Every month, My Next Memory gives you our real feedback from a French destination and tells you how it’s really like to travel there. So buckle up, and come with us. This month, we take you to Burgundy!
Burgundy is, of course, famous for its wine route, but even for the ones who are not big wine amateurs, there are plenty of sights or activities to explore!
How much time to spend in Burgundy? And doing what?
We recommend sparing about 3 to 4 days to have a relaxed and complete overview of the region. If you just wish to visit the most famous vineyards and continue on your way to Paris or to Lyon then a 2-days stop is enough. Burgundy is accessed by a 3 to 4 hours drive from Paris or taking the train to either Dijon or Beaune.
The Burgundy wine region can be divided into 4 sub-zones (5 if you add up Chablis in the far North), all of them producing equally white and red wines. The specificity of Burgundy is that wines are always produced from a single grape variety: Pinot Noir for reds and Chardonnay for whites. And that’s it: the local wine requirements do not allow mixing anything else. Each sub-zone would take at least a half-day to explore considering you would be stopping at 2 or 3 wineries for visits and tastings. As in Bordeaux, the most expensive and exclusive wineries are generally not open to the public, unless you are a wine professional or a VVIP customer, but that still leaves you with plenty of amazing wine opportunities!
What makes Burgundy so unique are the “Climats”. Difficult to translate, a “climat” refers to a very precise plot of land: each of them is unique in its altitude, sun and water exposure, and soil composition. Therefore, all wines being made from the same grape varieties, what introduces the subtleties in taste for Burgundy wines are the “Climat”: a Pinot Noir from a certain plot will taste a little different than the one from its neighbouring plot. And it is said that the monks themselves draw this map of “Climats” during the Middle-Ages based on their expert knowledge.
Even if you don’t really like wine, you could definitely rent a bicycle and enjoy the Wine Cycling Route to discover the beautiful scenery and villages! Burgundy did this fantastic initiative of dedicating a small road to bicycles only, about half-way high into the vines!
City break in Beaune
Beaune is definitely our favourite place and the best base to explore Burgundy. The town is small, beautiful and centrally convenient to visit the entire region. Beaune has a typical ancient architecture: the old town is surrounded by a river which used to be the outside City Walls. Inside the old centre, you may wander into the small streets, have a coffee or a lunch on a terrasse and check-out the antique markets.
Most prominently, a visit to the Hospices de Beaune is an absolute must! One of the best preserved medieval hospitals in Europe, the Hospices will take you back in time and will allow you to imagine the health care conditions at that time….The Hospices were the first private hospital built by a wealthy couple who decided to give its money back to the poor and the sick and let them receive comfortable care.
Continue your day by checking out the Edouard Fallot Mustard factory where you will discover everything about this indispensable French cuisine condiment!
And how about finishing with a local wine tasting or a discovery at a local wine shop? Or in one of the several Michelin-starred restaurants in the town?
Religious heritage and monuments in Burgundy
Apart from the mentioned Hospices de Beaune, Burgundy is also home to two other major Christian landmarks.
The Abbaye of Citeaux is the founding location and the head monastery of the Cistercian order. Still inhabited by monks who took closure vows (meaning you won’t see them and they remain silent for most of their life apart from choir singing), the Abbey is also interesting for non-religious visitors. It is a unique opportunity to enter a closed monastery and to discover its history and architecture.
Citeaux is also very famous in France for the cheese produced by the monks, that you can buy when leaving the site!
The Abbaye de Fontenay also belongs to the Cistercian order but it now entirely used as a monument for visits. Classified as a UNESCO heritage, Fontenay is the best-preserved example of Roman Christian architecture dating back to the 12th century. All buildings are still intact and can be entirely visited. The garden is also famous for its beautiful arrangements and peacefulness. Everything in the building and the outdoor is made to be beautifully inspiring yet extremely simple, so as not to disturb the mind from the meditation and prayer.
A car is required to visit them.
How about accommodation? And food?
Burgundy is a delight for any type of traveller and any budget! During our research, we’ve come across equally nice options for the middle 3-stars budget to the upscale and splurge luxury experiences, both in town or in the vineyards depending on your style: car or not, city dweller or looking for a countryside retreat.
On the upper side of the accommodation spectrum, Beaune hosts some delightful, century-old hotels with luxurious rooms in historical houses only a step away from the Hospices. And of course, some vineyards offer breath-taking accommodation and spa options.
As for food, well, Burgundy is pretty much a one-of-its-kind with very typical speciality dishes such as the world-famous Boeuf Bourguignon beef stew, or other lesser known delicacies often served in heavy sauces such as Oeufs Meurette or Coq-au-Vin. The region is also famous for its fine mustard and cheeses very strong in taste such as Epoisses or the over-creamy Chaource!
In a nutshell
Burgundy is an attractive destination in many ways: the region is a good stop-over or extension from Paris or from the South of France equally, it can be visited any time of the year and is of course home to some of the most sought-after wines in the world! The beauty of Burgundy is that it also can be enjoyed as a very short stay or for a few days, depending on your passion for wines and heritage architecture!