The heart of Burgundy entices with excellent cuisine, medieval architecture and, of course, wine.
When people ask me what French region they should visit after spending time in Paris, I reply “Burgundy” without missing a beat. It’s easily my favorite region outside Île de France. My husband and I have been more than half a dozen times, and we dream of having a home or piece of property there one day. The wine is the big draw for us. The earthy and elegant Pinot Noirs and the steely, straw-colored Chardonnays are simply the world’s best in our book. In the walled city of Beaune, wine bars and restaurants offer excellent local wines by the glass at affordable prices, but the town’s architecture, comforting cuisine and charming hotels are also good reasons to visit. Check out my video guide featuring the best things to do in Burgundy and the written guide below.
If you go:
At this excellent Japanese restaurant, diners sit perched at a counter where they have a closeup view of the chef in action.
My favorite restaurant in Beaune feels more like a wine shop than a formal restaurant: bottles from excellent local producers — many natural winemakers — line one wall and there’s a large communal table in the center. However, a spot here is one of the most coveted in the city –reservations are obligatory — because the food is so delicious. Hungry diners choose from small a menu of market-driven dishes scrawled on a chalkboard like onion soup with cheese ravioli and roast duck breast with sinfully delicious mashed potatoes.
This French-Asian fusion restaurant serves small plates like seared scallops and crispy fried chicken making for a fun tapas-style meal.
La Table du Square
Once one of the liveliest wine bars in town, La Table du Square has become more of a restaurant. The chef/owner serves simple but delicious fare like roast lamb for two and côte de boeuf. If you have dinner plans elsewhere, it’s still possible to go for a glass of wine at the bar. Typically filled with locals, the ambiance is one of Beaune’s best.
Located down an alleyway off the main square in Beaune, this inconspicuous restaurant is known by sommeliers the world over for its legendary wine list: The heavy leather-bound book features the best local producers. The cuisine is second to the wine, but traditional dishes like boeuf bourguignon, a beef stew cooked in red wine, and escargot are hearty and flavorful.
Bistrot du Coin
Locals station themselves at this corner spot’s zinc bar for thinly sliced charcuterie and excellent wine like zesty Thierry et Pascal Matrot Saint Romain or Jean Pascal et Fils Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru. The latter tastes faintly of lemon bundt cake.
This excellent wine bar just outside the walled city serves local terrines, Italian sliced meats and lively natural wines in a warm space with red brick walls.
Les Jardin de Lois
One of the owners of this bed and breakfast in an old stable is from the United Kingdom, so it has a slightly British feel. There’s a proper English breakfast and guests are often from the UK. The lovely gardens, winery and light-filled rooms decorated with antiques are quintessential French country. This is a very popular place to stay due to the charming setting, location and reasonable rates. Book well in advance.
L’Hotel de Beaune
Located in a beautiful hôtel particulier in the middle of Beaune, L’Hotel de Beaune is slightly more expensive than Les Jardin de Lois, but it has a central location, spacious guest rooms and friendly service. I like the two “Bistro” rooms above the restaurant. They were renovated recently and have big bathrooms and hardwood floors, but they’re less expensive than the guest rooms in the main house.
Things do Do
Hospices de Beaune
The most iconic building in Beaune, this former hospital for the poor features Gothic architecture and a spindly turret. The Hospices de Beaune was founded in the 15th century. Today, the hospital has a more modern facility, but the original building, also known as the Hôtel Dieu, is a museum. The hospital is the organizer of Burgundy’s most famous event: The Hospices de Beaune Wine Auction takes place on the 3rd Sunday of each November.
The Hospices owns vineyards in Côte de Beaune, Côtes de Nuits and Pouilly-Fuissé. Wine barrels produced from these vines are auctioned off to connoisseurs and professionals — some fetch tens of thousands of dollars — and proceeds go towards the Hospices’ newer hospital and other charities. In the days leading up to the auction, Beaune has a festival-like atmosphere with vendors selling wine and food on the main square. Many restaurants open outdoor bars where they sell oysters and sparkling wine.
Joseph Drouhin Oenothèque
This family-owned winery with vineyards in Chablis, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune and Côte Chalonaise also owns historic caves beneath the walled city once owned by the Dukes of Burgundy. It costs 38€ to go on a guided tour of the extensive cellars. Built during the 15th-century, the caves also contain Roman ruins. It’s a fascinating experience, and it ends with a tasting of six Drouhin wines.
Beaune has an excellent market each Saturday next to the Hospices de Beaune. Vendors sell roast chicken, fresh vegetables and fruits like mirabelles, cheese and even black truffles.
Château de Pommard
Under the ownership of a wealthy American businessman, this 18th-century winery and château has been reimagined as a wine education center. Visitors pay an entrance fee. Once inside, they can taste wine, view art and learn about Burgundy’s vineyard plots designated World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Bespoke experiences can be arranged such as “How to Build a Wine Cellar” and “How to Taste Wine.” Guests can also participate in the château’s wine harvest each September for a fee. A wine and music festival is held at the château each July.
Château du Clos de Vougeot
Standing in the middle of one of Burgundy’s most famous Grand Cru vineyards, Château du Clos de Vougeot should be a pilgrimage point for any Burgundy wine lover. While the castle no longer produces wine, the museum tells the history of winemaking in the region. The wine farm was originally built by monks in the 12th-century but renovated to look like a château in the 16th century. Visitors can see the medieval vat house and presses, the wine sellers and the dining room where elaborate banquets are still held each year.
Favorite Burgundy Winemakers:
Travelproper tip: Making tasting appointments in Burgundy isn’t easy. Many wineries are simply not equipped to receive visitors: They’re often small operations, and they don’t have staff dedicated to this. It’s always worth emailing ahead of time to see if a winery you’re interested in visiting will host you. Make sure you communicate your enthusiasm and try to use some French. When in town, you can also stop by wineries to see if they will allow you to buy a bottle or two.
Bertrand Machard de Gramont
Domaine des Vignes du Maynes, Julien Guillot
Pierre-Yves Colin Morey: Try the 2014 Santenay Vieilles Vines, Santenay white Burgundy or Saint Aubin white Burgundy.
Domaine Dujac: The Morey Saint-Denis is superb.
Domaine des Comtes Lafon: This producer’s Mâconnais are a great buy.
Jean-Marc Roulout: His Meusaults are divine and hard to find.
Domaine Michel LaFarge for Volnay.
Want to extend your trip? Head to the neighboring Jura region for more excellent wine and scenery.
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