The grand Burgundy Wine Festival comes to Beaune this weekend, just as it has for the past 157 years in a row. From Friday through to Sunday evening, visitors and locals to the area will be treated to three glorious days of festivities that shine a bright spotlight on Burgundy’s past, present and future. Half-marathons, folklore parades, live music, traditional activities, markets, tastings and, of course, the star attraction – The Wine Auction at the Hospices de Beaune.
To commemorate the occasion, and as Part Two of our Then & Now series, we dusted off the ancient postcards we keep in our archives and took them for a walk around the major landmarks and attractions of Beaune city center, the next stop south from Pommard. History in Burgundy, after all, is too fascinating to be kept locked up and forgotten about.
So, when you come to Beaune for this special weekend, we recommend you visit these sites of interest. As we are sure you will agree, they are city sights to behold…
Hôtel-Dieu – Exterior
A national treasure, the tall sloped exterior wall of Hôtel-Dieu is almost as cherished as the polychromatic tiles on the other three sides of the former hospital’s Courtyard of Honor.
Read Our Story on the Hospices de Beaune and Hôtel Dieu for more information.
Hôtel-Dieu – Courtyard of Honor
The original site of the Vente des Vins wine charity auction; the Hôtel-Dieu’s Courtyard of Honor is as beautiful as it is historic. Today, the world-famous auction house, Christie’s, hosts the auction in the Place de la Halles, the former indoor marketplace of Beaune.
Hôtel-Dieu – Courtyard of Honor
This 15th century masterpiece, with its glorious views of the former hospital’s glazed roof titles, has been a museum since the 1980s. Visitors to the Hôtel-Dieu will be able to purchase a self-guided tour as well as experience tapestries, a chapel, an apothecary, the Great Hall, ancient kitchens and cellars.
While the architecture of the building is indeed a work of art in itself, the Hôtel-Dieu also houses a genuine masterpiece – the Beaune Alterpiece, a polyptych by Dutch artist Rogier van der Weyden.
Beaune is, of course, famous for being a walled city. Two and half kilmeters of wall, or remparts, to be precise, this ancient protective fortified shield is the highest remaining point of the still-standing wall that was first constructed in the 12th century. The bastion, pictured, was built in the 16th century.
Place du Carnot
The city’s most touristy restaurant and wine bar hotspot is Place du Carnot. It’s the place to be on a weekend night in Summer with revellers spilling out on to the street, and the site of Beaune’s Saturday market that sells the vintage treasures and antiques of Burgundy’s history. Remember to look up: the architecture of many of the buildings here are fascinating.
Place de la Halle
Once upon a time, Place de la Halle had a large iron gate as an entrance to its indoor marketplace. Today, the large brown tiled roof is just as enticing. The Place de Halle is the site of the world-famous Hospices de Beaune Vente des Vins every third Sunday in November. For the rest of the year, it houses the meat and poultry section of Beaune’s market.
One of Beaune city’s main shopping arteries, leading away from Place Carnot and up to Porte Saint Nicolas, Rue Carnot is home to wine shops, clothing shops and restaurants.
Many of the team’s favorite restaurant in Beaune, Maison du Colombier is, for sure, the most architecturally interesting places to dine in Beaune. With its turrets and bastions, the restaurant also offers the best seat in Beaune to sit and watch one of its greatest views – Notre Dame Church. The fact that you can sit and observe the church with a glass of wine in your hand makes the view even more glorious.
Notre Dame Church
Beaune’s Notre Dame Collegiate Church represents a beautiful example of Burgundian Romanesque architecture. Over the centuries, additional exterior architectural elements, such as the portal and chevet have been added, as well as a 16th century bell-tower and chapel.
Notre Dame Church, round the back
Looking as handsome as the front as it does at the rear, Notre Dame Church, with its medieval set of cobblestone paths and walkways, reveals a real sense of what local life may have been like in the 13th century. Everywhere you turn, there is a sign which points to ancient underground cellar – including Joseph Drouhin, a must-see visit – or a tiny cobbled streets brimming with something interesting.
Rue de Lorraine – Left
Another of Beaune city’s major arteries, Rue de Lorraine takes you toward Porte de Saint Nicolasm Beaune Theatre and Château de Beaune and stretches out from Place Carnot. There is many a decent eaterie and shop here, including Cook’s Atelier and Café Monge, named after Château de Pommard’s former resident Gaspard Monge and Beaune city’s chief architect.
Rue de Lorraine – Right
Facing the opposite direction from the picture above, this is Rue de Lorraine as you head towards Place Carnot. Again, remember to look – the architecture of these buildings is awe-inspiring.
Rue de Faubourg de Saint Nicolas
Past the Porte de Saint Nicolas, a former Roman gate, you’ll find Rue de Faubourg Saint Nicolas and the church of Saint Nicolas, built in the 13th century.
Rue de Faubourg de Saint Nicolas
Heading north down Rue de Faubourg Saint Nicolas your eyes will be immediately drawn to the ornate exterior, and spire, of Saint Nicolas’ church.
Saint Nicolas’ Gate
Designed by Dijon architect Lenoir Le Romain ; and once used to welcome visitors from the north, this fortified gate, was once equipped with a drawbridge. It has also seen many important people pass under its impressive arch. Henry II, accompanied by Catherine de Medici, were royally welcomed in 1548. However, it was Louis XIV – naturally – who made the most spectacular entrance to the city. He used Saint Nicholas’ Gate on November 10, 1669 – a canon was fired in his honor.
A beautiful view of Porte de Saint Nicolas as you head away from Place Carnot up Rue Lorraine.
L’Hôtel de Ville
The courtyard square of Beaune’s administrative town hall, is now home to les archives de Beaune ; the place to go for the artefacts and annuals of the city’s history. The monument in the center has been removed and replaced by a flowerbed. The Hotel de Ville was once a convent, the Couvent des Ursulines, that was first built in the 17th century.
The social hubbub of Beaune’s busy tourism, as well as the home of some of Beaune’s best nightlife – Place Carnot!
Rempart des Lions
Lion’s Square, or Remparts des Lions, was ordered by Beaune’s Mayor, in 1759 into an esplanade ; or walkway, accessible by ramps and stairs. Once an elevated fortification to protect Beaune from invaders coming from the west, Lion’s Square looks out towards Parc de la Bouzaize ; Beaune’s romantic garden, complete with a lake.
Formerly one of the major pathways into Beaune, Place Madeleine is steeped in history. Now a hotspot for young people, with several wine bars, cocktail bars, pizzerias, snack bars and a large car park. The square has also hosted wine fairs, fun fairs, roller coasters, as well as the city’s first showing of a film – in 1910.
Beaune Train Station
Transforming into a truly 21st century transport hub in 2017, Beaune’s train station is currently under major renovation and refurbishment. The plans look very exciting. For decades, however, Beaune train station welcomed steam trains heading towards Dijon and Paris. Dijon is only a 20-minute train ride away.