Nestled within a hairpin bend of the Doubs River, UNESCO-listed Besançon lies near France’s border with Switzerland. It has been labelled a “Town of Art and History” and is home to impressive museums that showcase the region’s artistic and literary past.
Things to do in Besançon
In 1802, Victor Hugo was born in Besançon and his childhood home is open to the public as a museum. It offers a fascinating insight into his life and work, with an audio guide commentary leading you through its modern displays. Learn about his activism in pursuit of social justice as you browse the old photographs and manuscripts on display, then step into the world of a 19th-century pharmacy on the ground floor.
Want to visit the oldest museum in France? Head to the Museum of Fine Arts and Archeology, which was established in 1694 and occupies a former grain warehouse in the heart of Besançon. In addition to European paintings dating from the 14th to 20th centuries, it also boasts an extensive collection of drawings by artists such as Tintoretto, Peter Paul Rubens and Auguste Rodin. The archaeological exhibits include Egyptian mummies, Gallo-Roman mosaics and medieval sarcophagi.
Contemporary art is the focus of the Frac Franche-Comté, which occupies a striking modern building overlooking the Doubs River. You can explore the permanent collection of sculptures, installations and photography or coincide your visit with a temporary exhibition showcasing artists from France and beyond. The museum also hosts an inspiring program of concerts and artist talks throughout the year.
Getting around Besançon
Besançon is just over an hour’s drive from Dijon and two hours from Geneva International Airport. Trains connect to the Besançon Viotte railway station and buses travel throughout the city. The centre of Besançon can easily be explored on foot.