Besançon Things to Do

  • Besancon
    Besancon
    by balhannah
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    FORTIFIED TOWERS

    by balhannah Written Nov 8, 2015

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    Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the Besancon Citadel. Created by Vauban in the 17th century, it's considered to be one of the finest in France. The site is encircled by ramparts topped by walkways, walls up to 20 metres high punctuated with watchtowers. This was a Vauban masterpiece!

    But how did he make the River Doubs safe from invaders?
    Vauban knew city was already urbanised and the River Doubs which surrounded it was narrow and easy to attack from the surrounding hills. Because of the hills, there was little room left to develop a fortified wall, so to solve this problem, Vauban had six fortified towers built, each anchored into the river in front of the hills that dominated the town.
    As I travelled around Besancon I saw a few of these towers.

    Address: Alongside the River Doubs

    Besancon Besancon
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    MARKETS

    by balhannah Written Nov 7, 2015

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    Located in Place de la Revolution in the historic centre of Besancon is where "The all kinds of things" markets are held on Tuesdays 7 - 1pm, Fridays 7 - ?, Saturdays 7 - 7pm.
    I was there on a wet Friday, so not the best day to judge the markets.
    I found quite a few food stalls and crafts, like the baskets in my photo.

    Address: Place de la Revolution, Besancon

    Besancon market Besancon market Besancon market
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    MODERN ART AROUND BESANCON

    by balhannah Written Nov 7, 2015

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    A walk around Besancon led me to a nice garden with a modern sculpture, beds of flowering annuals and plenty of seating. I don't know what the sculpture depicts, but the second photo is done in the same style and looks like horse and woman in carriage?

    Address: Historic city centre of Besancon

    Besancon Besancon Besancon
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    ST. FRANCIS XAVIER CHURCH

    by balhannah Written Nov 7, 2015

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    The St. Francis Xavier Church was built thanks to Antoine-François Gauthiot Ancier donating his entire fortune to the Jesuits of Comtois, on the sole condition they erect a church annex Victor Hugo College. Unfortunately, the donation was meant to be received in 1629 but a lawsuit against the company of Jesuits meant a wait until 1680 before they could begin construction of the building
    The church was built in the shape of a cross and surrounded by small chapels.

    The façade of the St. Francis Xavier church is said to been inspired by that of the Church of the Gesù in Rome. Originally dedicated to St. Joseph, later dedicated to Saint Francis Xavier, a founder of the Jesuit company. Classified as a historic monument, the church was completely renovated in 1975.

    Directions: 8 bis rue du Lycée, next to the Victor Hugo school in the historic center.

    St. Francis Xavier church
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    ST. PETER'S CHURCH

    by balhannah Written Nov 7, 2015

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    St. Peter's Church was built in the IV century and has been rebuilt many times. .In 1780, plans were presented for a new church to be built in the shape of a Greek cross in the heart of the city. The plan was accepted and the Church with a high Belfry was built between 1782 and 1786. The French Revolution stopped the church from being completed earlier.
    Well preserved art in the Church are the pieta of Luc Breton the original Stations of the Cross and woodwork of the church choir. I was able to visit the interior of the church, shame it was so dark inside.

    Located near City Hall in the historical town centre.

    Please check the listed website for much better photos than I have taken.

    Address: Place du 8 Septembre, Besancon

    Website: http://www.patrimoine-histoire.fr/Patrimoine/Besancon/Besancon-Saint-Pierre.htm

    St. Peter's church Interior of St. Peter's church
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    LE MINOTAURE

    by balhannah Written Nov 7, 2015

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    As I walked beside the River I came across what looked to be a sculpture, I really couldn't make out what it was as it was in the middle of the River Doubs. I have since discovered it is a modern fountain named Le Minotaure, hard to work out when it wasn't working! It was designed by Besancon artist, "jens Boettcher" whose designed another fountain in Besancon.
    It is 7 metres high and weighs 8 tonnes, what does it represent, I'll let you work that one out!
    It could be a person in a life-ring.

    Front view of Le Minotaure Rear view of Le Minotaure
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    NOTRE- DAME REFUGE CHAPEL

    by balhannah Written Nov 7, 2015

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    Located a little further on from the St. Jacques Hospital gates is the Chapel of Our Lady of Refuge or Notre-Dame du Foyer. The Chapel is attached to what was once the "convent of Refuge" in 1709 and then the Saint-Jacques Hospital of Besancon in 1802.

    Built in baroque style in the 17th century, it has a lovely 26 metres high Dome covered in polychrome glazed tiles. The interior of the baroque Dome is painted, showing the Virgin during Assumption. Surrounding her are four separate paintings, each containing an Angel playing a musical instrument or carrying flowers. These were created during restoration in 1863.

    The Chapel is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is a classified historical monument. A statue of the Virgin Mary was made in 1858. In the nave, eight large paintings from 1892 to 1911 by Joseph Aubert form a great frieze which includes more than one hundred important characters on a gold background. Stained glass windows are mainly from the 19th century. The entrance to the choir is ornamented with two Angels worshipers, wood carved in Rome in 1768.

    Please check the listed website for good photos of the interior of this Chapel

    Website: http://www.patrimoine-histoire.fr/Patrimoine/Besancon/Besancon-Notre-Dame-du-Refuge.htm

    Notre-Dame Refuge Chapel Notre-Dame Refuge Chapel
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    SAINT JACQUES HOSPITAL

    by balhannah Updated Nov 7, 2015

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    It was the beautiful gates that made me stop and take a look at the Saint-Jacques Hospital in Besançon. Blacksmith, Nicolas Chapuis was the maker of these gates.
    On the pediment of the main grid is the latin inscription which means
    "It's what you abandoned the poor, You will be supporting the orphan."

    In 1182, the canons of the chapter of the collegiate church of Sainte-Madeleine, with agreement from Pope Lucius III, used this building as a resting point for pilgrims walking along the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella in Spain.

    In 1436 the hospital became part of the Order of the Holy Spirit hospital to help the poor, the sick and the lost children. The religious origins of the hospital can still be seen today in the Chapel of Refuge which forms an integral part of the hospital's main building.
    A new hospital was built between 1686 - 1703. Three main buildings built on two-tone limestone arches open onto the garden. The courtyard contains a large statue of Saint Jacques from the 18th century.

    The hospital has one of the finest apothecaries (pharmacies) in France with collection of pottery from the 17th and 18th century made ​​around 1680 by the chemist Gabriel Gascon. Nearly 250 rare pieces of pottery are displayed.

    From what I understand, the apothecary of the Saint Jacques Hospital is open for tours on the same two days each year.
    the 11/9/2015
    the 14/12/2015

    Meet at 3pm in-front of the hospital, rue de l'Orme Chamars.
    Registration required to Besancon Tourism and Conventions.
    Full price € 6; € 4 for students - 18 years,
    Free for job seekers and children - 12 years.

    Please check with the Tourist Information centre

    Address: rue de l'Orme Chamars 25000 BESANCON

    St. Jacques Hospital gates
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    THE COURTHOUSE

    by balhannah Written Nov 7, 2015

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    Built in 1585 and used by the Parliament of Besancon, this building is now used as the Besancon Court-house. It's called a Palace.

    For me, this was the most attractive building in Besancon.

    The Besançon courthouse is composed of two parts, which correspond to two times and two uses of these buildings. Built in 1582 in a Renaissaissance style, the building is decorated with many lion heads, masks, niches, pediments, pilasters, etc. Between 1745 to 1749 it was rebuilt, then in 1861, a grid was added adorned with statues of allegorical figures of force and justice.

    I didn't see the interior, but have read it has many decorative elements of the 19th century, including a majestic staircase, frescos and a painted ceiling.

    As I walked along the paved pathway I noticed the shields of Frieburg and Besancon set into the path.

    Address: 1 Rue Mégevand - 25000 Besançon

    Courthouse
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    THE GRAND RUE

    by balhannah Written Nov 7, 2015

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    The Grand Rue is a name derived from the Gallo-Roman era. It happens to be one of the oldest routes of the city.
    It is the main street of Besancon and leads into Revolution Place. This street is lined by big named shops, fashion boutiques, beauty salons, Cafes, Restaurants and many other resellers, something for everyone along here.
    In short, you will find everything

    Address: Grand Rue, Besancon

    Grand Rue, Besancon
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    VICTOR HUGO

    by balhannah Written Nov 7, 2015

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    Victor Hugo, the Poet/Writer was born at 140 Grande Rue, Besancon on February 26, 1802.. There you can visit his house and see four rooms with four different themes.
    * free speech
    * the triptych poverty-gender-justice
    * Children and education
    * the freedom of peoples.

    OPEN
    Every day except Tuesday,
    November 1 to March 31 10:30 - 5:30 p.m.
    April 1 to October 31, School holidays, weekend
    10-30am - 6pm

    ADMISSION IN 2015 - € 2 50 full price € -1 50 for students,

    I also found on the Esplanade of Human Rights a statue of Victor Hugo, created for the World Day to Overcome Extreme Poverty at the request of Doctors of the World.
    It was commissioned by the city to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Victor Hugo. In 2003, the bronze statue 2.30 meters in height representing the writer with one hand in the pocket and the other hand holding a watch was complete.

    Address: 140 Grande Rue & Esplanade of Human Rights

    Victor Hugo
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    FOUNTAIN DES EAUX ARCIER

    by balhannah Written Nov 7, 2015

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    Another fountain I came across in Besancon was the fountain Des Eaux Arcier, only this wasn't the original built in 1560, not the replacement from 1743, nor from 1822 or 1854 but from 1860. The 1743 fountain was demolished during the Revolution, I don't know what happened to the next, except it was rebuilt in 1854 only to collapse because the water pressure was too strong!

    1860 saw another try at getting this fountain right! It must have worked as this fountain is still standing and was restored in 2004. One of the more famous and beautiful fountains in the city.

    Address: Revolution Square, Besancon

    fountain Des Eaux Arcier
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    CLARRISES FOUNTAIN

    by balhannah Written Nov 7, 2015

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    Also known as the fountain of the Poor Clares, this public fountain is located near the entrance of the old school of artillery of Besancon.
    The Convent of Poor Clares was situated here, now all that is left is this limestone fountain from 1698.

    In the center there is a square recess with an Egyptian lion mask from which water gushes into the basin supported by consoles and clumps of reeds, topped by a cornucopia. Two reliefs frame the fountain - on the left a representation of the trident of Neptune and palm patience, and the same right palm and a religious scepter adorned with a cross.
    It is still intact, making it one of best preserved French structures at this time.
    All details are beside the fountain on an interpretive board, written in French and English.

    Address: 4 rue Mégevand.

    Clarrises Fountain
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    DOUBS RIVER WALKS & CRUISES

    by balhannah Written Nov 7, 2015

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    Entering Besancon we found where-ever we went there was water, this was because the old town of Besancon is situated in a loop of the River Doubs.

    I walked alongside it for quite a way and saw one of the two locks. I saw a cruise boat, one of two companies that ply the waters. If the day had been nice and not wet and dreary, I would have done the cruise as I like seeing cities from the water. This cruise sounded interesting, especially as it passed through a tunnel underneath the citadel.
    Listed are the websites for the two cruise companies

    www.vedettesdebesancon.com
    www.bateau-besancon.fr

    I did enjoy my walk along Micaud promenade to a lovely park with the same name. It was named after a previous mayor of Besancon, Julius Micaud. It was he, who in 1843 put forward the idea of making this area a park. Now there is lots of green area, trees, ponds, waterfalls, sculptures, bandstand and the lovely promenade.

    It is very easy in Besancon to walk beside the river Doubs.

    Address: Avenue Edouard Droz, Besancon

    Micaud park & Doubs river River Doubs River Doubs
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    Walk the walls of the Citadel

    by Nemorino Updated Oct 6, 2015

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    A great thing to do in the Citadel is to go up and walk along the two rampart walks on the tops of the walls.

    According to the Citadel’s website, these walks are almost 600 meters long (that’s about 650 yards, for those who are still heroically resisting a switch to the metric system), 5 to 6 meters wide (16 to 20 feet) and 15 to 20 meters high (49 to 65 feet or 16 to 22 yards).

    (Don’t worry, foot-and-yard fans, you’re in good company. The French author Victor Hugo, who was born in Besançon in 1802, was also a fierce opponent of the metric system. See my review Victor Hugo on the Rhine on my Bacharach page.)

    The towers at the beginning of the rampart walks are called the King’s and Queen’s Towers. The King at the time was Louis XIV and the Queen Consort was Maria Theresa of Spain, but she died in 1683 and for the next 42 years there was no Queen Consort, because when Louis XIV re-married it was for love, not for dynastic reasons. His new wife, Madame de Maintenon (aka Françoise d'Aubigné) was unfortunately not of ‘Royal Blood’, so they were married secretly by the Archbishop of Paris. The marriage was a morganatic one, meaning that she did not become queen and their children, if they had had any, would not have been in line for succession to the throne. Insiders at the court in Versailles knew they were married, but the rest of the country was never informed.

    For more on Madame de Maintenon, the second wife of Louis XIV, please see the introductions and reviews on my Maintenon and Saint-Cyr-l'École pages, and the review L'hôtel de l'Impécuniosité on my Paris page.

    Fourth photo: Besançon from the Citadel.

    Fifth photo: The Doubs River from the Citadel.

    Address: 99 Rue des Fusillés de la Résistance, 25000 Besançon, France
    Directions: Aerial view and photo on monumentum.fr
    Phone: +33 3 81 87 83 33
    Website: http://www.citadelle.com/en/

    Next: Espace Vauban

    Walk the walls Walk the walls Walk the walls Besan��on from the Citadel The Doubs River from the Citadel
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