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Capped with a citadel and folded into a bend in the Doubs River, Besançon is a pleasant surprise. Unshowy and laid-back, the capital of the Doubs département nonetheless offers a broad spectrum of culture: 18th-century town houses, many now housing hotels and restaurants; active contemporary arts and local music scenes; and monuments to homegrown luminaries like Victor Hugo.

In Gallo-Roman times, Besançon (then Vesontio) was an important stop on the trade routes linking Italy, the Alps and the Rhine, and some striking remains of this period survive.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Besançon.