Best things to do in Beaune
Towards the end of the Routes des Grands Crus, or more commonly known as the Burgundy Wine Trail, lies the beautiful city of Beaune. Pronounced “bone”, this unassuming city is home to some incredible history and yet, to mainstream tourists, remains largely hidden.
This is a good thing as it allows people like us to wander around the cobbled streets and laneways, getting to know the city without the throng of people that dominate other French cities.
As for things to do in Beaune, there are some headline acts like the Hospices de Beaune, but soaking up the atmosphere on market day, or sipping a glass of wine from a local winemaker whilst sitting in the park’s rotunda are a few simple pleasures.
What to see and do
Hospices de Beaune (Hôtel-Dieu)
The Hospices de Beaune is the most important feature of the city of Beaune and the number one place that draws visitors to the city. For good reason. Not only is it an incredible looking building but its history is fascinating. So too is the fact that it has survived the French Revolution and two world wars.
Hospitals like this didn’t exist in the Middle Ages. This idea of having a hospital, as we know them, with lots of rooms, beds and on-site medical staff was a new, modern concept. This was a charitable hospital, built by a member of French nobility. People came here, for once hoping and believing that they might actually survive their illness.
Beaune was one of two likely cities for the location of this hospital. Nicolas Rolin, once the Chancellor of Burgundy, wanted to do something to redeem the sins of his lifetime. It is widely thought that his third wife, Guigone de Salins was instrumental in encouraging Nicolas to build a hospital for the poor.
The originally named Hôtel-Dieu was constructed as a “palace for the poor”. Beaune became the location as it had the most number of sick people. In the 1400s, Beaune was hit by the plague and over 400 families disappeared over 40 years. To compound the issue further, the famine then struck, making more people in Beaune sick or causing them to die. Beaune was also a fortified city, with a full wall surrounding the city, a great form of protection for the hospital.
Rolin commenced constructing the hospital in 1443, a date supported by the coat of arms over the front entrance. Hostel Dieu, meaning the Place of God was its original name and supported the strong belief that religion cured all. Another plaque, Hotel Dieu honoured Rolin and his wife.
Rolin designed the hospital specifically to cover the internal wealth on display. The fact that the outside of the hospital looks like an ordinary church was one of the reasons it was saved during the French Revolution. As it was also a hospital treating the poor, the revolutionaries also decided to turn a blind eye.
Had it not been for the poor, it would have been seized by the government. Today, most of the building and its decorations and fitout are originals from the 1400s. The beautiful coloured roof tiles that glisten in the sunshine date back to the 1900s.
A visit and a tour of the Hospices de Beaune is a must-do in Beaune. Don’t miss the old-fashioned apothecary, full of all manner of strange and ancient potions.
Need to know about the Hospices de Beaune
Location: Rue de l’Hôtel-Dieu / Place de la Halle
Opening hours: Open daily 9 am – 6.30 pm. Note hours are usually reduced in winter
Notre Dame Collegiate Church
There are several churches in Beaune but this is one of the best. A blend of the softer Romanesque architecture and Gothic, it was built in the 12th-century, with the 16th-century addition of the bell tower and chapel.
The tapestries from 1500 are worth popping your head inside to see.
Need to know about the Notre Dame Collegiate Church
Location: Place du Général Leclerc
June – September: daily 10 am – 1 pm and 2 pm – 6 pm and Sunday 2 pm – 6 pm
April, May, October, November: Friday-Saturday 10 am – 1 pm and 2 pm – 6 pm and Sunday 2 pm – 6 pm
Les Halles Beaune
Outside the Hospices de Beaune, in a 19th-century building, covered with hanging flower baskets in the summer is the market Les Halles.
Inside you’ll find fresh meat, cheese and seafood vendors in particular.
The Saturday food market is a fun place to be with crowds of locals fillings the streets and the cobbled square outside Les Halles to source their food from local producers. We enjoy nothing more than being in the heart of these markets, watching locals go about their shopping. At home, we simply don’t have a market culture like this. Buying, touching and feeling all manner of fresh produce, cheeses, bread and other goodies and talking to vendors is such a buzz.
Need to know about Les Halles Beaune
- Location: Place de la Halles
- Opening hours: The covered market is only open Tuesday and Thursday – Saturday from 8 am – 1 pm
- The street food market is only open on Saturday.
Foodie tip: Buy a hot chicken from the market. These just aren’t any ordinary chickens. They are cooked slowly on a rotisserie and usually sit over the top of jambon (ham) and pork that are also roasting away. The chicken juices and fats run onto the meats below, flavouring them as they cook. In the tray below are also roast potatoes, which are also a decadent addition. Ask them to add in some extra juice for you. We always travel with our own set of travel cutlery for moments just like these.
Did you know that the chicken regarded as the best chicken in the world is freely available in the markets in Beaune? Poullet de Bresse, from the neighbouring region of Bresse. The chickens are sold with their heads and feet intact and can be identified by their distinct blue feet.
If you have more than a day in Beaune, we’d highly recommend hiring bikes and riding around the walls of the city. It offers a different perspective of the city and it’s good fun too. The fortifications, or ramparts as they are also known as, date back as early as the 12th-century. Later, in the 15th and 16th centuries, towers were added to the walls along with a chateau. The final touches, four bastions were added later to finalise the defence of the city.
Key highlights of the Beaune ramparts
Chateau de Beaune – Built between 1482 and 1587, it was one of the final additions to the city walls and fortifications. Today, it is a cellar for the best vintages of wine label Bouchard Père & Fils.
Porte Saint-Nicolas – The only remaining city gate left in Beaune.
Lavoir – Follow the ramparts and you will notice small waterways popping up. These are part of the lavoir, the passage that goes underneath the Hospices de Beaune. The Saint-Jacques wash house sits alongside the hospice. This was the place where the laundry was done. It is also said that much of the waste from the hospital ended up here.
How to find the ramparts
The ramparts are circular and surround the old city. They can be found at the end of the following main city streets in the old city such as Rue de l’Hôtel-Dieu, Rue d’Alsace, Avenue de la Republique, Rue Jean Francois Maufoux
Tip: It’s easiest to start your journey around the walls in the old city as these areas are closest to the city walls.
Place Carnot is a busy area not far from the Hospice de Beaune and Les Halles. With a small park that acts as a roundabout for the small streets around it, it’s the hub of the Beaune eating and shopping area. With a quintessential French carousel in the middle and a rotunda, it’s a good place to stop for a while and take some time out from exploring Beaune.
It was under this rotunda that we ate our rotisserie chicken from the markets, whilst sipping a glass of wine bought at a nearby wine store.
The cafes immediately surrounding Place Carnot are more oriented towards the tourists so the prices will be higher and the food less traditional. The good thing is, you only need to pop down one of the side streets to reset the food barometer.
The side streets are packed with food and fashion stores.
Best food stores in Beaune
Beaune has an abundance of amazing food and wine stores in a compact area of the old city. We have been to Beaune twice now, and on both occasions, we find ourselves always being drawn into the following stores. Our luggage also gets considerably heavier here too. The temptation for a foodie is real.
Athenaeum de la Vigne et du Vin
This rather large name is THE place to find anything related to wine in the entire city. It’s also one of the best wine book and wine paraphernalia stores in the entire Burgundy region. This large store is located opposite the Hospice de Beaune, so there’s no excuse to say you can’t find it. Here you will find a huge range of books on wine, food and cooking, Many are in French but there are some in English.
From fancy wine decanters, styles of which I have never seen before, to corkscrews, you’ll find something for everyone here. Come to think of it, there’s every type of wine gadget here. There’s also a great range of sustainable and environmentally friendly products (think cutlery, plates, reusable coffee cups, even toiletries). Being a wine store, there is also a sales area and somewhere to do some wine tasting. Be careful coming in here as it is difficult to leave.
The Cook’s Atelier
This one is for the foodies. In an 18th-century building, The Cook’s Atelier is a cooking school, wine shop and gourmet providores delight. A little further out from Place Carnot, if you have more time in Beaune, especially to do a cooking class, add it to your list of must-dos.
Alain Hess is a cheesemonger, another thing we love in France. There is also a great range of charcuterie on display here. There are plenty of local products here like mustard and wine as well as their own products.
7 Place Carnot
Mulot-Petitjean Pain d’Epices
This store is all about the gingerbread. Dating back to the late 1700s, there are so many goodies inside this small shop on the corner near Place Carnot. A family-run business, all gingerbread is handmade and they are always happy to hand around a few samples. There is also a great range of nougat and of course mustards.
Mulot-Petitjean Pain d’Epices
1 Place Carnot
La Moutarderie Fallot
Like Maille is to Dijon, Fallot is to Beaune. The La Moutarderie in Beaune is a good place to visit to understand more about the mustard making process, to sample the different flavours and to take some home, direct from the factory. Aside from the cute vintage car and the fact that you can pour mustard out of vats to taste, this is the last independent and family-owned mustard company in Burgundy.
La Moutarderie Fallot
31 rue du Faubourg Bretonnière
Burgundy Wine Route
Beaune is only a two-hour train trip from Paris and less than two hours from Lyon. It’s only around 30 minutes from Dijon by train. This means that technically day trips from Beaune are possible to a large number of places. However, if you are using Beaune as a base, we recommend getting into the wine trails of Burgundy, in particular, the Route des Grands Crus.
The Route des Grands Crus is one of the most famous in the world, and at only 60 km long, it’s easy to do some excellent tours or self-drives in one or two days from Beaune. The amount of time you spend on the wine route of Burgundy is limited only by your affection for wine.
Read these articles on Burgundy France
If you are looking to take it easy and get someone else to drive you around so you can spend your time sampling the great Burgundy wines, we recommend this tour. It starts and ends in Beaune making your day hassle-free.
Where to stay
There are some wonderful hotels tucked inside centuries-old buildings in the old town of Beaune. For convenience and charm, we recommend staying in the old city.
- If staying in historical buildings is your thing, you must stay at this hotel. A Cistercian Abbey built in the 12th-century and located in the centre of Beaune.
- Close to the hospice, basilica, shopping and restaurants
- Re-built after being destroyed during the French Revolution
- Small luxury hotel
- Centre of the Beaune old town
- Some suites bear the names of Burgundy wines and are uniquely decorated
- New hotel opened in 2015
- Spa and fitness centre
- Bars and restaurants including one-star Michelin
- Private parking
- Chain hotel in the heart of the old city
- Close to all the main attractions of Beaune
- Close to the highway which is perfect for day trips to the Route des Grands Crus
Where to eat
The secret to eating in Beaune is to find traditional Burgundian food. Whilst escargot might be something you generally think of when you think of French food, it is particularly special in Burgundy. Coq au Vin, another well-known chicken dish is celebrated here, as is the hearty beef stew, Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Bourgignon), a personal favourite of mine.
Oeufs en Meurette is an egg dish that seems right at home in Burgundy. Where Coq au Vin and Boeuf Bourgignon make the Burgundian red wines the hero of these dishes, they also use it with their eggs. Oeufs en Meurette is a dish that sees eggs poached in red wine. The French are very clever, making a dish that can be eaten at any time of day.
Le Bistro de L’Hotel
A great spot for a traditional meal in Burgundy. Here you can find escargot, the poulet de Bresse and the French Crepes Suzette, with the flaming theatre all done at your table.
3 Rue Samuel Legay
Loiseau des Vignes
This is the Michelin starred restaurant located in the Hotel le Cep. It is closed on Sunday and Monday and bookings are highly recommended. This is not casual dining in either food selection, price or attire.
31 Rue Maufoux
Serving locally sourced food with a menu that changes often, this is one of the best spots to have a bite to eat and a glass of wonderful Burgundy wine.
8 Rue du Faubourg Madeleine Beaune
How to get to Beaune
Beaune by car
Driving to Beaune and the surrounding Burgundy countryside is straight-forward. Beaune is serviced by three major highways. The A6 from Paris, the A31 that heads north towards Dijon (and towards Luxembourg) and the A36 towards Basel (and towards the German/Swiss borders).
- From Paris (A6) take the Savigny-Lès-Beaune/Beaune-Saint-Nicolas exit, number 24.0 or Beaune Centre exit 24.1.
- From Dijon (A31) change to D974 in Chorye-les-Beaune and take exit 24 (Savigny-Lès-Beaune/Beaune-Saint-Nicolas) from the A6.
- If following the Route des Grands Crus, follow the D974 straight into Beaune.
Car parking: There are quite a few public parks around the city, some of which are free. Regulated street parking is also possible.
Car hire: If you require car hire in Beaune we recommend Rentalcars.com which allow you to peruse the various car hire companies and select from the most appropriate for your needs.
Motorhome parking: This is a large carpark, a short walk to the city. Overnight stays are possible for a fee, along with services. We didn’t stay here overnight as it really is just a giant carpark, but it is the best option for parking a large vehicle in Beaune. We rode our bikes into the city.
Where: Aire Municiale Beaune
28 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques Beaune
Beaune is well serviced by the train network. The high-speed TGV train operates direct trains to Beaune from Paris daily. Other trains go via Dijon, where you can change for Beaune.
Departs from: Paris Gare-de-Lyon train station
Journey time: Approximately two hours on direct TGV and three hours if needing to connect in Dijon
Beaune Railway Station is located 1 km from the city centre, on Avenue du 08 Septembre.
Plan your train journey here.
The bus network across the regional French towns is extensive.
From Dijon, the number 113 bus goes to Beaune.
For the bus journey planner click here
There are three local airports in the Beaune region for smaller regional aircraft. Otherwise, the major French airports of Charles de Gaulle and Orly are the closest major French entry points for a trip to Burgundy.
As Beaune is not a large city, it is easily navigable on foot. There is also an unusual method of transport here, the Visiotrain. The tourist train guides you around the main areas of Beaune with accompanying commentary. It’s available in 10 languages.
Beaune is a very easy city to ride around on bikes. Bikes can be hired here.
We rode around and through the entire city, stopping every 10 metres or so to admire yet another wonderful building, piece of wall, waterway or garden. Beaune is a walled city, and many of the buildings, ramparts, and the moat are still intact.
If you are feeling more energetic and adventurous, the winery trails are made for riding a bike. There is a cycle route from Beaune to Santenay.
Taxis also operate in the Beaune city and greater area.
France travel guides
- Côte d’Or: The wines and winemakers of the heart of burgundy (The Classic Wine Library)
- Food Wine Burgundy (The Terroir Guides)
- Rick Steves France 2020 (Rick Steves Travel Guide)
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