Beaune really could be the most beautiful town in all of Burgundy. This charming walled dwelling is a medieval vision, with its timber-framed buildings, and bright, patterned roofs. Wander along the cobbled streets and immerse yourself in the fascinating history of this historic town.
Beaune is known as the wine capital of Burgundy and almost everything Beaune touches is related to the wine economy of France. Visitors to the town can experience Burgundy wine production at its very best by visiting the Hôtel-Dieu Hospices where the famous charity wine auction of its own wine takes place each November, or by dropping into the renowned Domaine Chanson for a full wine tour and tasting.
Where is Beaune, France?
Located between the towns of Lyon and Dijon, Beaune is to the east of France. Situated at the heart of the Burgundy region, it sits on a historic plain surrounded by the rolling hills of the Côte d’Or on all sides.
What is Beaune known for?
Beaune is internationally renowned for its excellent wines, produced in the UNESCO-listed ‘terroirs’ of Burgundy. Its outstanding contribution to the wine industry of Burgundy, France and the wider world has been recognised and protected for future generations. The area surrounding Beaune is famous for exporting some of the best premier crus and grand crus in the whole of France.
The French town of Beaune was first settled in by the Gauls, but later taken over by the Romans. During Roman inhabitancy, this pretty little French dwelling grew, due to the region’s favourable soils, which made excellent terroirs for vineyards. As Burgundy clearly developed as the ‘wine capital of Europe’, Beaune became a wealthy province that depended on wine production.
From the late 800s, Beaune was inhabited by the Duke of Burgundy, and the family dominated the region for six-hundred years. However, on the death of Charles the Bold in 1477 during the Burgundian Wars, the Duchy had no male heir. As a result, the Duchy of Burgundy was annexed from the Valois family by Louis XI of France and absorbed by the French crown. From this point forward, Burgundy, including Beaune, has been recognised as a part of France.
The medieval roofs of the Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune are a feast for the eyes. The internationally famous patterned tiles have unique geometric designs that shine red, yellow, green and black in the golden sunlight. Founded by Nicolas Robin in 1443, the Hospices de Beaune were almshouses, built to offer charity to the poor after a period of bad harvest and the Hundred Years War. The Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune was a self-sufficient charity, raising money via the sale of wine, which was produced from vineyards it owned nearby. The income made from Grand Crus and Premiers Crus was used to treat the infirm and feed the poor. Still in use until the 1970s, the well-preserved buildings of the Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune are a reminder of a by-gone era.
Notable people to have lived in Beaune include the nineteenth century scientist and pioneer of photography, Étienne-Jules Marey, who had a key role in the invention of cinema. The town of Beaune was also home to the Chevrolet Motor Car founders, Nicolas and Louis Chevrolet, and their other brother, Gaston.
What is there to do in Beaune, France?
The town of Beaune is surrounded by ancient ramparts, half of which have survived stretching around the centre. Walk beside the town walls, to see the entrance to the town, the Porte de Nicolas, and public gardens. Also in the town, visitors can see the clock tower, old market and the remains of the town moat. An assortment of shops and eateries are located around Beaune’s central square. If you’re feeling adventurous then explore the Saturday market to discover some regional delicacies, such as cheeses, spices, truffles and Bresse chickens.
A must-visit site at the heart of historic Beaune is the Hospices de Beaune, also known as the Hôtel-Dieu. The extravagantly designed buildings really are exceptional to behold, and you won’t forget them in a hurry. Linger for some travel photography and enjoy a tour of the wine cellars, where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were made from the sixty hectares of vineyards, still owned by the Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune. Every year, the Hospices auction the grand crus and premier crus produced from the vines at an annual event in November. The auction is the most prestigious for wine in the whole of France!
Any visit to Beaune wouldn’t offer an authentic experience of the region without a stop at a Burgundy vineyard. Domaine Chanson is an enchanting ‘maison’ and vineyard located within the Côte de Beaune. Offering private tours including a look at the medieval Bastion de l’Oratoire, a 15th century defence tower whose 25-foot-thick walls now maintain the perfect temperature for ageing wine. There’s also an opportunity for wine tastings and with a gourmet restaurant on site – Domaine Chanson is the ideal location to enjoy the true flavours and ‘terroirs’ of Burgundy. Producing Premier and Grand Crus wines, the vineyards contain vines that grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. See the vines in the vineyards and learn how they are harvested by hand, before being barrel aged in a fifteenth century defence tower cellar. You’ll find a visit to Domaine Chanson to be wholesome and entirely Burgundian as you explore the heritage of the Côte de Beaune.
Barge to Beaune with European Waterways
For the ultimate experience of Beaune, why not book a luxury barge cruise along the picturesque Canal de Bourgogne aboard hotel barges Finesse or L’Impressionniste. With stops at Domaine Chanson, Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune and the opportunity wander the cobblestones in the medieval Old Town, guests experience the best parts of Beaune, France and will see Burgundy at its most authentic.