The Old City on the Doubs River
Besançon is the City of Time, a bona fide teller of time and she has a thousand stories to tell. Time, as told by all the clocks and watches that have been made since the 18th century, has forged Besançon’s reputation. And time: what you are invited to take to discover and explore Besançon.
Markers of History: Heritage in All Its Different Shapes and Forms Because of its geographical location, Vesontio (as Besançon was called then) became a city of considerable importance as early as ancient Roman times. The remains of the Triumphal Arch at the Black Gate and the Corinthian columns in Castan Square bear witness to this.
Vauban and the Fortifications Imagine a loop, a perfect omega-shape drawn by a river. And then, closing the open portion of the loop, imagine a hill, steep and rocky enough to make climbing it difficult, but of a height and accessibility that make it possible to develop. This is the natural configuration of Besançon: one which Vauban knew how to exploit so he could build his fortifications while at the same time strengthening the identity of the town. The impregnable town…
Museum Byways Besançon is the political and economic capital of Franche-Comté, and it is also a cultural capital! Besides the museums at the Citadel and the bucolic Museum of Franche-Comté Houses in Nancray, there are two Besançon museums that are among the finest in France. The Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology is one, and the Museum of Time, which is housed in the sumptuous setting of Granvelle Palace, is the other. Let’s go on a guided tour…
The Citadel is a major cultural and tourist site in Franche-Comté and it has something interesting for everyone, adult or child. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It houses the Vauban Museum, the Resistance and Deportation Museum, an ethnographic museum called the Museum of Franche-Comté, and a zoological garden with an insectarium, an aquarium, a noctarium and a climatorium.
Our Lady of Refuge Chapel:
Built between 1739 and 1745, the Bon Pasteur Convent Chapel took in young
girls in difficulty. In 1802, it was annexed to the St. Jacques Hospital that it abuts.
This Louis XV sanctuary is reputed to be the most elegant in the region. Its dome, glistening with glazed tiles, is a jewel of gilt and polychrome.
The Museum of Time:
A Renaissance palace, both exquisite and sumptuous: such is the setting of this extraordinary museum. This museum is unique in that it brings together a fine arts collection, and a scientific collection focused on the measurement of time.
Besançon’s unique relationship with time began in 1793 thanks to the vision of a watch dealer, Laurent Mégevand. And by the Second Empire, 700 Swiss watchmakers exercised their trade in nearly 400 workshops in Besançon.
The School of Horology and the Observatory, built at the end of the 19th century, made the city the capital of French watchmaking. The Museum takes you from the first mechanical clocks with escapement mechanisms and the foliot oscillator to Pierre Curie’s
research on the piezoelectricity of quartz, and then from quartz to the atom: measuring goes from the infinitely large to the infinitely small.
There is a total of 200 rare pieces on display for you to explore time and the watchmaking history of Besançon.