293km (182 miles) SE of Paris; 85km (53 miles) SW of Dijon; 48km (30 miles) W of Beaune; 60km (37 miles) SE of Auxerre
Autun is one of the oldest towns in France. Founded by the Romans, it was called Augustodunum: “the other Rome.” Some relics still stand, including a section of its ramparts, which date from 1 B.C. Also here are the remains of the largest theater in Gaul, the Théâtre Romain (free admission). It was nearly 150m (492 ft.) in diameter and could hold some 20,000 people. In July and August, it hosts a magnificent son et lumière with a 1,000-strong cast recounting the turbulent relationship between the Gauls and the Romans.
Autun is a thriving provincial town of 16,000, but because it’s off the beaten track, the hordes go elsewhere. Still, it has its historical associations—Napoleon Bonaparte studied here in 1779 at the military academy (today the Lycée Bonaparte). Don’t miss the Passage Balthus, a 19th-century neo-Renaissance arcade with its original features.