Free activities to do in Burgundy


With an assortment of gorgeous villages, a dashing medieval capital-turned-Renaissance, and more chateau-crowned vineyards than you could ever hope to visit in a lifetime, France’s premier wine region is loaded with priceless French panache.

But with a bottle of the best Burgundy red demanding a price of several zeros, is it really possible to share the Burgundian joie de vivre without spending a dime? With wise planning and information from the field, it does. Here’s how.

Familiarize yourself with the Burgundy climates

Given Burgundy’s gargantuan wine heritage, first-time visitors would do well to make Beaune their first stop. Unofficial capital of the sacred Côte d’Or, Beaune itself is a magnificent town to stroll with its old town surrounded by ramparts, its magnificent medieval charity hospital (those gargoyles and its dazzling tiled roof!) And its picturesque cobbled lanes hiding an underground labyrinth of cellars hidden with priceless wine. Free films and bilingual exhibitions in its fascinating Maison des Climats plunge into the history, culture and wine traditions of the emblematic climates or the vineyard plots of Burgundy, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2015.

Wine tasting in a Burgundy vineyard without breaking the bank © Tuul & Bruno Morandi / Getty Images

Shake, snort, sip and spit wine

A precise, albeit tacit, label surrounds the tasting (wine tasting). In general, only go for a wine tasting if you intend to buy a few bottles afterwards. However, there is no obligation to purchase.

Larger wineries like Patriarche Père et Fils, where more than 2 million bottles age in 13th-century vaulted wine cellars stretching underground for 5 km, charge a symbolic entrance fee of around € 18 – good value for money given that it includes a guided tour, a tasting of six to 10 different wines and free tasting (tasting glass). Tastings at smaller chateaux, like Chateau Corton C with oenologist Caroline Frey at the head of the organic vineyards lining the slopes around the small village of Aloxe-Corton, are more intimate and offered (offered, aka free).


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Take the Grands Crus route

Go on the wine route with Balades en Bourgogne, the free application of the Côte d’Or tourist office which maps 160 routes on foot, by bike, by mountain bike and by car around the prestigious wine region. Audio histories are included in the phone-smart mix (iPhone and Android), searchable by theme and mode of transport.

The Champs-Elysées of Burgundy one of the wine-themed routes is the Route des Grands Crus. Here, motorists have traveled some 60 km of quiet country roads, through gentle rolling hills carpeted with pea-green vines and 38 wine-growing villages stitched with castles between Dijon (north) and Santenay (south) since 1937. have since been added to the scenic trail and promise an equally exhilarating ride.

A row of cobbled street with cafe tables with people socializing in Dijon, France
Strolling through the streets of Dijon is a lovely way to spend a day © Jon Lovette / Getty Images

Soak up the artistic glory of Dijon

Thanks to the mighty Dukes of Burgundy, the regional capital is blessed with an overdose of medieval and Renaissance buildings, many with dazzling polychrome tiled roofs or ornate carved facades (don’t miss the Maison des Cariatides and the peeping and lighthearted gargoyles striking clock of Notre Dame church). Most recall the heyday of Dijon in the 14th and 15th centuries, evoked in a delightful collection of municipal museums – all free. The eastern wing of the original palace of the dukes houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts, one of the best fine arts museums in France. Traditional Burgundian life is at the center of the Musée de la Vie Bourguigonne, in a 17th century convent. Celtic, Gallo-Roman and Merovingian objects fill the Archaeological Museum.

Eternal happiness and wisdom are available for free at the tap – or rather with a gentle caress from the extremely well-rubbed stone owl carved into the outside corner of a chapel across from No. 24 Rue de la Chouette – depending on the location. local tradition.

Kid around a Dijon fountain

Playing with the water jets on the Place de la Liberation, built in 1686, is the only way to cool off in summer. Bursting out of the ground, the water jets are an irresistible warm-season draw and bags of fun after dark when illuminated. Take a bench on the terrace of a café that surrounds the square for a glass of wine and an inspiring view of the neoclassical Ducal Palace, while the happy children run wet and wild.

Run (or swim) in the wild on the Montagne Noire

Outdoor enthusiasts go wild in the Morvan (which means “Black Mountain” in Celtic), a protected area of ​​700 km² of dense forests, lakes and rolling farmland. On dry land, choose from 1,550 miles (2,500 km) of hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and rock climbing trails. Or take your pick from several man-made lakes and four rivers. Cold water swimmers can dive in Lac des Settons and Lac de Saint-Agnan.

Travel to ancient Gaul

Burgundy promises a captivating journey through pre-Roman France. The Celtic spirit is alive and well in Bibracte, an ancient Gallic stronghold where Vercing̩torix was crowned Gallic leader in 52 BC. The on-site museum requires an entrance fee, but the free panoramic views from the mountain top site and walking trails Рincluding a fantastic 5.2 km circular loop around the ancient Gallic fortification Рover the surrounding archaeological site easily warrant a trip here. Download the free application La Boussole to discover, in situ, archaeological remains hidden under your feet.

Several natural sources were sacred to the Celts. Pay homage to the blue-green torrent gushing from the Fosse Dionne in Tonnere or the artesian source of 600 L per second gushing from a cliff at the Source de la Douix in Châtillon-sur-Seine. A picnic is always a good idea.

Follow a WWII Resistance fighter

Few “museums” evoke the bravery, endurance and exhausting daily life of French resistance fighters during the Second World War with as much force as the Chemins de Mémoire of the Morvan Regional Natural Park. Twenty-one memorial sites linked by hiking trails commemorate Resistance fighters who took refuge in vast expanses of forest and maquis (grousse) here in 1943 and 1944. Download a site map or get your own one at the Resistance Museum in St-Brisson and create your own history lesson on foot or by bike.

Beautiful street in Burgundy with ancient towers, France
Charming medieval villages in the heart of Burgundy are free to roam and enjoy © jenifoto / Getty Images

Find the enchantment of the village in Yonne

Halfway between Dijon and Paris, the Yonne department is the northern gateway to Burgundy and offers visitors a verdant countryside dotted with enchanting villages. Watch the sun peek over the medieval ramparts or stroll through the cobbled streets lined with 15th and 16th century gabled houses, beloved by Instagram, in the magical, multi-turreted village of Noyers-sur-Serein , 30 km south of the old river port of Auxerre, does not cost a cent. Ditto for an atmospheric stroll around the perched village of Vézelay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, crowned by an architectural gem of a medieval basilica and framed by a sublime patchwork of vines, sunflower fields and cow pastures.

Celebrate with the locals at a wine festival

As in all French regions, festivals are plentiful in Burgundy and are invariably a great opportunity to eat and drink with the locals, often for free or for very little. The first big festival of the year celebrates Saint Vincent, the patron saint of winegrowers (winegrowers) with street processions, a mass, wine tastings and two days of wine gaiety on the last weekend of January. A different village welcomes each year Saint Vincent Tournante, celebrated since 1938.

Another fantastic giveaway is the Burgundy Grands Crus Musical Festival, which lifts the curtain on dozens of concerts and musical concerts, including outdoors in the vineyards, from July to early October. The theme is always the same: wine.

About Thomas Thorton

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