Must-see attractions in French Alps & the Jura Mountains

  • Aguille du Midi platforms

    Aiguille du Midi


    The great rocky fang of the Aiguille du Midi (3842m), rising from the Mont Blanc massif, is one of Chamonix’ most distinctive features. The 360-degree…

  • View Of Mer De Glace Glacier From Le Signal Forbes - Mont Blanc Massif, Chamonix, France
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    Mer de Glace


    France’s largest glacier, the 200m-deep 'Sea of Ice', flows 7km down the northern side of Mont Blanc, scarred with crevasses formed by the immense…

  • Ville Ancienne


    Chambéry's medieval Old Town reveals its beauty gradually. Rush through its lanes and you risk missing hidden courtyards, murals and well-preserved 14th-…

  • A picture taken on July 10, 2008, in Besancon, eastern France shows the fortification of the town's citadel, which was added to the list of World Heritage sites by UNESCO on July 7 2008. The fortification represents the "finest examples" of the work of Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban, a military engineer of King Louis XIV. The total number of World Heritage sites now reaches 878 sites in 145 countries.   AFP PHOTO JEFF PACHOUD (Photo credit should read JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty Images)

    Citadelle de Besançon


    Dominating the city from Mt St-Etienne, more than 100 vertical metres above the old town, the 17th-century Citadelle de Besançon – designed by Vauban for…

  • Chapelle de Notre-Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, France.

    Chapelle de Notre-Dame du Haut

    The Jura Mountains

    Bringing to mind a ship's sail or a lighthouse summoning the faithful, modernist Chapelle Notre-Dame (1955) roosts hilltop above the small town of…

  • Grenoble Museum.

    Musée de Grenoble


    For lovers of European art, this museum is an uplifting place to get lost for a day. There's an even spread of artistic eras on display: an antiquities…

  • Musée Archéologique


    This highly impressive museum unveils the secrets of a 12th-century church and cloister using light effects, a haunting choral soundtrack and an…

  • Lion du Belfort

    The Jura Mountains

    Belfort's icon is a monumental lion statue that sits astride the citadel, scowling down on the town. Created by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, best known for…

  • Musée du Temps


    Literal and figurative interpretations of time are woven together at the Musée du Temps, which places allegorical paintings about the passage of time next…

  • Chateau de Joux at sunset.

    Château de Joux

    The Jura Mountains

    Clinging to a limestone outcrop, Château de Joux, 10km north of Métabief, used to guard the route between Switzerland and France. Its foundations date to…

  • Arc-et-Senans, France - September 1, 2020: Front view of the southern facade of the former Guards building of the Royal Saltworks, with a neoclassical portico, only entrance to the site.

    Saline Royale

    The Jura Mountains

    These wondrously symmetrical early–Industrial Age saltworks were designed to be an 'ideal city' by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux. Though Ledoux's plans never came…

  • The Bastille Grenoble.

    Fort de la Bastille


    After a fun ride in the téléphérique, or a steep, hour-long climb, the reward is a magnificent mountain panorama from Grenoble's stocky fortress, built…

  • The Cathedral of Saint Francois de Sales in Chambery.

    Cathédrale St-François de Sales


    All is not as it seems inside Chambéry's 15th-century Franciscan cathedral, decorated with 6000 sq metres of trompe l’œil painting. The largest such…

  • Entrance of the Dauphinois museum (Musee dauphinois) in Grenoble.

    Musée Dauphinois


    This ever-evolving museum unleashes a century of regional history on visitors. Suits of armour are back-lit in brightly coloured rooms, 3-D family trees…

  • Le Brévent mountain.

    Le Brévent


    The highest peak on the western side of the Chamonix Valley, Le Brévent (2525m) has tremendous views of the Mont Blanc massif, myriad hiking trails…

  • The Caves of Baume Interior.

    Grottes de Baume

    The Jura Mountains

    The 30-million-year-old Grottes de Baume are secreted away in the cliffs 2km south of Baume-les-Messieurs. On guided tours, visitors can weave their way…

  • Museum of Fine Arts and Archeology in Besançon, France.

    Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie


    France's oldest public museum, founded in 1694, is famous for its stellar collection of local Gallo-Roman archaeology; its Cabinet des Dessins, with some…

  • The Augustinian abbey in Montbenoit, France.

    Abbaye de Montbenoît

    The Jura Mountains

    Montbenoît's Renaissance-style tower – emblazoned with a horseback knight – instantly impresses. Inside, explore the old abbey's double-columned…

  • BESANCONS, FRANCE/EUROPE - SEPTEMBER 13: Astronomical Clock in Cathedral of St Jean in Besancon France on September 13, 2015; Shutterstock ID 323711300; full: digital; gl: 65050; netsuite: pot; your: Barbara Di Castro

    Horloge Astronomique


    The base of 18th-century Cathédrale St-Jean's bell tower houses an incredible astronomical clock, powered by 11 weights, that has run the church's bells…

  • The black gate in Besançon.

    Porte Noire


    Erected in AD 175 in honour of Marcus Aurelius, this 16.5m-high Roman triumphal arch stands very near where the columns of a Roman theatre and the…

  • Château des Ducs de Savoie


    Medieval walls, Gothic tracery, trompe l'oeil detailing…Chambéry's château has acquired a wealth of styles since its founding in the 11th century. Once…

  • People drink coffee near the River Thiou in Old Town, encircling the medieval palace perched mid-river - the Palais de l'Isle in Annecy, France.

    Vieille Ville


    It’s a pleasure simply to wander aimlessly around Annecy’s medieval Old Town, where emerald-green canals flow beneath stone bridges and pastel-painted…

  • Château d’Annecy


    With commanding views across the ochre rooftops of the Vieille Ville (Old Town) to the Massif des Bauges, the Château d’Annecy is at once imposing and…

  • Musée des Troupes de Montagne


    Though the subject is niche, this museum exploring France's elite Alpine regiments, which date to 1888, is riveting. An audioguide (in French, English,…

  • Waterfront


    On the tree-fringed lakefront, the flowery Jardins de l’Europe are linked to the grassy Champ de Mars, a popular picnic spot, by the poetic iron arch of…

  • Parc Naturel Régional du Haut-Jura

    The Jura Mountains

    Rippling along the border between Switzerland and France is this 1780-sq-km regional natural park, a peaceful, under-explored slice of the Jura Mountains…

  • Maison Natale de Victor Hugo


    This spiffy museum gives an engaging account of the life and works of Besançon's best-known literary son, Victor Hugo, famous for masterpieces such as Les…

  • Grande Saline

    The Jura Mountains

    The salty history of the Jura is well-explained in the town of Salins-les-Bains, which derives its very name from the salt trade. Step inside the Grande…

  • Fontaine des Éléphants


    With its four carved elephants, this 17.6m-high fountain looks like the model for an old Indian postage stamp. It was sculpted in 1838 in honour of…

  • Parc Polaire

    The Jura Mountains

    Get close to scampering chamois, Greenland huskies and wild horses on two-hour guided walking tours around this nature park in Chaux-Neuve, 25km southwest…

  • Musée Pasteur

    The Jura Mountains

    Louis Pasteur (1822–95), who developed the first rabies vaccine and, of course, pasteurisation, spent his first three years in Dole. His childhood home in…

  • Palais de l’Isle


    Sitting on a triangular islet surrounded by the Canal du Thiou, the Palais de l’Isle has been a lordly residence, a courthouse, a mint and a prison,…

  • Musée des Charmettes


    Geneva-born philosopher, composer and writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a key figure of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, lived the happiest years…

  • Musée de l’Aventure Peugeot

    The Jura Mountains

    Nineteenth-century industry is paid homage in aptly vintage style, within this museum 14km south of Belfort. Before Peugeot was a household name, the…

  • Musée Alpin


    This diverting two-level museum allows you to wander through Chamonix history, from butter moulds and farming tools of yore to the dawn of the 18th…

  • Cathédrale St-Jean


    The earliest parts of Besançon's cathedral date to 1127. Though heavily modified in ensuing centuries, following a 13th-century fire and the collapse of…

  • Musée des Cristaux


    Beautifully lit collections of crystals, many from around Mont Blanc, are exposed within this small museum. The adjoining Espace Tairraz focuses on the…

  • Musée des Beaux-Arts


    Occupying a former corn exchange, Chambéry's grand fine-arts museum exhibits mostly 14th- to 18th-century Italian works. There's a particular emphasis on…

  • Musée de l’Ancien Évêché


    A run-through of regional history, from prehistory through medieval times to the 20th century, is presented within the atmospheric walls of the 13th…