The Jura is one of France’s delightful, undiscovered regions. Part of Burgundy-Franche-Comté, it offers leafy forests and rivers in the northern part, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and wonderful vineyards producing the distinctive Jura wines, lakes and low mountain ranges and finally the attractive ski resorts of the Haut Jura.
If you're coming from the U.S.A. you'll probably fly to Paris. From here, either take the TGV high speed train from Paris Gare de Lyon to Dole (2 hours) and hire a car, or drive from Paris. The distance from Paris to Dole is about 370 kms (230 miles), taking around 3 hours 20 mins depending on your speed. There are tolls on the autoroutes.
If you are coming from the U.K. there are two ways to get to the Jura. Take your car and the ferry across the Channel. The drive from Calais to Dole in the Jura is around 610 kms (380 miles) and takes around 5 hours 20 minutes. The best route avoids Paris and goes through Champagne via Reims and Troyes.
Jura shares a border with Switzerland to the south east and the east and the mountain range in Switzerland is also called Jura. Jura is very close to Burgundy, so if you're on a wine trip it makes a great extra after exploring the wines of the Cote d'Or. Being close to Beaune, Jura is also a good addition to a sightseeing vacation.
Cities in the Jura
Jura has many delightful small towns and beautiful villages, all within an easy distance of each other.
- Dole is a pretty neo-classical town classified a Ville d’Art et d’Histoire (Town of Art and History) where Louis Pasteur was born.
- Lons-le-Saunier. The Capital of Jura is a quiet spa town with grand townhouses and public buildings. Clocks on the theater in the attractive place de la Liberte chime out the beginning of La Marseillaise (the most famous citizen of Lons, Rouget de Lisle, composed the anthem during the early 1790s in Revolutionary France). The town also has La Maison de la Vache qui Rit museum dedicated to the locally produced, but internationally famous, Laughing Cow cheese.
- Arbois is the wine capital of Jura. It has a good selection of gourmet restaurants and food shops and the family home of Louis Pasteur.
- Salins-les-Bains is a spa town with a famous saltworks museum and two great fortresses protecting it.
- Château-Chalon, perched high up on a cliff is one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France (Most Beautiful villages in France). On the route known as the Routes des Vins du Jura, it’s known for the vineyards tht first produced vin jaune, the Jura specialism.
- Poligny at the south end of the Culée de Vaux valley is the cheese capital of Franche-Comté with four top fromageries (cheese shops) in the town.
Jura beckons with a beautiful rolling landscape, great sports and a top gourmet reputation.
- Outdoor sports from swimming and canoeing, kayaking and walking to the family ski resort of Les Rousses on the Swiss border, with downhill and cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing and tobogganing.
- Beautiful villages with old abbeys like Baume-les-Messieurs, designated a ‘Plus Beau Village de France’.
- Small spa towns with good treatments.
- Wine Tourism: The Jura is known for its excellent AOC wines, but especially for its vin jaune. The Tourist Office produces a good map with wine routes marked and wine-tasting cellars. If you're near Arbois, we recommend the Domaine de la Pinte which produces bio dynamic wines which you can taste before buying.
- The Food of the Jura makes another great reason to visit. Bresse poultry is world famous and the only poultry with an AOC distinction (since 1957). Cheese include Comté, the king of the Jura mountains, Morbier from small-scale farmers and Le Bleu de Gex, mild and ivory and blue. The Laughing Cow, first produced in 1921, is not gourmet but international. France's top chocolate makers include Hirsinger in Arbois.
The region is packed with things to see and do, including:
- The Great Saltworks at Salins-les-Bains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- The Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans, a remarkable collection of industrial buildings and another UNESCO World Heritage Site
- The Fort des Rousses Comté maturing cellar housed in the second largest military fort in France. You can take a tour to see where over 50,000 rounds of cheese are matured.
- The box-canyon at Baume-les-Messieurs with its waterfall and underground lake.
Where to Stay
There’s every kind of accommodation in Jura, from upmarket bed and breakfasts to delightful hotels including:
- Grand Hotel des Bains right in the middle of Salins-les-Bains with a good restaurant and direct access to the heated saltwater pool and main spa.
- Au Moulin des Ecorces is located in a former mill just outside the center of Dole with a wonderful view of the town.
- La Chaumière is just 3 kilometers outside the center of Dole, this Michelin-starred restaurant with rooms deserves its reputation.
- Domaine du Val de Sorne, just south of Lons-le-Saunier, is a golf resort hotel in Vernantois in its own grounds and surrounded by hills and vineyards, an 18-hole course and a 6-hole pitch and put.
- Chateau de Germigny at Port Lesnay. Once the hunting lodge of the marquis, and a hotel since 1830, this is one of the top hotels in Jura with large, individually decorated rooms and a renowned restaurant. South of Besancon, it’s ideal for Salins-les-Bains, Arbois and the various grottoes in the area.