Burgundy Uncorked: Beaune and the Burgundy Wine Region

Vineyards in autumn at sunrise, Cote d'Or, Burgundy, France
Burgundy in Autumn. Matteo Colombo/Getty Images

Beaune is in the Côte-d'Or wine region of Burgundy. It is believed that the area around Beaune has produced wine since 300 AD. The Catholic church took over winemaking in the Middle Ages, finding that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay flourished in the varied microclimates of Burgundy. But the tide has turned and today you'll find wineries and hotels in restored monasteries.

The town of Beaune makes a fine hub from which to explore the Burgundy region. The town is accessible from the A6 motorway from Paris to the north, or from Lyon to the south. Beaune is 40 km south of the Dijon airport.

Beaune Attractions

  • Hospice de Beaune - a system of charitable hospitals, the first called the Hôtel-Dieu, was born on 4 August 1443 after the Hundred Years War was ended. While "écorcheurs" still pillaged the countryside, most of the people of Beaune were poor. Nicolas Rolin, Chancellor of the Duke of Burgundy Philippe le Bon, and his wife Guigone de Salins reacted by deciding to create a hospital for the poor. You can see this history in the building details--on the outside the Hôtel-Dieu is decidedly plain, reflecting its somber mission and making the complex less attractive to thieves. But once inside, the colorful tile roof reflect the wealth of the inordinately generous ruling class. The Hôtel-Dieu is now a museum that makes a fascinating visit. [pictures below]
  • Basilique Notre Dame Church - work on the church started in the 12th century
  • Musee de la Vigne et du Vin (Burgundy Wine Museum) - housed in a former residence of the Dukes of Burgundy, you can see the winemaking tools and machines as well as get an idea of the history of the region. 
  • Burgundy Tasting Cellars - many in the historic center of Beaune.

Wine Tasting Tip

Wine writer Simon Firth recommends avoiding the pressure to buy expensive bottles of wine by paying for tasting at a merchant who represents several wineries. He recommends Le Marché aux Vins in the town of Beaune. The wines of Burgundy do not come cheap.

Restaurants and Cuisine

Restaurants in Beaune run from the cheap (mussels and frites) to expensive gourmet. For those who like innovative cuisine try  L´Ecusson, just outside of town. Beef marrow bones stuffed with snails in a wine reduction with the crunch of gros sel. Mmmm.

Open Air Market

Beaune's open-air market day is Saturday. The area around the market is good for an inexpensive meal.

Barging the Burgundy Canal

Another interesting way to visit this region is to rent a barge on "Le Canal de Bourgogne" or the Burgundy Canal. The canal connects the Atlantic ​Ocean to the Mediterranean via the rivers Yonne and Seine to the river Saône and Rhone. The construction began in 1727 and was completed in 1832.

Where to Stay

There are many hotels in town. Also consider staying on the outskirts at the highly rated Hotel Adelie, especially if you're more interested in walking vineyards than exploring the historic center of the city (or if you're coming by car to Beaune).

If you make Beaune your base for exploring the region, a vacation rental like this highly-rated apartment in the city center might be perfect.