Many French villages vie for the term, “Little Venice”, and Ornans is known as the “Little Venice of the Franche Comte”. We spent an afternoon wandering around the canal side village on on our way to Dijon.
Houses over the water
The pretty village of Ornans was built in the sixth century, not far from the town of Besacon. As the birthplace of the famous painter and sculptor Gustave Courbet, it is easy to see how he drew inspiration from the picturesque surroundings. Courbet’s home is now a museum housing exhibits of his works. The local tourist centre can also provide a “Courbet Walk” map,
Rustic timber and stone houses overhang the water, reflected in the mirror-like surface of the river. Stopping to soak in the views, you can see locals fly fishing in the Loue River running through the village.
The Loue River is a popular spot for fishing and kayaking.
Our self guided tour map took us across 17th century stone bridges bedizened with spring flowers. Stone buildings were shuttered against the midday heat, as we wandered down chalky streets to explore the pretty little village which inspired Courbet’s work.
Private villas and mansions, some dating back to the 15th century line the narrow streets. Ancient fountains in village squares were quaint relics of the town’s history.
Church of Saint Laurant, Ornans
You cannot miss St Lawrence’s Church, with its 57 metre high 12th century spire.
The tower contains parts of the original 12th century Romanesque church, which was added to through the centuries. The church still retains some 17th century furniture and a sculpture attributed to the artist Bernini.
Roche du Mont
High on the hill above, The Roche du Mont, was once the site of the castle overlooking the town.
It served as a strategic vantage point during many wars and rebellions.
The castle was destroyed during the 17th century. All that remains today is a small chapel, with vegetation covering the ruins of the castle. A small hamlet now surrounds the former fortress.
Visiting during the middle of the day, the streets were deserted during the mid-day siesta.
After exploring the narrow alleyways of the picturesque village, we headed towards the riverside in quest of lunch. We were fortunate to find a small waterside cafe, where we could relax and enjoy a lunch of ice-cream sundaes.
Ornans was certainly a picturesque little stop-over on the road to Dijon.