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Regions of France - Franche-Comté

Venture across to Eastern France on the border of Switzerland and you'll find Franche-Comté. This delightful region shares much of its architecture, cuisine and culture with its Swiss neighbour.

Between the Vosges mountain range in the north and the Jura range to the south, you'll discover rolling cultivated fields, dense pine forest and impressive ramparts. While they may not be as majestic as the Alps, the Jura mountains are more accessible and are France's first cross-country skiing area. It's also a superb place to hike with beautiful nature trails on the more gentle slopes.

The main cities are Belfort, Montbéliard and the capital of Franche-Comté, Besançon. One of the highlights of this historic city is the Besançon Citadel featuring a magnificent fortress. It's said that construction of this imposing masterpiece was so costly that Louis XIV asked if the walls had been made out of gold. The leading tourist attraction in Franche-Comté in terms of visitor numbers, it was voted "Tourist Site of the Year" by the Ministry of Tourism in 2003.

In terms of townscapes, Besançon is one of the hidden jewels of France. The city centre escaped much of the insensitive development that plagued the historic quarters of many other French cities in the 19th and 20th centuries. You'll find lots of old stone-built houses, with a fine selection of 18th century urban residences. The town boasts the oldest, and one of the finest, public art galleries in France, with an impressive collection of old masters and 19th century French art, earning it the nickname of the "petit Louvre".

The region of Franche Comté is famous for its agricultural products, notably smoked sausages and the famous "Comté" cheese which is similar to Swiss Gruyère. The cheese making industry in the region is large and lucrative with 40 million tons of cheese produced each year. Much of it is made by fruitières, the traditional cheese dairies of Franche-Comté.

The region is also well known as France's watchmaking area – no surprise with Switzerland right next door. Franche Comté is also the home of France's optical glasses and spectacle industry. In the north, the area around the towns of Montbéliard and Belfort is the heartland of the region's most famous company, Peugeot, which has a major production unit at Sochaux.

Franche-Comté has been the birthplace of many famous people who have made the region's history as varied as its landscapes: Louis Pasteur recognised for his exceptional discoveries in microbiology and vaccinations; Victor Hugo, the acclaimed French author and the Peugeot family, famous for .. well .. for Peugeots.