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Burgundy Burgundy BourgogneBourgogne

Burgundy is famous across the globe for its fine wines and gourmet food, sleepy canals, ancestral châteaux and picturesque villages, largely unchanged through time. But this region of France has even more to offer: the countryside is beautiful, uncrowded and unspoiled, there are forests, rivers and lakes, and a strong cultural heritage. Music festivals, often paired up with wine tasting, are some of summer’s pleasures.

Since the glorious days of the Dukes of Burgundy, the region has had an aura of wealth about it. The wine trade, agriculture and tourism fuel the local economy. More recently industries supplying components to nuclear power production have been given much government support. Due to good road communications with neighbouring Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Belgium, this region is accessible to all. Expect wonderfully warm summers from June to October and cold winters.

The Yonne in the North
The north of Burgundy is known as the granary – vast fields of brilliant yellow rapeseed and cereal crops dominate the landscape from Sens to Avallon. Auxerre is the principle town lying on the river Yonne in an increasingly important wine growing region, stretching across to the most famous vineyards of Chablis.
There are medieval villages of note: Noyers-sur-Serein, Montréal and one of the gems of the region, Vézelay with its Basilica; majestic châteaux, such as Ancy-le-Franc and canals and rivers which attract tourists in season. Many Parisians have second homes here.

The Famous Côte d’Or

The Most famous wines of Burgundy come from this part of the region, based around the town of Beaune. The Meursault, Gevrey Chambertin, Romanée Conti vineyards, and many more, are renowned throughout the world, their wines fetching high prices on the market and much caché too. Beaune is prosperous with boutique shops and gourmet delights at every turn.

North of the vineyards is Dijon, the regional capital. Excellent shops and restaurants, a thriving food market, a lively university, and good museums are just some of the town’s  attributes. Dijon mustard and pain d’epice are two local specialities, as are escargots and jambon persillé. The centre of town has stately buildings and half timbered houses but around the outside, as with most cities, less attractive urban sprawl has set in.

Further north still is the Châtillonnais, a region of forests, plains and valleys. Sparkling wine called Crémant de Bourgogne is produced here right on the border with their neighbours, the more expensive Champagne. This is an area which is developing fast with a new National Park in the process of development.  

The Canal de Bourgogne passes through the Côte d’Or attracting canal cruisers and luxury barges. There are cycle paths, the Voies Vertes, along all the canals and in summer the scene is lively. 

South to Saône-et-Loire
The whole of Burgundy has its roots in religion, but none more so than Cluny which was so dominant in Christianity in Europe in the 12thC. Beautiful Romanesque churches pepper the landscape, there are abbeys and monasteries and fine ecclesiastical architecture – as for example at the cathedral in Autun. In this department there’s Burgundy’s finest château at Cormatin, and the charming if little known town of Tournus on the river Saône to explore.

Mâcon in the far south is the main town of this department, with a thriving wine trade at its heart. The wines of the Chalonnaise are not so ‘precious’ as those of the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, but they are, never-the-less, excellent. In the surrounding countryside the white Charolais cattle graze peacefully.

Chalon-sur-Saône it is a prosperous and busy town with light industry and all services at hand.

Outdoors in the Nièvre

The Nièvre department is the most rural area of the region with forests and farmland, cattle and horses. Looking towards the west, the main towns are situated on the river Loire - Nevers is the major town, famous for its Faience pottery industry; La Charité-sur-Loire has a UNESCO heritage church; Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire and Pouilly-sur-Loire is home of Pouilly Fumé white wine.

For anyone enjoying outdoor pursuits, fishing, walking, cycling and horse-riding are high on the agenda, with the Canal du Nivernais, the prettiest of all the Burgundy canals, providing canal cruising too. The Morvan Natural Park falls partly in this department offering water sports on the numerous lakes, and camping under the stars.