The region is unlikely to be at the top of a family travel hit list, but that doesn’t mean that it’s lacking in things to do with children. Adults considering a wine-tasting holiday can easily factor in nonalcoholic activities that will keep younger members of the family happy. Here’s what you need to know about visiting Burgundy with kids.
Is Burgundy a good region to visit with kids?
With beautiful landscapes to cycle through, a range of parks and plenty of places for outdoor adventures, there are many activities to suit the whole family in Burgundy.
While restaurants don’t always have high chairs or changing facilities, attitudes to children when it comes to eating out are invariably welcoming. A typical children’s menu will include steak haché et frites (minced steak and fries) or some kind of croque monsieur. In places that don’t offer a specific menu for kids, staff are usually very happy to arrange a half portion (demi portion) of any of the main dishes. Boeuf bourguignon – a beef, mushroom and bacon stew often served with pasta or mashed potato – is a local dish that has historically been very popular with my kids.
Where is best in Burgundy for families?
Burgundy is a big region, and where you stay really depends on the kinds of activities you want to do. Dijon, as a walkable city, is a good base for those with babies and very young children, who will enjoy the historic carousel and city trail as well as the fossil-filled museum in the Jardin de l’Arquebuse. For older kids, who might appreciate more outdoors adventures, the Jura near the Swiss border and the Morvan are designated as parcs naturel régional (regional nature parks) and offer more active pursuits, such as canoeing, biking and climbing.
Best things to do with toddlers
Follow the Owl Trail in Dijon
Keep a toddler’s mind occupied and their little legs going by engaging them on Dijon’s Owl Trail (Parcours de la chouette). Follow the small triangular bronze plaques embedded in the historic cobbled streets and beyond, forming a tour of the city with 22 different stops marked by larger rectangular plaques. Be sure to stop by rue de la Chouette and rub the stone owl sculpture on the side of the Église Notre Dame for a chance at happiness and wisdom.
Best things to do with elementary school-age children
See the workings of a “medieval” castle in the forest of northeast Burgundy
Around 40km (25 miles) west of Auxerre is Guédelon, a unique construction site. Since 1997, a team of 40 builders have been recreating a castle using only materials and methods that were available during the medieval period. Tour the site, chat with craftspeople or take part in a stone carving workshop, and leave with a fascinating sense of what life was like in the Middle Ages.
Explore some caves
There is a host of prehistoric caves to explore, with guided tours lasting 75 to 90 minutes. Walk alongside an underground river at Grottes d’Azé, about 20km (12 miles) north of Mâcon, with rare skeletons of cave lions and bears. Around 30km (19 miles) south of Auxerre are les Grottes d’Arcy, with cave paintings believed to be 28,000 years old, and just 13km (8 miles) from Cluny are les Grottes de Blanot, where you can travel up to 80m (262ft) underground.
Watch battle reenactments at Alésia
Alésia is believed by archaeologists to be the site where Vercingétorix, chief of the Gaulish coalition, was held under siege by Julius Caesar in 52 BCE. Learn all about it in the MuséoParc Alésia, a large modern interpretive center, with hands-on activities, kid-centric workshops and entertaining reenactments. A few kilometers away, walk among the Gallo-Roman ruins of a village dating from the period, and crane your neck upwards at the 6.6m-tall (22ft) copper statue of the tribal leader Vercingétorix himself.
Check out the vehicle museums at Château de Savigny-lès-Beaune
Castles and old stately homes tend to have limited appeal for kids, but if any youngster in your family is keen on cars, planes or even space satellites, you’ll want to swing by the vast collection at Château de Savigny-lès-Beaune. See rare Abarth race cars, wander among the largest collection of fighter jets in the world, or tour the old farming equipment that packs the chateau itself.
Play outdoors at a nature park or take a ride
Even some of the smallest Burgundian villages have an outdoor gym, football pitch or basketball court. For something more organized, look to Divertiparc in Toulon-sur-Arroux, a quaint rural park that keeps nature at its heart, with a labyrinth of stones and mazes made of bamboo and trees. With more of a fairground flair – including a steam train, log flume and Ferris wheel – head to Parc des Combes near Le Creusot.
Best things to do with tweens and teens
Follow one of Burgundy’s gorgeous cycle routes
Peaceful countryside cycle paths are found throughout the region. You could have a multiday family cycle along the Voie Bleue, which runs through Burgundy beside the river Saône to Mâcon, or simply pootle through the vineyards of the Voies des Vignes near Beaune, where the only other traffic you’ll meet will be fellow cyclists and the occasional vine tractor. Pick up a voies vertes et velotourisme (greenways and cycling routes) map at any tourist office, or visit the helpful France Vélo Tourisme website, where you can search routes in the region by cycling ability.
Head for an acro park or water park
“Acro” comes from the Greek word akro, meaning something at a height, and in France, acro parks are the perfect place to whack safety harnesses on ambitious tweens and teens and send them up to climb through the treetops. The descent? It’s usually down an extremely long zipline. Find acro parks near Givry, Cluny and Curley, about 27km (17 miles) south of Dijon. Seasonal water park options include the big-slide experiences of Aquaparc Isis near Dole and the outdoor natural-water pools with slide and climbing walls at Beaune Côté Plage.
In the main towns, you’ll have no problem moving around the sidewalks with a stroller, but if you go off into villages and vineyards, you’ll find the quality (where there are sidewalks) deteriorates. If you plan on any hikes or walks in these regions with a baby, it’s best to bring a carrier.
Baby food, diapers, formula and children’s clothes can be bought in any of the large chain supermarkets (Carrefour, Leclerc, Lidl). Beware that smaller shops may close for an hour at lunchtime, and many places stay closed all day on Sundays.