French Jura Attractions


The French Jura, roughly corresponding to the old province of Franche-Comté, lies in eastern France, bounded on the west by Burgundy and on the north by the Vosges, though compared with these areas it is relatively unknown to tourists.

Franche-Comté has a common frontier 250km/155mi long with Switzerland, and the French Jura, the range of mountains between the Saône and the lakes of western Switzerland, is continued beyond the frontier by the Swiss Jura. The region of Franche-Comté has an area of 16,202,256 sq.mi (3% of the total area of France) and a population of 1.08 million. It takes in the départements of Doubs, Jura and Haute-Saône and the Territoire de Belfort. The administrative center is Besançon.

Two great Frenchmen were born in the Jura - the biologist Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) and the painter Gustave Courbet (1819-1877).

Besancon, France

Ronchamp, France

Ronchamp (pop. 2,965) is world-famed for Le Corbusier's chapel of Notre-Dame-du-Haut (1950-1954), on a hill above the town). It contains an ancient image of the Virgin (festival on September eighth). Ronchamp also has an interesting mining museum, the Maison de la Mine.
Built towards the end of Le Corbusier's career, the Chapel of Notre Dame, Ronchamp, is highly sculptural and will be a surprising departure for those used to his earlier more cubist-inspired projects. Situated on the crest of a hill, it replaces a former chapel destroyed during the war. It is a compact building with massive reinforced concrete roof. The walls are of the same structure, curving inward on themselves to define smaller chapels and are covered in rough textured plaster punctured by an intriguing and seemingly random collection of slot windows. These windows are of colored glass filling the darkened space with ethereal light from jewel-like sources.

Cascades Hérisson

The river Hérisson, rising at an altitude of 805 m/2,640ft, forms a series of waterfalls on its way down the valley - though these can dry up completely after a long period of drought. The finest of the falls are the Grand Saut and, at the end of the gorge, the Cascade de l'Eventail. The best starting-point for a visit to the falls is Doucier, from which D326 leads to a parking lot; then on foot to the falls. The Col de la Faucille (1,323m/4,341ft), between Gex and La Cure, is the most important pass over the Jura, carrying the road into Switzerland (N5). From the pass there is a cabin cableway up Mont-Rond. From its two peaks (1,534m/5,033ft and 1,614m/4,296ft) there are magnificent panoramic views of the Jura.

St Claude, France

St-Claude (pop. 13,000), a town noted for the manufacture of pipes, with an interesting Pipe Museum, is one of the leading tourist centers of the Upper Jura. Its principal attraction is the Cathedral of St-Pierre (14th-15th C.), which was completed only in the 18th C. with a square tower and neo-classical west front. It has fine choir-stalls (mid 15th C.) and a notable altar. Originally belonging to an abbey which was destroyed during the French Revolution, it is one of the finest churches in the Jura. The Diamond Museum displays a collection of both rough and cut diamonds and precious stones and illustrates the process of cutting and the industrial use of diamonds.

Arc et Senans, France

Arc-et-Senans is noted for the former royal salt-works, with the imposing neo-classical buildings designed by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (1736-1806), who was commissioned by Louis XV to create an ideal industrial town. His ambitious plan provided for a circular layout, only half of which was completed. Five pavilions and two large storage rooms are grouped around an administrative building. The salt-works closed down at the end of the 19th C., and the buildings are now occupied by an interesting Ledoux Museum of architectural plans and models, as well as a salt museum.

Colombey de Gex

One of the finest viewpoints in the Jura is the Colombey de Gex (1,689m/ 5,542ft), near the Swiss frontier. It is reached on a road which runs south from the Col de la Faucille and a footpath which takes off from the road; the ascent takes about two hours. From the summit there are fine views of Lake Geneva and the Alps. 4km/2.5mi northeast is Mont-Rond.

Crêt de Chalam

The Crêt de Chalam (1,548m/5,079ft), which rears above the Valserine, is another fine viewpoint (to the east the Jura hills; to the southeast Mont Blanc, visible in clear weather).

Génissiat Dam

The Génissiat Dam (1948) has formed an artificial lake on the Doubs which powers a hydro-electric station. The lake extends back for 23km/14mi to the Swiss frontier. The whole complex is a triumph of French hydraulic engineering.

Arbois, France

Arbois (pop. 3,698) is picturesquely situated. Louis Pasteur, a native of Dole, spent his early years in Arbois and frequently returned there. His parents' house has been preserved as it was and is open to the public. Other features of interest are the 18th C houses in the Place de la Liberté, the Town Hall (formerly a monastic house), the church of St-Just (12th-13th C), the Wine Museum and the Musée Sarret de Grozon (furniture, ceramics, pictures).
2km/1.5mi southeast of the town is where Pasteur did much of his research into fermentation in 1878.
Near Arbois, in a V-shaped valley, are the two sources of the Cuisance and the entrance to the Grotte des Planches. The D469 leads up to the Cirque de Fer à Cheval, from where there is a fine view.
Henri Maire owns the largest estate and merchant house in the region, both of which are based in Arbois.
The Fête des Vins D'Arbois takes place around the middle of July. Another interesting festival which takes place on the first Sunday of September is the Fête du Biou. On this day huge bunches of grapes are carried through the streets of Arbois to the church of St-Just.
The Grape Pre-Harvest Festival (Fete du Biou) takes place in early September to celebrate the upcoming harvest.

Maison de Pasteur

Louis Pasteur visited here for most of his life and lived here for a time while a youth attending school. It has been opened to the public and has been retained as it was in his later years.
Address: 83, rue de Courcelles, F-39600 Arbois, France

Jura Rivers and Valleys

One of the great attractions of the Jura is the impressive and constantly varying scenery of its valleys, the best known of which are the Ain, Doubs, Dessoubre, Loue and Valserine. Visitors to the Jura should make a point of exploring some of these valleys or the V-shaped transverse valleys known as reculées.


The reculées are the V-shaped transverse valleys which are found, for example on the Cuisance, the Seille and the Vallière. They extend from Arbois by way of the Cirque de Baume to Lons-le-Saunier and Pont-de-Poitte, a road distance of some 80km/50mi. These very attractive valleys cut their way through the hills to end in a cirque or corrie with sheer rock faces which often contain caves. The Reculée des Planches or Reculée d'Arbois, southeast of that town, contains the two sources of the river Cuisance and ends in the impressive Cirque du Fer à Cheval. Another striking cirque is the Cirque de Ladoye; but the finest of all is the Cirque de Baume, with fantastic views from its crags. From the top of the crags a steep path runs down to the caves at the foot, formed by a former source of the river Dard, which after heavy rain still emerges here in the form of a waterfall. The amphitheater-like Creux de Revigny, between Lons-le-Saunier and Pont-de-Poitte, also contains many caves.


The little Dessoubre is very different from the majestic valley of the Doubs, which rises near Mouthe (alt. 937m/3,074ft) and flows into the Saône after a winding course of 430km/265mi, though the distance as the crow flies is only 90km/55mi. The road runs down the upper valley from the source to Morteau, through the impressive Doubs gorges to Montbéliard, and from there to Besançon, after which the Doubs leaves the Jura Languedoc-Roussillon near Dole. Among the principal attractions on this road are the gorge of Cluse-et-Mijoux (of which there is a fine view from Les Rosiers); the Lac de Chaillexon, with a 28m/90ft high waterfall; the Echelles de la Mort; the Corniche de Goumois, near the Swiss frontier, with magnificent views of the mountains; and the little town of L'Isle-sur-le-Doubs, divided by the river into three parts.


The Loue was often painted by Courbet; and indeed, with its tree-lined banks, it is a very picturesque river, which is also attractive to canoeists. From its source at Ouhans it follows a winding course to its junction with the Doubs. Its main attractions are the source itself, in a large cave, which has been shown to be connected with the Doubs, its numerous viewpoints like the Moine de la Vallée and Mouthier, and the Nouailles gorges. The stretch between Cléron and the mouth of the Lison is particularly attractive.


The valley of the Ain traverses the Jura for a distance of 190km/120mi, with a succession of rapids, waterfalls and picturesque gorges. Possible routes are down the upper valley of the river from Nozeroy (near its source) to its junction with the Saine, or along the lakes formed by a series of dams between Pont-de-Poitte and Poncin, a distance of some 100km/60mi.


The Valserine is a high valley of great romantic charm, extending for some 60km/37mi from the Col de la Faucille to Bellegarde, where it flows into the Rhône. On either side of the valley rise the highest peaks in the Jura, with expanses of mountain pasture between them. A striking feature is the Pont des Pierres, which spans the river between Montanges and Mulaz in a single arch 80 m/260ft wide. The finest viewpoint is at Mijoux, on the way up to the Col de la Faucille.


The Dessoubre is a very attractive river, less well known than the other Jura rivers, which flows into the Doubs at St-Hippolyte. There is a pleasant drive of 30km/19mi from the Cirque de Consolation, in which the river rises, to the junction with the Doubs. In the cirque is the former monastery of Notre-Dame de Consolation. The best view of the cirque is to be had from the "Priest's Rock".


The name Source du Lison covers the actual source of the Lison, the Grotte Sarrazine and the Creux Billard: three interesting natural features which are all linked with one another, partly by underground channels.

Belfort, France

The town of Belfort on the river Savoureuse, capital of the Territoire de Belfort, was an important fortress controlling the Trouée de Belfort, the Belfort Gap, a key-point on the route between the Vosges and the Jura. Until 1870-1871 it belonged to the département of Haut-Rhin. Belfort has important textile and engineering industries. For many centuries the destinies of the town turned on its geographical situation. Until the 14th C it belonged to the Counts of Måmpelgard (Montbéliard). From 1350 to 1639 it was held by the Habsburgs; then in 1648, under the Peace of Westphalia, it was assigned to France. Vauban surrounded the town with fortifications which helped it to withstand a 103-day siege during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.

Old Town

The present-day town of Belfort is divided into two parts. The central feature of the old town, on the left bank of the Savoureuse, is the Place de la République, with the large Monument des Trois Sièges by the Colmar sculptor A.-F. Bartholdi (completed in 1904 by his pupils), commemorating the three sieges of 1813-1814, 1815 and 1870-1871. On the north side of the square is the Palais de Justice (1901), on the south side the Prefecture. To the east, in the Place d'Armes, are the parish church of St-Christophe (1725-1750), with a beautiful interior, and the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) of 1784.
Old Town Belfort map - Tourist attractions Old Town Belfort Map

Musée d'Art et d'Histoire

On a 70m/230ft high crag is a 13th C castle in Belfort, rebuilt by Vauban as a citadel, much of which was pulled down in the 19th C. The surviving part, known as the Château, now houses the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, with an important collection of material on local history (Bronze and Iron Age weapons, Neolithic, Gallo-Roman and Frankish jewellery and ornaments), a collection of pictures (including works by Signac, Vlaminck, Utrillo, Courbet and Rodin) and models of the Vauban fortifications.

From the Château there are extensive views over the Jura and the Vosges.

Lion of Belfort

In Belfort, northeast of the Museum, is the Porte de Brisach (1687), a relic of the old fortifications. From the Porte de Brisach a street runs round the ramparts to the imposing Lion of Belfort hewn from red Vosges sandstone by Bartholdi in 1875-1880 to commemorate the siege of 1870-1871.

Dole, France

Dole (pop. 28,000), situated just above the junction of the Doubs with the Rhine-Rhône Canal, was the birthplace of Louis Pasteur, who left the town at the age of five. The house in Rue Pasteur (formerly Rue des Tanneurs) in which he was born is now a museum, with mementos of his parents and displays illustrating his scientific achievements. Other features of interest in the town are the church of Notre-Dame (16th C.; tower 75m/245ft high), 15th-18th C. houses in the old part of the town around the church, the Hôtel de Froissard (16th-17th C.), an old Carmelite convent and the former Jesuit Collège de l'Arc, now a school and museum of painting.

Maison Natale de Pasteur

The birthplace of Louis Pasteur has been turned into a museum that gives a summary of Pasteur's career.
Address: 43 rue Pasteur, F-39100 Dole, France

Poligny, France

Poligny (pop. 4,518), lying in a rich agricultural region, is noted for its Gruyère cheese. The church of St-Hippolyte has fine 15th C. statues of the Burgundian school. Behind the church is a convent of Poor Clares founded in 1415. In the Grande Rue are handsome old houses with carved doors (17th C.). The church of Monthier-Vieillard, which dates in part from the 11th C., has an altar of 1534, a 14th C. Crucifixion group and sculpture of the 13th and 15th centuries.
There is a Cheese Museum illustrating the processes of cheese production.

Chateau de Voltaire, Ferney-Voltaire, France

7km/4mi northwest of Le Lignon, in French territory (bus services, on a road which passes under the runways of Cointrin airport in a tunnel), is Ferney-Voltaire (pop. 2,000), once a potters' town. To the west of the little town is the château which Voltaire acquired in 1758 and later enlarged, where he held court until shortly before his death (mementos). Above the former chapel is the inscription "Deo erexit Voltaire". In front of the Town Hall is a statue of Voltaire by Lambert.


Salins-les-Bains, in the narrow valley of the Furieuse, is noted for its brine springs, which were already being exploited in Roman times and are still used for medicinal purposes. A tour of the workings, 250 m/820ft underground, is an impressive experience. The town still preserves remains of its old walls. The church of St-Anatole (13th C.) is a fine example of Burgundian Gothic. In the 18th C. Town Hall is the 17th C. chapel of Notre-Dame-la-Libératrice.

Baume-les-Messieurs, France

The village of Baume-les-Messieurs, picturesquely situated at an altitude of 320m/1,050ft under a chalk cliff, grew up round an abbey founded by the Irish monk Columban in the sixth C. The famous abbey of Cluny was founded by Benedictine monks from here in 910. The Romanesque-Gothic church (12th-15th C.) has a beautiful Flemish triptych (16th C.) as well as fine sculpture and a number of tombs.

Baume-les-Messieurs Caves

The Grotte de Baume-les-Messieurs has been opened to the public since the late 19th C but did not operate officially until 1929. The cave is 120m long and filled with thousands of stalagmites and stalactites, and even waterfalls.

Cirque des Baumes

Three km/2mi south of Baume-les-Messieurs is the Cirque des Baumes, with an interesting cave.

Ornans, France

Ornans (pop. 4,300), in the valley of the Loue, was the birthplace of the painter Gustave Courbet (1819-1877); the house in which he was born is now a museum. It is an attractive little town, with old houses and a 12th C. church, originally Romanesque, which was altered and enlarged in the 16th and 17th centuries and is richly furnished.

Baume-les-Dames, France

Baume-les-Dames (pop. 5,407), formerly called Baume-les-Nonnes, owes its name to a convent founded in the seventh C. for ladies of noble birth. The old abbey church has been restored. The church of St-Martin, in the Place de la République, was rebuilt in the 17th C.

Molain - Moidons Caves

The Grottes des Moidons were discovered in 1966 and opened to the public in 1989. They are located in a nature reserve in the Jurassian forest, with numerous rooms and galleries. There are gigantic stalagmites and columns as well as pools and even a light and sound show.

Pontarlier, France

Pontarlier (pop. 18,357), close to the Swiss frontier, is of more interest as a center from which to explore the surrounding area than for its own sights - a triumphal arch, the Porte St-Pierre, the church of St-Bénigne (originally 15th C., rebuilt in 17th C.) and a chapel.

Arbois - Planches Cave

The Grotte des Planches was inhabited in prehistoric times and still contains remains from the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods and the Bronze Age. The cave has numerous galleries with a series of laces and giant cauldrons.


The industrial town of Audincourt (pop. 15,537) on the Doubs has an interesting modern church (by Novarina, 1951) with stained glass windows by Fernand Léger and mosaics by Bazaine.

Divonne-les-Bains, France

Divonne-les-Bains, situated between the Jura and Lake Geneva, is an important spa, with springs (6.5°C/43.7°F) which were once used by the Romans. Divonne has a racecourse and a golf course.

Divonne Festival

This annual two-week festival takes place in late June and includes various concerts of chamber music, ranging from solo performances to chamber orchestras and string quartets. There are usually 15 organized events, all of which take place at the 19th C Theater.
Address: T.T.H., F-01220 Divonne-les-Bains, France


Gex (alt. 628m/2,060ft; pop. 3,200), 12km/7.5mi below the Col de la Faucille, is a popular medium-altitude resort, conveniently close to the mountains and to Geneva. From Place Gambetta there is a fine view of Mont Blanc.

Nozeroy, France

The picturesquely situated little place of Nozeroy (pop. 450) has preserved its old-world aspect, with two town gates, a 15th C. church, old houses in the Grande Rue and the Clock Gate, the last relic of the Château des Chalons.

Jura Region

The region of Jura features a number of grape varieties that cannot be found anywhere else in France, including the black Poulsard, Trousseau and the Savagnin.

Château d'Arlay

The Château d'Arlay was built in classical style in the 17th C. It originally served as a monastery in the village of Arlay, but was renovated in 1830. Today it is a museum and one of the best estates of the Jura.

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