Besançon - Quelle ville!

Lots to see and lots to do in Besançon! This would be a good place to meet with people.


However the only people we came across here were Vauban, who built the famous Citadel and Victor Hugo who was born in Besançon. Oh yes, and lovely Michelle and Craig from NZ! On our first walk around the city we found them cleverly moored on a small new pontoon near the tunnel entrance. (See the white barge below).


Coming out of the last lock of the canal, us (not so cluey people) had two other options: straight ahead along the large loop of the Doubs encircling the city to the St. Paul harbour, or a sharp right turn through the tunnel to the other end of the river loop. We chose to go through the tunnel as we were concerned about the low water levels along the loop, and moored on the long marina in front of the Arts Centre and Conservatory of Music, called Cité des Artes. We tied up on the beginning of the pontoon but thought later that the far end would have been more convenient as the only marina exit was located there. The local youths however preferred our end, partying noisily until 3am and infusing the air with “herbal” scents.

Unfortunately they weren’t quite as musical as the cello and violin students we heard playing through the open windows of the conservatory while we were sitting with a cool drink on deck.


On our walk along cobblestone streets of the old city we stumbled onto evidence of the city’s Roman past. On the Castan Square a semicircle of stones and columns are thought to be remnants of a Roman theatre.  A high stone arch from 175 AD, the Porte Noir, leads to the Cathédrale St. Jean. Up a flight of stairs from the back nave, we found the one-room museum featuring an amazing astronomical clock. The clock consists of 57 clock faces giving times around the world, tidal movements, movement of planets etc. It also has 11 clockworks and all together over 30,000 parts. Great tip, Jill and Frank!

On our second day we climbed the hill to the Besançon Citadel. This mighty fortress, built by Vauban for Louis XIV, is the first and the last thing one sees of Besançon when travelling on the canal. The citadel, once withstood Austrians and Prussians, but I had no problems getting in. Apart from some interesting museums it even encompasses a small Zoo and aquarium. 


A tip: take your own food! The food and drinks on offer are expensive and nothing to write in this blog about. We loved the Musée Comtois and the walk on the citadel wall. Fantastic views over the area.


© Austin Robinson 2019