Located a couple hundred miles east of Paris, Besançon is the capital and principal city of the Franche-Comté region in eastern France. The Franche-Comté region is home to approximately one million residents and is conveniently located near Germany and borders Switzerland, allowing the region to soak up a lot of Swiss architecture, cuisine and culture; making for easy and exciting weekend travel for those studying abroad in Besançon.
When researching study abroad programs, an important factor for students is other students. Most young travelers want to share their experiences with other like-minded peers. Regardless of city or continent, the starting point for many students searching for their study abroad program is not only where and what they will be studying internationally, but who they will be studying with. Besançon is the perfect destination because of the number of universities and students in the area. The region is also known for its leaps and bounds in technology—specifically telecommunications and biotechnology.
As any alum of an abroad experience will say, the educational opportunities are of course not the only factor that makes a city sparkle. For all those history buffs out there, Besançon is recognized as one of the French military engineer’s Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban’s (1633-1707) of King Louis XIV masterpieces. This particular fortress was built when the French took the city from Spanish control in 1674. Fortifications of Vauban includes 12 groups of fortified buildings all throughout the western, northern and eastern borders of France.
In 2008, the World Heritage Committee declared Vauban’s creations in Besançon as listed on the prestigious World Heritage Site. The citadel of Besançon offers impeccably preserved military architecture, ornate walking paths and an overall glimpse into a rich European past complete with vast courtyards and massive buildings, all a stone’s throw from the Saint-Jean Cathedral. The views from such hilltops are breathtaking with its dense forests and rolling fields overlooking the Jura Mountains. Far beyond the citadel however, Besançon evokes an 18th Century charm with its brick details and romantic architecture making it a charming respite for any Francophile (or American student awed by just how architecture differs in Europe from America).
Scattered throughout the city are a variety of diverse museums. The museum of fine arts and archeology, the museum of time (interesting fact: Besançon is famous within the watch industry), the museum of the resistance and deportation, the museum of natural history and the space museum sainte-madeleine are just a few examples of what lies within this town.
Besançon also offers up a year-round refreshing rotation of music events. The Besançon Franche-Comté Music Festival, takes place in September and is one of the oldest and most prestigious classical music festivals. Other music festivals include the Musiques de Rues Festival (street music) in October, the French Country Festival in August, the Jazz en Franche-Comté Festival in June, and the Herbe en Zik Festival (French rock and variety) in May.
To accompany the sounds and sights of Besançon are of course the tastes. Simply put, you can’t live in a place where the food just doesn’t speak to you. Luckily it seems that no region in France is without delectable ingredients and Besançon is no exception. The city emphasizes the importance of playing up its culinary strengths of sweet wines, smoked meats and aged cheeses. The overall France-Comte region is also known for its mushrooms, fish and honey.
For any student seriously interested in France for an abroad opportunity, look further than Paris and discover the rolling hills, rich culture and student-friendly city of Besançon, France.