Franche-Comté or "Free County" was formerly part of the Burgundian Empire from the year 888 and became part of France in 1678 after being transferred to Austria in 1481 and Spain in 1556. It is an area of exceptional natural beauty with forests covering more than half of the region. The Vallée du Doubs offers spectacular scenery with its cascading waterfalls and grottoes and in the south there are the Lison and Loue Rivers. The breathtaking Haut-Jura Regional Park covers nearly 300 square miles extending from Lake Leman (Geneva) to Chapelle-des-Bois.
The French portion of the Jura mountains are rugged and provide a green landscape of pastures and dense pine forests that follow the Swiss border for 225 miles (362 km). There are exceptional opportunities here for hiking, canoeing, fishing, and skiing. The area is known for its Vin Jaune or yellow wine, aromatic cheeses, and cured sausages. The regional capital, Besançon, is popular for its clock-making history during the 18th-19th centuries.
Franche-Comté Departmental Information
Notable Towns and Sights in the Franche-Comté Region
|Arbois (Jura) is a wine producing town that lies on the banks of the Cuisance River and makes a smooth Rosé and the sherry-like vin jaune. Sights include the Château Pécauld (photo), the completely-preserved house and laboratory of Louis Pasteur (1822), and the Gloriette Tower (photo).|
|Belfort (Territoire de Belfort) is just across the river from Germany and Switzerland and was Alsatian until 1921. The town is home to the maufacturer of the famous TGV train. Sights here include an enormous red sandstone lion, a départmental symbol, built by Frédéric Bartholdi who also designed the Statue of Liberty in New York City. There is also an impressive Citadelle designed by Vauban under Louis XIV in 1814 which withstood three sieges. The Musée d'Art et d'Histoire houses models of the original fortifications as well as regional artwork, artifacts, and contemporary works.|
|Besançon (Doubs) has been described as the greenest city in France, is the capital of this region, and is near the border with Switzerland. It is noteworthy for its vast parks, clean streets, moderate numbers of tourists, and clockmaking history. Victor Hugo (Les Misérables) lived here and gave it the nickname "Old Spanish town". The old city is encircled by the Doubs River or Boucle de Doubs (photo) Sights include the stunning Musée des Beaux Arts et d'Archéologie, thought to be the oldest museum in France. The Citadelle (photo) built for Louis XIV by Vauban (Officer of Fortifications) in 1688 overlooks the Doubs River. Numerous other museums, parks, and places as well as several performing arts centers make Besançon one of France's finest "Villes d'Art".|
|Cascades du Hérisson are in the Valley of the turbulent Hérisson River. The 213 ft (65 m) Cascade de l'Eventail or fan-shaped falls (photo) and the Cascade du Grand Saut or big leap (photo) may be reached by hiking from the town of Doucier at the foot of the Pic de l'Aigle.|
|Dole (Jura) is a large busy city located on the Doubs River where it meets the Rhine-Rhône Canal. It was the former capital of Franche-Comté and was always a symbol of the region's resistance to becoming part of France until submitting under Louis XIV. It has an historic area in the middle of town with 15th-century houses and quiet courtyards. Noteworthy is the Eglise Notre Dame and its tall bell tower. The famous microbiologist and chemist Louis Pasteur was born here.|
|Lure (Haute-Saône) is a small village created around the Abbey of Lure from the 7th-century and founded by Saint Desle. Nearby is the Château de Villersexel.|
|Montbéliard (Doubs) looks like a colorful old German Protestant town and was not reclaimed by the French until 1793. It is home to the Castle of the Dukes of Wurttemberg which was built in the 15/16th-centuries. Its two original towers remain while the rest was rebuilt in the 18th-century. Place Saint Martin is the main square in the old town and hosts the major public events. The famous Peugot company has been here since 1810 as well as in small neighboring towns and accounts for the areas continued propsperity.|
|Pontarlier (Doubs) was famous for the production of absinthe (a highly-alcoholic anise-flavored spirit) which was banned in 1915, but has been partially lifted. The distilleries then switched over to producing pastis. Sights include the 18th-century Triomphal Arch of the Porte Saint Pierre. Pontarlier was also a pioneer city in aviation starting in 1910 and has a flying club- l'Aéro-Club de Pontarlier.|
|Vesoul (Haute-Saône) is a medieval city which overlooks the valley of the Durgeon, a tributary of the Saône. The Chapel of "La Motte" (mound) dominates the valley. Notable here is the Musée des Beaux Arts et d'Archélogie with a collection by painter and sculptor Jean-Léon Gérôme(1824-1904). The major annual event is the international moto-cross, in June. (Haute-Saône)|
|Villersexel (Haute-Saône) is a group of 32 communes (villages) situated around Villersexel. It is situated near Germany and Switzerland, only 24 miles (40km) away from Belfort and Besançon.|
Les Plus Beaux Villages in the Franche-Comté Region
Territoire de Belfort