The Citadel in Besançon

First time in Franche-Comté? Build these essential stops into your itinerary to make the most of your trip.

As you might expect from a border territory, Franche-Comté is rich in military and defensive sites including citadels, ramparts and châteaux. With abundant supplies of wood and water, there’s a strong industrial heritage, too, from tool-making to salt production and car manufacture. But the natural landscape impresses as well, both above and below ground, so make sure to get out on foot, bike or horseback to explore from every angle.

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BESANÇON CITADEL

Dramatically located within a meander of the river Doubs, this is one of Vauban’s most impressive works, strategically situated on a rocky promontory above the old town. Today it’s a cultural and heritage centre with themed museums and a zoo. www.citadelle.com

Salins-les-Bains

GRANDE SALINE, SALINS-LES-BAINS

Step back into industrial history and gain an understanding of the importance of the local salt industry at the UNESCO-listed Grande Saline, which was exploited for 1,200 years until 1962. www.musees-des-techniques.org

Saline Royale. Photo: Gillian Thornton

SALINE ROYALE, ARC-ET-SENANS

Also listed by UNESCO, this elegant complex of buildings was a pioneer of industrial and social welfare. Designed by visionary architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, it was conceived as a circular complex but only half was built. www.salineroyale.com

Ronchamp Chapel

RONCHAMP CHAPEL

The iconic Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut – also known as the Ronchamp Chapel – was built in 1954 and is located on a hillside with stunning views. It is one of several works by Swiss architect Le Corbusier listed by UNESCO. www.collinenotredameduhaut.com

Aventure Peugeot. Photo: Gillian Thornton

AVENTURE PEUGEOT, SOCHAUX

This museum features Peugeot products from 1810 to today, including coffee-makers, spice mills and sewing machines, plus cars from every decade. There’s something for everyone here spanning 200 years of industrial history. www.musee-peugeot.com

Mont-Bart Fort

MONT-BART FORT, BAVANS

Built in the 1870s as part of a national defence chain, there are panoramic views from the top; a hidden circular road and barrack buildings. New this year is a 3D virtual reality guided tour plus digital 19th-century reconstruction. www.paysdemontbeliard-tourisme.com

Grotte d’Osselle. Photo: Gillian Thornton

GROTTE D’OSSELLE

Walk through an opening in the side of the cliff and follow a level path through stunning limestone formations and colours. Open to visitors since 1504, it is one of the showpiece caverns in an area criss-crossed by underground rivers and cave systems. grottes.osselle.free.fr

Belfort Citadel

BELFORT CITADEL

The citadel has occupied a strategic location since the 12th century, was refortified in the 17th by Vauban and again in 1817. Tour the maze of underground passages and see the lion sculpted by Bartholdi in memory of those who died in the 1870-71 siege. www.belfort-tourisme.com/en

Louise Pasteur’s house, Arbois. Photo: Gillian Thornton

LOUIS PASTEUR’S HOMES

Visit his birthplace and childhood home in Dole and the family house in Arbois, where he grew up. It was here he returned throughout his life to carry out the scientific studies on the fermentation of wine that led to his discovery of pasteurisation. www.terredelouispasteur.fr

Castle of the Dukes of Wurttemberg

CHÂTEAU OF THE DUKES OF WÜRTTEMBERG

This historic hilltop home of the Counts of Montbéliard showcases the families who ruled here over eight centuries. It includes fine arts and sculpture, natural history and a gallery dedicated to Georges Cuvier. www.montbeliard.com

The Gustave Courbet Museum

MUSÉE COURBET, ORNANS

Discover the life and work of artist Gustave Courbet in the 18th-century house where he was born beside the river Loue in Ornans. Completely renovated in 2011, it is home to a permanent collection, as well as hosting temporary exhibitions. www.musee-courbet.fr

Weir on the Doubs

SAUT DU DOUBS

Take a two-hour cruise from Villers-du-Lac to see the Saut du Doubs or ‘French Niagara’, classified as a Grand Site National, or take a three-hour hike among the 31 Hérisson waterfalls near Doucier. www.sautdudoubs.fr and www.cascades-du-herisson.fr/en

From France Today magazine

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