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I’ve mentioned before that my family had the opportunity to live in and travel through Europe in 2016 as part of a family sabbatical. Well, when we mapped our route driving from Spain through France and to Germany, we had originally planned to spend time touring the city of Dijon. However, we never made it. Instead, we stopped early owing to exhaustion and the waning patience of our two children (and thereby us) and opted to stay a few days in the beautiful village of Beaune. Located in the heart of the Burgundy wine region, it really made more sense for us as Winetravelers anyway.
Truth be told, the reason we ended up staying three nights in Beaune, rather than moving on to Dijon, is owed entirely to the proprietor of the hotel we found by chance. We really hadn’t done our research on Beaune, as we expected to be in Dijon, but Hotel Le Home had good reviews and was easy to find. Once we arrived, we were greeted by our host Mathilde with much enthusiasm. A mother herself, she immediately recognized the deteriorating family situation and graciously offered us a suite of adjoining rooms for the price of one. It was off-season, and she had the availability, as well as tremendous empathy.
The arrangements worked perfectly as the kids had their space and we had ours. (I should note, this is also where our children hatched a plan to form their own country – no parents allowed – and wrote a constitution, laws, monetary system and declared war with the enemy parents!) The months, and years, of ensuing laughter, comradery, and hours of entertainment, were all sparked by this happenstance stay owing to the graciousness of Mathilde. The exquisitely dressed and very fashionable proprietor also spent a considerable amount of time with us mapping out a fabulous family itinerary for our two-day visit. She took the time to understand our interests and offer numerous ideas for both the children and adults from which we could easily choose to fill our days.
Outlined below are the options we chose to spend our days accommodating everyone’s interests and creating some amazing family memories that will not soon be forgotten.
Getting To Beaune France
Our situation was slightly different than most, as we arrived in Europe via Spain and ended months later in Italy. If you should find yourself in a similar situation, I highly recommend the long-term car rental program through Renault. We had unlimited mileage, an English GPS system and insurance. And as a bonus we were also able to rent an automatic transmission! However, if like most, you’re traveling for days or weeks, Beaune is easily accessible by train from most major French cities. You can plan train travel in advance here. Or you can also rent a car at the airport, which will give you more flexibility and freedom. Beaune is only a three-hour drive from Strasbourg and Paris and just less than two hours from Lyon. Get updates on flight deals into France here.
Where to Stay in Beaune
Obviously, I recommend Hotel Le Home, but Airbnb and TripAdvisor also provide numerous options for your stay from luxury accommodations including Hôtel Le Cep & SPA Marie de Bourgogne to more family-friendly, budget options like Accor Hotels’ Ibis in the city center (with prices this low, splurge and opt for two rooms to offer a little more space with the kids!).
The Sights of Beaune
Hospices de Beaune
We began our day with a visit to the famed Hospices de Beaune, a hospital that opened in the mid-15th century and was still treating patients as recently as the 1980’s. The hospices were designed as a place to treat the poor and served as a model for the hospitals that would come afterward. The Hospice tour came with an audio guide for both adults and children, the children’s version being narrated by a fly and a snake. The fly — quite a morbid creature — described what it was like to drink the blood of patients who filled the barracks back in the early days of medicine. This generated rapturous laughter from our kids who were thoroughly entertained. (Bloodletting was also normal back in the day – eek!)
In all seriousness, the Hospices are a fascinating walk through history and have been supported over the years by a charity wine auction, featuring wines from prestigious vineyards that have been acquired or donated to the Hospices over time. The Hospices produce some of the best wines in Burgundy, and the auction raises millions of Euros to support itself and various other charities. For example, the year of our visit, the auction was held two days after attacks in Paris and generated over $12 million, with a third of that going to support the victims of the attacks.
Edmond Fallot Moutarderie
Fallot makes Dijon-style mustard in the last family-owned Moutarderie in Burgundy and offers tours of the operations facility and museum, complete with a mustard tasting at the end. We must have tried more than 20 different flavors of mustard, most of which were very good and all packed a wallop of spice. The tour itself is entertaining with a decent amount of science and history lessons built in for the kids.
Parc de la Bouzaize
From strolls around the pond and an afternoon spent on swings, to the exotic birds wandering the grounds, the Parc de la Bouzaize is a great place for the kids to burn off steam. It’s also a great place where they can play on the park equipment while you stroll hand-in-hand around the paths (all while keeping them in sight). And for the little ones, you may even spot Mother Goose!
The town center of Beaune is a great place to stroll for shopping, art (including some works of Dalí), a tour through the Basilique Notre-Dame de Beaune or a ride on the free carousel. While I can’t recall any particular places we ate, I do know our children enjoyed the crepes, escargot, croque monsieur and good old fashioned hamburgers (actually made from ham!) with frites.
The Wines of Beaune
Burgundy reds are made entirely from Pinot Noir grapes and the whites from Chardonnay, so it’s easy to understand what you’re drinking and it’s a very distinctive experience focused on terroir. Compared to Bordeaux, the classification system is based on region rather than vineyard. The most prestigious wines are single-vineyard, but many other wines draw from multiple vineyards from a single village, such as Beaune, or throughout the region. Burgundian wines are soft and approachable, easy to understand and very easy to drink. And you can absolutely experience them while traveling as a family. Here are a few of our recommended options for wine tasting in Beaune:
Wine Tasting in Beaune: Self-Guided Options
Marché aux Vins – A boutique wine shop located in Beaune’s city center, the Marché is a wonderful place to browse a plethora of regional wines, but also to take a self-guided tour through the caves beneath the shop. Although not a personal tour in the least, it’s a great option with kids. Upon purchase of the tour you receive a tastevin – a traditional tasting cup designed in Burgundy. Although not practical, it is rather romantic. You’re then directed to the cellars which you can explore at your leisure. Bottles are open throughout for you to pour your own samples (or as in our case, the children can pour as they pretend to be sommeliers – questionable parenting aside, our kids had a blast donning accents and spouting their “wine knowledge.”) The caves are fascinating to explore with their numerous rooms and even old church ruins.
Patriarche Père Et Fils – A well-known producer in the region, Patriarche also offers self-guided tours which are often a great option with children as you can move at their pace. Interactive video terminals placed throughout the route will guide you through the wine cellars, their history and the great wines aged there. You can also taste a range of 10 Burgundy wines and seek advice from the wine consultants on-hand.
Louis Jadot – A mere 10-minute walk from Hotel Le Home, Louis Jadot is a name synonymous with Burgundy and Beaujolais. Depending on your time and energy, you can opt for a guided tour or simply walk-in and taste as we did. The tasting room is open to all from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays. At 3 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, and 10 a.m. on Saturday, scheduled visits to the winemaking and maturation cellars — followed by a tasting — are available by reservation.
Worthy of Your Time: More Places To Taste Wine in Beaune
Château de Pommard – Although today American-owned, Château de Pommard offers an exquisite wine tasting and fascinating tour of the caves and vineyards. We arranged this tour by appointment through our hotel and arrived a few minutes early. As we waited for the tour host, we were shown to a waiting area which doubled as a winemaking museum with years of wine making tools and equipment, including one of the largest wooden wine presses I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to get a feel for just how big it is, other than to say it’s easier to imagine some mythical giants using it rather than actual humans. As for the tour, it was short enough to keep the kids from getting antsy and informative enough that we walked away with a much greater understanding of the soils, vines, region and wine production (as well as several bottles of wine).
Maison Joseph Drouhin – Honestly, for me, it doesn’t get much better than the wines of Joseph Drouhin. For the last 139 years, Maison Joseph Drouhin has been in the hands of the Drouhin family, not an easy accomplishment with French estate laws. Today, however, the fourth generation leads the winery with a focus on terroir, exquisite quality and elegance. Production is also completely organic throughout their 90 different appellations. With a tasting room and cellar located in the heart of Beaune within the Duke of Burgundy’s Parliament building, a tasting and tour at Maison Joseph Drouhin is a fascinating discovery of history and wine. Tours are available by appointment only and include a personal tour through the most ancient cellars of Beaune followed by a tasting of six iconic wines from Maison Joseph Drouhin. During this approximately one and a half hour tour, you will also find ancient Roman remnants, nearly 2000 years old.
While the wines of Burgundy are renowned worldwide, I doubt many consider the region as a family destination. But whether you find yourself stopping en route to the Monkey Mountain in Alsace, or specifically plan to take your family to Burgundy because kids’ or not, it’s a great wine trip, the itinerary outlined here is how we mapped our days with kids in tow. To this day, these moments in Beaune remain a top highlight of our time overseas. Burgundy — and Beaune in particular — is a place you can have your cake and eat it too (or in this case wine and crepes!).