An historic, UNESCO World Heritage city, beautifully fortified by Vauban, Briançon charms with its many facets. Here, winter sports, picturesque walks, and cultural escapes can be enjoyed in complete freedom.
Nature and Winter Sports
A great breath of fresh air
At a height of 1,326 metres, Briançon is second to Davos, Switzerland, as the highest town in Europe. The air here is pure, with the surrounding massifs spectacularly carved by the verdant Durance, Clarée, Guisane, Cerveyrette and Orceyrette Valleys. Here, mankind has always maintained close links to this raw and wild landscape and its diverse fauna and flora. To explore them, go to the Maison du Parc du Briançonnais. From the viewpoint at the Porte de la Durance gate, watch the river sparkle as it flows beneath you. In winter mode, grab your skis and snowboard and head to Serre-Chevalier. With its 410 hectares of signposted ski area, the resort is one of Europe’s biggest ski areas.
The Vauban Fortifications
A UNESCO Architectural Treasure
Briançon is inseparable from its fortifications that bear witness to its history. Under Louis XIV’s reign, the Kingdom of France was at war against many European countries. The King called on Vauban, an engineer and military architect, to build fortifications in Dauphiné and Provence. The bastioned enclosure of Briançon, which reinforces its mediaeval walls, was built between 1692 and 1723. From the Chemin de Ronde Supérieure, which overlooks the Vauban city, admire the Forts des Salettes, des Trois-Têtes, du Randouillet, and d’Anjou plus the Fort Dauphin, which complete this architectural masterpiece, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.
In the Heart of History
A Stroll Scented with Alpine Authenticity
In Briançon, listed as a Ville d’Art et Histoire (City of Art and History) a charming and cultural world awaits you. Flower-lined streets with multi-coloured facades, sundials, little squares, fountains, frescoes, and sculpted wooden doors that will tempt you to log onto Instagram. As you stroll along the Grande Rue, the central artery of the old town, you’ll stumble upon one discovery after another. First, there’s the Fontaine des Soupirs (the Fountain of Sighs.) Then, at number 13, the curious Maison des Têtes [House of Heads]: its former owner had portraits of his family in local costume sculpted into the marble. On Place d’Armes, you can take a break at one of the numerous café terraces before visiting the former prisons of the Palais de Justice – now a contemporary art centre.