Introduction

Bourgogne Franche-Comté is a region of eastern France, on the border with Switzerland. Ile de France lies to its northwest, with Grand Est to the north. Auvergne Rhone-Alpes borders the region’s south and Centre Val de Loire lies to its west. The area is popular for its gastronomy, wine production, historic towns and glorious lakes and mountains.

How to get to Bourgogne Franche-Comté 

By road

If you’re planning to travel to France driving from the UK, Le Shuttle from Folkestone will whizz you and your vehicle across the channel to Calais in around 35 minutes. From Calais it’s a 360 mile (580 km) drive to Dijon. Without stops (and subject to traffic) it’ll take around 5 ¼ hours. Follow the A26 for St Omer/Arras/Reims/Paris. Once past Troyes, take the A5 for Mulhouse/Lyon/Chaumont/Dijon. After Selongey, follow the A31 to Dijon. You can break up your journey en route at St Quentin, Reims or Troyes.

NB: Use a GPS, or make sure you’ve enough data on your phone for Google maps!

Remember, highways/motorways in France are busy and slow-going during holiday periods, particularly throughout August. Take this into account when planning your route.

By air

Currently, no direct flights operate between the UK and Bourgogne Franche-Comté. Your quickest option is to fly to Paris (CDG), Lyon (LYS), or Basel (BSL). From here you can take a train into the region. Allowing for transfers, journey time from the UK is approximately 6 ½ hours.

By train

From the UK, train is the fastest way to get to BourgogneFranche-Comté. Journey time, including transfers, is 4 hrs 40 mins. 

From London St Pancras, take the Eurostar to Paris Gare de Nord (approx  2 ½ hours). 

Change at Gare du Nord for Gare de Lyon (7 minutes). Hourly trains run from Gare de Lyon to Dijon, and take 1 hour 35 minutes.

Getting around Bourgogne Franche-Comté 

By train

Regional rail services link Dijon and major hubs such as Besancon, Beaune and Nevers.

By car

Driving is the best way to explore Bourgogne Franche-Comté’s nooks and crannies. You’ll find car hire available in main towns. The region’s comprehensive road network includes the main A6 Paris-Lyon autoroute, which bisects the province from north to south.

Size

Bourgogne Franche-Comté covers 18,450 square miles (47,784 square km). Its varied, often rural terrain spans lakes, mountains and renowned winelands. The region boasts three mountain ranges: the Vosges in the north east, the Morvan range in the west and to the east the Jura. Here you’ll find Bourgogne Franche-Comté’s highest peak, Cret Pela, at 4,905 feet (1495 metres).

Departments

Eight departments make up Bourgogne Franche-Comté. These are Côte-d’Or, Doubs, Haute-Saône, Jura, Nièvre, Saône-et-Loire, Territoire de Belfort, and Yonne. Dijon is the regional capital.

Cities

Dijon

An attractive, medieval hub, and one of the most interesting places in France, Dijon’s compact centre is great for exploring on foot. Check out the city’s Owl Trail (Parcours de la Chouette), a walking route that leads you round Dijon’s historic and cultural must-sees. On Place de la Libération stands the Palais des Ducs et État de Bourgogne, former seat of the Dukes of Burgundy. The palace’s east wing houses Dijon’s top-class Musee de Beaux Arts. On sunny days children frolic in the square’s water fountains, whilst in winter, stallholders converge for Dijon’s Christmas market.

Besancon

Besancon sits on a loop in the Doubs river, framed by the peaks of the Jura. Its key visitor attraction is the stunning 17th century citadel, perched on a hilltop above the old town. Designed by French military architect Vauban for Louis X1V, the imposing fortress is a UNESCO world heritage site. Besancon’s museum of fine art and archaeology dates back to 1694, making it France’s oldest public museum.

Beaune

The wine capital of Burgundy, historic Beaune lies in the Cote d’Or department. This attractive, fortified city, complete with moat and ramparts, has withstood centuries of conflict.

Belfort

Just 16 miles from the French/Swiss border, the Vauban fortress at Belfort played a pivotal role during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71. In the siege of Belfort, the town withstood attack from Prussian forces, and ultimately retained its French identity. To commemorate the residents’ bravery and resistance, sculptor Bartholdi (creator of the Statue of Liberty) created the Lion of Belfort. The 11 metre high pink sandstone sculpture guards the citadel from the limestone cliffs above town. By night, lights illuminate the lion, which is visible for miles around.

Belfort’s old town is an appealing mix of pedestrianised squares, and historic architecture from the middle ages to the 20th century. Don’t miss the colourful mansion houses with wrought iron balconies in the Haussmann quarter, near Place de la Republique. If you’re feeling weary, hop aboard the quaint tourist train which weaves between the old town and the citadel.

A potted history of Bourgogne Franche-Comté

From the 4th century BC, a succession of Gallic tribes, including the Sequani and the Aedui, inhabited the area.

In 52 BC Julius Caesar’s Roman army conquered the Gauls. 

Around 4 AD, a Germanic tribe, the Burgundians, settled in the province’s mountainous west.

In 534 AD the Franks took over the Burgundian kingdom, and ruled for several centuries. 

During the 10th century the western province became the Duchy of Burgundy. 

In 1366 the eastern province officially became the Free County of Burgundy (Franche-Comté de Bourgogne).

In 1477, Charles the Bold, the last Burgundian duke, died in battle.

In 1493 at the Treaty of Senlis, the powerful Habsburg dynasty took control of Franche-Comté. 

Franche-Comté became property of the Spanish Habsburgs in 1516.

The 16th century Wars of Religion saw heavy fighting across the region.

During the 17th century, French and Spanish forces fought for control of the province

In 1674, following a lengthy siege of Besancon, King Louis XIV of France conquered Franche-Comté.

Spain formally ceded France-Comté in 1678, however pro-Spanish sentiment in the province continued into the 18th century.

In 1790, following the French Revolution, the old provinces split into departments.

After the 1870 French-German war, the Alsace territory of Belfort became part of Franche-Comté.

Burgundy and Franche-Comté merged into one region in 2016. 

Culture

Abbey of Fontenay

The Unesco listed Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay sits in landscaped grounds flanked by woodland, near Montbard in the Cote-d’Or. Built in 1118, this 1,000 year old site is astonishingly well preserved. The abbey’s bakery and 12th century forge (one of France’s oldest industrial units) are pointers to Cistercian self-sufficiency. 

Abbey of Cluny

Founded in 910 and completed in 1130, Cluny Abbey became the centre of Christian reformation during the middle ages. By the end of the 11th century the Benedictine abbey governed hundreds of monasteries across Europe. The church saw extensive damage during the French Revolution, then fell into disrepair. Today the site’s ruins hint at its former power.

Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie et du Vin

Dijon’s showcase of French food and drink opened in May 2022. On the site of the city’s former hospital, the venue is an interesting mashup of historic and modern architecture. Watch cooking demonstrations, food tastings and interactive exhibits. The market area teems with food and drink producers from all over France. You’ve a choice of three restaurants plus a multi-floor wine bar with 3,000 labels, including 250 wines available by the glass. 

Vezelay

The charming hilltop town of Vezelay is a UNESCO heritage site along with its 9th century basilica, St Madeleine. A starting point for the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage, the church’s 12th century crypt is believed to house a relic of Mary Magdalene.

The Route des Grands Crus de Bourgogne

France’s first wine route, created in 1937, encompasses Dijon, Beaune and Santenay. The undulating hillsides south of Dijon have produced wine since Roman times. Pinot noir and chardonnay grapes thrive on the limestone soils of the Cote de Nuits and Cote de Beaune.

Burgundy’s vineyards are divided into ‘climats’: individual plots of land subject to specific growing conditions (e.g. differences in soil, drainage and exposure). Each climat is influenced by the type of vine and growing methods used. This combination of viticulture and nature produces top class white and red wines. Cote de Nuit reds balance complex flavours of fruit and spice, whilst top cote de Beaune reds tend to be rich and softer.

Weather

Bourgogne Franche-Comte’s eastern departments (Doubs, Jura, and Haute Saone) enjoy a continental climate. Hot summers contrast with long cold winters, especially at altitude. Mountainous areas experience more rainfall and cooler summers. You’ll see snow on the Jura’s higher peaks for much of the year. Western areas usually see slightly drier summers and milder winters than the east. Rain falls throughout the year, to feed the region’s fertile, verdant landscape, and multiple lakes and waterways.

Winter (December to February)

Wrap up for cold and wet conditions! Snow is common, especially in hilly areas. By February, rains begin to ease off. Expect average temperature highs of 6oC/43oF and lows of 0oC/32oF.

Spring (March to May)

Snowfall is possible on higher ground during March. May often brings increased rain to the region, interspersed with mild, sunny days. Average temperatures range from lows of 6oC/43oF to a pleasant 15oC/59oF.

Summer (June to August)

Holiday season brings clear skies and long, sunny days, although rain is still possible in June. July and August see the region’s sunniest and driest period, with temperatures reaching 32oC/90oF. Seasonal highs average 24oC/75oF, with typical lows of 13oC/55oF.

Autumn (September to November)

Autumn heralds cooler days and temperature highs of 16oC/61oF, dropping to average lows of 6oC/43oF. Sunny periods and regular showers are the norm, with October traditionally the region’s wettest month.

Best time to visit Bourgogne Franche-Comté

For warm settled weather and minimal rain, mid-June to late September is the best time to visit the region. It rains throughout the year, so do remember to pack a raincoat or brolley.

Do not miss in Bourgogne Franche-Comté

Burgundy wine tour

Enjoy a one day excursion in Burgundy wine country on the Routes des Grands Crus. Explore medieval Beaune, the region’s wine capital. Visit a family run vineyard in the Cotes de Beaune, and enjoy tastings of red and white Grand Cru labels. During the tour you’ll sample up to a dozen premier wines, under the guidance of a wine expert. . 

Jura lakes and mountains

Jura’s stunning lakes and peaks are a must for nature lovers, and the region’s major hiking, fishing and cycling destination. Visit Lac de Vouglans, a beautiful 35 km stretch of turquoise water encircled by walking trails. Don’t miss the spectacular Herisson waterfalls near Doucier. A 4 km walk takes you past a series of cascading waters, the deepest of which, Eventail, plunges 65 metres into a gorge. Visit after heavy rainfall to see the falls at their most dramatic.

Hotel Dieu de Hospices de Beaune 

Built in 1443, Beaune’s former charity hospital is a distinctive medieval masterpiece, replete with colourful roof tiles and gothic spires. Each year the venue hosts France’s premier wine auction. The town’s association with viticulture harks back to Roman times. Join a tour of the ancient network of wine cellars that lie beneath the town and are still in use today.

Wine and cheese picnic in Dijon

Enjoy an alfresco wine and cheese session in Dijon. Learn about the city’s gastronomic heritage as you sample wine and cheese pairings presented by your local guide.

Markets in Bourgogne Franche-Comté

Dijon, Halles de Dijon, Rue Bannelier, 2100 Dijon. Iconic food market in an attractive wrought iron market hall (designed by former local boy Gustave Eiffel). Browse a wonderful selection of cheeses, breads, cakes, and charcuterie. Open mornings: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Besancon, Marche Beaux-Arts, 2 Rue Claude Goudimel, 25000 Besancon. Sample deli meats, cheeses, fruit and veg at this covered market. Great for picnic supplies. Tues to Sat 7am to 7pm, Sunday 8am to 1pm.

Belfort, Puces de Belfort, Place d’Armes, 9000 Belfort. Eastern France’s largest flea market takes place in Belfort every 1st Sunday of the month, from March to December (mornings only). Around 150 vendors sell a miscellany of antique furniture, toys, military paraphernalia and jewellery.

Louhans, Centre Ville, Louhans. Sprawling, busy market features clothing, food, and crafts stalls plus a livestock section where you’ll find chickens, rabbits, ducks and the odd goat. Monday mornings, 8 am to 1 pm.

Beaune, Place de la Halle, 21200, Beaune. Colourful farmer’s market offering local produce such as honey, cheeses, seasonal fruit and veg, and charcuterie. Saturday mornings until 1pm.

What to eat and drink 

Bourgogne Franche-Comté offers a wealth of joy for foodies! 

Restaurant menus feature classics like Boeuf Bourguignon (Charolais beef, carrots and onions slow cooked in burgundy red wine) and Escargot de Bourgogne (snails fried in garlic butter with parsley). Poulet de Bresse, the region’s high quality chicken, carries its own AOC (appellation d’origine controlee).

Regional charcuterie includes Bresi (dried smoked beef) and Morteau sausage. You’ll find Comté, Bleu de Gex and Emmental and Epoisses cheeses widely available. First made by monks in the 11th century, Epoisses is a strong smelling yet smooth cheese, with a distinctive orange rind. It’s delicious on gingerbread (see below).

Alongside its eponymous mustard, gingerbread is another Dijon specialty. Pop into Mulot and Petitjean shop on Place Carnot, the last in a line of Dijon master gingerbread makers.

Cassis liqueur is a regional specialty, so start your evening with a kir royale. Wine lovers will delight in the Burgundy roster. Look out for Beaujolais, Chablis, Beaune, Maconnais, Meursault, and Santenay. Popular Franche-Comte wines include Vin Jaune, a slow matured Jura white, and rich reds from Poulsard and Trousseau vines. 

Where to eat and drink

Beaune, 21 Boulevard, 21 boulevard Saint-Jacques, 21200  Beaune

Dine in an atmospheric 15th century vault in Beaune’s centre de ville. Enjoy hearty mains such as crispy lamb with rosemary and chard, Burgundy beef cheek with carrots and onions, and sea bass steak with aubergine caviar. Choose from an excellent, lengthy wine list.

Dijon, Le Pré aux Clercs, 13 Place de la Libération, 21000 Dijon 

Central fine dining restaurant dishing up quality French cuisine (veal with truffles, guinea fowl with morel mushrooms, turbot in lemon butter sauce), accompanied by a good (albeit pricey) selection of wines.

Besancon, Restaurant 1802, 2 rue de Lacoré, Place Granvelle, 25000 Besançon

This sleek, relaxed brasserie offers beautifully presented, seasonal French fare. Dine in the contemporary restaurant, or alfresco on the leafy terrace. The wine list champions regional labels, and staff will happily suggest a bottle to complement your meal. Closed Sunday, advance booking advised.

Where to stay in Bourgogne Franche-Comté

Beaune: Stay in this beautifully converted 17th century house, part of a former convent. The characterful accommodation offers a spacious bedroom, lounge and kitchen plus a sunny walled garden. Central yet tranquil location, a brief stroll from all of Beaune’s visitor attractions. Sleeps three.

https://www.vrbo.com/1503404a?noDates=true&unitId=1676368

Dijon: In the heart of Dijon old town, rent this lovely two storey apartment in a XVII century mansion. Sleeps six in two bedrooms with two bathrooms, with a spacious lounge and dining area. Note: the property is accessed via stairs, and is not suitable for guests with reduced mobility.

https://www.vrbo.com/1326741a?noDates=true&unitId=1495370

Jura: Embrace the great outdoors when you holiday in his tranquil chalet, at the heart of the unspoilt Jura lakeland region. Close to waterfalls, swimming lakes and miles of hiking trails. The spacious property sleeps four in two bedrooms. There’s a huge garden and an expansive balcony with breathtaking views.

https://www.vrbo.com/1731475a?noDates=true&unitId=1906905

Conclusion

Well travellers, I hope you’ve enjoyed this whistle-stop tour of Bourgogne Franche-Comte. Until next time, bon voyage!

Maria Bricheno
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Author

Maria Bricheno is a freelance writer, with a focus on independent travel. When not writing or plotting her next trip, she enjoys trail/road running, contemporary fiction, and country walks with her enthusiastic golden retriever. An ardent fan of all things Gallic, Maria spends too much of her leisure time lurking on French property websites.

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