BURGUNDY, the ‘gold rush’
With rolling green hills dotted with mustard fields, vast forests, and acres of vineyards, Burgundy is home to some of France’s finest countryside. It’s also a place with a rich history going all the way back to Gallo-Roman antiquity, and in its heyday was a formidable Duchy, more powerful than France.
Whether you enjoy a side trip from Paris on winery tours in Burgundy, visit the region for days spent exploring medieval villages, outdoor activities and water sports, or simply gorging yourself on fine cuisine in one of the region’s Michelin starred restaurants, the Burgundy region has something to offer every type of holidaymaker.
What to see and do in Burgundy
The city of Dijon, Burgundy’s main city, is officially recognized as a Ville d’Art et d’Histoire (Town of Art and History), and its elegant medieval and renaissance architecture hark back to a time when Dijon was the capital of the Duchy of Burgundy. Much of the center of town is an official conservation area, listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. And a walk around the vehicle-free, compact town center, with its half-timbered houses, gothic and Romanesque churches, and 17th and 18th-century private mansions, will leave you feeling like you’ve been transported back in time.
To dive into the history of the city, we recommend either taking a private guided tour, or following the self-guided owl tour route, in which small brass owl signs set into the ground will lead you to 22 sites in the historical center of town. The route is named for a small stone owl carved into the side of the beautiful Église Notre Dame, which is worth a visit for its unusual architecture, with leering gargoyles perched atop narrow columns. Legend has it that the owl will bring you luck if you stroke her wing with your left hand.
The most iconic monument in the heart of Dijon, however, is the Palace of the Dukes and Estates of Burgundy. The eastern wing has housed the Musée des Beaux-Arts – Fine Arts Museum – since 1799. The museum contains some 1500 works of art, making it one of the finest such collections in France.
For those more interested in fine food than fine art, Dijon boasts several Michelin-starred restaurants, a lively indoor market, and even an international food festival that has taken place every November for almost a century. Local specialties include – unsurprisingly – mustard, which you can learn more about by visiting the family-run Moutarderie Edmond Fallot in nearby Beaune, which has been making mustard since 1840! Today, visitors can experience exhibitions to learn all about this local tradition.
Another delicacy you shouldn’t miss can be found at Mullot-Petitjean in Dijon, which is worth visiting as much for the beautiful shop itself Place Bossuet as for it’s specialty: gingerbread.
From 2021, foodies will be able to experience food in Dijon in a different way: by visiting the Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie et du Vin. A planned exhibition space of 17000m², this museum to food and wine will be devoted to French gastronomy and wines of the world, and is meant to open in December 2021.
Just over an hour’s drive from Dijon is Fontenay Abbey, the world’s oldest preserved Cistercian site. Overlooking bucolic countryside, the abbey was founded in 1118, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Fully restored, it offers visitors the chance to experience the austere setting were Cistercian monks lived their simple lifestyle, and includes Europe’s oldest metallurgical forge, with a working reconstruction of a 13th-century hydraulic hammer.
The Burgundy region is most famous throughout the world for its fine wines, and winery tours in Burgundy are one of the most popular things to do in the region. Highlights of the region include the Côte de Nuits, a small sub-region of only 30km. Within this area, you’ll find plenty of wineries in Gevrey-Chambertin, a somewhat touristy village 15km south of Dijon. At Clos Vougeot, a 16th-Century wine-making château, you can tour historical wine making equipment. And don’t miss the biggest town in the Cote de Nuits, Nuits-St-Georges, for museums about the craft of making both wine and Crème de Cassis, another local specialty.
Another prestigious wine-growing area within the Burgundy region is Côte de Beaune, with delightful villages such as Aloxe-Corton, Meursault, and Pommard. The area includes some of Burgundy’s most famous vineyards and is the place to go for prestigious wine châteaux.
And the town of Beaune itself is a thriving little place, where life revolves – unsurprisingly – around wine. The town is known as one of the best places in France for wine-tasting, but you could also spend your days wandering the streets leading off the main square, Place Carnot, towards the medieval ramparts, moats and adjacent fortresses and watchtowers which enclose the town. The highlight is the 600-year-old Hôtel-Dieu, France’s finest medieval charity hospital, whose roof is bedecked with multicolored tiles from Flanders.
And for outdoor activities? Covering the four départements of the Burgundy region, the Morvan Regional National Park is a huge, forested area, crisscrossed with signposted walking trails, and dotted with lakes and rivers, perfect for hiking, fishing, and watersports.
The best time to go to Burgundy
Unlike other areas of France which come into their own during the festive period, Burgundy is best avoided in the winter, when the days are short and the temperatures bitterly cold (often reaching -10 °C /14 °F).
Most people visit in the summer, though be aware that dry weather isn’t guaranteed, even in July. For a quieter time, the shoulder season is an option, though locals say it gets noticeably cooler at the end of August, and you can feel Autumn in the air from September.
However, in spite of this coolness, there’s a good reason to visit Burgundy in September-October: it’s when the vines turn gold, giving the region its nickname, the Côte d’Or (Gold Coast). Our advice? Plan your trip for the fall, pack an extra sweater or two, and experience the region in all its golden glory.
Travel to Burgundy with Paris-Toujours
Planning a trip to Burgundy? Make the most of this wonderful region by enlisting a little help.
We can help you to plan private winery tours in Burgundy with tastings, and private visits to some of the most interesting sights, such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Fontenay Abbey.
For something a little different, we’ve also organized truffle hunting expeditions, where you’ll join local experts (and their clever truffle-hunting dogs!) to search for this world-renowned delicacy.
Ready to start planning your trip to Burgundy? Contact us to get started!
Only with Paris-Toujours
A private trip to the medieval city of Semur-en-Auxois, a remarkable heritage site with a church, dungeon, and medieval fortifications, and Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, another medieval gem built around an 8th-century abbey. Here, you’ll also get to sample a local delicacy: aniseed sweets which are still made at the Abbey!