What to See and Do in Burgundy
From cycling to art galleries to cookery lessons or a relaxation session in a spa, there’s plenty on offer
Related article: Get Away from It All in Burgundy
To discover the region’s famed gastronomy, where better to start than a cookery lesson with celebrated chef Jean-Michel Lorain at the double-starred Michelin restaurant La Côte Saint Jacques in Joigny? Elsewhere, you can learn about the region’s viticulture at one of the UNESCO-listed vineyards; take a tour of the last independent mustard mill in Burgundy, La Moutarderie Fallot, in Beaune; or join a truffle discovery trail at Maison aux Mille Truffes in Marey-lès-Fussey. New for 2021, a major food and wine centre is set to open in Dijon, the Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie et du Vin, with a focus on French gastronomy.
BURGUNDY BY BOAT
Another thing that Burgundy is well-known for is its wending waterways – with more than 1,200km of canals and rivers across the region. Whether it’s a leisurely day trip along the Nivernais or Burgundy canals or a full-on boating holiday, there’s certainly no shortage of options. At Les Canalous, they offer everything from day rental to longer breaks – and, new for 2021, a live-aboard boat berthed at Pontailler-sur-Saône. Alternatively, on board the Luciole, you can enjoy an all-inclusive holiday cruise with a crew. Or, for a gourmet break on a classic motor-barge, also with a crew, try Edge Charter.
HEALTH & WELL-BEING
The perfect place to recharge amid nature, Burgundy is also home to several thermal spas – which seems to be a growing trend. One of the latest is in Santenay, better known for its wine than its water, where they have revived its spa past with an opening by ValVitale in the heart of the vineyards. Alternatively, Saint-Honoré-les-Bains offers neo-classical architecture opening on to the Morvan park – and now a new thermal leisure pool. In addition, there are a few new hotel spas that are worth a visit too – including at the five-star Hostellerie Cèdre in Beaune. There, in their new Nuxe spa, the signature treatment is inspired by old potions created in the Hospices de Beaune apothecary.
A CYCLING HOTSPOT
Cycling is big news in Burgundy and these lovely landscapes are a joy to discover by bike. For holiday-makers, the aforementioned Tour de Bourgogne à Vélo, which comprises a network of routes, is a great start. Taking in everything from canals to vineyards, it’s the perfect way to discover the area. Then there is the EuroVélo 6, which connects the Atlantic to the Black Sea, crossing southern Burgundy en route. For thrill-seekers, there’s the mountain biking of the Grande Traversée du Morvan. Or, for the less energetic, Véloù will drop off bikes at your accommodation and pick them up again, within a radius of 20km around Verdun-sur-le-Doubs.
ARTS & CULTURE
A very creative corner of the country, Burgundy is home to a host of great art galleries. A visit to the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon, one of the oldest museums in France, is certainly top of many people’s lists. From historic masterpieces to more contemporary art, it holds some 130,000 works. It is housed in the Palais des ducs et des États de Bourgogne, the former seat of the Dukes of Burgundy, the oldest parts of which date back to the 14th century. Be sure to climb the tower of Philippe le Bon for incredible views over the city. Elsewhere, at La Karrière in Villars-Fontaine, they showcase impressive frescoes in the setting of a former quarry; in Saulieu, you will find the charming animal sculptures of François Pompon who once worked with Rodin; and, for something a little different, the Musée d’Art Sacré is a museum within a church showcasing religious works of art and objects. For fans of French literature, the childhood home of Colette, in Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye, is a real delight.
One of the great things about Burgundy is that, while it may have an awful lot of history, it knows how to make it accessible and fun. To give just one example, at the MuséoParc Alésia in Alise-Sainte-Reine, they offer an immersion into the area’s Gallo-Roman history supported by maps, films, displays, scale models and multi-media features. If it’s time to let off some steam, try the nature adventure park of the Bois de la Folie, with everything from treetop activity courses to paintball games and more. Another good one for all the family is the Vélorail du Bazois Morvan, an eco-tourism project in the Morvan park, where you embark on electrically assisted ‘vélorails’ along a disused railway line.
Pick up a Discovery Pass: Newly launched, the ‘Burgundy-Franche-Comté Pass Découverte’ is well worth the investment for those staying three days or more. Aimed at visitors and residents alike, once they have got their pass (three-day, seven-day or annual), they can access a range of places for free or with special benefits. Implemented by Bourgogne-Franche-Comté Tourisme, the pass is available at tourist sites and offices from €15.
From France Today magazine
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