Mention French châteaux and you immediately imagine those placed majestically along the Loire River. But other regions in France also boast fine castle palaces and one of the best places to see them is Burgundy. This wine region has around 100 châteaux dotted across its vineyard landscape, all of which have their own architectural style and charm. Next time you’re exploring this part of France, don’t miss these must-visit Burgundy châteaux.
Renaissance at its best – Château Ancy le Franc
One of the finest châteaux in Burgundy is Château Ancy le Franc, an example of Italian Renaissance architecture at its best. The exterior might seem a little severe, although there’s real beauty in the elegant square symmetry. Step inside, however, and a world of 16th century extravaganza awaits you. The five apartments, three galleries are adorned with one treasure after another – works by masters from the Fontainebleau School, carvings, sculptures, tapestries… And when you’ve had your fill of the lavish interiors, take a stroll in the extensive grounds. Don’t miss the recently restored East Parterre, a simply exquisite example of formal gardens.
Yet more sumptuous interiors – Château de Cormatin
Built in 1605 by Antoine du Blé d’Huxelles between Tournus and Cluny, this square château sits in its own water moat and houses some very fine décor. Mirrors, chandeliers and marquetry adorn the apartments, not unlike those at Versailles. Outside, the fine gardens include an ornamental maze. Burgundy wine came to this château’s rescue in 1789 when the owner calmed the revolutionary fury of rioting villagers by opening up the palace wine cellars so they could drink to their hearts content rather than razing the palace to the ground!
A feast of trompe l’oeil – Château de Tanlay
Another fine example of Renaissance architecture, the Château de Tanlay lies just outside Chablis and represents perhaps the quintessential French château. Its façade is a feast of towers and turrets and the palace sits in its own moat, complete with drawbridge that leads you to the courtyard. Inside, the most famous feature is the Grand Gallery, home to one of the world’s finest collections of trompe l’oeil frescoes.
The newest of them all – Château de Guedelon
The most recent Burgundy château is just 21 years old. Tucked in the heart of the Guedelon forest in the north-west of the region, the Château de Guedelon was started in 1997. Its construction methods and materials are, however, considerably older. The full size castle ‘dates back’ to the 13th century and is being built using medieval tools and materials. The workers even wear period costume and use animals for the heavy work rather than machinery. The medieval castle should be complete by 2023.
A true Maison Forte – Château de Coraboeuf
Tucked away in the farmland at Val-Mont, between Beaune and Nolay, this Burgundy château is one of the smallest and has a surprisingly Scottish air about it. Built in the 13th and 14th centuries, the Château de Coraboeuf boasts a fine keep tower with a small turret on each of its four corners. The Huntsman’s Tower is also worth admiring along with the Orangery, whose roof design has a hint of traditional Burgundy glazed tiles. This is one of the few châteaux in Burgundy that can only be visited on the outside.
At the heart of vineyards – Château Clos de Vougeot
No other Burgundy châteaux represent the region’s wine as well as Clos de Vougeot. Used originally as a vineyard by Cistercian monks in the 12th century, the Renaissance palace was built in the 16th century and has been at the heart of Burgundy wine ever since. Although the estate no longer produces wine, but some of the land is used by others to grow vines, Domaine de la Vougeraie, for example. Since 1934 it has been the seat of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. This Brotherhood of Burgundy wine hosts several events a year to welcome new knights of the order. Must-sees on your visit include the impressive winery and enormous cellar that houses 2,000 barrels.
Children very welcome – Château de Sully
In the town of Sully to the west of Beaune lies one of the most family friendly châteaux in Burgundy. Home to the Duchess of Magenta and dating from the 15th century, the Château de Sully sits Loire-like in its own moat. Access to the guided tour of the rooms is via an elegant bridge and adults shouldn’t miss tasting the wine from the estate’s Premier Cru vineyards. Children are most welcome too and have access to a great choice of activities that take place inside and out.
Vintage vehicle paradise – Château de Savigny-les-Beaune
Fans of anything on two or four wheels will love this château in the village of Savigny-les-Beaune, to the northwest of Beaune. Restored to its 14th century glory, this U-shaped château comes flanked with two fairytale turrets and is set in 27 hectares of vineyards. They produce no less than 9 premier crus but as well as wine, you’ll be wanting to visit the vehicles. The nine museums house a feast of vintage planes, Fiat Abarth racing cars and motorbikes. There’s also a large collection of tractors and fire engines…
Château with a secret – Château de Couches
The small village of Couches, some 30 kilometres south west of Beaune, houses one of the oldest and most enigmatic châteaux in Burgundy. The Château de Couches is also known as dit de Marguerite de Bourgogne, after the noblewoman who married Louis, heir to the French throne in the early 14th century. She was accused of adultery, repudiated and reportedly imprisoned in the Château Gaillard where she died in 1315. However, popular legend and some historians claim she was secreted away at Couches until her death in 1333.
As well as some historic mystery, the Château de Couches also boasts interesting architecture from an imposing 12th century square tower to a Gothic Chapel. Don’t miss the impressive castle walls that look over the lush wooded valleys around Couches.
On a mirror of water – Château de Commarin
Described as a “palace of stone on a mirror of water”, the Château de Commarin takes a commanding position over its wide moat. Originally part of the Duchy of Burgundy fortresses, the 16th century palace houses a feast of period furniture and objets as well as a large collection of paintings and tapestries. The highlight here is, however, the view of the château from the grounds with the façades reflected in the moat mirror.
Combine wine and Burgundy châteaux
Feast your eyes and palette on the very best of this part of France on a luxury barge hotel cruise in Burgundy. Explore the region’s history in its lovely châteaux and taste its world-renowned wines on the way. Our personalised barge cruises reveal the very best of Burgundy as you glide through its waterways. Find out more.
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