This June, we were extremely fortunate to be able to hop on a plane to Germany to escape the wet, humid summer in Japan and finally be reunited with family and friends after 1.5 years. After spending two wonderful weeks in my hometown in the north of Germany, we embarked on a 13 hour car journey with part of my family to meet at his family’s house in Burgundy. I can’t even begin to describe how heartwarming the reunion was and what a wonderful time we had spending time with family, relaxing in the quiet French countryside and also doing a bit of sightseeing off the beaten track. What follows below is a list of my favourite places we visited in Burgundy and to summarise it like one of my friends ‘the name of the place already gives you an idea of what happens there’ – but it was so much more than ‘just’ drinking wonderful wine!
Let’s travel from north to south Burgundy! Being the oldest Cistercian Abbey in the world, it’s no wonder that Abbaye de Fontenaye is widely recommended and no longer a secret tip. Set in a remote location, it has a real mystical charm about it and you can just imagine how the French saints founded and lived in this abbey in the 10th century.
One of our friends gave us a secret tip to stay at ‘La Cimentelle‘ near Avallon which was their favourite accommodation in Burgundy and also turned out to be ours! It is set in a quiet town near Avallon and includes absolutely delicious breakfast with homemade jams, cheese and croissants. The town of Avallon itself has lots to offer as you can take a stroll through its historic town center with great views down the Vallée du Cousin where you can enjoy hiking along the river, as well as Avallon’s vibrant nightlife with a few superb wining and dining options. If you visit on a rainy day, you can visit two renowned art museums in Avallon’s town center as well as temporary art & craft exhibitions.
Vézelay turned out to be one of my favourite towns in the Bourgogne! Located at the northern tip of the Morvan National Park, walking up the main street of this quaint town, nestled with old tea shops, art galleries and antique furniture shops; once you arrive at the end of the street by Vézelay Abbey, you will be rewarded with the most stunning views over nearby towns and the Burgundy countryside.
Beaune was probably the most touristy place we explored in Burgundy, however, still not overcrowded as some places can be. We visited to see the famous medieval Hôtel-Dieu Museum – Hospices de Beaune showcasing hospital life in the middle ages. I don’t think I’ve ever visited a medieval hospital before and therefore found it very interesting to see the old pharmacy, sleeping halls and read more about how patients were treated. On top of that, the architecture was extremely beautiful with the colourful slate roof being a symbol of the Bourgogne region. If you have time to spend a full day in Beaune, there are many shops and restaurants to explore.
Château de Brancion
This medieval castle is hidden on a hilltop in South Burgundy’s wine region. If you are seeking a refreshing time in nature, there are many hiking trails you can explore near the little village entrance. To be honest, even little village sounds too big for this tiny little village Château de Brancion is located in. Visiting the castle is highly recommended for splendid views over the vineyards! For me it was a highlight in Bourgogne as it felt like a hidden treasure. Brancion Castle is but a stone throw away from Tournus and I would recommend visiting them together.
This old town nestled along the Saône river is said to be one of the most picturesque towns of Burgundy. The church of St Philibert in its Romanesque style is one of the commune’s main attraction with a few cafés and antique shops on the market square and along the river. As you walk around the cobbled alleys you may notice hidden boîtes à lire – treasure boxes with secondhand books.
Welcome to the South of the Bourgogne! The Benedictine Abbey of Cluny was founded in 910 and mostly destroyed in the French Revolution. This abbey has a very different feel to Fontenay Abbey and feels like it has been integrated into everyday life in the commune of Cluny. One last secret tip, before you go: a short drive away from Cluny, you must visit the little village of Cormatin with its grand castle and local arts, crafts and jewellery shops. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it into the castle on time and will have to save that for next time. Let’s go back soon!