Savor the food, wine and history of the Burgundy region in Beaune

Iconic courtyard of the Hotel Dieu. | Photo by jenifoto via 123RF.
Iconic courtyard of the Hotel Dieu. | Photo by jenifoto via 123RF.

Savor the food, wine and history of the Burgundy region in Beaune

by Anna Leigh Bagiackas
Stripes Europe

Many of us know France’s most popular cities to visit are Paris, Nice, Lyon, Strasbourg and Marseille. While planning a trip to Nice, I started learning about the Burgundy (Bourgogne) region’s unofficial wine capital of Beaune. As a potential stop en route to the French Riviera, I wondered if a visit to Beaune might actually be one of the more unique French experiences I would have.

A 30-minute train ride from the larger city of Dijon, Beaune sits in the Côte d'Or department, in the heart of an illustrious wine region. It is the primary hub of wine industry services, and is home to one of France’s largest wine auctions. While there, you are never far from a reminder of the town’s devotion to wine as you will see wine cellars all around this charming city.

Beaune is a walled city and features remnants from pre-Roman and Roman times as well as well-preserved architecture and styles from the Renaissance and Middle Ages. In fact, one of Beaune’s primary landmarks is the Hospices de Beaune, one of the first “modern” hospitals. It was erected in the Middle Ages in the aftermath of the Hundred Years’ War and the plague as a charitable institution for the region’s poor. The landmark is distinct in its Gothic style with colorful “Burgundian tile” and is also known for the vineyards it owns in the region.

To explore the heart of Beaune, the town is very walkable and easy to travel from the train station into the city center. Walking may be your preferred method of travel here because of its narrow cobblestoned streets lined with wooden shutters and archways hung with cascading flowers—you won’t want to miss seeing all of the little nooks and crannies along the way.

If wine has brought you to Beaune and Burgundy, you should make time to visit the local wine cellars. It is said that this underground network of cellars makes up a city of its own and some of these cellars have been used since the Middle Ages! You may also be interested in exploring the local area’s vineyards. For this, you may prefer renting bicycles to experience the Burgundy Wine Trail, stopping to taste some Chablis or Pinot Noirs with local winemakers along the way.

Even if you aren’t that interested in French wines, the gastronomy in Beaune will excite any foodie. Whether it’s an afternoon snack of a beautiful French cheese and charcuterie board or a dinner of Burgundian snails and local vegetables, Beaune offers many options. There are lots of great restaurants to check out; I recommend doing some research ahead of time, as many places take reservations and may not be able to accommodate walk-ins.

Beaune is also the home of a number of famous French dishes, including Beef Bourguignon and Coq au Vin, which feature red Burgundian wine. While there, you could even be Julia Child for a day and take a cooking class on one of these French classics.

As Beaune is only a stone’s throw away from mustard-famous Dijon, Beaune also has its own mustard institution to visit. Edmond Fallot’s La Moutarderie is within walking distance of the city center, hosting both French and English tours where you learn the history of mustard and the factory, see where the mustard is made and taste a range of bitingly delicious samples. The gift shop is alone worth a visit, if not just to see all the different flavor combinations they have made. Trust me, this mustard is not the bright yellow Heinz you might be used to.

Whether you’re looking to experience the food, wine or history of the Burgundy region, Beaune has lots to offer. While the area does see lots of tourists, this city is somewhat of a hidden gem, giving the enthusiastic traveler one of the most unique and authentic experiences of French culture.

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