Haute-Saône is one of the four departments which comprise the Franche-Comté region in eastern France. In terms of population, Haute-Saône is a small department with just over 230,000 inhabitants. The department is named after the Saône River which flows through more than 100 km of the department. Haute-Saône is a beautiful rural department famous for its scenery, and its location is very close to France's eastern border. This means that the department is ideally located for tourists who would like easy access to countries such as Germany and Switzerland.
The department was one of the original 83 departments of France which was created during the French Revolution in 1790. Like the other departments in France, Haute-Saône has a rich history and this is easy to notice from the number of castles, museums, churches and fountains it is home to. It is interesting to note that Haute-Saône was one of the ten most industrialised departments in France at the beginning of the 19th century. Even today, the department has been able to carry on some of the crafts it was famous for back then, such as lace making and glass blowing.
With a maritime climate, the weather in Haute-Saône tends to be similar to that of the UK. During the summer it is often hot and sunny, but cold throughout the rest of the year. The following table shows average temperatures across Haute-Saône:
Average temperatures in Haute-Saône
|Month||Minimum temperature (Celcius)||Maximum temperature (Celcius)|
Because Haute-Saône is a rural department, tourism is based around the beautiful natural scenery of the mountains, lakes and rivers. Countryside lovers will enjoy a visit to Pesmes which dominates the Ognon River and has been voted as one of the most beautiful villages in France. The areas in and around the towns of Pesmes, Gray and Melisey are designated "green resorts", which are protected areas of natural beauty. Similarly, it is well worth visiting "The Mille Etangs" otherwise known as the "Thousand Ponds" plateau. This is situated in the heart of the Vosges Saônoises and here you will find ponds formed by the disappearance of ice 12,000 years ago that are now surrounded by forests. Not only do they add to the fantastic landscape of Haute-Saône but they are also used for leisure activities such as fishing. For those who are more interested in historic architecture, a visit to the major city of Vesoul is not to be missed. The city itself is quiet but full of buildings from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, all located amongst the quaint alleyways which make this city famous. The department is full of so-called "fountains-laundries" which are present in nearly all of Haute-Saône's villages. These are historic monuments usually decorated with flowers and boasting incredible architecture.
Museums, galleries and culture
Like most other departments in France, Haute-Saône is abundant in museums and galleries. These include the "Notre-Dame-du-Haut" chapel which is one of the most famous museums in the region as well as a contemporary piece of artwork and a place of pilgrimage.
Because Haute-Saône is one of the most scenic departments in France, there is no shortage of beautiful walking routes for any ability. For the more serious hiker, the best place to visit is the regional natural reserve of the "Vosges Ballons", which covers four departments over the Vosges Massif mountain range. The summit is in the protected area of Haut-Rhin and is almost 1,500 metres high. The routes in this area will satisfy even the most adventurous hiker!
Haute-Saône is an ideal department to visit for those who love their water-sports. For example, the Vaivre Lake, which is 90 hectares in size, is situated 2km away from the major town of Vesoul and is perfect for nautical activities. Similarly, the great river of Saône, after which this department is named, is ideal for fishing and other leisure activities such as boating, canoeing, swimming and sailing.
Those who like their relaxation will be pleased to know that Haute-Saône is not without its health resorts. A particularly good place to visit is Luxeuil-les-Bains, famous for its thermal waters.
Food and drink
Food and drink in Haute-Saône tends to be rich and warming. Being similar to the cuisine from the alpine region of Savoie and Switzerland, it tends to be bolstering mountain food. Fondue, raclette, tartiflette and Pauchouse, a freshwater fish stew, are the most famous regional recipes.
The dishes centre mainly around the same theme; they are based on local cheeses (Morbier, Vacherin du Haute-Doubs, Comte, Raclette, Cancoillote and Bleu de Gex), potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage, morel mushrooms and bacon (also look out for the Luxeuil ham). The most famous local wine is Fougerolles Kirsch liquor, which also features in some of the dishes.
Ease of access
The department is easily accessible by plane, train and bus. Internationally, Air France operates numerous flights from various destinations into Haute-Saône. There are also numerous trains which is the method of choice for tourists and residents alike. The trains are not only frequent and efficient, passing through most of the cities hourly, but they are also a good way of viewing the local scenery. For those on a budget, there is an abundance of local buses which, though slower, are still easy to use throughout the department.
Value for money
Haute-Saône is a brilliant department to visit for those on a low budget. This is because most of its appeal lies in its scenery which can be reached via public transport. The museums have a very small entrance fee, if any at all, and the food is cheap, especially if purchasing local produce.
All in all, Haute-Saône is a welcoming, well-located and beautiful department which contains something for everyone. It is a department rich in history and architecture, but it still has modern facilities for children or those keen on sports. The beautiful landscape made of mountains, lakes and forests is refreshing for anyone who wants to get out of the busier cities and enjoy a relaxing break from it all.