10 largest cities in France




Besançon is a commune in eastern France, prefecture of the Doubs department and seat of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region. Located on the edge of the Jura massif, less than sixty kilometers from Switzerland, it is surrounded by hills and crossed by the Doubs.

Capital of the historical and cultural region of Franche-Comté, Besançon today constitutes an important administrative center within the administrative region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté by hosting the headquarters of the regional council and the academic region as well as a certain number of regional offices. It is also the seat of one of the fifteen French ecclesiastical provinces and of one of the two divisions of the Army.

Its inhabitants, called the Bisontins, numbered 115,934 in 2017. The urban unit, which for its part had 137,837 inhabitants, is the second largest city in the region in terms of number of inhabitants. It is at the center of an intercommunality, Grand Besançon Métropole, comprising 68 municipalities and 193,279 inhabitants in 2017 and an urban area of ​​251,700 inhabitants.

Established in a meander of the Doubs, the city has played an important role since the Gallo-Roman era under the name of Vesontio, capital of the Sequanes. Its geography and specific history have made it in turn a military stronghold, a garrison city, a political center and a religious capital.

The historic cradle of French watchmaking, Besançon inherited this know-how to become an important industrial center made up of innovative companies in the field of microtechnology, micromechanics and biomedical engineering. A university town, its university, founded in 1423, welcomes nearly 30,000 students each year, including around 4,000 trainees from all over the world within its center for applied linguistics.

Proclaimed the first green city in France, the Comtoise capital enjoys a recognized quality of life. Thanks to its rich historical and cultural heritage and its unique architecture, Besançon has had a City of Art and History label since 1986 and its fortifications by Vauban have been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 2008.



Besançon is classified City of Art and History, therefore many historical monuments mark the city including the Vauban fortifications registered with UNESCO since 2008, the Saint-Jean cathedral at the foot of the Citadel as well as some Gallo remains. Romans.

St. John's Cathedral
Citadelle de Besançon - former Vauban fortifications which now house a zoological garden and museums. To see in particular the Museum of the Resistance and the Deportation as well as the Comtois museum, but also the insectarium and the noctarium.
Museum of Resistance and Deportation
Comtois Museum
Museum - many animal areas to discover including the zoological garden, the insectarium, the aquarium and the noctarium.
Museum of Fine Arts and Archeology - Among other interesting Egyptian and Gallo-Roman collections.
Museum of Time - Housed in the Granvelle Palace, with notably collections of clocks and the Foucault pendulum.


Getting in

By plane
The nearest international airport is Mulhouse-Bâle-Freiburg, about 150 km away. The city has the regional airport of Franche-Comté located in the town of Tavaux.

By train
Besançon has two stations:

1 Besançon-Viotte station - Close to the city center, the station is about 2 hours 30 minutes from Paris via the Paris-Besançon TGV line.
2 Besançon Franche-Comté TGV station - In service since 11 December 2011, which allows you to reach Paris in 2 hours. It is located in the municipalities of Auxon-Dessus and Auxon-Dessous, about 11 km from Besançon, and is on the LGV Rhin-Rhône line. A shuttle takes you to Besançon Viotte station in just 13 minutes.

By car
The A36 motorway connects Besançon with Paris (400 km), Lyon (250 km) and Strasbourg (250 km). The network of national roads serves Belfort (100 km), Dijon (100 km), and neighboring Switzerland (approx. 100 km).


Around town

To visit the old center, walking will be the most suitable, otherwise the city has a fairly developed bus and tram network. Ginko network You can park easily by car, but most of the car parks are chargeable near the city center. Besançon is equipped with self-service bike rental and a car-sharing service.