Besancon, a Gallic gem, offers art, history, watchmaking. French charm, warm hospitality, and green landscape make it a must-visit eco-friendly destination.


The city is situated in eastern France, serving as the capital of the Doubs département within the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté région. It is positioned on a bend of the Doubs River, approximately 45 miles (75 km) east of Dijon.

Originally known as Vesontio, Besançon emerged as the primary settlement of the Sequani Gauls. In 58 BCE, it was conquered by Julius Caesar. In the 2nd century, Besançon became the center of an archbishopric, and its ecclesiastical authorities gradually gained significant secular influence. In 1184, the city was granted the status of a free imperial city by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.

During the 14th century, it fell under the control of the dukes of Burgundy and later came under the rule of Habsburg emperor Maximilian I through his marriage to Mary of Burgundy. Under Austro-Spanish dominance from 1477 to 1674, Besançon thrived and became the de facto capital of the Franche-Comté region, surpassing Dole. The town became a subject of contention between Spain and France and was ultimately handed over to Louis XIV of France in 1674.

Formally recognized as the capital of the Franche-Comté province in 1676, Besançon witnessed the relocation of the regional parliament, university, and mint from Dole. The city was fortified by the renowned French military engineer Sébastien le Prestre de Vauban, and his designed citadel still stands tall at 387 feet (118 meters) on a rock behind the town, occupying the former site of a Roman castrum. Besançon endured bombardment by the Austrians in 1814 and sustained damage during World War II under German occupation.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

Besançon Citadelle, France
Besançon Citadelle, France

Visit to the City

The city possesses numerous mesmerizing features, including a Roman arch, fountains, several churches, and fortified towers. These elements, in conjunction with its citadel, render Besançon a fascinating town to explore. It is precisely due to these remarkable characteristics that Besançon has earned the designation of a protected Historic French town and a French Town of Art and History.

Commence your visit to Besançon at the ‘Battant’ bridge, an ancient structure with five arches that has stood since Roman times. It was constructed along the route connecting Italy to the Province of the Rhine and Vesontio. Notably, the middle arch spans a length of thirteen meters. Adjacent to the town center, the Quai Vauban presents an enchanting stretch of 18th-century houses lining the Doubs river, offering an ideal promenade location.

Next, proceed along the Grand Rue towards the Place de la Revolution, where the Besançon Musée de Beaux Arts awaits your exploration. This museum boasts a distinctive collection of paintings spanning from the 15th to the 20th centuries, featuring extraordinary works by renowned artists such as Bellini, Goya, Rubens, Matisse, and Rodin.


Map of Besançon, France

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Getting to the City

Our Tip: Take a flight to Basel-Mulhouse Airport, then you can take bus or train to Besancon which takes 2 to 2.5 hours. However there are other routes too.

Besançon is closest to Dole (DLE) Airport, located 50.3 km away. Other nearby airports are Geneva (GVA) (113.5 km), Basel (BSL) (120.4 km), Lyon (LYS) (184.5 km), Zurich (ZRH) (192.9 km) and Paris (ORY) (407.1 km). Besancon is 3.5 hours away by train from Geneva. You can also take a flixbus trip for as low as €10.00 from Geneva to Dijon which takes 3.5 hours. Flixbus is also available from Paris to Dijon for as low as €10.00 which takes around 4 hours 10 minutes.

There are approximately 35 daily train services operating between Dijon and Besançon, covering a distance of 47 miles (76 km). Typically, these trains complete the journey in 57 minutes. However, the fastest services can get you there in as little as 44 minutes if you prefer a quicker trip. Direct services are available, allowing you to board the train and immediately settle in for a comfortable journey. TGV and SNCF are the primary train companies operating on this route, ensuring modern and cozy trains for a relaxing travel experience.

If you plan ahead and book your tickets in advance, you can enjoy savings on train fares from Dijon to Besançon, with prices starting at €5.00.

Where to Stay

Our recommendation: “Manhattan studio” Besançon proche centre commerce.

Our Top Picks:

1. Mercure Besancon Parc Micaud – Hotel & Bar & Restaurant

2. Hôtel de Paris

3. Best Western Citadel

4. ibis Besançon Centre Ville

5. Hotel Régina

You can book a room in one of these top picks from for Tourola
or click here.

Top Bargains:

2. Studio avec Balcon proche du Centre Ville

3. Premiere Classe Besancon Ecole Valentin

4. “Manhattan studio” Besançon proche centre commerce

5. Campanile Besançon-Ouest Châteaufarine
Book a room in one of these bargain from for Tourola
or click here.

Popular tourist attractions

  1. La Citadelle de Besancon – The Citadelle de Besançon, also known as the Citadel of Besançon, is an impressive 17th-century fortress. Designed by the renowned architect Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, it stands as a remarkable example of military architecture. Spanning across 11 hectares (27 acres) on Mount Saint-Etienne, one of the seven hills guarding the city of Besançon, the Citadel holds a significant position.

    Nocturnes Citadelle
    View of the City from Citadelle at Night. Photo: Citadelle de Besançon

    Positioned at the neck of a river Doubs oxbow, the site’s strategic value was recognized by Julius Caesar back in 58 BC. Overlooking the city’s historic quarter nestled within the oxbow, the Citadel offers breathtaking views of the city and its surroundings.

  1. Musée du Temps et Palais Granvelle – The Musée du Temps is dedicated to the concept of time and showcases various exhibits related to horology, chronometry, and the measurement of time. It offers visitors a fascinating journey through the history and significance of timekeeping.

    Musée du Temps et Palais GranvelleTourola
    Musée du Temps et Palais Granvelle. Photo: Tripadvisor

    Adjacent to the museum is the Palais Granvelle, an architectural gem that serves as the museum’s setting. The Palais Granvelle is a historic palace named after its original owner, Nicolas Perrenot de Granvelle, a renowned statesman of the 16th century. It boasts exquisite Renaissance architecture and houses the Musée du Temps within its walls.

  2. Parc Micaud – Situated alongside the Doubs River, the Micaud park, also known as Micaud promenade, is a delightful public garden. Its name pays tribute to Jean-Agathe Micaud, who served as the mayor of Besançon from 1835 to 1843 and played a pivotal role in establishing the park in 1843.

  3. Musee de la Resistance et de la Deportation The Resistance and Deportation Museum, which is presently undergoing renovation, holds a significant place among France’s museums. It safeguards remarkable collections, including an extensive art collection created clandestinely in the prisons and concentration camps of the Reich. This collection comprises over 600 small paintings, statuettes, and drawings, reflecting the experiences of those affected by deportation. The museum is scheduled to reopen its doors on September 8, 2023.

  4. Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archeologie de Besancon – Established in 1694, the Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie in Besançon holds the distinction of being the oldest public museum in France, predating the Louvre by nearly a century. Since 1843, the museum has been housed in a former granary situated in the city center. Notably, the museum underwent a transformation under the guidance of Louis Miquel, a student of Le Corbusier, from 1967 to 1970, including the enclosure of the inner courtyard. This renovation took place following the addition of the Besson Collection to the museum.

  5. Horloge Astronomique De la Cathédrale – The Astronomical Clock located in the Saint-Jean de Besançon Cathedral is a renowned masterpiece of its kind. Constructed by Auguste-Lucien Vérité in the 19th century, it stands as a remarkable achievement. This clock follows the footsteps of the earlier astronomical clock created by Constant Flavien Bernardin in the mid-19th century. However, due to its intricate and flawed functionality, Bernardin’s clock eventually disappeared or was integrated into Vérité’s creation around 1860.

Check out other attractive tourist spots of France here.