Burgundy, in central France, perfectly combines the French “joie de vivre” — or joy of living — with an outstanding cuisine, world-class wines, a bucolic landscape, centuries-old castles and traditional villages.
Less than two hours by train from Paris, Burgundy is a great place to visit anytime, but fall is especially ideal as grape-picking season turns rows of vines into hubs of activity.
Here are top 10 picks for things to do in the region, for everyone from wine lovers to history buffs.
Stay in a Chateau
Sleeping in a manor or country house is a quintessentially French experience. There are beautifully restored chateaux up and down the region for a good night’s rest in unique, historical settings.
Rural Chateau Sainte Sabine charms with a large park where deer roam, while the 13th-century Chateau D'Ige features guestrooms in its castle towers as well as award-winning dining.
Explore Dijon, the Region’s Capital
The capital of the Dukes of Burgundy, Dijon was once one of Europe’s greatest centers of art, learning and science. Its former glory is visible in buildings such as the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, the Tour Philippe le Bon tower or the Tour de Bar tower.
Museum of Fine Arts Dijon has a wonderful collection of paintings, including the works of everyone from Italian painter Titian and Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens to French painters Claude Monet and Edouard Manet.
Half-timbered houses, the historic center and a lively street scene all invite one to idle a while.
Tour the Vineyards
Southern Burgundy is famous for its pinot noir and chardonnay (the latter is named after a local commune) grape varieties. Clients can walk, cycle or drive through the vineyards in search of the perfect sip.
Many producers such as Domaine de L'Echelette open their cellar doors for drop-in visitors. Wine connoisseurs can follow the Route Touristique des Grands Crus from Santenay commune to Dijon, a route that stretches 39 miles.
Climb Solutre Rock
Towering over Maconnais vineyards, this unusual geological feature has become a symbol of southern Burgundy. In 1866, geologists discovered thousands of horses, bison, auroch (a cattle species) and mammoth remains at Solutre. Some fossils are displayed in Prehistory Museum of Solutre located at the foot of the rock, which takes about 30 minutes to climb.
Encourage clients to take a picnic at the top of Solutre (there is a cafe as part of the site) from where they can enjoy sweeping views.
Cruise Through the Canals
With nearly 750 miles of rivers and canals, most of which are navigable, Burgundy is a boating paradise. Renting a barge with family and friends allows for a gentle pace of traveling past green vineyards, pastel-colored villages, ivy-covered chateaux and medieval churches. Other options are to book river cruises on hotel barges or shorter excursions for only a few hours.
Breathe Fresh Air at Morvan Regional Natural Park
Woodlands, lakes and traditional farmland make up the vast Morvan Regional Natural Park. The area is perfect for hiking on the long and short distance footpaths or for watersports on still water, including swimming, canoeing and fishing. Paddleboats, horses and mountain bikes are other ways to explore these wide-open spaces.
Soar Through the Skies
For more than 25 years, France Montgolfieres Balloon Company has offered hot-air balloon rides over Burgundy. There are two main departures, one over the vineyards of Beaune and the other over the spectacular medieval hilltop town of Vezelay. The region’s varied landscape can be discovered privately from the sky or with others at sunset or sunrise. Departures are daily but can only take place during calm weather from April to October.
Get Spiritual at Cluny Abbey
The remains of what was once Christendom's largest church (until the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican) are fragmentary and scattered throughout modern-day Cluny. However, thanks to 3D technology, it is possible to imagine how the majestic Cluny Abbey — which is renowned for its wealth as well as power over more than a thousand priories and monasteries from Poland to Portugal — looked in the 12th century.
The best view of the abbey is from the Tour des Fromages, a historical landmark.
Indulge in Gastronomic Delights
Beef bourguignon, eggs en meurette (poached eggs in red wine sauce), Gaston Gerard chicken — these are a few examples of the many famous French dishes that come from Burgundy. Another popular local item is Dijon mustard, a condiment known throughout the world.
In the city of Dijon, clients can enter the famous La Boutique Maille and La Moutarderie Edmond Fallot shops; at either one, they can try black currant-flavored mustard by the spoonful.
Adventurous gourmets might like to try another Bourgogne staple food: snails. (They taste delicious with parsley sauce.)
Visit La Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine
Stunning La Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine, said to be the largest Romanesque Church in France, sits atop what is known as the Eternal Hill. As the site supposedly once guarded a reliquary containing one of Mary Magdalene's bones, the village of Vezelay was a major pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages. One of the main routes to Santiago de Compostela in Spain starts here. Concerts of sacred music are held from June to September.
Bourgogne Franche Comte Tourisme