26 Top-Rated Attractions & Places to Visit in Burgundy
The Burgundy region has an unbelievable number of historic monuments and attractions, surprisingly tucked away in a sleepy countryside. The landscape of deeply wooded forests and green rolling hills abounds with cultural treasures: Romanesque chapels, medieval towns, picturesque villages, and ancient abbeys. There are more than 300 churches in Burgundy, and many are masterpieces of Gothic architecture.
Burgundy has its own unique culture. Burgundian buildings feature a distinctive architecture of colorful tiled roofs, and the hearty cuisine is famously delicious. Visitors should sample local specialties such as escargot, boeuf bourguignon, and poulet à la moutarde (chicken in mustard sauce) to truly savor quintessential France. Plan your trip to this beautiful region with our list of the top tourist attractions and best places to visit in Burgundy.
See also: Where to Stay in Burgundy
During the Middle Ages, Dijon was the capital of the Duchy of Burgundy, and the Dukes lived in elegant mansions called "hôtels particuliers" that still grace the city with their impressive facades. The top tourist attraction is the Palais des Ducs at the historic center of town. This medieval palace allows visitors to imagine the grandiosity of Ducal life, which included lavish gourmet banquets. Housed inside a wing of the Palais des Ducs, is the Musée des Beaux-Arts, which ranks among the best art museums in France. The collection ranges from Egyptian antiquities to medieval art and Renaissance Burgundian sculptures.
Another excellent museum in Dijon is the Musée Magnin, which displays an extensive collection of French 17th- to 19th-century painting. The most important church in Dijon is the Eglise Notre-Dame built in the 13th century in glorious Burgundian Gothic style. The spectacular exterior with its profusion of gargoyles provides a contrast to the harmonious interior.
Another noteworthy example of Burgundian Gothic architecture is the Cathédrale Saint-Bénigne. The building incorporates a Romanesque-era crypt, which contains the relics of the local patron saint Benignus, a 3rd-century martyr who brought Christianity to Dijon.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Dijon
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Brimming with old-world ambience, this lovely historic town is one of the best places to visit in Burgundy for a taste of the region's charm. Beaune's most important landmark is the Hôtel-Dieu (Hospices de Beaune), built in the 15th century as a hospital for the poor. The distinctive Flemish Gothic building now houses a museum that displays exquisite tapestries and a precious 15th-century altar piece.
Other attractions are the Romanesque Collégiale Basilique Notre-Dame and the Musée des Beaux-Arts, with many fine examples of French and Flemish painting, as well as modern art works.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Beaune
The most important monastic order of the Middle Ages, the Benedictine monks of Cluny founded the Abbaye de Cluny in the 10th century and created what was the largest church in Christendom, until Rome's Saint Peter's Basilica was built in the 16th century. Although the abbey church was mostly destroyed during the French Revolution, there are still remnants of the original architecture. At the tourist site, an educational film brings the historic abbey to life. In the town of Cluny, the Eglise Notre-Dame, is worth visiting to admire its splendid Gothic sanctuary.
Many amazing castles are found near Cluny, including the 13th-century Berzé-le-Châtel castle (open April - November); the Château de Saint-Point-Lamartine (open April through July), surrounded by delightful English gardens; and the Château de Cormatin (open March - November), a refined 17th-century castle with dreamy gardens. Perched above the medieval village of Brancion is the fortified Château de Brancion with stunning views of the countryside; visitors can admire the interior of the castle from April through November. Amid vine-covered, rolling hills, the romantic Château de Pierreclos has been converted to a luxury hotel with modern rooms and a swimming pool.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cluny
One of the "Plus Beaux Villages" (Most Beautiful Villages) of France, Vézelay is found in a gorgeous setting overlooking the Morvan mountain range. Crowning the village is the UNESCO-listed Basilique Sainte Marie-Madeleine, a medieval pilgrimage destination on the "Way of Saint James" trail to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. This serene site, with sweeping views of the Burgundian landscape, still functions as a monastery and attracts many pilgrims. Open to the public year-round, the basilica is often filled with inspiring music sung by monks and nuns of the "Fraternités Monastiques de Jerusalem."
Tourists will also enjoy exploring the medieval walled village of Vézelay, with its narrow cobblestone streets, charming medieval buildings, and Renaissance houses featuring ornate decorative details. Art lovers will appreciate Musée Zervos, which displays an exceptional collection of modern art, including pieces by Picasso, Chagall, Miró, Kandinsky, and other 20th-century artists. The Musée de l'Oeuvre Viollet-le-Duc has a noteworthy collection of medieval sculptures.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Vézelay
5. Abbaye de Fontenay
In the idyllic wooded countryside of Burgundy, the 12th-century Abbaye de Fontenay is one of France's oldest surviving Cistercian churches. The abbey church was constructed between 1139 and 1147 in a simple, harmonious Romanesque Bourgogne style. The cloister features graceful galleries for a serene feel, and beautifully landscaped gardens also inspire prayer and meditation.
The Abbey of Fontenay is extremely well preserved with its bakery, church, and sleeping quarters still intact, giving visitors a realistic impression of the 12th-century monks' daily life. The Abbaye de Fontenay including the property (the 1,200-hectare Valley of Fontenay) is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Address: Fontenay Abbey, Montbard 21500
Official site: http://www.abbayedefontenay.fr/en/introduction
Auxerre is a lively riverside town full of architectural treasures. The historic part of the town is a maze of winding streets with a sprinkling of half-timbered houses and old churches. The Place Charles-Surugue town square is especially picturesque. Auxerre's most important religious monument is the 11th-century Abbaye Saint-Germain, a marvelous Romanesque church with a Carolingian crypt dating to the 6th century.
The Cathédrale Saint-Etienne has a splendid Gothic interior with a collection of well-preserved stained-glass windows, considered some of the most beautiful in France. The cathedral's treasury contains precious reliquaries with Limoges enamel decoration.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Auxerre
Sens is a small town with an interesting heritage, especially during the medieval era. The doctrines of Abelard were condemned at a church council held here in 1140, and Louis IX was married in the cathedral in 1234. Visitors can begin a sightseeing tour of the town at the 13th-century Palais Synodal de Sens, which displays expositions of contemporary art, then continue at the Palais des Archevêques to admire the collection of fine arts. Not to be missed, the Cathédrale Saint-Etienne has an immense Gothic interior illuminated by stained-glass windows and a treasury that is one of the richest in France.
Autun has a distinguished history dating back to Roman times. On the east side of the town are ruins of the largest Roman theater in Gaul (that seated 20,000 spectators), ancient town gates (Porte d'Arroux and Porte St-André), and the imposing remains of the Temple of Janus. From the 12th century, the Cathédrale Saint-Lazare is a glorious example of Romanesque architecture. The sanctuary has multiple richly decorated chapels, and the third one on the left contains the Martyrdom of Saint Symphorien painting by Ingres (1834). This painting reveals the artist's skill in creating a complicated three-dimensional crowd scene.
Still surrounded by its ancient walls, Avallon is renowned for its beautiful architecture. At the center of the historic quarter is the 15th-century clock tower on the Grand Rue. A must-see site in Avallon is its 12th-century Romanesque church, the Eglise Saint-Lazare, featuring richly decorated Burgundian Romanesque doorways. Other historic churches are the Eglise Saint-Julien, which dates back to the 11th century, and the Eglise Saint-Martin-du-Bourg, a former abbey founded in the 12th century. The Musée de l'Avallonnais displays a small art collection and presents temporary expositions.
Avallon is 15 kilometers away from Vézelay and both towns could easily be visited on the same day. Also nearby (27 kilometers from Avallon) is the Abbaye Sainte-Marie de la Pierre-qui-Vire, a Benedictine monastery in the Morvan Forest, where monks spend a life of prayer and community service. The property includes a 170-hectare organic farm with milking cows and goats (the monks make excellent regional cheese and yogurt products). At the monastery's ateliers, the monks create handcrafted pottery and artisanal screen-printed images. For visitors who like to stay overnight, the monastery's hostel provides basic accommodations.
Bourg-en-Bresse is a historic market town known for its chickens: "Poulets de Bresse," which are appreciated for their culinary value. The celebrated French chef Paul Bocuse created the famous recipe for Bresse chicken in a creamy morel sauce.
For tourists, the main reason to visit Bourg-en-Bresse is the magnificent Monastère Royal de Brou à Bourg-en-Bresse. This jewel of Flamboyant Gothic architecture features a marvelous high-vaulted sanctuary. The monastery now houses an art museum with an excellent collection of 17th-century Dutch, Flemish, and French paintings; 12th- to 17th-century sculptures; and abstract contemporary art.
11. Château de Saint-Fargeau
The Château de Saint-Fargeau has an illustrious history, which extends over 10 centuries. In 1652, Anne-Marie Louise d'Orléans, the first cousin of King Louis XIV, lived here and contributed to redesigning the château's interior. With its harmonious proportions and graceful turreted towers, the Château de Saint Fargeau represents French classicism at its best.
The château's 18th-century apartment (suite) and the Maison de Jean d'Arc (an annex of the castle) have been transformed into luxurious guest rooms; accommodations include a traditional French breakfast. An English-style park surrounds the château. Château de Saint-Fargeau is open March through November, and guided tours are available.
On Friday and Saturday nights in July and August, the château hosts a Spectacle Historique (History Show) about important historical figures (Joan of Arc, medieval knights, etc.) and key events of France's history, such as the French Revolution and World War Two. The fantastical show features more than 600 actors, 50 horseback riders, and fireworks. Candlelight Tours on Thursday evenings in July and August are another favorite tourist experience. During this entertaining event, visitors are invited into the candlelit dining room and grand salon by château "residents" wearing authentic costumes. Fencing duels and an equestrian performance add to the excitement.
Address: Le Château, 89170 Saint-Fargeau
Official site: http://www.chateau-de-st-fargeau.com/en/
On the banks of the Saône River, Mâcon is a delight to explore. A pleasant stroll through town leads to a discovery of cultural sites and historic buildings. The Musée des Ursulines, housed in a 17th-century convent, displays a collection of fine arts and archaeology. Nearby, the Apothicairerie de l'Hôtel-Dieu (apothecary shop located in the old Hotel-Dieu hospital) appears exactly as the original 18th-century apothecary. The oldest house in Mâcon is the 15th-century Maison de Bois, with a carved wood-paneled facade featuring charming statuettes of men with grimaces, monkey masks, and characters with wings.
Several exceptional historic monuments make Nevers worth a detour. A must-see sight, the Palais Ducal is a graceful Renaissance château, where the Counts and Dukes of Nevers once resided. The spectacular Cathédrale Saint-Cyr-et-Sainte-Julitte dates back to the 11th century and shows a range of architectural styles: a Romanesque west choir, Gothic nave, and Renaissance spiral staircase.
Fascinating Gallo-Roman archaeological finds and Romanesque sculpture are on display at the Musée Archéologique, housed in the Porte du Croux medieval gate tower. In the northeast of the old town is the Eglise Saint-Etienne, built in 1097 and a rare example of a purely Romanesque church.
Paray-le-Monial grew up around a Benedictine abbey founded in 973. The abbey's 12th-century Romanesque church became a place of pilgrimage in the 17th century, when the nun Marguerite-Marie Alacoque saw apparitions of Christ. In 1875, the abbey church was renamed the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur by Pope Pius IX. The Neo-Romanesque Chapelle des Apparitions was built on the spot where Saint Marguerite-Marie Alacoque (canonized in 1920) had her visions. Other noteworthy attractions are the medieval Chapelle de Romay; a Marian sanctuary; and the Musée du Hiéron, which has a wonderful collection of religious art.
15. Parc Naturel Régional du Morvan
The Morvan Regional Natural Park is a wild landscape of mountains, woodlands, valleys, and gorges. The name "Monts du Morvan" has a Celtic origin and means "black mountain," probably because of the dense deep-green forests of this area between the Loire River and the Saône River. At higher altitudes in the granite hills, patches of farmland are intersected by hedges and expanses of lush forest. The natural park's rivers and streams are great for fishing, canoeing, and rafting. Other outdoor activities include boating at the lakes, hiking, and rock climbing.
Amid this unspoiled nature, there is also an interesting cultural heritage. The sublime scenery is dotted with small villages, magnificent castles, and ancient churches. The 17th-century Château du Creuset, an elegant French castle surrounded by 14 hectares of gardens is now a luxury bed-and-breakfast, ideal for those seeking a comfortable retreat in the countryside.
16. Château d'Ancy-le-Franc
In the little village of Ancy-le-Franc, the 16th-century château is a masterpiece of Italian Renaissance architecture with a pleasing symmetry of design. The castle was created by Sébastiano Serlio, the court architect of King Francis I. An expansive park including formal French gardens surround the Château d'Ancy-le-Franc, which has the feel of being in a magical world of its own. The interior is sumptuously decorated with exquisite Renaissance murals, the largest collection of its kind in France. The château is open for visits from March through November and hosts music concerts from May through September.
Address: 18 Place Clermont-Tonnerre, 89160 Ancy-le-Franc
Official site: http://www.chateau-ancy.com
Visiting this medieval town is a delightful step back in time. Tourists will enjoy wandering the winding cobblestone streets, admiring the half-timbered houses, and discovering the ancient ramparts that are topped with 23 towers. Noyers was an important medieval center of trade, thanks to its location on the meandering Serein River. The Place du Marché-au-Blé (Corn Market) and the Place du Grenier-à-Sel (Salt Storehouse) attest to the village's flourishing past as a market town. Because of its quaint historic ambience, Noyers is listed as one of the "Plus Beaux Villages" of France.
For many tourists, boutique shopping in Noyers is one of their favorite things to do while exploring the village. In quiet corners of the village are inviting little shops selling artisan-crafted items and regional products. Culture hounds will also appreciate the Musée des Arts Naïfs et Populaires (Museum of Naïve and Popular Arts), which displays a collection mostly created in the 19th century by amateur artists, as well as acclaimed artists from all over the world.
Tournus is renowned for its well-preserved 11th-century abbey, the Abbaye Saint-Philibert, which is considered a masterpiece of Romanesque art. Visitors are awed by this rare example of an ancient abbey with the monastery buildings, cloister, and church still intact. The abbey church has a surprisingly bright high-vaulted nave, adorned with exquisite frescoes. Also of interest are two Romanesque churches in the Vieille Ville (Old Town): the Eglise Sainte-Madeleine, and the Eglise Saint-Valérien. In the former Hôtel-Dieu (hospital), the Musée Greuze has an excellent collection of European paintings from the 14th to 20th centuries.
Standing above the Armançon River on a rocky ridge, Semur-en-Auxois has preserved much of its medieval character with the remains of a grand château, the 15th-century Porte de Sauvigny (town gate), and many historic houses. On the highest point is the Gothic Eglise Notre-Dame, notable for its 14th-century stained-glass windows. The Musée de Semur-en-Auxois (in a 17th-century Jacobin convent) displays a diverse collection of paintings and sculptures created from the 14th to the 19th century. Another must-see sight, the Tour de l'Orle d'Or (open May - September) is a 13th-century watch tower, where guards once surveyed the surroundings.
From its lofty site overlooking the Burgundy canal, Châteauneuf-en-Auxois' imposing ancient fortress enjoyed a strategic advantage in the 12th century. The castle's round towers and imposing walls are visible from far in the distance. The village is a pleasant place to explore at leisure. Winding medieval streets are lined with splendid 14th- to 16th-century houses that belonged to Burgundy merchants. Many spots in the village offer panoramic views of the countryside. Châteauneuf-en-Auxois is listed as one of the "Plus Beaux Villages" of France.
This picture-perfect village is nestled in a scenic spot on the Seine River. A riverside path invites tourists to take a leisurely stroll while admiring the historic buildings. The village's oldest quarter, the Quartier Saint Vorles, is particularly charming with its quaint old houses and atmospheric alleyways. A must-see attraction in the town is the Musée du Pays Châtillonnais, which has an excellent collection of archaeological objects, as well as religious art from local abbeys.
22. Château de Tanlay
Built in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Château de Tanlay is one of the most majestic Renaissance buildings in Burgundy. All the elements of a fairy-tale castle are found here: a wooded estate, water-filled moat, turreted towers, and grand reception rooms. Despite its dreamy appearance, the castle played an important role during the Wars of Religion; the château owner Admiral de Coligny often gathered with other Protestant (Hugenot) leaders at his property. The château has been owned by the family of the Marquis de Tanlay since the late 17th century and still belongs to the same family (who continue to reside at the castle).
The park of the château is open from April through November (every day except Tuesdays). Visitors may see the interior of the château by taking a 50-minute guided tour, from late March until early November (every day except Tuesdays). Noteworthy aspects of the interior include a room with a gallery of trompe l'oeil paintings and frescoes in the Ligue Tower.
Address: 2 Rue Basse des Fossés, 89430 Tanlay
23. Château de Ratilly
Built in 1270, this formidable medieval château has a noble history. The château withstood the Hundred Years' War and has been the residence of Lord Guy de Vallery, the Knight Jean de Chandiou, and Louis de Menou, Governor of the Duchy of Saint-Fargeau. The château now houses a Centre d'Art (art center) that hosts exhibitions of contemporary art throughout the year and a pottery atelier where artisan Nathalie Pierlot creates her signature "Grès de Ratilly" ceramic cookware, dinnerware, vases, and decor. The atelier's assortment of handcrafted pottery is available for visitors to purchase. The chateau is open year-round; guided tours are available.
Address: Château de Ratilly, 89520 Treigny
Flavigny-sur-Ozerain (one of France's "Plus Beaux Villages") is a jumble of cobblestone streets and old stone buildings, perched on a hilltop and enclosed within ramparts, characteristic of a medieval Burgundian town. The former Benedictine abbey no longer serves religious purposes, but the premises are still used to make traditional anise-seed confectioneries, based on a recipe passed down by the monks. The local factory that produces the candies, Fabrique des Anis de Flavigny, (in the ancient abbey) is open to the public for visits. For those interested in the textile arts, the Maison des Arts Textiles & du Design offers workshops on fabric design.
In southern Burgundy, Semur-en-Brionnais is a pretty village that has earned a place on France's "Plus Beaux Villages" list. The town is the former capital of the historic Brionnais region and was a stronghold of Saint Hugues who founded the Abbaye de Cluny. The village's rich heritage is seen in its 10th-century castle, the Château Saint-Hugues, enclosed by medieval fortifications; the 12th-century Eglise Saint-Hilaire, an exquisite Romanesque church with graceful arches and columns; and the 11th-century Eglise Saint-Martin-la-Vallée, a simple Romanesque chapel in a tranquil green valley outside the village.
In the heart of Burgundy, the small village of Saulieu offers the charm of the countryside along with the culture of France. The village is known for its exceptional gastronomy and is a good place to indulge in a gourmet meal. Saulieu boasts several excellent restaurants along with the two-star Michelin establishment, Le Relais Bernard Loiseau, which serves imaginative, as well as classic cuisine of the Burgundian terroir. In a historic hotel, the dining room features sumptuous decor and window views onto a lovely garden.
Where to Stay in Burgundy for Sightseeing
We recommend these conveniently located hotels in charming towns like Saulieu, Dijon, Beaune, and Cluny:
- Le Relais Bernard Loiseau: luxury Saulieu hotel, inviting pools, antique wood beams, gourmet dining, decadent spa.
- Hotel Oceania le Jura: mid-range Dijon hotel, stylish room decor, Nespresso machines, indoor pool, sauna and Jacuzzi.
- Hostellerie Le Potin Gourmand: top-rated Cluny hotel, historic building, traditional French restaurant.
- Ibis Styles Beaune Centre: affordable rates, convenient location, comfortable beds, free breakfast.