Franche-Comté was an administrative region from 1986 to 2015.
It merged with Bourgogne in order to form Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, one of the 13 new regions created by the territorial reform that took effect on January 1, 2016.
It consists of 4 departments:
Doubs (25 – Besancon), Jura (39 – Lons-le-Saunier), Haute-Saône (70 – Vesoul) and Territoire de Belfort (90 – Belfort)
Its administrative centre or préfecture is Besançon.
Historic Franche-Comté corresponds approximately to the former Comté de Bourgogne and its capital was Besançon.
Its origins go back to the fall of the Roman Empire, when the Germanic tribe Burgundians, invaded the region.
However, the Franks annexed their kingdom in 534AD.
The region later became part of Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire.
The Comté de Bourgogne was only created with the Treaty of Verdun of 843AD.
This treaty indeed divided Charlemagne’s Empire into three kingdoms between his three grandsons.
The Comté de Bourgogne became officially known as Franche Comté de Bourgogne in 1478.
The origin of the name ‘Franche’ is unclear.
However, historians believe that it was because this region was exempt of tax when it was attached to the Holy Roman Empire.
France annexed Franche Comté de Bourgogne in 1678.
The province of France-Comté was divided into 3 departments during the French Revolution: Doubs, Jura and Haute-Saône.
Landscapes and economy
Franche-Comté boasts a wide array of landscapes; the Jura mountain range in the south and the Vosges in the north.
The western side consists of two tablelands that slope towards the Doubs and Saône valleys.
The region has the largest fir forest in Europe; it indeed covers 705 000 ha of land – 43% of the territory!
The common spruce and the white fir have therefore become the emblematic trees of Jura.
The large forest of beech and oak turn is the second largest deciduous forest of France.
As a result, Franche-Comté is the second wooded area of France.
The industrial sector is very active with the presence of Peugeot and Alstom, and represents one fifth of the regional GDP.
Cattle breeding, cereal and oil-seed crops and cheese production (4 AOC) are the flagship of local agriculture.
Finally, Franche-Comté is a much celebrated wine region and the only French region to produce 5 types of wines (reds, whites, rosés, ‘yellows’ and ‘straw or raisin’ wines).
Franche-Comté is an inland region and therefore has a prominent continental weather.
Summers are hot and winters cold and long because of the altitude; springs and autumns are mild and quite sunny.
Tourism focuses on cross-country skiing during the winter, and hiking and road and mountain cycling during summer.
The region indeed boasts several regional natural parks (Ballon des Vosges and Haut-Jura) but also peaks (Ballon d’Alsace and Mont d’Or), many lakes (Saint-Point, Vouglans and Plateau des Mille Etangs) and countless natural caves.
This border-region has many defense forts such as Fort de Joux, Fort de Belfort and the Citadel of Besançon, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
So are the Chapel of Ronchamp and La Saline Royale d’Arc-et-Senans (saltworks), two other architectural jewels.
These are only a breef insight into the cultural and architectural richness of this region.
How to get there?
Franche-Comté shares a border with French-speaking Switzerland and is close to Germany and Italy.
This geographical situation makes it an important economic crossroads.
The region therefore benefits from a large road network and has been served by the high-speed train line LGV Rhine-Rhône since 2011.
It only has one airport, Dole-Jura.
However, Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg International Airport is only 65 kilometers from Belfort and Geneva-Cointrin International Airport about 50kms from the south border.
Area: 6 202 km²
Population: 1 177 906 (2013)