Besançon…the Christmas Market

Hi everybody,

I told you I had something to share with you before we went into the town center of Besançon. It’s this, the Besançon Christmas market. I was there last Saturday afternoon and then again on Sunday evening. The Besançon Christmas market is on the central market square, otherwise known as la Place de la Révolution.  Here is the official entrance…

01a_entrée du marché


…and the crowd beyond:

01d_the crowd at night


The town Christmas tree, in front of a stand where they sell hot wine…

01b_town Christmas tree


…and the crowd below, drinking plenty of hot wine:

01c_Christmas tree and the crowd


I took this photo of the vin chaud stand on Saturday afternoon…

2a_Vin chaud


…when I had some hot wine (unfortunately you can’t see the steam rising)…

2b_Vin chaud

You can see a recipe for French hot spiced wine here.


While we’re in the daytime photos, here’s one to give you a daytime view of the Christmas market…

1a_Christmas Market

…with its merry-go-round…


…and the merry-go-round in the evening…


Of course, Christmas is for kids (both big ones and little ones). Everyone knows that.


Saturday afternoon the Besançon Canine club is out in force…

12b_Canine Club

…I think this is a fund raising activity. “One caress = one euro” is what the signs say. It’s just occurred to me that I forgot to pay for petting this dog.


The dogs all seem happy to be out, together…

12h_Canine Club

…big ones and little ones…

12c_Canine Club 12g_Canine Club

…singular and plural…

12a_Canine Club out in force 12f_Canine Club


I don’t think a euro is too much to pay for a little canine affection. Just put your zoom onto the face of this little guy:

12e_Canine club


Here’s a stand where they sell crèpes and gaufres (waffles), etc. to eat on site…

1c_Christmas_Délices de...


…and plenty of Christmas sweets…



The Christmas market is a fun place to eat and drink. Many stands serve up local specialties, dishes such as these sausages (saucisses de Montbéliard) cooked in onions and white wine…

3_saucisse de Montbéliard


…or this poelée Comtoise–potatoes grilled with bits of saucisse de Morteau (sausage of Morteau)…

3C_poelée comtoise with saucisse de Morteau


…or this Morbiflette–potatoes, ham, onions and Morbier cheese…

3b_poelée comtoise

…all good winter food.


The region of Franche-Comté, where Besançon is situated, is well-known for its hams, sausages and a wide variety of smoked meats. Here is a stand here devoted entirely to these products…

1d_Chrismas_Fumé comtois

…the same stand at night, and close up:

1dbis_fumé la nuit 1dter_fumé la nuit

Franche-Comté has very good cheeses, wines and vegetables too. I’ll take you on a visit of some local markets one of these days.

On we go. There are stands from other régions, like this one where they sell products from southwestern France, especially foie gras, which many people like to serve for Christmas dinner or at other meals around Christmastime…

5_from the southwest of France


…and products from Normandy…

7d_products from Normandy


There are stands from abroad, too. Russia…

4_the russian stand


…and Canada:

6a_Canadian stand 6b_Canadia stand


In Besançon you can always run into the exotic and unexpected, such as this Brazilian drum troupe coming down a nearby street…



…forcing this busker to take a break:

10_local busker


The Brazilians are publicizing a local festival, Latina Corazon, for the promotion of Latin American culture. You can read about it here.

8b_Brazilians bis


The Christmas market is a place to buy Christmas décorations…

7c_Christmas decorations bis


…and a wide variety of gifts, such as this jewelry…



…or this vegetal ivory…

1e_Christmas_vegetal ivory


But there mare many other stands too, where they sell toys, scarves, hats… I fear I haven’t done justice to this year’s market.

All of this takes place in front of the Musée des Beaux Arts, the Besançon Fine Arts Museum (currently closed for renovation) under the watchful closed eyes of some of the museum’s portraits:

9b_Beaux Arts_of closed eyes


I hope you now have a good view of this annual event here in Beasançon. Christmas markets take place in many other towns too, Montbéliard, Strasburg…and in other countries as well. Should you visit Besançon some year around Christmas, don’t miss the market.

Besançon…the district of Battant

Hi everyone. Today I’m taking you into the town center of Besançon, to the quartier Battant, the Battant district. It’s only a small part of the center, but it’s a very important part, one of the oldest and most distinctive streets of the city. And you will see that Besançon is a town of great variety. We start at the train station, near the ramparts that I showed you last week. By the way, you can read about Besançon here. And here.

This is the central train station, the Gare Viotte

1_Gare Viotte

…from which we can take the city’s new tramway to go downtown…


…this tram car is named after Louis Pasteur, a local boy:

3_Tram Pasteur

(Of couse, a few other towns in the region have claims on Pasteur too).


But I’m not going to take the tram, I’m going on foot. Here, I’m walking through the ramparts:


(You may remember seeing this scene in the previous entry, but from the other direction.)


I soon turn onto the Rue Battant and head towards the town center…

5_Battant 1

…and we soon come to the Place Battant with its fountain:

6_Battant 2 7_Battant 3 - fountain


Battant is a district of ethnic diversity, as we see in this North African pastry shop, La Rose de Tunis:

8_Rose of Tunis 1

In the back of the shop you can see the owner.

He kindly let me take pictures inside his shop…

9_Tunis 2

…but he didn’t want to pose.

10_Tunis 3


On we go down the street…

11_On we go down the street

…past numerous shops, such as this small grocery store. Battant is an everyday district, where everyday people live, work and shop…

11bis_grocery store

…this kebab shop, not quite open yet…

10_kebabs, not quite open yet

…a hardware shop…

12_hardware store

…a variety store…


…a music store…

14_Battant musique

…and Italian specialties, where you can eat outside…

16_Italian specialties

…or inside…

16b_or in

…from this appetizing menu…

16c_appetizing menu

…or maybe take it home with you…

16d_or take it home

…along with something to drink:



Here is shop where I’ve bought many gifts over the years…

15_a shop where I've bought...

…table cloths, napkins, dish towels, small utensiles. This store is famous in town.


This shop, Kausia, Par tous les Temps (For all types of weather) , is aptly named. Besançon has a cool-to-cold and rainy climate (though summer heat waves can be torrid) and this shop is designed for it:



And the Horlogerie de Battant, a watch and clock shop. Besançon has always been the watch capital of France, ever since the first watches were invented. One of the city’s most renowned museums is the Musée du Temps (the Time Museum). You can read about it in French here.



And here is a chocolate lover’s paradise named Hors les sentiers battus... (Off the beaten paths)…

17_Chocolate 1

It’s a cacao bar…

18_Chocolate 2

… with chocolate in all its states.

The shop window has a very Christmasy look at the moment…

18b_a Christmasy window display

…there’s a welcoming chocolate-floral arrangement just inside…

18c_welcoming chocolate...

…and as I’ve said, this shop is a chocloate lover’s paradise:

18d_as I said...


We finally arrive at the river, The Doubs, where we meet up with the tramway once again…

19_we arrive along the Doubs River to meet up with...

…a look back up the rue Battant

19b_looking back up the street

…with the Church of La Madeleine behind us:

20_la Madeleine

…the Pont Battant (the Battant Bridge) is ahead of us now…

20_b_Battant bridge


Onto the bridge we go, and look to the right…

21_on the bridge-right

…and to the left…



Once across the bridge we look straight ahead up the Grande Rue, the town’s main street…

…on a Saturday afternoon…

23_across the bridge, straight ahead

…and on a Sunday morning:

25_crossing the bridge, looking up...

I’ll take you up there one day soon, but we’ve seen enough for today. And I have something else to show you first.

Besançon…the ramparts

Hi everyone,

The Olsen Road will be starting up again soon for my Christmastime travels to Dublin to see my daughter and her family. In the meantime I hope to find time to take some pictures and write a few posts about Besançon, the town I live in here in France. While I was travelling in the States these last few months several people asked me about this town that I’ve now lived in for more than forty years, so I thought I’d introduce you. And Besançon is a worthy travel destination in its own right, not just because I live here.


November 11, 2014

Armistice Day

Here’s a view from my kitchen window one recent rainy morning:

2_rainbow bis

Besançon is a relatively rainy town, known as the greenest city in France.

I quickly run downstairs to get a picture of the other half of the rainbow:

3_rainbow ter

This will give you a better view of my neighborhood.


Later in the day I take a walk down to the ramparts, the few remaining vestiges of the old city wall and fortifications. Here we see some autumn colors  along with the Tour Carrée, the square tower.

4_autumn colors and tower

The Tour Carrée a little closer…


…and closer still:

6_tower closer


The ramparts are a good place to go at the moment to see autumn colors:

7_autumn colors2


The promenade leading down to the Doubs River:

8_autumn colors and trail down to river


The Promenade des Glacis along the top of the ramparts:

9_autum colors remparts


The ramparts are crisscrossed by some major traffic arteries…

10_autumn colors street through remparts

…modernity oblige.

10bis_street in remparts

This is a good way to see how the new and the old live together in Besançon. Of course, the afternoon of a major national holiday is not the time to see how busy these streets can be.


The ramparts are a also good place to take pictures of the town center. Here we see the Citadel de Vauban on the hills opposite. The Citadel is a UNESCO World Heritage site now. You can read more about it here.

11_view of city center

And with the zoom:

13_citadel bis

I’ll take you up into the citadel some day soon. It’s a very interesting place.


The roofs and chimineys of Besançon are well known.

14_citadel ter


The ramparts are full of monuments and since the commemoration ceremony for the First World War took place this morning, wreaths have been placed at the foot of these statues…

16_monuments aux morts 17_wreaths were deposed this morning

…such as this one from a group known as the Gueules Cassées, the broken faces. These were soldiers who came home from the war extremely disfigured.

18_such as this one from...


This monument is dedicated to all those who gave their lives for France and who are buried abroad:

19_monument to those buried overseas

Statues of soldiers…

20_monument to the soldiers 21_another monument

…and La Mère Patrie.

22_monument to la mère patrie


Sculptures are also to be found here and there  in the Promenade des Glacis. This one, by Jorge Soler, is dedicated to foreigners who fought in the resistance during the Second World War…

23_numerous sculptures inhabit the promenade

…and this one by the Senegalese sculptor Ousmane Sow…

24_such as this one

…with a child hidden under the robe:

25_by Ousmane Sow

The form of the child is hard to make out, but the feet are very clear:

26_with a child hidden under the man's robe


There is much more to see in and around Besançon. Little by little I’ll try to show you as much as possible.