For the aficionado or even the lover of French landscapes, a tour of Burgundy, one of the world's greatest wine-producing regions, is one of the highlights of France. Burgundian vintages have been called le vin des rois, le roi des vins (the wine of kings, the king of wines). You can tour the winemaking towns and sample the finest of chardonnays and pinot noirs along the way. The best centers are Dijon (capital of Burgundy), Beaune, Auxerre, and Autun.
Day 1: Chablis to Auxerre
Begin at Chablis in Burgundy's northwestern edge. Vineyards surround Chablis, the capital of Basse Bourgogne (Lower Burgundy). The town is now more famous for its wine than for its monuments, but it has two historic churches: the Eglise St-Martin and the Eglise St-Pierre. After a meal, backtrack about 24km (15 miles) west on D965 (passing through Chablis) to Auxerre.
Scene of many pivotal moments in French history, Auxerre is the site of one of France's most impressive churches, the Gothic Cathédrale St-Etienne. Stay overnight in Auxerre.
Day 2: Vézelay
Drive south from Auxerre along N151 and then east on D951 to the hamlet of Vézelay. If there's one must-see Romanesque church in France, it's here. Park at the bottom of the village and climb the cobblestone main street. At the base of the hill is L'Espérance, one of the best restaurants in the world. It's closed Tuesday and at lunch Wednesday, so plan your itinerary accordingly.
You can spend the night in Vézelay, drive 9.5km (6 miles) east on D957 to Avallon, or continue south for 56km (35 miles) on well-signposted country roads to Château-Chinon. Wherever you spend the night, plan an early departure the following day.
Day 3: Autun
From Château-Chinon, drive east 32km (20 miles) on D978 to visit one of the oldest towns in France, Autun.
En route, you may wish to take this detour: Heading east on D978 toward Autun, turn right (south) at Arleuf, going right onto D500. At a fork, turn right toward Glux and follow arrows to Mont Beuvray on D18. Take D274 to reach the summit. After 3km (1 3/4 miles) of climbing, you'll be at Oppidum of Bibracte, home of Eduens, a Gallic tribe. Here Vercingetorix organized the Gauls to fight Caesar's legions in A.D. 52. At this altitude (840m/2,756 ft.), you'll have a splendid view of the wine country of Autun and Mont St-Vincent. Leave Mont Beuvray on D274 and continue northeast to Autun.
At Autun, you'll find a historic town with ruins left by the ancient Romans, as well as a cathedral built in 1120 to hold the remains of St. Lazarus. Spend the night here.
Day 4: En Route to Beaune
Start early in Autun and be prepared for tours of châteaux, fortresses, vineyards, and other historic sites. Your route will be loaded with appealing detours, so be as flexible as possible as you negotiate a labyrinth of country roads toward Beaune.
Leave Autun on D973 east. After 9.5km (6 miles), turn left onto D326 toward Sully. Here you'll find the Château de Sully, once known as the Fontainebleau of Burgundy; it's closed to the public, but a view from the outside may satisfy you. The gardens are open Easter to September daily 8am to 6pm. Leave Sully, following signs to the village of Nolay. About 4km (2 1/2 miles) past Nolay, you'll reach the Château de La Rochepot (tel. 03-80-21-71-37; www.larochepot.com), a medieval-style fortress built during the Renaissance.
Now head toward Beaune on D973, passing some well-known vineyards: Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet, Meursault, Auxey Durresses, Volnay, and Pommard. En route, you can detour to a restaurant whose setting is as intriguing as its food. Chagny, 43km (27 miles) east of Autun and 18km (11 miles) southwest of Beaune, rarely attracts sightseers, and serious foodies from all over stop at Lameloise, 36 place d'Arnes (tel. 03-85-87-65-65), for lamb filet in a rice crepe, Bresse pigeon, lemon soufflé, and one of the broadest selections of burgundies in France. Reservations are required. It's closed Wednesday all day.
Continue north to Beaune on D973, which changes to N741. You can overnight in Beaune. If you arrive early enough in the day, you can explore Beaune's historic attractions in 2 1/2 hours, including Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Even more intriguing for the wine connoisseur is a visit to one of the cellars for a tour and a tasting. Our favorite is Marché aux Vins, housed in a former church. Its cellars are in ancient tombs under the 14th-century church.
Day 5: Route des Grands Crus
The road visited on this trip is called the Route des Grands Crus, or road of the great wines.
Route N74 continues north 44km (27 miles) to Dijon, but you can make a full day of it because of the stopovers along the way.
This route takes you along the most celebrated vineyards of the Côte d'Or, which actually stretch from Dijon in the north to Santenay southwest of Beaune, a distance of 60km (37 miles). This is a region of France's greatest wines, and each village has some claim to fame.
As you head north from Beaune, the first village is Aloxe-Corton, where Charlemagne once owned vineyards. The emperor is still honored with "a white wine of great character," Corton-Charlemagne, which is still produced here.
The N74 continues north to the village of Vougeot, known for the quality of its red wines.
In Vougeot, you can visit the Château du Clos-de-Vougeot (tel. 03-80-62-86-09, www.closdevougeot.fr), surrounded by France's most celebrated vineyards. The 12th-century château maintains a cellar, open for visits year-round.
The N74 continues north to Dijon, but you can branch off onto D122 to Chambolle-Musigny, where you'll see signs directing you to the town of Gevrey-Chambertin, which lies only 10km (6 1/4 miles) south of Dijon. Nine of the region's 33 Grands Crus are produced here.
The D122 takes you north into Dijon, where you can spend the night (or a second night if your schedule allows). It takes 4 hours to explore Dijon. If you arrive early enough in the day, you can see half of the town's attractions, visiting the rest of the sights the next morning.
Day 6: Dijon
Surrounded by some of the world's most splendid vineyards, Dijon was the former seat of the powerful dukes of Burgundy. A university town and regional center today, it has had a long and rich history. Its monumental attraction is the Musée des Beaux-Arts, housed in an old palace and showcasing a stunning collection of European art from the 14th to the 19th centuries. Next, pick up a map at the Office de Tourisme and walk through the historic core of this ancient city. Or, better yet, in our view, spend the day touring the magnificent wine country around Dijon.
Day 7: En Route to Paris
Dijon is one of the major transportation hubs in this part of France, and you can easily return to Paris from here. If you're driving, the distance is 312km (194 miles), which you can do in a morning, reaching Paris to the northwest in time for lunch.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.