The town of Beaune might be small in size, but it’s big in history and huge in wine – not for nothing is this Burgundy’s wine capital. Not far from the River Saone, it’s a must-stop on any waterways holiday in France.
The Côte de Beaune is home to five of the greatest vineyards in the region including Corton, Meursault and Pommard. So unsurprisingly many of the things to do in Beaune focus on wine. But there are other activities too in this lovely town that wine buffs may just not have heard of. So here’s our pick of the best:
Chemins de Lumieres
From 21 June to 25 September, Beaune’s iconic buildings light up every evening. Images based on the town’s history are projected onto seven key monuments while other parts of Beaune including the walls are also lit up. The projections last between 3 and 5 minutes. The tourist office provides a map of the illuminations (Chemins de Lumières) and there’s also a downloadable commentary, in French, for smart phones.
Le Bistrot Bourguignon in the heart of Beaune offers the very best in Burgundy dining including (of course) the region’s signature boeuf bourguignon and a long, long list of wines. They serve a good-value lunch menu on weekdays and the bistrot becomes the hub of the Beaune Jazz Festival in September. And it’s worth befriending the bistrot staff – they’re lovely once you do and they’re win knowledge is naturally second to none!
8 Rue Monge, open for lunch and dinner.
As the wine capital of Burgundy, Beaune makes an ideal base for visiting some of the best vineyards and tasting some grand crus on the way. Several local companies organise tours by 4×4 vehicle, by horse and carriage, by bike and even by Segway. Or you can opt for a wine tasting course. Prices start at €40 per person.
Going, going, gone…
During the third weekend in November (19-20 November this year) Beaune celebrates its three Glorious Days of Burgundy with street performances and parades, gourmet food and wine tasting, and even a half marathon. The highlight of the weekend takes place on the Sunday afternoon with the Burgundy Charity Auction in the Halles de Beaune when local wines are auctioned by Christie’s for seriously high prices.
The Hospices de Beaune, built as a hospital for the poor in 1443, count among the finest monuments in the country. Admire the stunning architecture, brightly tiled roofs and lovely courtyard on a visit that takes in the hospital pharmacy, chapel, wine cellars and the vineyards established in 1457.
Open daily 9am to 6.30pm 19 March to 20 November. Adults €7.50, children under 10 free
Head for the beach
The Côte d’Or might be a step from the coast, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go to the beach. One of the top family things to do in Beaune is visit the Côté Plage where four natural pools, acres of grassy ‘beaches’ and a lot of fun activities await you. Jump into the water from the high diving board, the aquatic climbing wall or a jungle vine, or just paddle around at the shallow end. Toddlers have a designed pool and lifeguards are on duty always. There isn’t a lot of shade so you may want to take a beach umbrella with you.
Open 14 June to 14 September, daily from 11-7. Adults €5.60-6.10, children (3-15) €4.10-4.60.
Located in the centre of town and at the source of the River Bouzaize, the large Parc de la Bouzaize has something for all the family: from the play parks and mini zoo to rowing on the lake and the English style formal garden. The large plane trees provide some welcome shade in the hot summer and there’s a café open in the warmer months.
The Basilica of Notre Dame in Beaune, built in the Romanesque style with Gothic details, dates from the 12th century and houses some real treasures. These include the Saint Leger chapel with its fresco murals, the cloisters and several stunning stained glass windows. But the real highlight in this church is five tapestries, woven in 1500, depicting the life of the Virgin Mary. The Basilica is open Friday and Saturday 10am-1pm and 2-6pm, and Sunday 2-6pm in April, May, October and November, and daily (except Tuesday) from 10am-1pm and 2-6pm, and Sunday 2-6pm June to September.
As you’d expect in a town surrounded by vineyards, Beaune has its own wine museum. Reopened after restoration in March 2016, the museum and its exhibits offer a unique insight into the history, culture and science behind the wine tradition in the area. A must-see for anyone interested in how Burgundy wine is made. Visit the Beaune wine museum first and then take a tour of a Burgundy vineyard afterwards so you can see the process in action!
Hôtel des Ducs de Bourgogne, Rue Enfer. Adults €4.80
And if you weren’t spoilt for choice on wine tastings and vineyards, we’ve now jam packed your Beaune itinerary even more!