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

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User Reviews

David L. Brooks (6 months ago)
Great views of the city and the river below from the Citadel of Besancon.
Mick Catala (6 months ago)
If you visit Besançon then you must visit the citadel. Vauban built, it is well preserved and actively maintained. Lots of stuff to see and do and there are gelada monkeys.
Lord Thomas Atkinson (6 months ago)
This is a very good attraction. We'll worth an hour or two.
Grace Kwaja (6 months ago)
Quite historic with a lot to explore for adults and children alike. A place to visit !
Daniel Coderre (7 months ago)
Impressive citadel with a great view of the city. Would be a lovely cultural site. What I did not expect (yes, having not done even cursory research) was an extremely sad zoo being the main attraction. Animals were in very small cages. Poorly behaved children and poorly behaved adults were knocking on the cages and yelling at the animals, visibly upsetting them. No staff in sight. A depressing experience. Feel bad I paid money to support this. View from the free section is just as good. The historical museums weren't great. Unfortunately the resistance museum, which seems to be considered a highlight, was closed for renovation.
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