Besançon Fortress

Besançon, France

Besançon's Vauban citadel has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Louis XIV of France conquered the city for the first time in 1668, but the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle returned it to Spain within a matter of months. While it was in French hands, the famed military engineer Vauban visited the city and drew up plans for its fortification. The Spaniards built the main centre point of the city's defences, 'la Citadelle', siting it on Mont Saint-Étienne, which closes the neck of the oxbow that is the site of the original town. In their construction, the Spaniards followed Vauban's designs.

In 1674, French troops recaptured the city, which the Treaty of Nijmegen (1678) then awarded to France. As a result of control passing to France, Vauban returned to working on the citadel's fortifications, and those of the city. This process lasted until 1711, some 30 years, and the walls built then surround the city. Between the train station and the central city there is a complex moat system that now serves road traffic. Numerous forts, some of which date back to that time and that incorporate Vauban's designs elements sit on the six hills that surround the city: Fort de Trois Châtels, Fort Chaudanne, Fort du Petit Chaudanne, Fort Griffon, Fort des Justices, Fort de Beauregard and Fort de Brégille. The citadel itself has two dry moats, with an outer and inner court. In the evenings, the illuminated Citadelle stands above the city as a landmark and a testament to Vauban's genius as a military engineer.

The Citadel is built on top of a large syncline on a rectangular field crossed across its width by three successive bastions (enclosures, or fronts) behind which extend three plazas. The whole is surrounded by walls covered by circular paths and punctuated by watchtowers and sentry posts. The walls are up to 15 to 20 metres high with a thickness between 5 and 6 metres.



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Founded: 1668-1711
Category: Castles and fortifications in France


4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

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User Reviews

Nelson Pacheco (6 months ago)
Great place to pass a few days.. Days! Bring some snacks for the day
Shayne Fisk (6 months ago)
One of my favorite stops in France. Went to see the Museum of the Resistance and Deportation. It's primarily in French, so worth grabbing an audio set and guide if you're walking through. Many artifacts and pieces of history and information here. The Citadel was actually used to house POWs, making it an important historical site for WWII and not just a museum site. Really fun area, zoo built in. Grey view of the town. Cafe as well to grab lunch and a gift shop on your way out. Wish we could have spent more time here. The Citadel and walls are awesome and you can climb up and down them.
Kazem Ardaneh (7 months ago)
Good and old place to visit in Besancon, nice view of the city,
Lily Fang (11 months ago)
Was super impressed by this place--wasn't at all expecting the zoo and the many mini museums. I came in the last hour, so tickets were only 6€. Didn't have time to really check out the exhibits, but loved walking around the old fort. The animals were also too cool--saw many species I hadn't see before. Would highly recommend for people of all ages!
Gauvain Chartier-Roberts (12 months ago)
A fantastic citadel engineered by Vauban, and full of the history of Besancon. You get a lot for your money visiting here, from the zoo, aquarium and animal exhibits, to amazing views from the east and west ramparts, to a chilling museum dedicated to the French resistance fighters of WW2 - over one hundred of whom were executed at the Citadel. Be advised though that parking at the entrance can be very busy and you might face a long climb up the hill, and that the ramparts can only be accessed be steep flights of steps.
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