The origins of the sleepy little spa town and departmental capital of Lons-le-Saunier date back to Roman times, although most of the town was destroyed by a fire in the early seventeenth century, and much of the old town you see today dates mainly from the 1700s. Lons was once a major, and very prosperous, centre for winemaking and salt production, and the legacy of this era can still be seen in the grand townhouses and public buildings. These days it’s a rather quiet place, but there’s a handful of sights worth spending a lazy afternoon looking over. A good day to visit is Thursday, as that’s when people from all over roll into town for the enormous market.
The ideal place to start your tour of the town is the sunny place de la Liberté, where the theatre clock at the eastern end chimes a familiar half-dozen notes from La Marseillaise to honour Lons’ most famous citizen, Rouget de Lisle; he composed the anthem during his time as a campaigner in the French revolutionary army during the early 1790s.