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An aerial view of Belfort with the Cathedral of Saint-Christophe in the foreground
An aerial view of Belfort with the Cathedral of Saint-Christophe in the foreground
Coat of arms of Belfort
Location of Belfort
Belfort is located in France
Belfort is located in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté
Coordinates: 47°38′N 6°51′E / 47.64°N 6.85°E / 47.64; 6.85Coordinates: 47°38′N 6°51′E / 47.64°N 6.85°E / 47.64; 6.85
DepartmentTerritoire de Belfort
Canton3 cantons
IntercommunalityCA Grand Belfort
 • Mayor (2020–2026) Damien Meslot
17.10 km2 (6.60 sq mi)
 (Jan. 2018)[1]
 • Density2,700/km2 (7,100/sq mi)
 • Urban
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
90010 /90000
Dialling codes0384
Elevation354–650 m (1,161–2,133 ft)
(avg. 358 m or 1,175 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

Belfort (French: [bɛlfɔʁ] (About this soundlisten); archaic German: Beffert/Beffort) is a commune in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region in Northeastern France, situated between Lyon and Strasbourg, approximately 25 km (16 mi) from the France–Switzerland border. It is the prefecture of the Territoire de Belfort department.

Belfort is 400 km (250 mi) from Paris, 141 km (88 mi) from Strasbourg, 290 km (180 mi) from Lyon and 150 km (93 mi) from Zürich. The residents of the city are called "Belfortains". The city is located on the river Savoureuse, on a strategically important natural route between the Rhine and the Rhône – the Belfort Gap (Trouée de Belfort) or Burgundian Gate (Porte de Bourgogne). It is located approximately 16 km (10 mi) south from the base of the Ballon d'Alsace mountain range, source of the Savoureuse. The city of Belfort has 47,656 inhabitants (2017).[2] Together with Montbéliard, Héricourt, Delle and their suburbs and satellite towns, Belfort forms the largest agglomeration (metropolitan area) in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region with an urban population of 308,601 inhabitants.[3]


25 November 1944: a French woman exclaims to neighbor and American soldier: "Tout Belfort est libre" (All Belfort is free).

Belfort's strategic location, in a natural gap between the Vosges and the Jura, on a route linking the Rhine and the Rhône, has attracted human settlement since Roman times, and has also made it a frequent target for invading armies many times in its history.

The site of Belfort was inhabited in Gallo-Roman times. Later, it was heavily settled by Germanic peoples during the Germanic migrations, most notably the Burgundians, who settled in the region after the Gallo-Roman inhabitants had been displaced. It was subsequently recorded in the 13th century as a possession of the counts of Montbéliard, who granted it a charter in 1307.

Previously an Austrian possession, Belfort was transferred to France by the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), which ended the Thirty Years' War. The town's fortifications were extended and developed by the military architect Vauban for Louis XIV.

Franco-Prussian War[edit]

Until 1871, Belfort was part of the département of Haut-Rhin, in Alsace. The Siege of Belfort (between 3 November 1870 and 18 February 1871) during the Franco Prussian war was successfully resisted by the French until the garrison was ordered to surrender 21 days after the armistice between France and Prussia ended the war. The region was not annexed by Prussia like the rest of Alsace was. It was exchanged for territories in the vicinity of Metz. It formed, as it still does, the Territoire de Belfort. The siege is commemorated by a huge statue, the Lion of Belfort, by Frédéric Bartholdi. Alsatians not wanting to live under German rule in annexed Alsace and who wanted a French life and home in Belfort made a significant contribution to Belfort and French industry (see Société Alsacienne de Constructions Mécaniques) after 1872.

World War One[edit]

The town was bombarded by the German Army during World War I.[4] Before the war, the September Programme of German Imperial Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, pressed for expansionist aims of French territory, specifically advocated the annexation of the Belfort region along with the western side of the Vosges Mountains.[5]

World War Two[edit]

After the 1940 Battle of France with the German victory, Belfort fell within the Nazi German occupation zone. In November 1944, the retreating Wehrmacht held off the French First Army outside the town until French Commandos made a successful night attack on the Salbert Fort. Belfort was liberated on 22 November 1944.

1892 Paris-Belfort running race[edit]

On 5 June 1892, Le Petit Journal organised a foot-race from Paris to Belfort, a course of over 380 km (240 mi), the first large-scale long-distance running race on record. Over 1,100 competitors registered for the event and over 800 started from the offices of Le Petit Journal, at Paris Opera. This had also been the start point for the inaugural Paris–Brest–Paris cycle-race the previous year. The newspaper's circulation dramatically increased as the French public followed the progress of race participants, 380 of whom completed the course in under ten days. In Le Petit Journal on 18 June 1892, Pierre Giffard praised the event as a model for the physical training of a nation faced by hostile neighbours. The event was won by Constant Ramoge in 100 hours, 5 minutes.[6][7]


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
1793 4,593—    
1800 4,400−0.61%
1806 4,210−0.73%
1821 4,738+0.79%
1831 5,753+1.96%
1836 5,687−0.23%
1841 5,617−0.25%
1846 6,664+3.48%
1851 7,847+3.32%
1856 7,510−0.87%
1861 8,101+1.53%
1866 8,400+0.73%
1872 8,030−0.75%
1876 15,173+17.24%
1881 19,336+4.97%
1886 22,181+2.78%
1891 25,455+2.79%
1896 28,715+2.44%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1901 32,567+2.55%
1906 34,649+1.25%
1911 39,371+2.59%
1921 39,301−0.02%
1926 40,516+0.61%
1931 42,511+0.97%
1936 45,625+1.42%
1946 37,387−1.97%
1954 43,434+1.89%
1962 48,070+1.28%
1968 53,214+1.71%
1975 54,615+0.37%
1982 51,206−0.92%
1990 50,125−0.27%
1999 50,417+0.06%
2007 51,327+0.22%
2012 50,102−0.48%
2017 47,656−1.00%
Source: EHESS[8] and INSEE (1968-2017)[9]


Belfort is a centre for heavy engineering industries, mostly dedicated to railways and turbines. Belfort is the hometown of Alstom where the first TGVs (Trains à Grande Vitesse, High Speed Trains) were produced, as well as hosting the GE Power European headquarters and a centre of excellence for the manufacturing of gas turbines.


"All united for Belfort." Demonstration for Alstom against the loss of 6,500 jobs.
Belfort in the road and train network of Franche-Comté


Like many other European cities, the volume of road traffic in Belfort continues to increases and dominates transport.[10] Belfort is situated at only 25 mi (40 km) from the commercial port of Mulhouse-Rhin which allows international trade. The motorway A36 from Beaune to Mulhouse follows a route to the south and east of the city, and forms the main axis linking Belfort to other French and European cities. N19 is another major route which joins the south of Belfort with Paris, Nancy and Switzerland.


EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg is located about 60 km (37 mi) east of Belfort (1 hour drive).

Rail links[edit]

SNCF station of Belfort-Ville

Belfort is well connected with the rest of France, with direct connections by train to major destinations such as Paris, Dijon, Besançon, Mulhouse, Strasbourg, Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier and Lille, including high-speed trains. Some trains operate into Switzerland, such as Basel and Zürich stations. There is also a train service to Frankfurt am Main in Germany.

Regional services connect Belfort to Montbéliard, Besançon, Mulhouse, Vesoul, Épinal and Nancy.

From 2017, regional trains will connect Belfort with Belfort-Montbéliard TGV station using the new Belfort–Delle railway link. This service will link Belfort and the surrounding area to Switzerland, and the high-speed train link will connect Swiss towns such as Delémont, Bern, Fribourg and Lausanne to Paris and other cities.[11] Before 2020, the service Épinal-Belfort will be electrified and modernized. This will allow a link between LGV Est and LGV Rhin-Rhône in Belfort-Montbéliard TGV station, opening new destinations like Nancy, Metz and Luxembourg.[12]

Local transport[edit]

Cyclists in Belfort

A local bus network Optymo operates within Belfort ( Tickets can be bought from any newsagent in the city, or a bus passenger can send a sms 'BUS' to 84100 and show the confirmation sms as a ticket.

Cycling tracks[edit]

The region of Belfort already offers around 70 km (43 mi) of cycling tracks with more under construction. Visit the local tourist office for information on the latest additions including the 'Coulée verte' to the west, malsaucy-giromany to the north and the Euro Velo 6 about 20 km (12 mi) to the south. There are many organised cycling events, offering the opportunity for people to explore the area in the company of an official guide.


The Belfort Synagogue erected in 1857
  • Belfort is the home of the Lion of Belfort, a sculpture (that expressed people's resistance against the siege in the Franco-Prussian War (1870)) by Frédéric Bartholdi – who shortly afterwards built the Statue of Liberty in New York.
  • The Belfort Citadel – A unique example of Vauban pentagonal fortifications
  • The Belfort Cathedral, 18th century
  • The Belfort Synagogue erected in 1857
  • The old town
  • The Belfort city museums feature three main areas:
    • History (from archeology to military) in the old barracks on the top of the citadel.
    • Art (mainly from 16th to 19th century) in the Tour 41
    • Modern Art in the Donation Jardot
  • Since July 2007, the site of "La Citadelle de la Liberté", the citadel of Liberty has been open to the public – with a son et lumière animated trail in the moats and its big underground passage.
  • From the top of a tall building or going up the nearby mountains on a clear day, the ice-capped mountains of the Alps in Switzerland can be seen.
  • Grand souterrain de la citadelle de Belfort- the underground passage of Belfort Citadel.[13]



Belfort's best known cultural event is the annual Eurockéennes, one of France's largest rock music festivals.


FIMU in 2013.

Belfort is also well known for hosting the annual Festival International de Musique Universitaire (FIMU) held in May each year.[14] FIMU usually involves over 250 concerts at different locations around the city and around 2500 musicians, most of them students or amateur groups from countries across Europe and the rest of the world. Music styles performed are extremely diverse and include traditional, folk, rock, jazz, classical and experimental.



Belfort was the birthplace of:

International relations[edit]

Belfort is twinned with:[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Populations légales 2018". The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies. 28 December 2020.
  2. ^ Téléchargement du fichier d'ensemble des populations légales en 2017, INSEE
  3. ^ "Population légale 2009" (PDF). AUTB. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  4. ^ Catastrophe 1914, Europe Goes to War, Max Hastings, chapter 5, "Death with Flags and Trumpets", Knopf, New York, 2013.
  5. ^ "Bethmann Hollweg, Germany's War Aims". Retrieved 18 December 2019.
  6. ^ Randonneurs Ontario, Profile of Pierre Giffard
  7. ^ "La Marcha De Gran Fondo: Entre La Competicion Y El desafio, By Bernardo José Mora". Archived from the original on 26 September 2017. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  8. ^ Des villages de Cassini aux communes d'aujourd'hui: Commune data sheet Belfort, EHESS. (in French)
  9. ^ Population en historique depuis 1968, INSEE
  10. ^ "Mobilité et transports" (PDF). Agence d'Urbanisme du Territoire de Belfort (in French). 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  11. ^ "La liaison Belfort-Delle" (in French). Facs. 2009. Archived from the original on 18 June 2013. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  12. ^ "La liaison Épinal-Belfort" (in French). Facs. 2009. Archived from the original on 29 December 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  13. ^ La Citadelle de la Liberté, a new way of visiting Belfort's magnificent citadel Archived 2 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine (in French)
  14. ^ FIMU Music festival website (in French)
  15. ^ "Villes jumelées". (in French). Belfort. Retrieved 21 November 2019.

External links[edit]