After traveling to Bordeaux on our honeymoon, we really wanted to spend some time in Burgundy. It worked out perfectly that one of our best couple friends was going to be traveling through France on their vacation, so we were able to meet up them and explore Burgundy together! We started in Dijon (via train from Paris’s Gare de Lyon), then picked up a rental car and drove through some of the other areas in France’s Côte-d'Or region, including Côte de Nuits, Beaune, and Côte de Beaune. We tried authentic Dijon mustard, tasted delicious Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at wineries, and toured a few châteaus.
Top Things to do in Dijon, Beaune, and around Burgundy
Wine Tasting Along the Route des Grands Crus
One of the world's most famous wine regions, Burgundy lays claim to some of the best wineries you will ever visit. The region is best known for two varietals: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Burgundy is broken down into five different sub-regions: Chablis and Grand Auxerrois, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise, and Mâconnais. Within these five sub-regions exist 84 AOCs (appellations d'origine contrôlée). If none of that makes sense, then it is all the more reason to go and visit to learn about the rich culture and history of Burgundian wine production!
You can read a detailed writeup of our winery stops in Burgundy here.
Explore Downtown Dijon
The capital city of Burgundy, Dijon is known for its rich history dating back to the Neolithic and Roman periods. It has a deep connection to the vineyards in Burgundy, and is world famous for its Dijon mustard, which originated in 1856.
Église Notre-Dame is a Roman Catholic church in the heart of old Dijon dating back to the 13th century. The church was built in a classic Gothic style and is characterized by the numerous gargoyles on its exterior.
Cathédrale Saint-Bénigne de Dijon
Dijon Cathedral is also a Roman Catholic church located in the old town of Dijon and is a national monument. This stone cathedral was built in a gothic style over almost 50 years from the later 13th to early 14th centuries.
Église Saint-Michel is another Catholic church that has origins back to the 6th century, with the current church built in the 16th century with both Gothic and Renaissance elements that blend harmoniously. The interior and nave are largely Gothic in style, whereas the exterior facade reflects the art of the Renaissance period.
Place de la Libération (Liberation Square)
Dijon’s Liberation Square is known as the historic centre of Dijon. The large square is a half circle shape and contains several fountains, with the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy at one end. There are a few restaurants that line the square, making it a nice place to enjoy dinner.
Place Francois Rude
From this small square, explore the various surrounding streets, full of shops, restaurants, and cafes, including some of the famous mustard shops. Be sure to also check out the Porte Guillaume at the end of the Rue de la Liberté.
Tips: You have to buy some Dijon mustard in the place it was created. Two shops we enjoyed included La Moutarderie Edmond Fallot and Grain de Cassis. You can find a variety pack of small jars to buy -- great for charcuterie boards back home!
Château Clos de Vougeot
The Château Clos de Vougeot dates back to the 12th century, when Cistercian monks built the castle and its grounds. It is evident that the monks used to make wine as the château has wine cellars, a vat house, and original wine presses that were used to press the grapes with the use of livestock. The château forms part of the larger Clos de Vougeot, which encompasses the castle as well as the surrounding vineyards, enclosed by stone walls. We really enjoyed our self-guided tour of the castle.
Tips: Tune in daily for a video feature about the château. It was shown at 1:15pm in English when we visited.
Located in Burgundy's Côte de Beaune, Beaune is a walled town full of rich wine history and architectural heritage (some even call it the “Capital of Burgundy wines”). Beaune and its surrounding areas were already part of a prosperous wine making region in the 13th century. Beaune’s old town is quaint, full of little shops, restaurants, and nice wine stores. Walk around the Place Carnot and explore the surrounding old town areas.
Bike + Wine Tasting Tour
Everyone in our group enjoys cycling so we decided to book a bike tour that included some wine tasting. We met at Parc de la Bouzaise in Beaune and were provided bikes and gear. Then we set out, biking through the nearby vineyards and enjoyed a wine tasting during one of our breaks as well as a tour and tasting at a vineyard.
Tips: We used a tour company called Bourgogne Evasion: http://burgundybiketour.com/short-escapes/half-day-bike-wine-tour/
Abbaye de Fontenay, Montbard
Abbaye de Fontenay is located in Montbard, France and is considered the world’s oldest preserved Cistercian site, founded in 1118. Monks moved into this Romanesque style abbey is 1130. It is comprised of multiple buildings, including a church and cloisters, dormitory, refectory, bath house, kitchen, and dovecote as well as nicely manicured and landscaped grounds. We enjoyed our self-guided walk through the different parts of the abbey, and were impressed with its rich history.
Châteauneuf is a really interesting and picturesque village perched on the hills of the Côte-d'Or. The village has a few shops and cafes, but most notably is the Château de Châteauneuf. This stone castle originated in 1132, but much of the castle that stands today was built around 1457 by the current Duke of Burgundy.
Château de Commarin, Commarin
Château de Commarin is located in the commune of Commarin in France’s Côte-d'Or. Surprisingly, it has passed through 26 generations in the same family, dating back to the 13th century, and then underwent multiple transformations and renovations (both exterior and interior) throughout the 14th and 16th-18th centuries. It is characterized by its two cylindrical towers with conical roofs and its large moat. The tour is extremely interesting, especially the history of the family that has owned and operated the castle for so many years.
Tips: This castle offers guided tours throughout the day (not self-guided), so be sure to keep this in mind and plan accordingly.
Where to Stay in Burgundy
Maison Philippe Le Bon, Dijon
We enjoyed our stay at the Maison Philippe Le Bon, just a short walk to the livelier areas of old town Dijon. The rooms are nicely decorated and are located in timbered buildings that date back to the 15th century. There is a great wine bar connected to the hotel, where you can get a tasting flight of local Burgundy wines.
Cottage at Domaine Chandon de Briailles, Savigny-les-Beaune
We found this amazing cottage on VRBO/Homeaway. It is located on the grounds of the Domaine Chandon de Briailles winery. It is a spacious and well-appointed two-bedroom cottage, adjacent to the property’s beautiful château. We really enjoyed our stay at this cottage and highly recommend when traveling around Burgundy and the Côte-d'Or.
Where to Eat in Burgundy
Le Bouchon du Palais, Dijon
Le Bouchon du Palais is a cozy French restaurant in the heart of Dijon with great service and delicious and authentic food. We recommend the ham and melon starter, the Beef Bourguignon, and the Coq Au Vin. The food is amazing and the best part is you can have a three-course meal for under 30 euro!
Tartin'Art is a nice little cafe in Dijon’s old town, perfect for a light breakfast or lunch. They have a variety of sandwiches, quiches, pastries, and salads to choose from, and offer outdoor seating if the weather is nice.
Caves Madeleine, Beaune
Caves Madeleine serves traditional Burgundian cuisine in a cozy and quaint atmosphere. Their menu changes frequently and they also offer some communal seating. As it is a small restaurant, their hours are limited so be sure to make a reservation in advance!
Our favorite meal was a night in! We were touring Burgundy with The Su Chef and his wife, so he showed off his talents by making a delicious steak dinner. We paired it with the perfect Burgundian Pinot Noir from the winery we were staying at, Domaine Chandon de Briailles.
Check out The Su Chef's blog here.