Awarded Top 10 region to travel to in 2022About Best In Travel 2022
Burgundy (Bourgogne in French) offers some of France's most gorgeous countryside: rolling green hills dotted with mustard fields and medieval villages. The region's towns and its dashingly handsome capital, Dijon, are heirs to a glorious architectural heritage that goes back to the Renaissance, the Middle Ages and into the mists of Gallo-Roman and Celtic antiquity.
Two great French passions, wine and food, come together here in a particularly enticing way. Burgundy's vineyards have been granted Unesco World Heritage status in recognition of the region's centuries-old history of viticulture and the remarkable diversity of its winegrowing terroir (land).
Burgundy's four départements (Côte d'Or, Yonne, Saône-et-Loire and Nièvre) are a paradise for lovers of the great outdoors. You can cycle through venerable vineyards, hike the wild reaches of the Parc Naturel Régional du Morvan, glide along tranquil waterways in a canal boat, or float above it all in a hot-air balloon.
Burgundy: Voted Top 10 Region as Best in Travel 2022
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These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Burgundy.
Founded in 1118 and enshrined as a Unesco World Heritage site, Fontenay Abbey offers a fascinating glimpse of the austere, serene surroundings in which Cistercian monks lived lives of contemplation and manual labour. Set at road's end in a bucolic wooded valley beside a tranquil stream, this restored masterpiece of medieval monastic architecture includes an unadorned Romanesque church, a barrel-vaulted monks’ dormitory, and Europe's earliest metallurgical forge, complete with a working reconstruction of the hydraulic hammer used by 13th-century monks.
For anyone who's ever read an Astérix comic book and wondered how France's Celtic people really lived, Bibracte is a must-see. This hilltop stronghold of the ancient Gauls, together with the attached Museum of Celtic Civilisation, offers a compelling portrayal of pre-Roman France in the years prior to Caesar's arrival. Crowning beautiful Mont Beuvray, 25km west of Autun, the site boasts expansive views and numerous walking trails, including the GR13, through high-altitude fields and 1000 hectares of forest.
Founded in the AD 880s on a former Roman and Carolingian site, Vézelay's stunning hilltop basilica was rebuilt between the 11th and 13th centuries. On the famous 12th-century tympanum, visible from the narthex (enclosed porch), Romanesque carvings show an enthroned Jesus radiating his holy spirit to the Apostles. The nave has typically Romanesque round arches and detailed capitals, while the transept and choir (1185) have Gothic ogival arches. The mid-12th-century crypt houses a reliquary reputedly containing one of Mary Magdalene's bones.
Nearing the end of a nine-year renovation, these sprawling galleries in Dijon's monumental Palais des Ducs are works of art in themselves and constitute one of France's most outstanding museums. The star attraction is the wood-panelled Salle des Gardes, which houses the ornate, carved late-medieval sepulchres of dukes John the Fearless and Philip the Bold. Other sections focus on Egyptian art, the Middle Ages in Burgundy and Europe, and six centuries of European painting, from the Renaissance to modern times.
Cluny's vast abbey church, built between 1088 and 1130, once extended from the map table in front of the Palais Jean de Bourbon to the trees near the octagonal Clocher de l'Eau Bénite (Tower of the Holy Water) and the adjoining square Tour de l'Horloge (Clock Tower) – a staggering 187m! A short film (multilingual headsets available) helps modern-day visitors envision the grandeur of the medieval abbey while exploring its scant ruins. English-language audioguides (€3) and self-guided tour booklets are available.
Châtillon’s main claim to fame is the Trésor de Vix (Vix Treasure), a collection of Celtic, Etruscan and Greek objects from the 6th century BC on display at the Musée du Pays Châtillonnais. The outstanding collection includes an exquisitely ornamented, jaw-droppingly massive Greek krater; easily the largest known bronze vessel from the ancient world, it's 1.64m high, with a weight of 208.6kg and a capacity of 1100L!
Founded in 1114, Abbaye de Pontigny rises from the lush mustard fields 15km north of Chablis. The spectacular abbatiale (abbey church) is one of the last surviving examples of Cistercian architecture in Burgundy. The simplicity and purity of its white-stone construction reflect the austerity of the Cistercian order. On summer days sunshine filtering through the high windows creates an amazing sense of peace and tranquillity. Discovering Pontigny (€2.50), on sale in the gift shop, points out fascinating architectural details.
This ancient abbey with its dramatic flying buttresses began as a basilica above the tomb of St Germain, the 5th-century bishop who made Auxerre an important Christian centre. By medieval times it was attracting pilgrims from all over Europe. The crypt, accessible by tour (in French, with English handout), contains some of Europe's finest examples of Carolingian architecture. Supported by 1200-year-old oak beams, the walls and vaulted ceiling are decorated with 9th-century frescoes; the innermost sanctum houses St Germain's tomb.
Originally Romanesque, this cathedral was built in the 12th century to house the sacred relics of St Lazarus. Over the main doorway, the famous Romanesque tympanum shows the Last Judgment surrounded by zodiac signs, carved in the 1130s by Gislebertus, whose name is inscribed below Jesus' right foot. Ornamental capitals by Gislebertus and his school, described in a multilingual handout, adorn the columns of the nave; several especially exquisite capitals are displayed at eye level upstairs in the chapter room.