Beaune, Capital of Burgundy
Beaune is the capital of the Côte de Beaune, which together with the Côte de Nuits makes up the Côte d’Or, the heart of Burgundy. Côte d’Or is a small wine district some 80 kilometres long, running from Santenay in the south to Marsannay in the north. Situated in the middle is Beaune, the perfect starting point for a round trip of Burgundy’s vineyards.
Beaune has approximately 20,000 inhabitants people. It is not only one of France’s most well-known wine-producing towns but is also rich in history. Cobblestone streets are flanked by attractive, well-preserved medieval houses with charming courtyards, and of course wine lovers will want to see the legendary Hôtel-Dieu buildings, owned by Hospices de Beaune charitable institution and scene of the annual wine auction.
However, Beaune’s most valuable treasures are not immediately visible; hidden away in underground cellars are bottles of wine worth eye-watering sums.
Many famous French négociants (wine merchants) such as Joseph Drouhin, Louis Jadot, Louis Latour, Bouchard Aîné, Bouchard Père et Fils, Patriarche and Chanson have their offices and cellars in Beaune itself. Patriarche and Chanson can be easily visited for a nominal entrance fee which is worth paying just to see their impressive cellars (that of Patriarche boasts 15,000 square metres of wine storage and is said to be the largest cellar in Burgundy).
Naturally there are plenty of restaurants, cafés, wine shops and the like: we would simply suggest that you exercise caution when visiting the wine shops as some are tourist traps. Buying red Burgundy is always a little risky because the quality varies enormously from one producer to another.
However, there is much to enjoy: a coffee on the main square (Place Carnot), a glass of wine in one of the wine bars, or perhaps a Kir as an apéritif. There are many excellent restaurants at all levels, from the homely and typically Burgundian to gourmet dining destinations with star chefs. There are even a couple of excellent Japanese restaurants (a style of cuisine which pairs very well with local wines).
Food for the soul – Hôtel Dieu
The Hôtel Dieu is one of France’s great attractions. Situated in the very centre of Beaune, it is a fine example of the Flemish/Burgundian style that flourished here during the 15th century. At the request of the ruling Duke of Burgundy, artists and painters from Paris and Flanders moved to Dijon to work on the ornamentation.
The building was completed in 1443 and has functioned as a charitable hospital from that time up until 1971 when the hospital moved to more appropriate modern buildings on the outskirts of town and the Hôtel Dieu became a museum.
It is impressive from the outside, but be sure to go inside as well. The inner courtyard buildings with their typically Burgundian patterned roofs are a truly memorable sight and a must for wine lovers.
The Hospices de Beaune also owns 75 hectares of vineyards, predominantly in Côte de Beaune. The wine from these vineyards is auctioned off with pomp and circumstance the third weekend in November every year, generating income that goes towards the running of the hospital.
Food for the mind – books, and more books
Eating and drinking is a pleasant occupation, but reading about food and wine can also nourish the mind. We recommend a visit to the Athenaeum store opposite the Hôtel Dieu.
This shop sells a remarkable assortment of wine, wine accessories and wine books, as well as other items that have nothing to do with wine at all. The book department has an outstanding collection of food and wine books in English and French (including our book on organic wines), including editions that are rarely found elsewhere.
For the body – cafés and restaurants
After browsing the bookshelves you may well be in the mood for a glass of wine. You can either choose one of the cafés on Place Carnot, a few meters from the Athenaeum, or the little Bistro Bourguignon, which is both a wine bar and restaurant with a very ambitious cook. Jazz concerts are held here on Saturday evenings.
Or head over to the vaulted cellars of the Marché aux Vins. Situated between the Hospices de Beaune and the Athenaeum, and housed within a 14th century church (the oldest in Beaune), the Marché aux Vins offers tastings of a large selection of Burgundy wines of various vintages, in return for a small fee.
You can eat well in Beaune and it is easy to find restaurants that serve Burgundian specialities like jambon persillé (delicious with a simple white aligoté Burgundy wine or oeufs en meurette (poached egg in a red wine sauce). Snails are prepared in a variety of ways, not forgetting the classics such as beef bourguignon and coq au vin.
Burgundian cuisine tends towards the rustic, but if you are craving more sophisticated food, try Le Benaton (a restaurant which won its first Michelin star a few years ago), or the popular La Ciboulette.
When dining, it’s important to save some space for the excellent local cheeses, in particular the rich époisses. This cheese is only made by hand according to the original method developed by the monks. During the three-month maturation phase, the cheese is washed regularly with marc de bourgogne (a brandy that is produced by distilling the grape skins and pips left over after pressing the grapes). A small glass of marc is also rather good as a digestif when you’ve eaten just a little bit too much…
Foodies will want to stock up on Dijon mustard and try some pain d’épices, a kind of soft ginger biscuit with notes of honey and aniseed. Another great Burgundian speciality is the black currant liqueur (liqueur de cassis ): Burgundian priest Félix Kir added a dash to a glass of aligoté white wine and invented the classic Kir apéritif.
Should you tire of the local gastronomy, try Restaurant Bissoh, a Japanese restaurant with good sushi and meat that is prepared traditionally in the middle of the dining area. Their wine list is one of the best in town.
A walk in the vineyards
Leave the town for a while and take a short stroll out to the vineyards. Beaune is one of the biggest appellations in the Côte d’Or and there are many well-known vineyards within walking distance from the town centre, such as Les Teurons and Les Grèves.
It is always interesting to go out to the vineyards, whatever the season: you can learn a lot just by looking at the vines, the soil, the pruning and other farming methods used. And after all that delicious food, you probably need the exercise…
The restaurant scene – as well as wine shops – can change quickly. If a name on the list has disappeared, or if you have suggestions for new ones, please let us know.
Ma Cuisine, passage Sainte-Helene ph:03 80 22 30 22. You will find this very popular little restaurant in a passage way by Place Carnot. Good prices, pleasant service, emphasis on local gastronomy. (approx 30 euros for a meal). Reservation recommended.
La Ciboulette, 69 Rue de Lorraine; ph: 03 80 24 70 72. French cuisine with a certain elegance (45-60 euros for a meal).
Le Bistrot Bourguignon, 8 rue Monge, ph: 24 03 80 22 23. Wine bar and restaurant, wines by the glass that are good value, and exciting food. (from 20 euros)
Le Benaton, 25 rue du Faubourg Bretonniere, ph: 03 80 22 00 26. This restaurant received a well-deserved Michelin star (Guide Rouge) a few years ago. (menu from 50 euros)
Caveau des Arches, 10, Boulevard Perpreuil, ph: 03 22 10 37 An attractive, historic vaulted cellar serving French specialities. (menu from 23 euros)
La Part des Anges, 24 bis, rue d’Alsace, ph: 03 22 07 68. Trendy, stylish restaurant and wine bar.
Restaurant Bissoh, 42 rue Maufoux, ph 03 80 24 01 02. Smart, upmarket Japanese restaurant with a superb wine list (40-60 euro).
Note: In season it can be difficult to get a table at some of the restaurants, so it’s worth making a reservation, if you can.
Cave du Passage Sainte-Helene, Passage Sainte-Helene, belongs to the restaurant Ma Cuisine. This seems to have closed.
Athenaeum de la Vigne et du Vin, 7, rue de l’Hotel-Dieu
Patriarche Pere & Fils, 7 rue du College, ph 03 80 24 53 78
Marche aux Vins, 2 rue Nicolas-Rolin
Travel to the world’s wine countries with the people who really know wine and the local culture, who can ensure you get the best possible experience. We can take you to the most interesting producers and the most memorable spots, where you’ll get to taste the most exciting wines, meet the winemakers in person and enjoy authentic local cuisine.
Travel with BKWine Tours.