Burgundy Attractions

Burgundy RegionBurgundy Region

Burgundy, in the narrower sense of the term the territory of the old Duchy of Burgundy, is a region of passage between the Paris Basin and the Rhône valley and between the upper Rhine and the Loire valley, and is accordingly, from the point of view of history and culture, one of the most interesting parts of France. Taking in the four départements of Saône-et-Loire (chief town Mâcon), Côte-d'Or (Dijon), Nièvre (Nevers) and Yonne (Auxerre), it has a total area of 31,582sq.km/12,194 sq. mi and a population of around 1.6 million.

Dijon, France

Autun, France

Autun (pop. 18,085), southwest of Dijon, is called the "gateway to Morvan". On the east side of the town are a number of important Roman monuments, including the largest Roman theater in Gaul, with seating for 20,000 spectators, two town gates (the Porte d'Arroux and the Porte St-André) and the imposing remains of a temple of Janus.

Autun Cathedral

Autun's most important building is the Cathedral of St-Lazare, one of the finest examples of Cluniac architecture, built between 1120 and 1130. It has a ground-plan in the form of a Latin cross, an aisled nave, a plain transept and a three-stage choir with a semicircular end. The spire was built by Cardinal Rolin in the 15th C.
In the tympanum of the Romanesque main doorway is a superb Last Judgment by a sculptor named as Gislebertus. The medallions round the tympanum and the capitals of the three columns are also masterpieces of medieval sculpture.
The cathedral contains a profusion of figural capitals. Some of these have been replaced by copies, the originals of which are displayed in the chapterhouse. The chapels are also richly decorated; the third one on the left contains a "Martyrdom of St Symphorien" by Ingres (1834).

Auxerre, France

Auxerre (pop. 40,292), a busy commercial center and chief town of the département of Yonne, lies 150km/90mi north-west of Dijon on two hills rising above the left bank of the Yonne.
The old part of the town has preserved its old-world aspect, within its ring of boulevards with charming old houses in Rue de l'Horloge (clocktower of the late 15th century), Rue de Paris, Rue Joubert and Place Charles-Surugue. The oldest of Auxerre's three notable churches is the abbey church of St-Germain, which has a Carolingian crypt and ninth century frescoes around the tomb of St Germain. The church of St-Eusèbe has a beautiful Romanesque belfry with a 15th century octagonal spire.

Cathedral of St Etienne

The Cathedral of St-Etienne (13th-16th C) in Auxerre, the fifth church on the site, was built on the foundations of a Romanesque cathedral, of which the crypt (11th C frescoes) survives. The north tower is 65 m/215ft high. The west front, which was richly decorated with sculpture, was destroyed during the 16th C wars of religion; the sculpture on the three doorways dates from the 13th C. The interior is very fine, with short transepts, a choir with a semicircular apse, a beautiful ambulatory (13th C triforium), richly carved capitals and fine 13th C stained glass in the ambulatory. In the cathedral treasury are liturgical utensils, reliquaries with Limoges enamel decoration, ivory statuettes and manuscripts.

Château d'Ancy-le-Franc

The village of Ancy-le-Franc (pop. 1,108), which lies to the east of Auxerre on the Canal de Bourgogne, has a late 16th C château designed by Francis I's court architect Serlio, set in a large park. The interior is sumptuously decorated in Italian Renaissance style (by Primaticcio and Niccolò dell'Abbate of the school of Fontainebleau). The old working-quarters now house a motor-car and coach museum.
Address: 18 place Clermont Tonnerre, F-89160 Ancy-le-Franc, France

Beaune, France

The old town of Beaune (pop. 22,916), on the Bouzaise. Originally a Roman foundation (Belna or Belena), it was a residence of the Dukes of Burgundy. Beaune's great attraction for visitors lies in its numerous medieval houses. The central feature of the town is the Place Monge, with a tower of the 13th/14th century, which now houses a museum of archeology and natural history, and the Hôtel de la Rochepot (16th century), which has beautiful courtyards.


Beaune's main sight is the famous Hôtel-Dieu, a hospital for the poor built by Chancellor Nicolas Rolin and his wife in the mid 15th C. This is a typical example of Flemish Gothic (architect Jacques Wiscrère), a long half-timbered building with a colorful roof of glazed tiles laid in geometric patterns and a picturesque courtyard surrounded by two tiers of galleries. In the courtyard, in front of the main hospital ward (which remained in use until 1971), is a wrought-iron well-head.
The Hôtel-Dieu now houses a museum, notable particularly for a large polyptych of the Last Judgment by Rogier van der Weyden (between 1442 and 1450) and a number of tapestries. Visitors can also see the old hospital ward, the chapel, the kitchen and the pharmacy, still with their medieval furnishings.
Address: Rue de l'Hôtel-Dieu, F-21200 Beaune, France

Notre Dame

In Beaune, north of the Hôtel-Dieu is the Romanesque church of Notre-Dame, a three-aisled basilica in Cluniac style with transepts, a choir ending in a semicircular apse and a square tower over the crossing. As a result of later extensions the exterior of the church is largely Gothic. The interior (modeled on Autun) has fine 15th C stained glass, medieval frescoes and 15th C tapestries.


Visitors to Beaune will want to see the Museum in the old Hôtel des Ducs de Bourgogne, the town house of the Dukes of Burgundy which later passed into the hands of the French kings.
The Musée des Beaux-Arts, housed in part of the 18th century Town Hall (originally an Ursuline convent), displays archeological finds from the surrounding area, French and Flemish paintings of the 17th-19th centuries and the apparatus used by a scientist named Etienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904), a native of Beaune who invented "chronophotography", a predecessor of the cinematograph. Beaune has a number of 16th C houses, particularly in Rue de Lorraine, which are now owned by the municipality.

Bourg-en-Bresse, France

Bourg-en-Bresse (pop. 40,628), the old capital of the district of Bresse, lies in southeastern Burgundy, on the western fringes of the French Jura. It is noted not only for the famous poulets de Bresse which are reared in this area but for a jewel of Gothic architecture, the monastic church of Brou.
Bourg was also the birthplace of the astronomer Gérome Lalande (1732-1807) and the historian Edgar Quinet (1803-1875).

Monastery of Brou

The monastery of Brou in Bourg-en-Bresse, which stands a little to the east of the church of Notre-Dame (15th- 16th C; beautiful carved choir-stalls), was begun in 1506, and the church was built between 1513 and 1532 by the Brussels architect Louis van Bodeghem for Margaret of Austria.
In the harmonious interior, which is entered through a richly decorated Renaissance doorway, are a magnificent rood screen and beautiful old stained glass. The choir has 74 fine carved oak stalls (1530-1532) and contains three tombs (in the center Duke Philibert II of Savoy, d. 1504; on the left his wife Margaret of Austria, d. 1530; on the right Margaret of Bourbon, d. 1483) and fine stained glass. On the left of the choir is the Chapelle de la Vierge, with a marble altar decorated with scenes from the life of the Virgin.
The cloisters and monastic cells now house a folk museum.
Address: 63, boulevard de Brou, F-01000 Bourg-en-Bresse, France

Cluny, France

The quiet little town of Cluny (pop. 4,371), northwest of Mâcon, grew up round the celebrated Benedictine abbey, mother house of the reforming Cluniac order.
The abbey of Cluny (Cluniacum) was founded in 910 by Duke William of Aquitaine on the site of a Franconian estate, and became from its earliest years the starting point and center of a great reform of the church which set out to effect a revival of monasticism, which had entered a state of crisis and to promote monastic life in accordance with the rules laid down by St Benedict. The impulse that went out from Cluny led to the reform of existing monastic houses and the foundation of new ones, until there were some 2,000 Cluniac houses all over western Europe. New architectural ideas were also developed at Cluny in order to give monumental form to the spiritual strivings of the order. The first church on the site (Cluny I), erected soon after the foundation of the order, was replaced by Cluny II (consecrated 981), a columned basilica with transepts and a type of choir (a main choir flanked by two subsidiary choirs) which found imitators in northern France and Germany. This in turn gave place in 1089 to the largest and most magnificent church of its time (Cluny III), a huge pillared and vaulted basilica 171 m/560ft long consisting of a three-aisled ante-church with a twin- towered west front, the five-aisled main church, a large transept with five towers, a smaller transept with a roof turret and a choir with a semicircular end, an ambulatory and a ring of chapels. During the French Revolution the abbey was closed down, and thereafter was sold for the sake of its stone and demolished. Only a few fragments survive.
Cluny Map - Tourist Attractions Cluny Map - Attractions

Blanot Cave

The Blanot Cave was discovered in 1739 and quickly became a popular research site for speleologists. The site is 80 meters below ground and is made up of numerous galleries and huge rooms, connected like a mass maze. There are abundant limestone formations as well as prehistoric remains such as flint stones and animal skeletons, many of which are on display.

Abbey of Cluny

Around the former monastery of Cluny were fortifications of which only three of the towers (Tours des Fromages, Tour Fabry, Tour Ronde) and the Porte des Jardins still remain. The south transept with the Clocher de l'Eau Bénedite and the lower Clocher d'Horloge (clock tower) are all that remain of the abbey church. On the way to the Musée Ochier (where tickets can be purchased and the tour begins) the visitor will pass over the site where the giant abbey church Cluny III once stood. The deeper, excavated parts formed part of the ante-church. The double gateway somewhat higher up was once the main entrance to the abbey. On Place du 11 Aout stands the Facade of Pope Gelasius, heavily restored in the Gothic style shortly after 1300, with access to the enclosed monks' quarters and the 18th C cloister. North of the Facade of Gelasius, a short distance away, is the Abbot's Lodging, with the Palais de Jean de Bourbon (15th C), the Musée Ochier (history of the abbey) and the Palais de Jacques d'Amboise (16th C), now the Town Hall. The church's magnificent figural capitals, masterworks of Early Romanesque sculpture, can be seen in the Musée Lapidaire, housed in the old monastic granary, the Farinier. In the 19th C a state stud farm was set up on the land around the former abbey.
In the town itself, at some distance from the abbey, is the church of Notre-Dame, built shortly after 1100 and later remodelled in Gothic style, as well as a surprising number of Romanesque houses.

Fontenay Abbey

The well preserved old abbey of Fontenay, situated in wooded country northwest of Dijon, gives a vivid impression of life in a 12th C Cistercian house. The church, founded by Bernard of Clairvaux, is one of France's oldest surviving Cistercian churches, with a magnificent cloister.


The Monts du Morvan (a name of Celtic origin meaning "black hill") are a range of hills of medium height between the Loire and the Saône rising to 900 m/3,000ft in the peak of Haut-Folin. On Mont Beuvray (821 m/2,694ft) Vercingetorix, Caesar's most dangerous adversary in Gaul, summoned an assembly of Gallic chieftains in 52 B.C. to secure their agreement to a common effort against the Roman invaders.
For centuries Morvan was the sole supplier of wood to Paris, and the Canal du Nivernais was built in 1842 to provide a convenient means of transport; 178km/108miles long, it has 110 locks and three tunnels. The granite hills of Morvan have now been replanted with trees. The Morvan Nature Park, established in 1970, takes in 173,000 hectares/427,000 acres of the hills, with the valleys and gorges, the streams and the numerous lakes which pattern the landscape.

Nevers, France

Nevers (pop. 43,082), the old capital of the Nivernais, lies on the right bank of the upper Loire. The settlement was of Celtic origin, and in Roman times became an important supply base. The town is famed for its faience, which has been made here, following Italian models, since around 1575. The factories can be visited.

Cathedral of St Cyr et Ste Juliette

The Cathedral of St-Cyr-et-Ste-Juliette shows a whole range of architectural styles, from the 10th to the 16th C. The Romanesque west choir has remains of a 12th C fresco, and in the crypt under it is an early 16th C "Entombment" in polychrome stone. In the south transept are a doorway with fine sculptural decoration and a Renaissance spiral staircase. The imposing Porte du Croux (14th C), a gate tower which was part of the town's circuit of walls, now houses the Musée Archéologique du Nivernais (antique and Romanesque sculpture).
Address: Rue de la Porte-du-Croux, F-58000 Nevers, France

Palais Ducal

The Palais Ducal (15th-16th C), once the residence of the Counts of Nevers, is a fine example of Renaissance secular architecture. The most striking feature of the front facing the Loire is the central staircase tower, with relief decoration between the windows. At each end of the facade is an octagonal tower.
Address: Rue Sabatier, F-58000 Nevers, France

St Etienne

In the northeast of Nevers old town is the church of St-Etienne, a purely Romanesque church of 1097, with three Merovingian sarcophagi in the choir.

Magny Cours - Formula One

The Formula One of France is an annual road race for cars. Magny-Cours is located halfway between Paris and Lyon. It is noted for the challenge of the track and its serene setting.
Address: Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours, Technopole, F-58470 Magny-Cours, France

Paray-le-Monial, France

Paray-le-Monial (pop. 9,820), on the river Bourbince, is still a much frequented place of pilgrimage. The town grew up around a Benedictine abbey founded in 973. This was the place of origin, in the 17th century, of the cult of the Sacred Heart, inspired by the visions of Marguerite-Marie Alacoque (1647- 90, a nun who was subsequently canonized), which spread throughout the whole Catholic world in the 19th century.
Features of interest in Paray-le-Monial are the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), a striking Renaissance building (1515) with a superb facade, and the Tour St-Nicolas, originally the belfry of a church. North of the Chapelle de la Visitation is the Musée du Hiéron (Italian, French and Flemish pictures of the 16th-18th century).


A massive steeple draws attention to the church of Notre-Dame in Paray-le-Monial, one of the most important Romanesque churches in Burgundy, built in the 12th C on the model of the abbey church of Cluny and dominated by the massive octagonal tower over the crossing. On the river front are three round- headed doorways. Adjoining the church are the neo-classical conventual buildings, which contain a museum of ceramics. To the north of the church is the neo-Romanesque Chapelle de la Visitation, which is decorated with mosaics and frescoes. It is built on the spot where Marguerite-Marie Alacoque had her visions; her glass sarcophagus is in a side chapel on the right.

Semur-en-Auxois, France

The little town of Semur-en-Auxois (pop. 4,451), situated on a rocky ridge above the river Armançon, northwest of Dijon, has preserved much of its medieval aspect, with remains of a castle, the 15th C Porte de Sauvigny, one of the old town gates, and many handsome old houses. On the highest point is the Gothic church of Notre-Dame (13th-14th C), which was restored by Viollet-le-Duc in the mid 19th C. Notable features of the church are the tympanum of the north doorway, an "Entombment" of 1490, a rich treasury of works of art and beautiful 14th century stained glass. The old Jacobin convent (17th century) now houses the Municipal Library and Museum. The Tour de l'Orle d'Or, a remnant of the old castle, contains geological material, archeological finds and folk art.
9km/6miles southwest is this handsome 14th C castle (restored in the 19th C).

Sens, France

Sens (pop. 27,952), in northwestern Burgundy, was the chief town of a Gallic tribe, the Senones, and later the capital of a Gallo-Roman province. In 1627 it became the archbishopric see over Paris, Chartres, Meaux, Orleans, Nevers, Auxerre and Troyes. The doctrines of Abelard were condemned at a church council held here in 1140, and Louis IX (St Louis) was married in the cathedral in 1234. Thomas Becket lived here during his exile from England.
The 15th century Palais Synodal, restored by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century, now houses a Musée Lapidaire. The Municipal Museum has a fine collection of Gallo-Roman antiquities. The church of St- Pierre-le-Rond (13th-15th century) has good stained glass. The church of St-Savinien dates in part from the 11th century.

Cathedral of St Etienne

The construction of the Cathedral of St-Etienne in Sens, one of the largest and finest Gothic buildings in France, was begun in 1140 and completed about 1500. Most of the rich sculptural decoration of the west front was destroyed during the French Revolution: all that survives is the figure of St Stephen on the central doorway, the representation of his legend in the tympanum (from about 1200), the legend of John the Baptist on the left-hand doorway (also around 1200), the Doorway of the Virgin on the right (early 14th century) and a Flamboyant doorway in the north transept. The beauty of the spacious three-aisled interior with its bold vaulting is enhanced by the fine stained glass (12th-17th century). The cathedral treasury is one of the richest in France (ecclesiastical vestments, tapestries, etc.
Address: Place de la Cathédrale, F-89100 Sens, France

Sully, France

The busy little town of Sully (pop. 5,830) is picturesquely situated on the Loire. The château, flanked by round towers with conical roofs and surrounded by a moat, was built in the 14th C and enlarged in the 16th. The interior is worth seeing.
Sully several times provided a refuge for the young Voltaire, who wrote and produced his first plays in the château.
This castle is known for possessing one of the largest and best preserved donjons for its period.

Château de Sully

The Château of Sully (15km/9.5mi northeast of Autun) was built in the 16th century on the site of a medieval castle. Marshal MacMahon, Duke of Magenta and President of France from 1873 to 1879, was born here in 1808. The Château is surrounded by a large park.

International Music Festival

The International Music Festival runs from mid-June to mid-July in the village of Sully and nearby Orleans. There are usually between 15 and 20 different events, ranging from operas, classical concerts, piano and vocal recitals, dance performances and even jazz gigs.
Since the festival's inception in 1973, the events have been organized in a number of venues, including the château of Sully, and its outdoor Espace Auditorium.
Address: BP 58, F-45600 Sully-sur-Loire, France

Tanlay, France

Tanlay, situated on the Canal de Bourgogne and the river Armançon in northern Burgundy, has a magnificent Renaissance Château (16th-17th C). During the Huguenot wars it was a center of Protestant resistance. In the Tour de Ligue can be seen ceiling frescoes portraying gods and goddesses from ancient Olympus representing those involved in the religious wars of the period.

Château Tanlay

The Château of Tanlay is located 5 miles east of Tonnerre. This is one of the most elegant Renaissance château in Burgundy dating from the 17th C.

Tournus, France

Tournus (pop. 6,231) lies on the right bank of the Sâone, to the north of Mâcon. The former abbey church of St-Philibert (11th-12th C) has a large porch and an impressive interior. In the apse is the reliquary of St Philibert and under the choir is a large 10th C crypt with well preserved capitals. The Musée Bourguignon Perrin de Puycousin and the Eglise de la Madeleine (15th C) are also of interest.

Vezelay, France

Vézelay (pop. 492), beautifully situated on a hill above Vézelay has many picturesque old houses, remains of its 12th century walls (over 2.5 m/8ft thick) and the Porte Neuve (14th-16th century) with its two massive towers, once the main entrance to the town.

Avallon, France

Avallon (pop. 8,235) is beautifully situated above the valley of the little river Cousin, 15km/9mi east of Vézelay. The old town center is still surrounded by walls.

St Lazare

The Romanesque church of St- Lazare (12th C) in Avallon has two richly decorated doorways on the west front, fine examples of Burgundian Romanesque. The choir is on a lower level than the three-aisled nave. A door in the south aisle leads into the chapel of St-Pierre, a 15th C parish church. In the Grande Rue is a town gate of 1460 (clock tower).

Musée de l'Avallonnais

The Musée de l'Avallonnais, in the Ancien Collège (1653), contains material on the history of the region and a small art collection.
The Musée de l'Avallonnais was founded in 1862 by the Society for Study of Avallon. Scholars, collectors and donors have donated to the collection to tell the story of Avallon.
Address: Place de la Collégale, F-89200 Avallon, France

Montreal, France

12km/7.5mi northeast of Avallon is the old-world little town of Montréal (pop. 200), its main street lined with 15th and 16th C houses. The 12th C collegiate church, restored by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th C, is a fine example of Early Gothic architecture. Notable features of the interior are a 15th C altar with scenes from the life of the Virgin and choir stalls of 1522, with New Testament scenes.

Côte Chalonnaise

The Côte Chalonnaise region is made up of a string of villages to the south of the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune (mainly in the département of Saône-et-Loire).
Mercurey hosts a Paulée in November. Visitors to Mercurey should also try to see the 12th century church in Touches, just south of the town.
Chalon-sur-Saône, the village which the region was named after, is also worth a visit. Thousands of Roman amphorae were found when the river was dredged. The Tour du Doyenné on an island in the Saône offers a good view of the old town center.
Information about châteaux visits can be obtained from the Maison des Vins de la Côte Chalonnaise in Chalon-sur-Saône.
Address: Promenade Ste-Marie, F-71000 Chalon-sur-Saône, France

Chablis and Yonne Region

Chablis is the most northerly and most isolated of the five districts of Burgundy. Historically, the region, which offers waterways to Paris, has been ideally situated for the viticulture industry. However, its northerly location also presents the threat of night frosts and frosts in late spring and September.
In the town of Chablis there are some houses with cellars that date back to the 13th century. In the middle of town is the church of St-Martin with a religious treasury and decorative wrought-iron covering its doors. The Maison du Vin is near the Hostellerie des Clos, supplying tourist information.

Caves, Arcy-sur-Cure

Arcy-sur-Cure is the location of magnificent caves which are considered the cradle of French prehistory and have been visited by the public since at least the 16th C. Prehistoric man inhabited the 950-meter long caves since 300,000 BC. Palaeolithic cave paintings were also discovered in 1990, bringing renewed interest in the cave. There are about 50 paintings, including hand prints, bears, ibexes and mammoths.


Noyers is a well-preserved medieval walled town located about 15.5 miles southeast of Chablis on the Serein river. Many cellars open directly onto its narrow cobblestone streets.

St Bris-le-Vineux

St-Bris-le-Vineux is a large estate in the small village of Bailly. It features a huge "cathedral" carved out of a limestone quarry where one million bottles are stored.

Maconnais Region

The Mâconnais region to the south of the Côte Chalonnaise is named after the bridge town of Mâcon on the River Saône.
The signposted Route des Vins Mâconnais-Beaujolais was opened in 1986. It winds 280mi through the two regions. Information on the route can be obtained from the Cellier-Expo at Crèches-sur-Sâone, a village just south of Mâcon on the N6.
In the village of Lugny the Foire des Vins du Haut-Mâconnais festival takes place during the weekend of Palm Sunday. There is also a fair in Mâcon which lasts about ten days during mid-May.

Aze Caves

Grotte d'Azé is two caves that include a prehistoric grotto which stretches for 350 meters and an underground river that runs for at least 1,350 meters. The cave is thought to be the oldest inhabited cave in eastern France, with remains dating back at least 400,000 years to the Acheulian period. Exhibits of cave bears and other prehistoric animals are still on display at the Archeological Museum at the site.
A camp ground, swimming pool and snack bar are also located at the site.

Bèze par Mirebeau Cave

The Grotte de Bèze was formed during the middle Jurassic period. It naturally takes excess water in the region and drains it into the Bèze. There is also an underground lake, most of which is accessible with guided boats. Also impressive is a 2.50-meter wide monolith.
Address: Mairie, F-21310 Bèze par Mirebeau, France

Chateau de Chateauneuf-en-Auxois, Chateauneuf-en-Auxois, France

Château de Châteauneuf-en-Auxois is a medieval castle on the bank of the Burgundy canal. The chateua features a 12th century square keep, round towers and external walls constructed between the 13th and the 15th centuries.

Beaujolais Region

Beaujolais is a large region extending south from the Mâconnais region towards Lyon.
The estates in Beaujolais often welcome visitors for tours . However, it is best to offer advance notice of a visit. The Maison des Beaujolais, on the N6 between St-Jean-d'Ardières and Belleville-sur-Saône will provide the necessary information on châteaux.
A unique attraction of the Beaujolais region is the exceptional number of village "caveaux de dégustation" which draw many customers, especially on weekends.

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