Best Things To Do in Burgundy
Covering a wide swath of east-central France, Burgundy is filled with interesting attractions in all of its charming towns. You'll find an array of wine tours in Beaune, architectural wonders, such as the Chantier Médiéval de Guédelon in Treigny and the hilltop Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine in Vézelay, and historic sites along the Owl's Trail in Dijon. As you hop from town to town, enjoy the region's rolling countryside, picturesque canals and Michelin-starred restaurants.
Updated March 28, 2019
- #1View all Photos#1 in BurgundyChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDRead More
The Cathédrale Saint-Lazare d'Autun, also known as the Autun Cathedral, was built in the 12th century as a Roman Catholic cathedral and storehouse of the relics of St. Lazarus. Of particular note are the works of art, including a tympanum of "The Last Judgement." The iconic sculptures, carved by Gislebertus in the Romanesque style, are equally engaging.
Recent visitors said the Cathédrale Saint-Lazare d'Autun stands out among European cathedrals for its architecture and art. Along with the tympanum, travelers also appreciated the cathedral's stained glass and the way the cathedral continues to be used by the Autun community.
- #2View all Photos#2 in BurgundySightseeing, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
The Hospices de Beaune was founded in 1443 by Burgundy Chancellor Nicolas Rolin and his wife Guigone de Salins as a hospital for the region's poor and needy. But this building is far from austere. Underneath the slate roofs are brilliantly colored tiled ceilings and skylights, and walls hanging with historic artworks, such as the altarpiece "The Last Judgement" by Rogier van der Weyden. Other highlights include a courtyard, a kitchen and an apothecary, which visitors can learn about on an audio tour (covered by the price of admission). Plus, every November, the site hosts a famous charity wine auction.
Former visitors were astonished at how much they learned about medicine through the centuries, though they did mention that you'll need to allocate more time than you think to take advantage of the full audio tour. Some recommended devoting the most time to the last room on the audio tour, which houses some of the most interesting art, wine and medical history, according to reviewers.
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Dijon's Owl's Trail – or "Le Parcours de la Chouette" – is a great way to get an overview of Dijon's history, especially from the 11th to 14th centuries, when the Dukes of Burgundy infused the province with art and architecture. Visitors can download a smartphone app from Dijon's tourism site or pick up a booklet from the tourism office and take a self-guided tour of 22 sites that define the city, including the Palais des Ducs et des États de Bourgogne, the Musée des Beaux-Arts and Les Halles, among others. Although you can visit all 22 sites (and see the accompanying owl placards, hence the trail's name) within the space of an hour, you'll likely want to spend more time at the attractions that most interest you.
Most past visitors highly recommended this tour, which in addition to giving you an abbreviated history of the city also helps you orient yourself. Others said that the bars, restaurants and patisserie that you'll pass along the way are a great way to eat authentically French.
- #4View all Photos#4 in BurgundyCastles/Palaces, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDCastles/Palaces, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Designed by Italian architect Sebastiano Serlio in the 16th century, Le Château d'Ancy-le-Franc is a study in symmetry, as its four main facades come together to create a perfect square. Inside, more treasures await, as the walls are decorated with works by some of the most famous 16th- and 17th-century Italian, Flemish and Burgundian artists. Outside, the 123 acres that comprise its park and gardens are reminiscent of Paris' Versailles.
Travelers have mixed feelings about whether they recommend taking a guided or self-guided tour of the château. Some say it's nice to wander around at your own pace, especially if you have young kids in tow. Still, others say the knowledgeable tour guides enhance the visit.
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No trip to Burgundy is complete without indulging in a wine tasting – or two or three. And one of the best ways to enjoy a wide variety of Burgundy vino is on a wine tour of the region. The Bourgogne Gold Tour, based out of Beaune, earns high marks among travelers for its knowledgeable guides that take travelers to picturesque vineyards and wine cellars with delicious vintages. Authentica Tours, based out of Beaune and Dijon, is another highly rated operator praised by past reviewers for its personable guides and educational tours.
Since this is such a popular activity, it's wise to book your tour in advance of your travels. Keep in mind that rates for the various tours will vary widely, depending on the length of the tour, the number of wineries visited and whether you book a private tour or a group tour. For instance, Authentica Tours offers a tour through Côte de Beaune that costs 590 euros (about $750) for two people. The tour fee covers two or three tastings. Meanwhile, Burgundy Discovery – another popular tour operator – offers a one-day tour that starts at 230 euros (around $300) per person.
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La Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine, also known as the Vézelay Abbey, dates back to the 9th and 10th centuries – and throughout the years, has experienced a host of tumultuous events from its hilltop perch. From two separate fires in the 12th century to destruction by the Huguenots in the 15th century, the basilica was also the site from which Thomas Becket issued his condemnation of Henry II from exile and where meetings from the crusades took place. In 1979, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Today, it hosts religious services and is open for the public to enjoy.
Recent visitors praised La Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine's serene and even inspirational atmosphere. Others said that the view from the terrace is what justifies the steep uphill climb to the site.
- #7View all Photos#7 in BurgundySightseeing, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
If you ever wondered what it took to build a castle back in the 13th century, the Chantier Médiéval de Guédelon gives you the opportunity. A collection of master builders, including quarrymen, stonemasons, carpenter joiners, woodcutters, blacksmiths, tilers, carters and rope makers, are building a castle using only the techniques and materials of the 13th century. In addition to the actual castle, there is a village and a mill. Visitors can walk through the construction site and see what's being called a "21st-century medieval adventure."
A visit to the Chantier Médiéval de Guédelon is like a trip back through time, according to recent travelers. Many especially appreciated having the opportunity to ask the master builders questions about their trades. However, some past visitors said that the attraction can get quite busy, especially at the on-site restaurant, recommending that you bring your own food to enjoy in the picnic area.
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