Briançon is located in the Hautes-Alpes department at an altitude of 1,326 meters. It is the highest town in the European Union. In order to protect the town, various military structures were built between the 18th and 20th centuries: the Fort des Salettes, the Fort des Trois Têtes and the Fort du Randouillet. The town was fortified by Vauban in the 18th century, and art and history are today an integral part of its heritage. The town is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The heart of Briançon is in the picturesque citadel of Vauban, at the foot of the castle. There you can admire its various historical monuments such as Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame, the Church of the Cordeliers, the colorful old houses, Place d’Armes or the fountains and sundials that decorate the alleys.
The town comes alive each year to the rhythm of its events which include the Altitude Jazz Festival, the medieval festival and the Offenbachiades.
In winter, Briançon turns into a real ski resort. Particularly popular, it is part of Serre Chevalier Vallée. The ski area is located at the gates of the Écrins National Park, dominated by Mont Prorel. Its geographic location, close to the Italian border on one side and Provence on the other side, makes it a special place.
The exceptional natural environment of Briançon allows you to practice many outdoor sports such as hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, paragliding, canoeing, rafting and skiing in winter. Briançon is one of the ski resort towns with more than 1,000 km of slopes.
You can also, during your stay in the mountains, discover the nearby tourist destinations such as Le Monêtier-les-Bains, Saint-Chaffrey, Montgenèvre and the Queyras Regional Nature Park.
Collegiate Church of Notre Dame
Collegiate Church of Notre Dame is classified as a historical monument. Dating from the 18th century, it was built under the supervision of Vauban to replace an old parish church destroyed during the construction of the ramparts. The building consists of two twin towers. One of them has a baroque sundial, one of the most beautiful in the Alps, and the other one has a clock. The monument combines classical French architecture with Italian influences.
Fort des Salettes
Fort des Salettes is located on the heights of Briançon, at an altitude of 1,538 meters. It was built to protect the town from the Italian enemy troops. Vauban drew the plans during the 18th century. Inspired by medieval towers, the building can accommodate a hundred people on two levels. In the middle of the 19th century, the fort was reinforced with a bastioned enclosure, bunkers and a gunpowder magazine. Today the Fort is well preserved. The decorations with the royal coats of arms can still be seen. The building is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Network of Vauban’s Major Sites.
The Briançon Mine Museum houses three permanent exhibitions on country mining, the geology of the coalfields and the fossils of the coal of Briançon. Every year, temporary exhibitions are organized to recount the history of the Briançon region, which is strongly marked by mining. During your visit, you can also discover models of country mines, mining objects, an interactive terminal to learn more about the mines, canals, ovens and geological games for young and old alike.
Contemporary Art Center
The Contemporary Art Center is located in the former prisons of the law court of Cité Vauban, a listed historical monument. On 300 m², various contemporary works are exhibited. The museum is spread over three levels which combine modern and old with metal structures and old stones. The program is divided into two main exhibition periods: summer and winter. Various temporary exhibitions are organized to showcase art in all its forms: painting, poetry, etc.
Maison des Templiers
Facing Collegiate Church of Notre Dame, Maison des Templiers (house of the Templars) was in the Middle Ages occupied by the commandery of the Knights Templar. It is located at the corner of Place du Temple and Rue du Temple. Built in the 16th century in a style reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance, the façade of the building consists of various windows, with curved and triangular pediments. On some of the keystones, we can still see the mottos of the former Abbey of Oulx, which left a strong impression on the Briançonnais. Today, the monument houses the Tourist Office.
- Tourist Office of Briançon: https://www.serre-chevalier.com/
- Road service: N94 national road (from Italy or Gap), A51 Highway (from Marseille), D1091 secondary road (from Grenoble)
- Air access: Turin Airport (1 hour and 30 minutes), Lyon Saint Exupéry Airport (3 hours)
- Railroad access: train station