Beaune is all about wine. Every other shop is a wine store. The bars are predominantly wine bars. At a restaurant, the waiters will proudly spend 15 minutes telling you the particulars of the terroir whence your wine came, down to the history of the family that owns that particular vineyard. If you want to learn all about wine, this is the place to be — there are countless wine making, tasting and touring experiences on offer. Even if you, like I, don’t care about wine beyond the simple pleasure of imbibing it, spend a few days in Beaune and you will invariably learn the difference between village and Grand Cru, and that vintage has nothing to do with age.
Beaune is also a rather posh little town. Beaune’s architecture reminds me of Paris in miniature — all white-washed facades and intricate ironwork. Boutique hotels have airs about them. Antiques shops abound. Even florists are snobby and Instagram-averse. With a population of just 20 thousand, it boasts seven Michelin-starred restaurants.
Speaking of food, Beaune and Burgundy in general are the heart of French cooking as we know it. A lot of the classics of French cuisine hail from here: escargot (snails), Dijon mustard, boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin (beef and rooster, both made with red wine and both, surprisingly, often served with noodles), and gougeres pastries, which are the foundation for profiteroles and eclairs, but in Burgundy are filled with Gruyere cheese. Burgundy also loves its parsley and black currants, the latter in everything from drinks to pastries.
My favorite Burgundian dish is oeuf en meurette, eggs poached in – you guessed it – red wine and topped with lardons, or large bacon cubes. It sounds like a breakfast dish, but I love it for every meal. And of course the region is home to my favorite cheese in the world, the delightfully pungent, almost-liquid Epoisses de Bourgogne.
If you plan to do more than eat and drink in Burgundy, I recommend traveling to the region in either summer or early to mid-fall. The rest of the year the landscape is pretty barren and gray, the weather chilly and wet. Wheat and barley fields – and, of course, vineyards – are getting their well-deserved rest through late spring.