If you haven’t already figured it out, I’m a bit of a Francophile. But I will confess that going to Beaune was a hard decision. I went in March and the beaches of France were calling. I kept picturing myself catching some rays in Nice, having some Bouillabaisse in Marseille, or going broke in Cannes. Alas, the adventure of a new venue, and the temptation of drinking amazing Chardys won me over. When I arrived, the city of Beaune engulfed me. What’s not to love. It’s not overrun by tourists (unless you go during their famous wine festival – then again, the wine makes everything o.k.), it is surrounded by amazing wine, has gorgeous architecture, its people are nice AND the food is off the hook. Here’s a bit more detail on why I’d go back to Beaune in a heartbeat and what you should see & do while you’re there.
We stayed at Beaune Happy Apartment. At $172 per night it beat out most hotels (which were not busy at this time) AND it had a full kitchen and two separate rooms. The interwebs was a little sketchy there, but then again, we were in a walled city in an old building in France. Our host, Cristina was great. She attended to all our needs and had pre-stocked the fridge with wine. She had an awesome palate, we loved all her selections. The apartment is part of a complex with a super charming outdoor area. We even had visits from kittens who lived in the building. It was a blast playing with them (and a welcome distraction from work). I would definitely recommend that you check out Cristina’s place if you head to Beaune.
Once we settled in, we started exploring. The town was quiet (almost desolate), but this was not an issue for me. I was ready to unplug and unwind. The city’s quiet made visiting sites really pleasant. There was no need to yell at tourists touching art work, stand on line to get into churches, and getting a table at restaurants (even Michelin starred ones) was not an issue. March was a winning month for me.
Musee de l’Hotel-Dieu: This building is tres cool. Its glazed roofs will call you over. It is a bit more flamboyant than the rest of the buildings in the city. It was a charitable project by Nicolas Rolin who was the chancellor of he duke of Burgundy. The building was set to give medical care to those who could not afford it. This Middle age building has gorgeous Gothic details and a treasure trove of art inside. Most people head in to check out the altarpiece of the Last Judgment by Rogier van der Weyden. Better still, there are cellars at the Hospices. Tickets cost between € 2.30 (children under 18) to € 7 (adults). It is located at Rue de l’Hôtel Dieu.
Collégiale Basilique Notre-Dame: This Basilica is known as “Notre Dame de Beaune” and the “Daughter of Cluny”. She is a Burgundian Romanesque church which has been peppered with Gothic elements including a bell-tower, flying buttresses, and a chevet). Its architectural complexity is a delight. It also holds some gorgeous Marian tapestries and a 12th Century sculpture of the Mother and Child. You can go in for free, but if you want to get a nice historical tour, it will cost you a mere 3€. The basilica is located at Place général Leclerc .
Musée du Vin: A must if you are a win lover. This museum was created in 1946 andhoused in the former Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy which was already a historic building. You can learn all about Burgundy’s terroir, climate, and even say a prayer or two to the Patron Saint of the Vine. Entry will cost you 5.40€. The museum of wine is located at Musée du Vin de Bourgogne Hôtel des Ducs Rue .
Wine: There are plenty of places for you to taste wine. Start at Joseph Drouhin, it’s right in town, so no driving is necessary. This will give you a nice representation of the region. Then head to the Wine Museum (mentioned above). Then, talk to locals (don’t worry, a lot of people speak English, and they want to help out their wine making friends). You may end up making life long friends and tasting wines that will ruin your palate forever (example - Vincent et Francois Jouard – holey smokes their wine is AMAZING).
Beaune Wine Auction: If you’re lucky enough to find a place to stay, you should definitely check out the wine auction. It takes place on the third week-end in November. There’s music, theater, and WINE! If you’re lucky enough to have money & connections, you can hit up the auction at the Hospices de Beaune (Hotel-Dieu) on Sunday afternoon. It’s the world’s most famous charity wine auction.
Saint Vincent Tournante: This is my patron saint…ok…not quite. Saint Vincent is the patron saint of wine growers, not wine drinkers. Each year, a different village is chosen to host the St. Vincent festival which includes a procession (I always feel bad for the people carrying around the saints), music, games, and of course, a wine tasting and feast. The festival started in 1938 by the Chevaliers du Tastevin.
Beaune Farmer’s Market: Grab your recyclable shopping bag on Wednesdays & Saturdays for the most kick ass farmer’s market. It takes place in the Plaza by the Hotel Dieu and has some amazing goodies for you. You can check out the goodies & deets on the FriendsEAT blog where I write all about food stuff.
HOW TO GET TO BEAUNE?
Planes: Fly into Dijon or Lyon airport.
Train: Although there is a direct train, your best bet is to take the TGV from either Paris or Lyon to Dijon. Once you get to Dijon, switch to the local train. The ride will be about 2 1/2 hours.
Automobile: You can get to Beaune from the A6, or A31. If you’re coming in from Paris it will take you around 2 1/2 hours, and if you’re coming in from Lyon it will take you about 45 minutes. We drove, it was surprisingly painless once we got our GPS to work).
Once you’re there, you can walk the city. However, you will need a car if you plan on going anywhere outside the city. This includes wineries. My suggestion is that you make a day of your winery visits so you have time to sober up before getting back in your car.