Bourgogne is a region in the central east part of France, most famous for its wines. But it’s also a region with a rich history, home to gorgeous archeological sites, châteaux, abbeys, cities and lovely villages to visit. It’s rural, perfect for knitters looking for a peaceful place and for some amazing local yarns to discover. Not far from Paris, it’s a great destination if you want to spend a few days discovering some of the most beautiful French countryside.
A good starting point is Auxerre, a two-hour train ride from Paris.
Take a walk in the charming old town full of medieval houses, or follow the Yonne river. Don’t miss the Saint Etienne Cathedral built in the 13th century in gothic style with its gorgeous stained glass.
Inspiring archeological sites
Before it was colonized and integrated into the Roman empire, Bourgogne was first inhabited by groups of Celtic tribes known as the Gauls. They have a rich and fascinating culture that you can discover through the many archeological sites and museums in Bourgogne.
One of them is Alesia where the famous final battle between the Gauls led by Vercingetorix and the Romans commanded by Julius Caesar took place. Today a modern museum relates the history of the Roman conquest, and you can also visit the many archeological sites surrounding the city.
Another important place of Gallic culture is Bibracte, an hour and a half south. It used to be a great city on top of one of the highest mountains in Bourgogne, Mont Beuvray.
When you climb up by foot or minibus through the magical forest of old trees, you can feel how special this place is. The ancient Gauls had a religion based on animism and druidism, and the trees here still seem to carry some of the spiritual power that was invested in them centuries ago. You can spend hours walking through the forest, admiring the intricacy of the trees’ roots and branches.
At the top, there is a gorgeous view where, on a good day, you can see as far as the Mont Blanc in the Alps. You can walk through archeological remains of a Roman villa, a fountain, a temple, a Gallic house, all in the peaceful atmosphere of the forest. There’s also a great museum where you can learn more about the history of the place.
If you go to Bibracte, don’t forget to stop at the next village of Glux en Glenne where you can meet Cécile from Plumes de Mouton, a local knitter, spinner, farmer, and yarn dyer.
If you call or email beforehand, Cécile will welcome you at her farm where you can meet her flock of sheep and goats. She transforms their wool—along with the wool she collects from her neighbors—into gorgeous yarns that she hand-dyes in bright colors.
While you’re there, Joséphine the goat will probably ask you for a hug. She loves the attention, so she is always in a field close to the house. Even though she is the oldest goat at the farm, she is still in great shape! She can’t be in the same field as the mohair goats or she will chase them and make them run all day long.
Cécile is also a great spinning teacher; we had the chance to follow one of her spinning workshop at the latest retreat I hosted and it was really inspiring. She regularly offers spinning classes where you can learn about all the steps of transformation from wool to yarn and enjoy the slowness of the process.
A pause in nature
The region right in the center of Bourgogne is called the Morvan. It’s home to the smallest mountain in France and is a lot greener than the rest of Bourgogne, with forests, hills and lakes, where in the rest of Bourgogne you will find more fields and vineyard landscapes. If you’re looking for restful vacations in nature, then this is perfect for you. You can go hiking in the many available trails or simply relax by gorgeous lakes.
Beautiful abbeys and châteaux
A tour of Bourgogne wouldn’t be complete without seeing some of its châteaux and abbeys!
The most famous is probably the Abbey of Fontenay declared World Heritage by the UNESCO; it dates back to the 12th century and is well preserved.
You can tour the church, the cloister, and the buildings where the monks lived and worked and feel the peaceful atmosphere of the place.
Another interesting abbey not far from Fontenay is Flavigny Abbey. Monks started making the famous Anise de Flavigny candy when they founded the abbey in the eighth century. The building is still used as a candy factory where you can visit and have a taste!
Underneath you can visit the Carolingian crypt from the ninth century.
In the same area, the Epoisse Château is worth a visit! It’s in the middle of the peaceful village of Epoisse, home of the famous cheese by the same name. If you want to taste it along with other delicious local food, I recommend a stop at the Auberge du Château.
You can visit the interior of the château only during summer season, but you can always tour the garden and maybe meet some of the sheep grazing in the moat.
Bourgogne is well known for its wines, most of them being tied to their specific terroirs by appellation d’origine controlée which means that a specific wine can be produced only in a narrow designated location, often a village or group of villages. Depending on what part of Bourgogne you are visiting, you will discover many different types of wine. Most of them are made from Chardonnay grapes for white wines and Pinot Noir grapes for red wines, although there are a few other varieties used.
In the northern part of Bourgogne, near Auxerre is the Chablis region where you will find delicious dry white wines (my personal favorites!). In the southeast you will find the Côte d’Or region, famous for its many grand crus and down south the Côte Chalonnaise and Maconnais for their good affordable wines.
Whatever region you choose, I recommend touring a few vineyards. Many are small family businesses, and they will passionately tell you about their work, give you a tour of their winery and let you taste their wines.
I hope that you enjoyed this virtual tour! There are many more places to visit and things to see in Bourgogne, of course. If you know the region, I would love to know what your favorites are, so feel free to share them in the comments.
In the MDK Shop