What’s not to love about visiting France’s Burgundy Region? We love its food, its wines, and its atmosphere. The largest city in the Burgundy wine region is Beaune. It is also one of our favorite small French cities in the area. We enjoy exploring its history, character, signature buildings, restaurants, and many tasting rooms and wine stores. And we love its close proximity to Burgundy’s best wine regions:
- Cote de Nuits, best known for its austere, elegant, balanced reds made from Pinot Noir, is immediately to the north; and
- Cote de Beaune, most regarded for the minerality and balance of its whites and also for its jammy, earthy, spicy reds, is immediately to the south.
We have had many wine adventures in the area with by biking through the Cote de Beaune region or just visiting wineries. But if you are in the area, in addition to wine, don’t miss exploring Beaune itself.
Beaune Old Town
Old Town Beaune is small but charming. It is easy to explore by foot but for some reason, we often need our GPS to figure out how to get around the twisty streets. While tourism opportunities are limited, one can spend a fun day exploring the old area.
We like wandering around and viewing the old cobblestone streets and old stone buildings. Some of the more historical sights include the restored portions of its city wall, city gate, the 12th-century Notre Dame Collegiate Church, and the 17th-century Town Hall (which used to be a convent).
If you are lucky, you will be there during a farmer’s market in the central square. We always like seeing and tasting some of the seasonal produce, the wares of the local truffle merchant, cured salamis, and especially cheeses. We couldn’t resist picking up a round of Epoisse cheese for a ridiculously low price.
And since the area is known for wines, not surprisingly the town has many places to taste and buy wine. Marche aux Vins has a large wine selection and is where you can book tours and tastings. Beaune also has tasting rooms of negociants such as Joseph Drouhin and Louis Jadot. And this city also has dozens of wine stores or wine bars.
If you have the time, you might want to visit a couple of Beaune museums.
Hospices de Beaune (also known as Hotel-Dieu)
A wealthy benefactor constructed this huge, beautiful, High-Gothic-style building in the 15th century in an effort to gain salvation by caring for the city’s ailing poor. A staff of doctors, nuns (who served as nurses), and pharmacists provided paid services to wealthy citizens to offset the costs of tending to indigent citizens. The self-guided audio tour takes you through reconstructed rooms of the hospital, the chapel, pharmacy, kitchen, and a number of other rooms that explore the evolution of medicine from the 15th century to the hospital’s closure in 1984.
Musee du Vin de Bourgogne (Burgundy Wine Museum)
Located in the historic 14th-century palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, the museum traces the history of wine from its pre-historic origins through the present with a particular focus on Burgundian terroir. It explains the history of the region’s wine production through displays of historical artifacts, including old wine presses.
Beaune Area Restaurants
We shared a number of dishes here. While we were disappointed with the tiny, dry snails in garlic butter and pastry shell, we enjoyed our other dishes. These included pan-fried foie gras with roasted turnip, figs, pistachio vinaigrette, and Banyuls vinegar; sautéed pike-perch, lightly deep-fried trout, fish mouse, and vegetables; and veal entrecote aux jus with celery risotto, cepes apple royal and coffee oil. We ended the meal with a cheese course (Comte, Citeaux, and a too cold, less than ripe Epoisse) and a number of complementary tastes including gougere, salami, smoked ham, and delicious Pommard on toast; eggplant soup with smoked salmon mouse and after dinner, a pastry with cocoa nibs, passion fruit, pineapple, and banana gel and jasmine marshmallow. The restaurant had an extensive list from which we chose a rather disappointing Domaine Lechenceaut Nuit St-George.
Le Montrachet (in Puligny Montrachet)
We had a typically leisurely French three-course lunch with a spot of wine at this lovely, very formal restaurant. Joyce chose organic salmon gravlax on beetroot slices, sautéed hake fillet with vegetable pot au feu, and the “idea of” a lemon meringue pie with deconstructed components and lemon sorbet. Tom had an incredibly thick and deep-flavored mushroom cream soup with mushrooms encased in a lightly fried bread coating, guinea fowl aux jus with parsnip mousseline, and roasted chestnut, followed by an under-roasted pear with ganache and pear sorbet. The meal began and ended with a number of small treats including smoked salmon with cream cheese, ham, balsamic mousse, and a beet emulsion, a cabbage veloute with ham, and ending with raspberry macaroon, and a lemon/lime cream tart, The atmosphere was lovely and the food was, for the most part, very good, although the service came with a large dose of attitude. We had two different Puligny Montrachet Premier Crus for wine: a white Domaine Larve Cru La Garenne which was nice and flinty with a smooth, round finish, and a red, Aloxe-Corton ‘’Le Grandes Lollieres that tasted of red cherry and plum with a bit of acid.
We’ve had several pleasant lunches here. One visit was a quick (at least within the parlance of French restaurants) lunch consisting of a pike soufflé in a fish stock/beurre blanc sauce and veal fillet with girolle mushrooms (a variant of chanterelles) in cream sauce. Our glasses of wine consisted of a Louis Latour Mersault which is a very untraditional Pinot Noir from Mersault (only about two percent of whose production is red) and tasted of tart, bright red fruit. The Jean-Baptiste Ponset Rolly from Vauvry (in Burgundy’s Cote de Chalonnais sub-region) was less satisfying.
On another lunch, we had a wonderful, traditional Burgundian three-course lunch. It started with escargot and an eggs timbale with mushrooms in a red wine sauce and proceeded to steak tartare and beef bourguignon. We finished with three local cow’s milk cheeses: Petite Vouget, Amour de Nuit, and Epoisse. We “washed this all down” with a bottle of Chanson Cotes de Nuits Village. Yum.
This small (32 seats), casual “mom and pop” restaurant has a chalkboard-based menu of rather traditional, rustic Burgundian dishes and an extraordinary wine list for a restaurant of any size. Before getting to the food, the amazing wine list includes roughly 1,200 bottles of primarily French wines. Not unexpectedly it has Burgundian wines that cover virtually every appellation and all recent and many older vintages. The restaurant’s roughly 50 vintages of Chateau d’Yquem—vintages that go back to 1924—are of particular note for Sauterne lovers. But enough gushing about the wine list. It’s time to gush about the food. The meal began with an amuse-bouche of a delicious, extra-creamy foie gras mousse with toast. We followed this with typical Burgundian dishes including escargot with garlic butter, beef Bourgogne and sautéed skate wing with butter and capers, whipped potatoes, and squash. All were delicious as was our wine: a smooth, flinty, Domaine Bernard Moreau Chassagne-Montrachet Village. Good food and an amazing wine list for a very reasonable price.
Hotel Abbaye de Maizieres is a beautifully converted 12th-century abbey that has been nicely renovated while keeping its charm. We’ve stayed several times at the lovely and very comfortable hotel. The rooms are relatively large and the beds are very comfortable. The bathroom has a large walk-in shower, big plush bathrobes, and slippers. While the room didn’t have much shelf space, you can make due. The room has a coffee machine and a water hot pot. Beautiful leaded glass windows open up for fresh air or you can use the AC (in season). The bathroom had a separate heating zone. It looks like all of the rooms are a little different. Breakfast is by candlelight on the arched ground floor and is a la carte. The orange juice is fresh-squeezed and the bread seems to be freshly baked. The omelet seemed a little watery but tasty and you could add salmon, bacon, ham, cheese, etc. And the biggest surprise is an indoor swimming pool in what used to be the monk’s wine cellar. The staff is very accommodating as you would expect for this type of place. We highly recommend this place.