View of Ornans, Gustave Courbet
Architecture, Museums and Historic Monuments
In the Bronze Age, Gaul tribes settled against the face of the Jura Mountains in this oxbow of the River Doubs. The area of Besançon is an ancient settlement that dates back to prehistoric times, as shown by excavations of Clairvaux and the caves of Courchapon.
The area, known by the Romans as Vesontio, was base for Julius Caesar's military operations in Gaul [58 BC]. The Romans invested a number of major roads connecting to the most important centres of Gaul, so that the area became the 'Provincia Maxima Sequanorum' - 'the largest province of the Sequani', a true metropolis. Over the centuries, it became Besantio, Besontion, Bisanz and gradually arrived at the modern French Besançon.
Famed as one of France's finest towns of art and history and the home of Victor Hugo, Besançon has one of the most beautiful historic centers of any major town in France. "La Boucle", a broad loop of the River Doubs, encircles the old town, while Vauban's imposing Citadelle, a UNESCO treasure of the world, blocks off the neck. The historic center is a remarkable ensemble of classic stone buildings, some dating back to the Middle Age and others to the Spanish Renaissance. Besançon offers lovely excursions on the River Doubs, at the source de la Loue or in the forest 'de la Joux'.
Local fare should not be missed, especially the cheeses, such as the 'Comté', typical of the Jura and the 'Concoillette' (a kind of cream cheese to eat with bread, potatoes and vegetables). Try also the popular tartiflette, the 'Mont d'Or chaud', and for dessert, a typical Galette of Besançon.
Middle Age Bridge near Le musee Courbet