My first trip to Beaune was around Christmas 2012, which was also my first time in France. I was initially drawn to Burgundy for its world-class wine, but upon arrival, was struck by small-town France.

Hailing from a tiny farm town myself {though cotton instead of grapes}, the slower pace spoke to me. I knew that the 24-hours I’d allotted in Beaune wasn’t enough and that I’d return. After 2.5 years of living in Paris and more than five years since my initial trip, I did return to Beaune. This second trip was again about the vin, specifically for my annual trip with Visit French Wine.
As the unofficial capital of Bourgogne wine country, Beaune is the epicenter for œnotourisme, which is the French term for wine tourism. Perhaps it’s the outstanding bottles that initially bring people to Beaune, but there’s much more to this town of about 25,000. Even if you’re a serious connoisseur of vin, there are plenty of things to do in Beaune other than the wine.


Tour Hospices de Beaune

In addition to the wine, Beaune is most famous for its hospital. Nicolas Rolin, Chancellor to Phillipe Le Bon, Duke of Burgundy and his wife, Guigone de Salins, founded Hospices de Beaune {or Hôtel-Dieu} in 1443. The Hundred Years’ War was ending and Burgundy was reeling from plague. This hospital served everyone in the region, regardless of their financial means, from 1452 through the 1960s. The Gothic-style building was inspired by the architecture in Flanders, and its colorful glazed tile roof is typical of Burgundy. This type of roof was a status symbol, dating to the 13th century when they adorned cathedrals. In the 14th century, they were en vogue with aristocrats.

With the price of admission comes an audio tour. Wander through the immaculate courtyards, as well as the four buildings open to the public. See the pharmacy where nuns often mixed medicine and the kitchen where meals were prepared for some 100 patients per day. Visit the Great Hall, otherwise known as the Hall of the Poor, where the destitute slept head-to-toe, two to a bed. Don’t miss the altarpiece created in 1451 by Belgian painter, Rogier van der Weyden. The 9-panel masterpiece once hung above the chapel’s alter, but now resides in a dark room near the Hospices de Beaune’s exit. During the French Revolution, the altarpiece was hidden as to protect it from destruction.


Explore the Ramparts

History in Beaune predates the Romans, and there is plenty of history to uncover. Some of this history is extremely well preserved. Hiding in plain sight are Beaune’s ramparts and battlements. Encircling the town are 1.5 miles of ramparts that run parallel with the busy ring road. These towers have helped keep Beaune safe as far back as the 12th century. With four centuries of construction, exploring the city in these narrow and secluded streets is like a walk through time. Look for the blue signs affixed to walls near the edge of the old town that read Amis des Remparts Beaune. These signs indicate the path of the ramparts. From this vantage point of the town, you’ll see Square des Lions, Château de Beaune, Porte Saint-Nicholas, and the Théâtre de Verdure.


Ride a Bike through the Vines

One of the best ways to discover Burgundy is by bicycle. There are over 21 miles of bike trails in Burgundy that meander through the vines and villages. Beginning in Beaune, there is a somewhat easy Véloroute that covers 13.6 miles to Santenay. Along the way, you’ll pass through the villages of Pommard, Volnay, Meursault, Puligny Montrachet, and Chassagne Montrachet. Cycle at your own pace and get an up-close look at the plants that produce the world’s best wines. If you’ve still got energy, follow the Voie des Vignes route from Santenay to Nolay. This 8-mile path follows an old rail line. Go on a guided tour or rent a bike from Bourgogne Évasion.


Eat all the Food

Everyone knows that French cuisine is one of the most celebrated in the world. In my opinion, the use of seasonal ingredients and thoughtful presentation by the French is only rivaled by the Japanese. Within France there are a multitude of specialties and regional dishes. The French make good use of the land and their plates reflect that fact. It should then come as no surprise that Burgundy produces dishes that pleased my palate more than any other region in recent memory. Even if you’ve never stepped foot in France, you probably know bœuf Bourguignon. After all, the legendary Julia Child made this slow-cooked beef stew famous in America in the 1960s. Escargots à la Bourgogne {snails with butter, garlic, and parsley} and Coq au Vin {rooster with wine and mushrooms} are two other famous dishes that hail from Burgundy. Depending on the season, mushrooms and truffles are plentiful, as are blackcurrants that are used to make kir, which is mixed with white wine or Champagne for an aperitif. This is France, so I’d be remiss not to mention the regional cheeses. Look for Chaource, Epoisses, and my favorite new find, délice de Pommard. This creamy and light cheese is rolled in mustard seeds and can be purchased at Alain Hess in the center of Beaune. Other flavors include Burgundy blackcurrant, black summer truffles from Italy, and gingerbread from Dijon.


Read the full story on my blog Leah Travels 

All credits go to Leah Walker from Leah Travels 

Leah Walker
As a luxury travel and culinary journalist and blogger at, Leah Walker split time be...

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