Besançon, the capital of France-Compte, is a beautiful old city nestling at the foot of a towering promontory, Mount St Etienne, at the top of which lies Le Citadel. This site, nominated a World Heritage site in 2008 was the original conception of Vauban, the military architect.
A quarter of a million visitors pass through the historic gateway each year, many of whom will have climbed the 200+ steps up the side of the cliff. (There are buses from the town though!)
The zoo within the Citadel houses a diverse population, including an insectarium, aquarium, vivarium and climatorium.
There is also a pedagogical exhibit on evolution, a well stocked botanical garden and a children’s farm together with restaurant and shops. You could easily spend a day within the confines of the Citadel.
The zoo places an emphasis on the conservation of threatened species, in particular big cats, primates and birds (around 30 tropical or aquatic species). Other species included in over 400 animals housed there incude Visayan warty pigs, spotted deer, rock wallabies and red kangaroo. I’m not a fan of zoos of any kind, but the animals here are housed in fairly large planted enclosures.
If you do make a visit, it’s worth spending a while in some of the very interesting museums, one of which features artefacts, letters and photographs relating to the work of the resistance movement and the deportation activities which took place in the southern part of France during the last world war.
And whatever you do, be sure to take your camera to capture the spectacular views.