Its Latin name was Vesontio.
The city's fortifications were upgraded by Vauban.
Famous people born in Besançon include:
- Victor Hugo (1802-1885) - Writer and poet
- Tristan Bernard (1866-1947) - Journalist and Humorist
- Hilaire de Chardonnet (1838-1924) - Inventor of artificial silk
- Charles Fourier (1772-1837) - Inventor of socialist "phalansteries" (vast communal buildings surrounded by a highly cultivated agricultural area)
- Claude Goudimel (1510-1572) - Musician, Teacher of Palestrina. Composer of the music for Protestant hymns
- Antoine Perrenot de Granvelle (1517-1586) - Cardinal, statesman and humanist. Counsellor of Charles V, Viceroy of Naples
- Auguste and Louis Lumiere, (1862-1954) and (1864-1948) - Inventors of cinematography
- Charles Nodier (1780-1844) - Writer. Leader of the Romantic movement
- Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865)- Journalist (Le Peuple) and author of world-renowned socialist theories
- Jean Claude Eugene Peclet, physicist, gave his name to the Péclet number
- Louis-Jean Résal (1854-1920) - Engineer who built the Pont Mirabeau and the Pont Alexandre III in Paris