Hamburg, Germany.
• NextBike in Hannover, Germany.
• DB Call-a-Bike in Karlsruhe, Germany.
• NextBike in Leipzig, Germany.
• V’Lille in Lille, France.
• Vélo'v in Lyon, France.
• Bike sharing system le vélo in Marseille, France.
• BikeMi has come to Milan! in Milan, Italy.
• Vélib’ in Paris, France.
• Free bicycles from Züri rollt in Zürich, Switzerland.
Next Besançon review: AutoCité
Parking in Besançon
There are many car parks which are signposted very well, even showing the number of free spaces.
The two little car parks at the eastern end of the tunnel are free, but half of them are private, so it’s not easy to get a parking space there. We therefore drove in direction center and easily found a space at the parking St Paul next to the river Doubs. It costs 50 Cent per 30 minutes and is free for 1,5 hour around noon.
Besançon by boat
The town center of Besançon is located in the loop of the Doubs river, with a 375 m long ship tunnel under the fortress hill. That makes it possible to drive a circuit around the town center by boat - only that the lock at Moulin Saint-Paul was out of order already since some time when we've been there. Also near that lock is a place to moor in case you arrive with your houseboat. Actually we had planned to visit Besançon by houseboat, but as the Doubs had high water it wasn't possible. So we later went there by car.
There are also some companies that offer sightseeing boat tours with a "Bateau mouche". For details please visit the websites www.sautdudoubs.fr and www.vedettes-panoramiques.com.
- Sailing and Boating
Cycling in Besançon
In the town you'll find several "cycling stations" where you can rent bycicles. You can take a bicycle from one station and return it in another station. For this you need a ticket number and personal code, or on some stations you also can pay with credit card. You can check in the tourist information for more details and also get a map with the cycling stations.
The first 30 minutes are free, if you use it longer it will cost 1 € per hour, with a maximum of 4 € for one day.
By Plane to Paris CDG- as...
By Plane to Paris CDG- as there are no airports in Besançon. And take the TGV-Train Grande Vitesse from Paris-Gare de Lyon to Besançon Viotte. Journey: 2.5hrs(Attention! Only for TGV it's 2.5hrs)
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