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We’ve been slowly exploring different areas of eastern France as we’re quite close to the border here in Heidelberg (90-minute drive from Strasbourg). As we had a few days for a trip, we decided to go further afield and visited Beaune, in the heart of the Bourgogne.
Tip: Beaune is pronounced ‘BOW-n’, and the Bourgogne is also referred to as Burgundy in English. And yes, it’s where Beef Bourgogne comes from.
Where to stay
We stayed right in Beaune, slightly outside of the old part of town. As there’s only three of us, we usually do hotels on the cheaper side of things, and when in France we often skip the hotel breakfast in favour of making a run to a local boulangerie for bread and pastries, supplemented by a bag of terrific French apples and some sliced meat we picked up at a Carrefour on the way into town. The need for coffee propels us out of the room in good time.
We’d like to return to the area, and now that we know a bit more, I think we’d stay in a gîte or cottage in the nearby countryside. This is particularly feasible for us as we drive in, but if you’re coming by train, I’d suggest staying in the town.
Where to eat
Beaune is a serious wine town, and as such, there are many caves to sample the incredible local produce. If you’re traveling with kids, however, this may not be where you want to spend your money or time – at least not every night. We found La Remorque, a local food truck serving great burgers made with flavourful local beef, as well as some of the best chicken fingers I’ve ever tasted. Yes, it’s stationed in the car park of a grocery store, and it’s not all that picturesque, but you won’t be sorry foodwise. We also found, Le Belena, a quite reasonably priced bistro just outside of the Altstadt that was quite child friendly.
What to do
The Hôtel-Dieu is the 15th-century hospice opened by a local nobleman, and it is definitely worth a visit. They’ve turned the ground floors into a museum, and the accompanying audio tour is excellent (available in many languages, including English, with a children’s tour as well). The museum doesn’t focus on the grimmer side of early modern medicine, but rather how the hospital was run, which was quite ahead of its time.
It’s worth taking the little train tour that lives across from the Hôtel-Dieu, in front of the tourist office. Do check with the little kiosk straight away, because they assign a language to each car of the train, so showing up at the last minute might mean you have to wait until the next tour. They take you up into some of the vineyards right next to the town, it’s quite comprehensive.
We missed out on the mustard mill, but if you love the yellow stuff, it’s worth checking out one of the oldest independent mustard mills in the area. When you think about how close Dijon is, you will understand! Definitely stop at a local grocery store and look for the local products section, I picked up a giant jar of the best Dijon mustard I’ve ever tasted for about €2.
Wandering around this beautiful town is a half-day activity to itself. Like many French towns, you won’t find a playground, unfortunately, but when we visited in the summer there was a carousel in the central square. You can also walk along the tops of the old town wall, and marvel at the ways residents have incorporated their houses and shops into the old structure over the centuries. If you can keep your small people awake late enough, it’s fun to catch the light show that lights up various landmarks in the town. You follow a path lit up by blue lights to find the next little illumination show – it’s quite fun rushing around with a bunch of other tourists. It is also a bit confusing, so I would asking the tourist office about it during the day so you’re prepared!
Exploring just outside of Beaune
There are several Chateaux worth visiting outside of the town, as well as the incredible vineyards surrounding it. If you have access to a car, visiting Château de Savigny-lès-Beaune and Château de la Rochepot would be possible in one day. Savigny-lès-Beaune is closer, and if you’re without a vehicle, would be a reasonable taxi ride. It’s really worth visiting, as this chateau is surrounded by fighter jets. I know, sounds insane, and it is, but not only is there a field full of old fighter jets, but outbuildings full of vintage Italian race cars, and the chateau itself houses a collection of vintage motorcycles. Of course there are vineyards too, because this is the Bourgogne.
We really enjoyed our trip to Beaune. Is it the most child-centric destination? No, not really, but we enjoyed the town and our time there. We’re considering renting a cottage nearby for a week next summer.