Posted by: Jennifer Sage | March 9, 2008

Beaune, the perfect cycling Hub in France!

There are few cycling hubs in France that have as many advantages as Beaune in central Burgundy.  It accesses beautiful cycling with varied options from fairly easy mostly flat rides to rolling hills. The cycling roads are smooth and well-maintained, ranging from narrow vineyard roads, to idyllic country one- or two-lane rural roads with little to no traffic, to wide, popular roads with ample shoulders (unusual for Europe).

 Great cycling road in Burgundy, south of Beaune

It is one of the top gastronomic regions of France, where you can find many of the top restaurants in the country, and of course, the wines are incomparable and world-renowned. In fact, the ubiquitous vines will be your cycling companion for many of your routes. Beaune has an amazing array of hotels and chambres d’hotes (B&Bs) to meet every budget, from pleasant gites and well-kept rooms in farmhouses, to finer 3-star inns to luxury 4-star hotels located in remodeled ancient buildings. Choose your location either right in the center of town or just outside of town amidst secluded acres of trees or farmland.

The sites you’ll encounter while pedaling through Burgundy include ancient Roman ruins, charming medieval villages, 10th-15th century abbeys, bubbling brooks and streams, and a plethora of Plus Beaux Villages (France’s designation of Most Beautiful Villages) and tiny picturesque rural hamlets with just a few farm buildings.

 Rural Burgundy - hay bales

 The Roman village of Autun in Burgundy

Beaune is so easy to get to and from other destinations – only a 3-hr train from Paris, a little longer by car, a little less from Geneva, 1 hour from Lyon, a short hop to the Alpes and not much further to Italy, 3 hours north of Provence, and located at the crossroads of several main autoroutes. 

Beaune is truly one of the most desirable places to ride your bike in Europe! Maybe that’s why so many bicycle tour companies have set up their headquarters in or near Beaune over the years, including two companies I worked for beginning in 1989. We were located near Pommard just outside of Beaune (3 other bike tour companies were located near Beaune as well). This is the perfect location for a bike tour headquarters – it’s a small but cosmopolitan town so full of history and charm, and with so much to explore, see and do, you never needed to leave!

A little history of Beaune: the site on which the city of Beaune sits has been inhabited since the dawn of time.  The Gauls first built a home here in 52BC.  After the invasion of the Barbarians, Beaune expanded and built the first ramparts in the 7th century.  As the crossroads between the North, the South and the East, the Dukes of Burgundy chose Beaune as the site for their palace and parliament, and declared Beaune as the capital of Burgundy.

Beaune has countless architectural riches: the Medieval Hospital (Hôtel-Dieu) founded in 1441 by Nicholas Rolin, the Chancellor of Burgundy, is a masterpiece of Burgundian-Flemish art with its multicolored roofs; the Wine Museum in the former mansion of the Dukes of Burgundy, dating from the 14th – 16th centuries; the Notre Dame collegiate church, a 12th and 13th century Romanesque wonder; the ramparts of the town, built in the 12th century and fortified in the 15th century, include watchtowers and imposing turrets. 

 Hospices de Beaune - Hotel Dieufacade of the Hotel Dieu - les Hospices de Beaune 

Many cellars (caves or caveau) in Beaune and surrounding villages are open to visit and tasting, or dégustations.  Look for the symbol De vignes en caves (“From vineyards to cellars”

) on their signs or windows. This insignia indicates that one free glass is offered for tasting of their wines.

 insignia for Des Vignes en Caves

Much of the acreage south of Beaune is planted with chardonnay grapes, and produce some of the finest white wines in the world.  Only one is a grand cru, the world-renown “Batard Montrachet” in Chassagne Montrachet (and this designation is most certainly reflected in the price)!  There are many premiers crus, highlighting the high quality of these white wines. You will have numerous opportunities for tasting, or dégustations while riding (or better yet, after your ride)!  The villages specializing in chardonnay are Meursault, Puligny Montrachet and Chassagne Montrachet. I have a beautiful, fairly easy ride that meanders through these charming vineyards that I call “The Big Whites”


Vineyards of Beaune 

The remaining vines in Burgundy are primarily pinot noir.  As early as 1395, Duke of Burgundy Phillippe the Bold forbade the planting of the Gamay grape, and reserved the region south of Dijon and north of Beaune exclusively for the noble pinot variety. This is where you get the rich, robust full-bodied reds that Burgundy is so famous for.

The vines growing on the hillsides west and southwest of Beaune have the quality appellation of Hautes Cotes de Beaune, which literally means “high hillsides of Beaune”. It is in these hills where some of the most pleasant rolling riding can be found. 

Cycling in the Vineyards 

Every Wednesday, one of the finest examples of outdoor markets, or marchés, takes place in Beaune. It’s a great opportunity to pick up your picnic items for your ride, to then enjoy beneath the ruins of the Abbaye de St. Marguerite, or next to the moat of the Chateau de Rochepot. Don’t forget to pick up a few extra jars of moutard to bring home with you – no finer mustard can be found than a true moutard Dijonnais!


If you want more information about cycling in Burgundy, with Beaune as your hub, please contact me for more information, and check out our website.

If you’ve ridden around Beaune, please tell us of your experiences here, or your favorite village, restaurant or vineyard!

Bonne route! 

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