(Continued from Page 1, French Wine Regions (With Map)
Beaune is in the Cote d'Or wine region of Burgundy. It is believed that the area around Beaune has produced wine since 300 AD. The Catholic church took over winemaking in the Middle Ages, finding that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay flourished in the varied microclimates of Burgundy. But the tide has turned and today you'll find wineries and hotels in restored monasteries.
The town of Beaune makes a fine hub from which to explore the burgundy region. The town is accessible from the A6 motorway from Paris to the north, or from Lyon to the south. Beaune is 40 km south of the Dijon airport.
- Hospice de Beaune - a system of charitable hospitals, the first called the Hôtel-Dieu, was born on 4 August 1443 after the Hundred Years War was ended. While "écorcheurs" still pillaged the countryside, most of the people of Beaune were poor. Nicolas Rolin, Chancellor of the Duke of Burgundy Philippe le Bon, and his wife Guigone de Salins reacted by deciding to create a hospital for the poor. You can see this history in the building details--on the outside the Hôtel-Dieu is decidedly plain, reflecting its somber mission and making the complex less attractive to thieves. But once inside, the colorful tile roof reflect the wealth of the inordinately generous ruling class. The Hôtel-Dieu is now a museum that makes a fascinating visit. [pictures below]
- Basilique Notre Dame Church - Work on the church started in the 12th century
- Musee de la Vigne et du Vin (Burgundy Wine Museum) -Housed in a former residence of the Dukes of Burgundy, you can see the winemaking tools and machines as well as get an idea of the history of the region. Open Daily 9:30am - 6pm, closed Tuesdays (Dec 1st to Mar31st) Dec 25th and Jan1st.
- Burgundy Tasting Cellers - many in the historic center of Beaune.
Wine Tasting Tip
Wine writer Simon Firth recommends avoiding the pressure to buy expensive bottles of wine by paying for tasting at a merchant who represents several wineries. He recommends Le Marché aux Vins in the town of Beaune. The wines of Burgundy do not come cheap.
Beaune Restaurants and Cuisine
Restaurants in Beaune run from the cheap (mussels and frites) to expensive gourmet. For those who like innovative cuisine I highly recommend L´Ecusson, just outside of town. It's been a while since I ate there, but it was one of my most memorable meals in France. Beef marrow bones stuffed with snails in a wine reduction with the crunch of gros sel. Mmmm.
Beaune Open Air Market
Beaune's open-air market day is Saturday. The area around the market is good for an inexpensive meal.
Barging the Burgundy Canal
Another interesting way to visit this region is to rent a barge on "Le Canal de Bourgogne" or the Burgundy Canal. The canal connects the Atlantic ocean to the Mediterranean via the rivers Yonne and Seine to the river Saône and Rhone. The construction began in 1727 and was completed in 1832.
Walking the Vineyards of Burgundy
I've done several of the walks described in Fodor's excellent Short Escapes in France (compare prices). If you like leisurely excursions into the French countryside, I recommend trying to procure a copy (published in 1996, it's now in short supply).
Information on wine, wine tasting, food and restaurant recommendations, canal trips and barge rental, bike tours and other Burgundy attractions is available on our Burgundy Travel Resources page.
Beaune Pictures and Video
Start our Beaune Slideshow.
The video Tour the Burgundy wine region of France will show you the basics for planning a vacation in Burgundy.
Where to Stay
Venere has an extensive list of hotels in Beaune (book direct with Venere). You can stay on the outskirts at the highly rated Hotel Adelie, especially if you're more interested in walking vineyards than exploring the historic center of the city (or if you're coming by car to Beaune).
If you make Beaune your base for exploring the region, a vacation rental like this highly-rated apartment in the city center (book direct) might be perfect.
More on Exploring Burgundy
Burgundy by Train | A Rail Exploration of the Bourgogne - If you don't have a car, don't worry, you can visit historic Burgundian cities like Dijon and Chagny and get some fine vineyard walking in as well. Even the old railroad tracks come into play; the Voie Verte is a paved path along unused rail lines in Burgundy
Tours of Burgundy Wine Region
See Burgundy Wine Tours.