Welcome to Briançon ! The place we chose as our home since we opted to put on hold our nomadic lives.
In this article, I want to share with you some of the best things to do in Briançon.
The city is commonly refered as the highest town in Europe, sitting at 1,300m. The main advantage of living here is all the possibilities offers in terms of sports. There’s just so much to choose from! We are also thrilled by the quality of life to educate our two sons. What a nice environment to grow in!
Many tourists are flocking to explore this unique place, and if that’s your case, you might wonder how to plan your trip here. Don’t worry, I got you covered to make sure you won’t be bored while in town! Check out this list of the best things to do in Briançon.
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Hiking might be the most popular activity for tourists and locals alike. The surroundings offer countless opportunities while the city’s location allows hikers to choose between different mountain ranges, such as the Queyras, the Ecrins’ massif or the Cerces’ massif. These three ranges all possess a rather diverse landscape and vegetation from one another, giving you the feeling to wander around three totally different locations despite their geographical proximity.
Don’t be surprised if you witness many trail runners on the paths as it is a rather common pastime around here, and who knows you might even see me training on one of the numerous trails!
You want to hike in Briançon but you don’t know where to go ? Check our article on the best hikes around the city !
Have more time? Looking for things to do in Briançon more physically demanding? What about thru-hiking the Queyras’ mountain range? I wrote about my experience right here.
Visiting the Old Town (Cité Vauban)
Did you know that the Old Town, called Cité Vauban in French, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site?
No visit of the area would be complete without taking a stroll around the hilly old town. The city even offers frequent guided tours if you’re keen to learn more about the rich past of Briançon. Despite the small alleys being overcrowded with tourists during the peak seasons (summer holidays as well as the month of February), it’s a perfect activity to recover from your strenuous hikes and you can definitely wander off the most touristic areas if you’re curious enough.
The Cité Vauban is the medieval part of the city. Its name come from Vauban, a French military engineer from the 17th century who built several fortresses around France under King Louis XIV. If that’s your thing, there’s another citadel located a mere 30-minute drive away, in Mont-Dauphin.
Wandering around the old town is definitely one of the best things to do in Briançon, and make sure you don’t miss the marvelous 300-year-old Asfeld bridge right next to the fortifications!
Briançon is part of the Serre Chevalier ski resort, unanimously celebrated as one of the top ten resorts in France with its 61 lifts and 80 kilometers of slopes. There’s a ski lift, le Prorel, picking up skiers right from the city center to bring them up to 2400 meters of altitude in just fifteen minutes.
Generally open from December to April, the resort welcomes skiers of all levels, with plenty of ski schools, restaurants, winter sports rental shops, accommodation and everything you need to have a great time here.
Thousands of visitors come every year to enjoy the slopes, so I can’t help but recommend skiing as one of the best things to do in Briançon.
Enjoy the Alpine local food
Briançon is nestled in the southern part of the Alps mountains in a rather remote location. The area and the rest of the Alps developed its unique cuisine throughout centuries thanks to the isolated location of these mountains villages.
You can expect to taste a lot of milk and dairy products, such as the popular raclette dish, as well as the popular dried & smoked meat found everywhere in the Alps. Due to the influx of settlers from all over France, you can also expect to find classic French cuisine served in popular restaurants.
There’s also a local market in Briançon on Wednesday and Sunday mornings, called Marché couvert du 15/9 located in the Rue Général Coulaud. A perfect place to buy local and italian specialities, thanks to the overwhelming presence of italian sellers.
Climbing is definitely not my main cup of tea, but I met several friends bragging about how Briançon is a great place to climb. So great, that the city organizes every year Le Mondial de l’Escalade, a climbing competition part of the World Tour.
During the winter, I can’t help but notice the numerous practitioners of ice climbing, an impressive feat consisting of climbing a frozen nearby waterfall.
Take a break in the Public Library…
A new public library has been built just a few years ago, moving into a brand-new sizeable building. With computers, child books, comics, numerous books on Briançon and much more, spending time in the library can be a great thing to do in Briançon.
Check out their opening hours on the city’s website if you’re interested in paying a visit.
You can also create a library card for free (!!) and borrow as many as five books if you’re in the area for longer.
…or in the local games library
Do you enjoy playing board games? We’re lucky in Briançon, because we can also find a Ludothèque, a games library, to play our favorite board games with fellow enthusiasts.
There’s also a whole area for babies and kids to play. We often bring our kids there to spend their energy and play with an endless amount of toys.
As of 2023, the place is open to public all day on Wednesday, as well as Saturday morning. You can find more information on their website “Au coin du jeu”.
Briançon is an integral part of the Tour de France’s legend. Many stages have started and finished in the area, and it will be the case again in 2022, with a stage ending in the Col du Granon (10-kilometer away from the city), and starting in Briançon the next day.
With iconic passes such as the Col de l’Izoard (2,362m) or the Col du Galibier (2,642m), it’s no wonder why you’ll notice plenty of cyclists during the warmer months. La vallée de la Clarée is a popular destination for a ride without much height difference and difficulties, that is if you can bear the insane car trafic during the summer months.
The Park of La Schappe
La Schappe is the main park of the city and the municipality offers several free activities throughout the year. For instance in the winter, you can rent a pair of ice skates to practice on the frozen lake (don’t worry, it’s safe!) or some cross-country skis to roam around the park. Renting is free and you don’t even need to leave a deposit. Of course, don’t expect to find a state-of-the-art material.
You can also bring a sledge to have fun on the small hill and join the numerous local kids enjoying the snow.
During the summer, kids can enjoy the tree climbing activities near the back of the park, while adults have a dedicated area nearby offering diverses activities such as outdoor paintball, minigolf and a via ferrata.
Have a day trip in Italy
The border with Italy is only located fifteen minutes away from Briançon. The ski village of Clavieres is located just after the border, while Torino is less than two hours away if you’re planning a bigger trip.
The proximity of Italy makes it ideal to have a day trip in another country, while being able to shop some local products and get a taste of the famous Italian food during this excursion.
Bonus: More Things to do in Briançon
If this list wasn’t enough, I’m giving you even more things to do in Briançon to make sure you enjoy your time here !
- Skate in the ice rink
- Have a swim at the swimming pool
- Go camping in the surrounding mountains
- Mountain biking
Got more suggestions after your trip here? Share with us!
Hope this list will help you to find things to do in Briançon! There’s just so much to do that I believe you can’t be bored here, especially if you enjoy sports. Feel free to reach out to us if you have more questions or need something more specific while in town.