The Burgundy region in France is famed for its prestigious wine production, which lures connoisseurs from around the globe. And at the heart of it all is beautiful Beaune.
Located about two hours away from Geneva and Lyon, the town’s historic centre is surrounded by stone walls dating back centuries. Modern conveniences like tasting rooms, clothing stores, cafes and restaurants blend seamlessly into the picture-perfect streetscape, making visitors feel like they’ve stumbled into some ancient village untouched by the hands of time.
Beaune is known as Burgundy’s wine capital, and is more focused on wine production than tourism despite being a popular spot for day-trippers from Paris exploring the famed region. There a number of vineyards nearby (Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs are the recommended grapes), and the town hosts an annual wine auction which draws international buyers. Held during the third weekend of November, Christie’s organizes the event which sees top wines from area estates up for grabs, with proceeds going to heritage conservation and hospital upgrading.
In the historic centre, intricate wrought-iron bars and colourful flower boxes decorate windows, while narrow, winding streets suddenly reveal treasures such as the towering Notre Dame church.
Notre Dame’s roof features a traditional characteristic of the region: polychrome roofs. Multi-coloured glazed tiles adorn many of Beaune’s buildings, with their dazzling patterns meant to demonstrate wealth and opulence. And nowhere else does it better than the Hospices de Beaune.
Established in 1443, the Hôtel-Dieu (as it’s also known) was built as a place for nuns to care for the ill who were too poor to pay for the care they desperately needed. Incredibly, health care continued at the Hospices de Beaune up until 1971, before being turned into what is now a museum.
After paying an entrance fee, visitors are given audio guides and can wander through the Hôtel-Dieu freely. The entrance leads straight into the courtyard, which is the piece de resistance thanks to its dramatic, vibrant tiled roof.
The cobblestone-covered courtyard features an old stone well, and is surrounded by pillars supporting the gothic-inspired, half-timber facades.
Inside, visitors can tour spots like The Great Hall of the Poors, a huge room with rows of beds draped in rich red velvet where the sick were tenderly cared for. Next up is the chapel with its intricate stained glass windows, then the Saint-Nicolas room featuring massive fireplaces designed to heat the Hospices de Beaune.
Other notable rooms include the pharmacy, where shelves lined with huge glass bottles and scales demonstrate how medicine was once administered, as well as a hall lined with rich tapestries and other collectibles.
Upon exiting the Hospices de Beaune, visitors will find themselves back in the town centre, which is the perfect place to grab a table for some a la carte dining featuring—what else—a glass of Burgundy wine.
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