With its breathtaking view of the old city, the Citadel is the Unesco site not to be missed during your visit. From its walkways, you have a panoramic view of the loop and the Vauban fortifications. A vast space to explore indoors and outdoors, and in a playful way thanks to a brand new treasure hunt designed for children. At the foot of the Citadel, a stone’s throw from the Cathedral of Saint-Jean, which houses the astronomical clock, the House of Victor Hugo lets you relive the great hours of the French literary genius, on the very spot where he was born in 1802. For art and history lovers, the Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie (Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology), which houses the oldest collection in France, is another must-see in the city. As is the Museum of Time for admirers of fine watches and watchmaking know-how. Nearby, go green in Nancray and discover the typical buildings of the region in the large park of the Musée des Maisons Comtoises. Unless you prefer to travel to the center of the earth by walking through the underground mazes of the Osselle cave. Shivers and wonder guaranteed!
The Citadel of Besançon
Everyone to the assault of the Vauban fortress… but beware, the fortifications were designed to remain impregnable! Rising more than 100 meters above the city, the Citadel of Besançon is an exceptional site where the panoramas offered on the surroundings are spectacular. But the enclosure also houses several museums: the Comtois Museum, the Museum of Resistance and Deportation and a natural museum including a zoological garden, an aquarium, an insectarium and a noctarium…
The Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology
Re-opened in 2018 after 4 years of work, the Besançon Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology presents the oldest public collection in France, which began in 1694. Paintings, graphic arts and sculptures of all periods and origins will seduce art and culture lovers. The archaeological collections also bear witness to the city’s rich past, from prehistoric times to the ancient Vesontio.
The Museum of Time
In the capital of French watchmaking, the Granvelle Palace houses rich heritage collections related to watchmaking know-how. From the extremely large to the infinitely small, discover at the Musée du Temps how the counting of hours has been refined over the centuries. You will also see a little jewel of precision made by a Bisontin: the Leroy 01. When it came out in 1904, this watch with 975 pieces for 24 complications became the most complicated in the world. It remained so until 1989! A Foucault pendulum also awaits you under the magnificent oak roof of the Palais Granvelle, with a breathtaking view of the city from the tower.
The birthplace of Victor Hugo
You may not have known it, but the famous author of Les Misérables and Notre Dame de Paris was born in Besançon, at 140 Grande Rue. In the house where he was born on February 26, 1802, discover through a contemporary scenography, the vibrant tribute paid to the committed man he was, and his fights for freedom and human dignity.
Saint John's Cathedral and its treasures
Located between the ancient Porte Noire and the Citadel, the Cathedral of Saint John has several sights not to be missed. Its singular plan inspired by Carolingian buildings is distinguished by the presence of two opposing apses: a Romanesque choir and a richly decorated 18th century counter-choir. On your own or during a guided tour, you can discover a circular white marble altar (the only French example of this type) and a painting of the Virgin and Saints by Fra Angelico. Opposite the entrance to the cathedral, don’t miss the astronomical clock, the jewel of Bisontin’s watchmaking know-how.
The Astronomical Clock
Installed in a lower room of the bell tower of the Cathedral Saint-Jean, this masterpiece of the clockmaker-mechanic Auguste-Lucien Vérité mixes mechanical perfection with a poetic decor. Equipped with a mechanism of more than 30,000 parts, the astronomical clock of Besançon has 57 dials and 11 movements, used in part to set off bells and animate automatons.
The Regional Fund of Contemporary Art
The Frac is a place for artistic exchanges and encounters and presents exhibitions that are renewed throughout the year. Its collections show the great diversity of today’s art, represented by different fields such as painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, or video. The program of the Frac is also rich in events: concerts, shows, conferences, performances…
Arrowed routes, Besançon urban stroll
By following the markers of our 3 tourist circuits, discover the rich heritage and architecture that dot the old center of Besançon. Through these urban strolls in the heart of the loop, on the banks of the Doubs or through the Battant district, stroll through the streets of the Comtois capital and follow the traces of its history.
The Cave of Osselle
Located 15 km from Besançon, near Osselle, this cave discovered in the 13th century owes its reputation to the variety of its paleontological and prehistoric treasures. On a 1,200 meters long path, punctuated by magical light effects, you will discover spectacular crystallizations and the largest cave bear deposit in the world.
The Museum of Comtoises Houses
In this open-air museum spread over a 15-hectare park, you will go from a vegetable garden to a 17th century Comtoise farm, and from a pond to a traditional oven. You will discover the rural heritage of the Comtois, animations and reflections on the societal issues of the future. Located in Nancray, 15 km from Besançon, the Maisons Comtoises museum park is served by Ginko buses (reservation required).