This article was originally published on Decanter.com in November 2014, written by Anthony Hanson MW, and has been updated with extra recommendations in August 2019.
Beaune travel guide: Five ideas for wine and food lovers
- Hire a bike and enjoy a gentle ride through the vines from Beaune to Pommard
- See inside the fabled Hospices de Beaune
- Book to see the historic underground cellars and taste wines at Oenothèque Joseph Drouhin
- Buy cheese from Fromagerie Alain Hess
- Time your visit to coincide with the enormous Beaune market on Saturday morning
Cycling through the Beaune vineyards
You can walk out to the vineyards from Beaune centre in around 20 minutes, or get a sneak peek via the city’s tourist ‘train’; think more open-top bus ride than Napa wine train.
But hiring a bike is a great way to see more of the vines if you have some extra time.
There is a designated cycle track right through the vineyards and it is predominantly flat for the 20-or-so minutes it takes to reach Pommard.
There is then a mild climb up to Volnay, and you can even carry on all the way down the Côte de Beaune, through Meursault, and eventually ending around Santenay if you’re feeling the need to work off last night’s dinner.
Bike hire starts from €20 per person at ‘Bourgogne Vélo Evasion‘ cycle hire station, which is on the route out to the vineyards.
Remember that you will likely need to call or book ahead if you want to stop at specific wineries for tastings along the way.
Otherwise, the route is perfect for a picnic.
Recommended by: Chris Mercer.
Visiting Hospices de Beaune
With it ornate roof tiles and imposing structure, it’s hard to miss the Hospices de Beaune, originally opened as a ‘palace for the poor’ in the 15th century. It hosts one of the world’s most famous wine auctions every November, as many readers will know.
The Musée de l’Hotel Dieu is open from 9am until 18h30, and stays open until 19h30 for anyone already inside after this point.
Beaune restaurants, bars and shops
Pâtisserie Fabien Berteau
Fabien Berteau was named France’s best pastry chef by the respected Gault Millau restaurant guide in 2015 and he has since opened up in Beaune, just a stone’s throw from the Hospices de Beaune.
Whether you want a morning croissant, macaron or afternoon sweet treat, this ‘salon de thé’ is well worth the trip. Not that you’ll have to look far to find artisan bakeries in Beaune. CM.
Roland Chanliaud brought some of his favourite bottles with him when moving to this wine bar from Le Jardin des Remparts.
There is speedily served food – charcuterie, cheeses and tapas – with many wines by the glass. There are also rooms for those looking to stay the night.
Recommended by: Anthony Hanson MW
Fromagerie Alain Hess
A must-visit on Place Carnot for a wide range of cheeses and local items, including the renowned Epoisses from the Côte d’Or.
Also be sure to buy some of France’s best chocolate, from Chocolatier Bonnat. All chocoholics like me will want to stock up here. AH.
Long-serving chef Martial is now the owner here; careful cooking and friendly service are maintained. You can share a long table with other guests, or eat at small tables. This place is passionate about fine ingredients and has interesting wines by glass and bottle.
You can contact them on Facebook but it’s best to call well in advance for bookings. Tel:+33(0)380229330. AH.
Bissoh – Sushi
A classic venue in Beaune for those seeking Japanese delicacies, together with a fine wine list. Michelin inspectors recently described Japanese chef Mikihiko Sawahata as a ‘master’ of the kitchen. Call +33(0)380240102 to book. AH [updated].
For a picnic overlooking the vines, this is Beaune’s best butcher. You can get local parsley ham, pâtés and terrines, or slices of rosette saucisson – there are more than 60 home-made items. Tel: +33(0)380222974. AH.
Le Bistrot du Bord de l’Eau, Hostellerie Levernois
Just a 10-minute drive from Beaune, this a charming, stream-side spot in summer, or snuggle up to an open fire in winter. Fine food with Relais & Château service, at bistro prices. AH.
Seasonal ingredients are locally sourced from small farms and market gardeners, then cooked with care by Pépita. The brave can experiment with ‘natural’ wines alongside many Burgundian classics. AH.
La Vinothèque wine shop
You won’t be short of options for buying wine, naturally, but La Vinothèque near l’Hôtel Dieu has a good selection from the local area and further afield in the Côte d’Or, plus very knowledgeable staff who will happily let you explore the downstairs ‘cellar’ section of the shop on request. CM.
Restaurant La Ciboulette
Always a warm welcome here from the patronne, Madame Mâle, with dependable bourgeois cooking, interesting bottles on the list and friendly pricing. Tel:+33(0)380247072. AH.
A wine bar with food, whose owner, Lolo, has a keen nose for tasty, seasonal vegetables and fruit (80% locally grown). There is great Iberico ham, with both unusual and classic wines – some are offered blind to clients, if they wish. There are also two Burgundy-brewed beers, and ciders. An easy walk just off the ring-road, Route de Pommard. Tel:+33(0)380214859. AH.
Chef Christophe Boquillon has been in charge here since January 2013, and this restaurant is worth a visit. There are locally sourced ingredients, with wines from little-known growers, as well as top names. There is also an outdoor terrace. AH.
Visiting Beaune market
Last but not least, the market that takes over several streets of central Beaune on Saturday mornings is something to behold, although there is a smaller one on Wednesdays.
Fantastic piles of vegetables, fruit and butter are impossible to resist, while you’ll also be able to feast on rotisserie chicken and a endless amounts of cheese and charcuterie. AH. CM.
Anthony Hanson MW’s Beaune
I was a 19-year-old student at Grenoble University when I first heard about the Hospices de Beaune wine sale, the oldest charity auction in the world.
Aiming to work in the wine trade, I realised I had to get there, so I hitchhiked, including standing on the tipper of a bulldozer for part of the way round Lyon, as no other vehicle would stop for me.
Once there and tasting, a cellar worker at the Hospices took pity on me when he heard I had not booked a bed. ‘Come and stay with us,’ he said. ‘You won’t find a hotel room now.’
His wife invited me to their family lunch (eight courses) before the Sunday sale. It was my first experience of extraordinary Burgundian generosity and friendliness – never forgotten.
Beaune’s ramparts and moats still surround the little town. They have survived because they have been used to store barrels and bottles, so the great stones were never carted away for re-use.
One of my favourite walks in Beaune is along the top of the ramparts, whose walls and towers are largely from the 12th to 14th century.
You can climb the gentle slopes onto them at a dozen points around the town. Great views open up of Beaune’s old roofs, of the coloured tiles of the flamboyant Gothic Hôtel-Dieu, and of premier cru Beaune hillside vineyards, which come right up to the town’s edge.
It is best to explore Beaune in stout shoes, as many of its streets are still cobbled.
There is plentiful parking, often in the dried-out moats beside the walls. From the Porte St-Nicolas, walk down the elegant Rue de Lorraine, the best street for old buildings. Inspect the Renaissance door of No 18, with its dedication to the Muses – when I got a job in Beaune, this is where I lived.
Then turn left into Rue Rousseau-Deslandes – you will find Romanesque façades on some of these old houses. Look around the Notre Dame Collegiate Church, leading to the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, where the King later stayed (now the Burgundy wine Museum).
An essential visit is to the Hospices de Beaune, dating from 1443. Sober from the outside, within its courtyard slender columns support half-timbered galleries and steep roofs with dormer windows, multicoloured tiles and many weather vanes and pinnacles. In the Hospice museum itself is the superb Flemish Last Judgement by Rogier Van der Weyden, its colours still astonishingly bright.
Beaune has the world’s best wine bookshop, the Athenaeum, with a wide wine selection. And don’t miss the Hospices de Beaune’s own shop, as you exit its museum.
Anthony Hanson MW was previously senior wine consultant at Christie’s London, with key responsibilities for the annual Hospices de Beaune auction, which Christie’s has run since 2005.