Visitors will find a rich wine heritage in the Burgundy town of Beaune
Lying in the hills of the Côte-d’Or département in Burgundy, Beaune is a thriving old walled town that many consider to be the capital of Burgundy wines. Here, you’ll discover a rich heritage, for this ancient settlement was once home to the Dukes of Burgundy. Six centuries ago, these powerful rulers founded the Hospices de Beaune, which stands alongside half-timbered houses, centuries-old wine cellars and quaint shops.
A visit to this charming town should begin in the walled centre. Stroll through the well-preserved ramparts and stop at the Église de Notre-Dame. The church was built in Romanesque and Gothic styles from the 11th to 15th centuries and boasts an impressive series of tapestries depicting the life of the Virgin Mary.
The jewel in the town’s crown is the aforementioned Hospices (or Hôtel-Dieu) de Beaune. Built in 1443, this splendid former hospital and almshouse is famous for its turrets and pitched rooftops, covered in colourful geometric-patterned tiles. Take a walk in the cobbled courtyard where you can admire the decorated roofs of arcaded buildings, before visiting the Grande salle, with its barrel-vaulted ceiling. Other highlights include an 18th-century pharmacy lined with flasks, and the multi-panelled polyptych of The Last Judgement by 15th-century flemish painter Rogier van der Weyden.
Time your visit to the former hospital for the third week in November to witness the Vente aux Enchères des Vins des Hospices de Beaune. This three-day event is the grandest of the many wine festivals in the Côte-d’Or, and involves the produce from 61 hectares of vineyards – bequeathed by benefactors – being auctioned in aid of medical research.
No visit to Beaune is complete without sampling some of its fine wine, and a great place to do this is the Marché aux vins, which is housed in a deconsecrated church opposite the Hospices. For further insights into the area’s wines, visit Patriarche Père et fils. in business since 1780, the winery houses five kilometres of cellars stocked with around five million bottles; visitors can taste up to 13 vintages during a tour.
Beaune is also a shopper’s paradise, with plenty of charming places offering foodie treats. Browse shops such as the Palais des Gourmets for home-made wild peach jam, and Bouché, which is renowned both for its chocolate and its sumptuous cakes. For a generous selection of regional cheeses, Fromagerie Hess fits the bill; while Boutique Védrenne stocks a variety of fruit liqueurs.
For an altogether different experience, head to the Moutarderie Fallot, Burgundy’s last family-run, stone-ground mustard company. The site includes a museum where visitors can witness traditional production techniques and youngsters can have a go at hand-milling mustard seeds.
For more information on what to see and details of hotels and restaurants, visit www.beaune-tourisme.fr
With up to 85 departures a day, Eurotunnel Le Shuttle is the fastest, most frequent way to the continent by car, which means that Beaune is closer than you think. Book early and get the best fares. Visit www.eurotunnel.com or call 0870 850 8133 to book your crossing.