A tour de force for wine lovers, this cycling itinerary through Burgundy (Bourgogne in French) immerses you in its winegrowing heartland.
Pedaling along backroads and paths used by vintners past clos (enclosed vineyard plots) laced by ancient stone walls, and stopping off for château visits and idyllic picnics, you’ll bond with the landscape at the essence of Burgundy’s revered vintages and its very soul.
Planning your perfect trip
The Route des Grands Crus traverses some 37 miles (60km) of undulating terrain south of Dijon through the Côte d’Or (“Golden Hillside”) wine region. You’ll ride through its northern Côte de Nuits, where verdant vines predominantly grow pinot noir grapes, and southern Côte de Beaune, with primarily pinot noir and chardonnay (wines are named for the place, not the grape). Between them, they produce some of the world’s most prestigious wines.
Allow at least two days to soak up the scenery and dégustation (tasting) opportunities at famous châteaux and cellars in charming wine towns and villages. Cycling conditions are generally best from May, when spring wildflowers are in bloom to the vendanges around September, when grapes are harvested by hand. And to make things a little easier, electrically assisted bicycles are available for hire as well.
Make your ‘grand depart’ from Dijon
Burgundy’s splendid capital, Dijon, makes an ideal staging post for the Route des Grands Crus, with bike rentals (road, mountain or electric) readily available from companies such as Bourgogne Evasion.
Before setting out, get a primer at Dijon’s Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie et du Vin (International City of Gastronomy and Wine). Opened in 2022, this striking epicurean center’s wine cellar, Cave de la Cité, has 250 different by-the-glass choices to sample.
Engaging workshops at its École des Vins de Bourgogne wine school include its "Burgundy, Local Wines," where – over the course of 40 minutes and four tastings – you’ll learn about Burgundy’s Unesco World Heritage-listed Climats. These grape-growing land parcels are defined by the intrinsic characteristics of their terroir, such as soil, sunshine and position. You’ll also learn about the hierarchy of Appellations d’Origine Contrôlée (AOCs), from Régionale through to the legendary Grands Crus that account for a third of Burgundy’s appellations.
Bonding over Burgundy: A deep dive into its art and architecture
Cycle Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits
Grands Crus are synonymous with the vineyards fanning out from pretty village of Gevrey-Chambertin. After passing tiny Morey-St-Denis and Chambolle-Musigny, you’ll reach the “birthplace of Burgundian wines,” Château du Clos de Vougeot. Founded in the 12th century by Cistercian Abbaye de Cîteaux monks, its Renaissance-style château was added in 1551; tours take in medieval cellars accommodating 2000 casks and four ancient grape presses. As the seat of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin (Brotherhood of the Knights of the Tastevin, ie tasting cup), this building is in the heart of the Climats’.
Roll on via Vosne-Romanée’s red-roofed village and among vines renowned for the grandest (and priciest) of Grands Crus – Romanée-Conti. That brings you to Nuits-St-Georges, a thriving historic wine town that gave the surrounding area its name. Its futuristic museum L’Imaginarium features sound-and-light displays, interactive exhibits and tastings – it’s also a museum dedicated to Crémant de Bourgogne, sparking white and rosé wines. At Nuits-St-Georges’ factory-museum Cassissium, you can discover the secrets of its sweet crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur), which forms the base of the refreshing French apéritif Kir when topped with white wine.
Bonding over Burgundy: Delicious dining experiences
Enter Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune
Crossing from Corgoloin to Ladoix-Serrigny, the fir-tree-capped Montagne de Corton marks your entry in the Côte de Beaune. The hill’s sunlit slopes shelter appellations that include the Grands Crus Corton (red) and Corton Charlemagne (white).
South of the vineyard-cloaked village of Aloxe-Corton you’ll pull into Burgundy’s viticultural capital, Beaune. Beneath its rampart-ringed medieval center, you can see millions of bottles of wines aging in more than 3 miles (5km) of 13th-century stone cellars at Patriarche Père et Fils. Then deepen your understanding of Burgundy’s prized vineyard plots at the interpretative center Maison des Climats, and, from spring 2023, the Cité des Climats & Vins de Bourgogne – the flagship of a trio of showcases for Burgundy’s wines (the others are in Chablis and Mâcon), in a building shaped like a vine tendril. Beaune’s Gothic gem Hôtel-Dieu des Hospices de Beaune owns its own vineyard and hosts a festive annual wine auction.
Beaune makes a great place to take a break in your journey, with cozy restaurants such as Caves Madeleine, where you can share a table with locals amid the wine racks, and bike-friendly accommodations like boutique Hôtel des Tonneliers on a cobbled street in the old town.
Bonding over Burgundy: Exploring medieval history
Bike beyond Beaune
To Beaune’s south in the Côte de Beaune are two bucket-list-topping châteaux. First is Pommard’s 1726-established Château de Pommard, which has a dedicated Route des Grands Crus tasting of five wines.
Swing southwest via Volnay’s vineyards producing delicate reds to Meursault’s magnificent Château de Meursault. Famed for its exquisite white wines, it has cellars dating back as far as the 12th century. Cedar and chestnut trees flourish in its gardens adjoining the château and manicured rows of chardonnay vines.
Heading west to the tucked-away hamlet St-Romain, vineyards and woodland converge below sheer limestone cliffs, with sweeping panoramas and scenic picnicking spots. Vineyard views continue in every direction as you ride on south to La Rochepot, where the turreted, glazed-tiled Château de La Rochepot rising from the forest is a storybook vision (the castle itself is closed to the public).
White wines are the star of Puligny-Montrachet, which claims four Grands Crus. Wine bar/cellar Caveau de Puligny-Montrachet nurtures up-and-coming winemakers as well as its appellation’s most famous names. You’ll then pass neighboring Chassagne-Montrachet before wrapping up in pretty Santenay, where you can toast your journey with its floral reds.
Bonding over Burgundy: Nourishing outdoor adventures
Alternative Burgundy bike rides
A less-challenging alternative to the Route des Grands Crus is following an easy 14 miles (22km) of the Voie des Vignes (Vineyard Way) from Beaune to Santenay. Meandering through grape-laden vines, it takes in the wine villages of Pommard, Volnay, Meursault, Puligny Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet and Santenay. An add-on to Santenay’s northwest, the medieval village of Nolay is another easy 8.8 miles (14km) following a railway-line-turned-greenway.
Burgundy’s regional loop Tour de Bourgogne à Vélo (Tour of Burgundy by Bike) offers a multitude of other rides in the region.