Contact your Council: 01484 221000
A to Z of the site:
Community full menu: Twinning: Besançon

Besançon - General description

Policy and Governance Service - March 2008

General Description

Besancon town
See also:
Local authority

General description of the area :

Besançon is situated in the east of France close to the Swiss and German borders. Besançon is the capital of the Franche-Comté region which is made up of four different "départements, " these being the Doubs, Jura, Haute-Saône and the Territoire de Belfort. Besançon is the administrative centre for the Doubs.

Enclosed by a bend in the river Doubs, Besançon has grown up at the foot of the hill where the Vauban Citadelle was built, in an exceptional defensive site. The geographical constraints of the location have shaped the development of the town through the centuries. The town has been, at various times throughout its history, a military fort, a garrison town, a political and a religious centre. The two most important periods in the history of Besançon have been the sixteenth century, when, under the protection of Charles Quint, the town became free from the Germanic Empire and the eighteenth century when the town became French. These two periods in the history of the town also greatly influenced the urban landscape of the town, giving Besançon its architecture that shows Gothic, Renaissance and Classical traits. This is reflected by the tall buildings with their sloping roofs, built from the local, blue tinted chalky stone from the Chailluz area of Besançon.

Besançon offers an exceptional quality of life, with green spaces of forests, parks and gardens covering an area of 2390 hectares. Besançon has lots of sporting and cultural attractions taking place in its numerous stadiums, swimming pools, gymnasiums, museums, exhibition halls and theatres and indeed attracts sporting and cultural events of a national and indeed international level.

Main economic sectors:
The service sector is the most important economic sector, employing 47 000 people and representing 75% of Besançon's economic activity. The other 25% of the workforce of Besançon are involved in industry. Since 1793, when Mégevand started up his clock-making factory, the know-how of Besançon's population has been able to adapt to the development of technology, thanks to its ingenuity and its willingness to learn new skills. Nowadays, Besançon as well as being the capital of clock making is the largest centre for metal pressing in France and the European heart of microtechnology.

As a centre of European metal pressing the development of this kind of industry in Besançon has been characterised by the setting up of factories that combine both micro engineering and metal pressing, often manufacturing very specific products for which they are leaders on the international markets. The micro technology industry has had a knock on effect on professional studies and specialist research in the town, which is now geared to innovative automation and micro robotics, which is absolutely essential for the long term development and productivity of the industry in Besançon.

A world centre for chronological instruments - The laboratory for chronological electronics works under contract for both the European Space Agency and NASA. The Spaceship Voyager is equipped with instruments developed and manufactured in Besançon.

Besançon is an international centre forbio-medical development - 25 companies and 43 university laboratories work in this field.

The world watch making centre - France is the leading watch making country in the European Union and nowadays, 75% of this industry is centred around Besançon and the Haut-Doubs. The watch makers enjoy a world famous reputation and the big names of fashion call on their expertise to design and manufacture their time pieces.

Main employers:
1. National education authorities.
2. Hospital services.
3. The Town Hall and Social Services.
4. Casino (Supermarket chain)
5. The Post Office.
6. France Telecom
7. Maty ( Mail order watch and jewellery firm)
8. FCI ( Framatome Connectors International)
9. SNCF (French Railways)
10. Fralsen (Watch makers)
11. R. Bourgeois (Precision engineering)
12. EDF ( Électricité de France)
13. Crédit Agricole (bank)

Main natural resources:
Wood - (for use as both a material and an energy source): the Franche-Comté has the highest level of forest covered area in France. The use of wood as an energy source has been the subject of much development in the region. The Franche-Comté is a pilot region for France in this field.

Water - (both drinking and as an energy source): hydro-electricity is produced from rivers in the region by several power stations. The mineral rich water of certain areas is used for thermal cures because it is the salt in the water, which gives it its therapeutic qualities. Salt, itself, however, is no longer mined in the region.

The minerals iron and coal are present in the Franche-Comté but are not mined commercially for reasons of profitability.
Welcome : Plain English : Can't find it online? : DirectGov : Internet Content Rating Association