A short drive south of the capital city of Burgundy, Dijon, is Beaune – an ancient town encircled by medieval ramparts, famed for its significant production of Burgundian wines. Though smaller in size compared to its capital counterpart, there’s no shortage of sites to see and experiences to be had, thanks to its long history from the pre-Roman era through to the Renaissance, world-class gastronomy, and surrounding countryside blanketed by grapevines. Here are the 10 top things to see and do in Beaune.
Cycle the Route des Grand Crus
Quiet, low-traffic roads that weave through rolling vineyards (and not just any vineyards, some of the best in the world) are ideal for exploring on two wheels. Temperatures get quite warm during the summer months, so biking the route is best enjoyed in autumn during harvest, or just afterwards when the fields turn a yellow-gold. Sites en route include the châteaux de Corton André, Pommard, and Meursault, all located along the stretch through the Côte de Beaune.With many bike shops in town, it’s easy to rent for the day and push off pedalling from Beaune; talk to the shop owner to map out a ride ahead of time as parts of the region have some significant hills that are best suited for avid riders.
“Produits du terroir”, which roughly translates to “products of the land”, is the best way to describe the food of Burgundy: hearty and rich, using beef, meat, foul, and other ingredients that are native to the region. Rich beef stews (such as the classic Boeuf Bourguignon), escargots, Coq au Vin, and frogs legs are just a few of the oh-so-classically French dishes that were born in Burgundy. Restaurants abound in Beaune, visitors can have no shortage of choices for an unforgettable feast. Some of our favourites include Caves Madeleine and Caveau des Arches for an authentic experience serving up nothing but produits du terroir. Bon appétit!
Taste the world’s best wine with local producers
As Burgundy is synonymous with wine, there’s no better place to sip and learn about the delicate Pinot Noirs and crisp Chablis it harvests than from the source. A number of well-known producers can be found right in the town of Beaune, such as Joseph Drouhin, Louis Jadot, and Bouchard Père et fils. To dive even deeper, head into the countryside for a tasting (or two) at a domaine alongside the vines. Make sure to call and book appointments ahead of time, particularly during high or harvest season. The local tourism board or hotel concierge would be happy to assist with this.
Those who’ve always waned to unleash their inner Julia Child can do so in Beaune and partake in a cooking class with a local master. As mentioned earlier, Burgundy is the home of some of the most classic, and complicated, French dishes. Conquer them in the company of trained professionals, such as the ladies of The Cook’s Atelier: a mother-daughter pair from the United States who now call Beaune home, living out the expat dream.
Saturday market in Place de La Halle and Place Carnot
Not one, but two markets operate on Saturdays in Beaune. The market in Place de la Halle, located in the town centre beside the famous Hospices, has over 100 vendors supplying the townspeople and visitors alike with fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and pretty well any culinary staple imaginable. A short walk away in Place Carnot is the antique market* filled with old books, glassware, vases, clothing and more.
A stroll along the ancient ramparts that surround the city centre is not only incredibly romantic, but offers a different perspective of Beaune. Entrances to ascend into the ramparts can be accessed from the ring road by venturing down any of the roads leading to the town centre and are marked by the symbol of Amis des Remparts de Beaune. There are a number of important sites to see along the ramparts including the Château de Beaune, once a 15th-century castle turned headquarters of Bouchard Père et fils since 1872, the Théâtre de Verdure, a former theatre and now public garden, the Porte de Nicolas, one of the last remaining gates offering access past the walls to the town centre, and the statue garden of the Square des Lions.
Salvador Dali is perhaps not the first person one would associate with small-town Burgundy. However Jean Amiot, an art editor who collected more than 1000 Dali pieces, deemed it the perfect spot to open up a museum dedicated to the Catalan artist. The Dalineum offers a modern twist compared to the the ancient wonders of Beaune, offering a small permanent collection of surrealist paintings, sculptures, furniture, photographs – all 100% Dali’s work.
Founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, chancellor to Philip III Duke of Burgundy, the Hospices de Beaune, or Hôtel-Dieu, once served as a charitable refuge for the poor. Today it serves as a museum and architectural marvel, its glazed tile roof perhaps the most captivating aspect of the building. It still continues in charitable endeavours, however, such as its annual wine auction. Each year over the course of three days, wine from 60 hectares of donated land of the highest designations (Grand Cru and Premier Cru) is auctioned off, serving not only as a benchmark for the wine market but resulting in large sums of money, which is donated to one or more charities.
What better way to enjoy a market haul than by having a picnic in one of Beaune’s parks? A favourite among locals is the English-style Parc de la Bouzaize. Looking like a scene out of a painting, Parc de la Bouzaize contains five hectares of green space and a small lake sourced from the Bouzaize river with green canoes (available for rent) bobbing on top . There’s also a small animal farm, making it a perfect place to entertain kids. The park is equipped with free bathrooms and a café so guests can enjoy the whole day here relaxing in the sun.
Mustard lovers know that nearby Dijon is the eponymous city of the famously delicious and spicy Dijon Mustard. However Beaune is the home of one of the condiment’s top producers, Edouard Fallot. The Fallot Mustard Mill is the last independent, family-run mustard mill in all of Burgundy. The visit begins with a historical overview about mustard’s roots in the the region, followed by a sensorial experience that takes visitors through the production process. At the end of the visit, guests get to sample the final result, available in a number of varieties and flavours.