France is synonymous with cheese, romance, and most importantly wine. There are numerous wine regions in France and I decided to make a visit to one of the most famous in Burgundy. All of the famous Burgundy or Bourgogne in French wineries are located here and ready for you to visit! If you’ve had images of traversing through incredibly beautiful vineyards on rolling hillsides surrounded by quaint French villages and of course amazing wine, Burgundy is the place for you.
From Paris, Burgundy is about 300km and is actually an easy day trip. A combination of train and bike or train and car rental will make for the most perfect day in the region. Although I’d recommend staying at least two nights if possible, I understand not everyone has the time which is why I made this itinerary especially for those staying in Paris. Hopefully this itinerary will help you plan the day trip of your dreams!
Alternatively, for a quicker train ride, make sure to also consider visiting the Champagne wine region for those that want to try some of the most famous bubbly out there. Read my perfect day trip itinerary from Paris to Champagne for more details!
What makes Burgundy wines special?
Burgundy, is a region in the center-east part of France famous for its numerous vineyards. Dijon, also famous for you guessed it, Dijon mustard, is the capital city of the province. Beaune, is a smaller and more quaint town half hour south of Dijon, and there are numerous incredibly cute medieval-esque villages all in between.
Burgundy specializes exclusively in Pinot Noir grapes (red wine) and Chardonnay (white wine). That’s it. Very simple to remember for sommelier wannabes like myself. They also dabble with a few other grapes like Aligote (another white wine) but the region is most famous for their pinot noir and chardonnay.
Old Traditions and Older soil
Many millions of years ago, the Burgundy region was actually covered in a shallow sea, and in that sea lived millions of creatures with hard, calcium-rich shells. Fast forward to the disappearance of said sea, add in a dash of fossilization, and you get the region’s limestone terroir.
Monks have a lot of history in the production of delicious fermented beverages, so maybe it shouldn’t surprise us that both the Cistercian and Cluniac Orders were responsible for learning how to cultivate the finicky Pinot Noir grape starting around 1000 years ago. Fortunately, they meticulously documented their progress, so not only have methods been passed down, but the concept of “terroir” (which they basically originated) has stayed in rotation.
Organized Tours or Do it yourself?
As compared to Champagne day tours, there are not as many organized day tours to Burgundy. However, if you do decide to book an organized tour, expect to pay a hefty fee because so many others love to do stuff like this.
I think doing this tour on your own is quite simple and just takes a little bit of planning. The transport in France is absolutely fantastic and the trains are ridiculously fast. There is no need to book a tour to visit Burgundy in my opinion. I planned this trip pretty last minute so if I can do it, so can you.
Where to go in Burgundy?
Burgundy is the name of the region, and there are numerous towns within the region. Dijon and Beaune are the largest and most central towns within the region. Dijon is the much larger of the two. The two towns are connected by train and about 20 minutes away from each other. There’s not enough time to do both cities in a day so you’ll just have to choose one and go from there. I wanted to go to smaller and more quaint villages and focus on the beautiful vineyards.
After doing countless reading that I did not really understand because the wine region here is impossibly complicated, I decided on the town of Beaune. For those looking to get away from the craziness of Paris, Beaune is definitely your spot. The town is filled with beautiful cobblestone streets, old churches, wine cellars, and fantastic restaurants where you can sample the famous local Boeuf de Bourgogne.
An overview of the region
You can probably write whole books on Burgundy and as I was only there for a short stay, I can do it no proper justice. However, I did learn quite a bit while I was there so hopefully this brief overview will help you understand the region more.
The name of the region is the Côte-d’Or which is a section in the Burgundy province that specializes in producing its famous wines. The Côte-d’Or is then broken down in different areas:
From Dijon south to Beaune, it is called the Côte de Nuits and from Beaune to Santenay is the Côte de Beaune. You’ll see wine labeled as such from which region and which estate, or terroirs as they call them.
Make a reservation or not?
Like most of Europe, many vineyards will require you make a reservation beforehand, especially during popular summer months. As I had zero clue about the region and even less of a clue or what vineyards I’d actually want to visit, I opted for the no appointment route. If you know what you want to see, then you should definitely call and make a reservation beforehand.
I was more focused on soaking in the breathtaking scenery, and enjoying a few glasses of the good stuff along the way. I’ve done so many cellar tours like the one I did at Moet and Chandon in Champagne, but what always ends up happening is I’m enthralled during the tour but immediately forget everything because it turns out, I’m not a Sommelier. I did not make a reservation but I was able to drink my fair share of Burgundy wines along the way.
Most places will let you walk in without a reservation and do a tasting. Some are free, and others charge for the experience, perhaps €10 or so.
Getting to Burgundy from Paris
The high speed SNCF trains make it a breeze to get to the Burgundy region. All trains leave from Paris Gare De Lyon and take roughly 2 hours to Dijon, and 2.5 hours to Beaune. It is not the easiest of day trips as I’ve mentioned before but it is totally worth it in my opinion to wake up a little early to see the beautiful wine country. There are only a few trains a day and I’d recommend taking the train at 06:50 that arrives in Dijon just before 9 and 9:15 in Beaune.
The further in advance you book these tickets, the cheaper they will be. As I only planned to visit Beaune a week before going, I paid about €45 one way from Paris to Beaune. If you can book a month or more in advance, you can find tickets for about €30 one way. There are no buses to Beaune or Dijon that make sense for a day tripper because you are really relying on the crazy speeds of the French trains that go up to 300+ km/hr to make your day trip possible.
How to travel around Burgundy?
Once you get to Beaune, you’ll be at the gateway of the wine country. However, if you came here looking for idyllic vineyards and wine tasting, then you’ll have to get out of Beaune. Don’t get me wrong, I would highly recommend spending some time in Beaune if not just for an hour or so to see this pretty town but to see the vineyards you’ll need to venture out.
There are two ways to do this day trip in my opinion: Drive or rent a bike. I will go over both methods and the pros and cons of each.
Renting a car for the day in Burgundy
Driving will be the easiest approach for those looking for an easy day. You can drive through the vineyards and admire the amazing scenery all from your car. You can cover a lot of ground in a day stopping wherever you wish and seeing everything from Dijon all the way down to Santenay.
The best way to rent a car in Burgundy is to make a booking request with the company E.Leclerc. It’s actually a gas station and convenience store that also rents cars. They rent cars by the day and charge for distance traveled. You can rent a car for as little as €4 a day and you pay roughly €15 per 100km. If you drive the Rue de Grand Crus from Beaune to Dijon or from Beaune to Chalon Sur Saone, this will be about 150km round trip. This is by far the cheapest way to do it especially if you’re traveling as a group.
Make sure to make the booking in advance, especially during the popular summer months or on weekends. From what I saw, the cars were all manual so if you can’t drive stick, you’re out of luck for this option.
Rent a bike in Burgundy
There are two bike rental companies in Beaune that rent regular bikes and e-bikes for the day. In the end, we decided to take e-bikes for the day as we were convinced by reading some blogs that this was the way to go. We were not mistaken!
The Rue de Grand Crus is the iconic wine route that goes from Dijon all the way down to Santenay. The route is split by bikers and by cars. The bikers have their own smaller road that meanders through the vineyards offering spectacular views whereas the cars need to stick to the larger roads. Cars also have fantastic views don’t get me wrong, but bikers definitely get the better options.
Plus we did not want to worry about drinking and driving, although I was told it is fairly relaxed in this part of France. Nevertheless, I love a little bike adventure while drinking fantastic wine. We rented electric bikes to make the trip easier and if you’ve never tried an electric bike before, this is the place to start. The terrain was not particularly challenging and we could have easily done this on a regular bike, but after a few glasses of wine with the hot summer sun, the e-bike made biking a dream.
I would recommend renting the bike with Bourgogne Randonnees as they are located about 300m from the train station. You can get off the train, and be on your bike within 15 minutes. The cost for the electric bike is €35 for the day. This is actually more expensive than renting a car but it was worth it in my opinion!
Rue Des Grand Crus
With our new e-bikes in tow, it was time to explore the wine country of Burgundy! After talking to the guys at the bike shop, they gave us the breakdown of all the itinerary possibilities. If you start from Beaune, you have to choose whether you will bike north in the Côte de Nuits or southward in the Côte de Beaune. There is not enough time for both. Here is a very detailed map of the region.
If you’re driving, the road you must follow is the D973. This is essentially the Route des Grand Crus. For bikers, there is no highway or road number.
There is a specific bike path for biking through Burgundy. You need to look for the Route des Grand Crus signs and you’ll know you’re in the right direction. Better yet, every hundred meters or so, there are little green bike signs to make sure you are going in the right direction. Look for these signs and you can’t get lost.
As for our itinerary, if you follow the map from above, we traveled from Beaune to Pommard to Volnay to Monthelie to Meursault to Puligny Montrachet to Chassagne Montrachet to Santenay and back via the same route.
Exploring the town of Beaune
In the end, we decided on Côte de Beaune after the bike shop people recommended it over the north. The first order of business is to bike through Beaune. Even if you don’t want to spend much time exploring this town, you’ll still need to bike through it. The town is beautiful and screams of French charm. However, I didn’t spend as much time here as I would like so I’ll have to revisit another time! Plus if you’re after cute French towns, there will be oh so many more along the bike ride.
Ville de Pommard
If was a bit confusing to find the bike path from Beaune but I assure you it is there. There are signs labeled around the city center but if you get lost, just ask the locals. If you have Google Maps, just look for the road that leads towards Pommard and you should be on your way.
After a leisurely 20 minute bike ride through town and into the countryside, the first stop is Pommard. This is probably one of the most famous and well known towns in Burgundy. Some may already know of the Chateau de Pommard which is a beautiful estate producing wines from five different terroirs in a single clos. This is the largest field held by a single owner in Burgundy.
We did not make any reservations here but we walked up to the front desk and they had tours available at 10:30am for €35 per person. This includes the standard guided tours of the cellars, different rooms within the estate, and of course tasting wines afterwards. I did not want to spend hours here so I mostly just walked around the estate. It really is beautifully done and is definitely the largest vineyard we saw on the day.
The next stop on our bike ride was the town of Volnay. They are well known to make some of the best wines in the region and the town offers spectacular views of the surrounding vineyards. We stopped at a wine shop to learn about some of the wines and to sample some pinot and chardonnay
After a few glasses of wine in Volnay, we continued our bike ride through the Route des Grand Crus to the town of Monthelie. The towns all look quite similar and are all scream of quaint French architecture.
We also grabbed lunch at a local shop in Monthelie. We did not want to stop for a full lunch because the French like to take their time and two hours for lunch would just be too much. We grabbed some ready made sandwiches here for €5 that were quite delicious. We biked out of the city into the vineyards and just found a spot on the side of the road to enjoy our sandwiches with a view.
Meursault is the next village on the tour. They are famous for their white grapes and produce almost solely Chardonnay wines. We did not stay anywhere here but the town, as you’d expect in the region, was beautiful and charming.
There are actually two towns here, Puligny Montrachet and Chassagne Montrachet. Puligny Montrachet is arguably the most famous white wine producing region in the world. I of course had no idea about that but that is what I was told when visiting the area. Make sure to drink chardonnay at the Chardonnay wine bar (for some reason we stuck with Pinot Noir) while in Puligny Montrachet!
We also stopped at another wine bar in Montrachet and Cremant de Bourgogne, or sparkling wine. There is not much sparkly made in Burgundy as that is what the Champagne region specializes. Cremant is the main sparkling wine made here and only uses white grapes or rose. At €3 a glass it is the best deal in Burgundy!
Last but not least is the beautiful town of Santenay. This is the end of the Cote de Beaune and our last stop of the day. At this point it was 3pm or so. We visited the Chateau Santenay which was a beautiful castle nestled at the top of the town. Our e-bikes really helped with the climb especially after an already long day of biking.
We did some more wine tasting here which was free. By this point I was 7-8 glasses deep so I was getting to the point where I couldn’t really notice the difference in wines.
It was about 4:30pm at this point and we decided it was time to bike back towards Beaune. A straight bike ride from Santenay to Beaune is about 1 hour. We went back to Montrachet to have another glass of the Cremant before biking all the way back.
Buying wine in Burgundy
We were planning on buying many bottles of wine so we fixed a wine box to the back of our bikes to store the bottles. We purchased a few bottles at various wineries that we enjoyed at various prices. On our bike ride back to Beaune, we stopped at Nuiton Beaunoy – Caves des Hautes Côtes de Beaune which is a winemaker who uses grapes from all over the region. They were very friendly and let us sample numerous wines giving us good description of their products.
We purchased a bunch of bottles here as the prices are quite reasonable. We primarily focused on Pinot Noirs and bottles range from €7 to €15 and of course goes up depending on the village.
Eating dinner in Beaune
Pretty much every good restaurant in France opens at 7pm. The last train from Beaune back to Paris leaves at 8pm so there is no time to have a full meal in Beaune unfortunately at the best restaurants. There are some restaurants in the main square that are open however but I can’t attest to the quality.
As we stayed the night in Beaune, we were able to have a delicious local French meal in the town of Montagny de Beaune where we were staying. We sampled the local specialty, Boeuf de Bourgogne which is tender beef shortrib cooked in red wine sauce. Quite delicious. We also had amazingly fresh bread, souffle for dessert, and of course fantastic wine from the region.
Where to stay in Burgundy
There are endless amounts of accommodation options in Burgundy. If you plan to stay the night and do not have a car, I’d recommend staying somewhere close to Beaune. It is nice to be able to go into a real town like Beaune at night whereas staying in the villages on the Routes Des Grand Crus will be very quiet.
As we booked the accommodation last minute, I settled on a guesthouse in Montagny de Beaune (about 15 minutes biking to the Beaune city center) called Maison Le Village. The house was stunning as you can see by the photos below and the rooms had ample space. The house is constructed in a traditional manner which I loved as it really gave character to the place.
The host was also very nice and gave us so many tips for going around the wine country. He was genuinely a fun guy to talk to. The rooms here on a weekend in the summer was €100-150 a night.
Some other options that we really wanted to book but they were full are the following options:
Hour by Hour Itinerary for Paris to Burgundy Day Trip
6:50am – Depart Paris Gare de Lyon to Dijon, transfer in Dijon to Beaune
9:15am – Arrive in Beaune
9:30am – Visit the bike rental shop to pick up our e-bikes
9:30 to 10:00am – Bike through Beaune and then to Pommard
10:30am – Arrive in Pommard, wine tasting
11:30am – Bike to Volnay, wine tasting
12:30pm– Bike to Monthelie, wine tasting
1:30pm – Grab lunch and eat it somewhere on the rue des grand crus
2:00pm – Puligny Montrachet, wine tasting
3:30pm – Santenay, wine tasting at Chateau Santenay
4:30pm – Leave Santenay and start biking back
5:00pm – One last glass of cremant in Puligny Montrachet
6:00pm – Stop at Nuiton Beaunoy to buy some wine bottles
7:00pm – Drop off bikes in Beaune and grab a quick bite
8:00pm – Train back to Paris, arrive at 10:30pm.
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