Burgundy (Bourgogne) is a word you’ve likely heard. Burgundy wine is perfect for Coq au Vin, and of course, yummy to simply sip on. But Burgundy is also a hilly, agricultural region in the east of France where these famous wines are born. The eastern part touches the Jura mountain region. You can reach Dijon, a great jumping-off spot, by TGV high-speed train in about 1 hour 40 minutes from Paris.
In Burgundy you find more than wine. There are medieval villages, barge and boat rides on one of several canals and rivers, a hilly landscape for walks and hikes at various levels of difficulty, as well as many biking itineraries.
The region is currently made up of four “departments”, like counties. I’ll list them here with the area of Burgundy along with the largest town, so that you can locate activities that interest you.
Yonne (west, Auxerre)
Nièvre (southwest, Nevers)
Côte d’Or (east, Dijon)
Saône-et-Loire (from the Loire to the west to the Jura in the east.)
There’s an array of activities for every taste (literally and figuratively!). If you’re a mustard fan, Dijon is here. See the post, More than Mustard,for more. Follow the Grand vintage wine trail, and there are four other wine trails as well. Burgundy has its own distinctive cuisine, which should come as no surprise.
Reasons to visit Burgundy
Villages and historical interest
Vézelay (Yonne) is a hilltop village well-known for the Vézelay Abbey and the 11th century Romanesque Basilica.
Muséoparc Living History museum is located in the town of Guédelon in the Yonne department. While you’re in Guédelon, visit the castle, featured in a BBC special “Secrets of the Castle.” (Cote d’Or)
Hospices de Beaune: medieval hospital now an art museum, beautiful building. (Cote d’Or)
The town of Tournus has Church of Saint Philibert, one of the oldest churches in France from the 11th century, (Saône-et-Loire).
In the same department (Saône-et-Loire) you can see the interesting towns of Cormatin, with its 17th century château, Le Creusot, former mining and steel town for fans of industrial archaeology, Maconnais, a vineyard area near the town of Macon, and the village of Semur en Brionnais, an off beaten track village reputed to be one of France’s loveliest.
The town of Autun with Gallo-Roman ruins, including an amphitheater and a temple of Janus. Also, there’s a flea market and evening programs.
Town of Auxerre on the river Saône . There’s a château on a hilltop, and it’s an ideal jumping off spot for river and canal tours.
Historic towns include La Charité sur Loire and Nevers (Nièvre) and Avallon, a walled city, are worth seeing.
Burgundy wines are known around the world, and the top wines are produced just south of Dijon. This is at the heart of the Burgundy wine region, as is the town of Beaune. There are 5 wine trails you can follow (specific details on trails and other activities at the Burgundy Tourism site.) Some names are Gevrey-Chambertin, Vosne-Romanée, Pommard, Volnay and Clos Vougeo. Take a tour down the Grand vintage wine trail, or one of the other trails.
There is a wine museum in Beaune. Some other wine towns are Pommard and Volnay, The 5 wine routes are accessible by car, foot, bike, or boat.
Speaking of boats, boating is big in Burgundy, with 4 main rivers: the Yonne, the Seine, the Loire, and the Saône. There are also several canals, including the Burgundy Canal and the Canal du Nivernais, which both cross Burgundy.
Auxerre and the town of Digoin in the far west of Burgundy (Saône-et-Loire) are centers for boating. And then there’s the Burgundy Canal (more scenic), which starts or ends in Dijon. Many tour companies operate barge and boat tours, or you can self-drive one. Have a look at the post on boating in France for several options.
The Morvan mountains in this regional natural park are the closest mountain to Paris. This area is bursting with natural beauty and is popular with hikers and bicyclists. (Nièvre)
Bicyclists can check out the Tour de Burgundy à Vélo, an 800-km bike path that provides a sampling of the best of Burgundy. This is one of France’s regions where “vélotourism” is well-developed, which means that everything bikers need to have a safe and fun trip is available.