Lying between gay Paris and sombre Dijon, Auxerre with its 50,000 or so inhabitants is one of the main hubs in the wine-growing region of Burgundy. This deeply historical town has grown up on either side of the Yonne river and is dominated by the towering, gothic cathedral of Saint Etienne. Better known before for its role in the Hundred Years War and its trashing by the Protestant Huguenots, modern Auxerre has a top-flight football team and is much appreciated for its wine and its beautiful, provincial architecture.


An early centre of Catholicism, Auxerre boasts a number of fine religious buildings. Top of the charts, is the Cathédrale Saint-Étienne d’Auxerre, first erected in 1215 on the site of a Romanesque cathedral. It wasn’t until three centuries later, with setbacks due to the Hundred Years War and the War of Religions, that the Cathedral was completed and it now boasts an impressive, early roman fresco up in the vault, some beautiful bas-reliefs and various much lauded stained-glass windows. Its adjoined treasure-house also has a number of interesting and valuable medieval articles. Just as important in the town’s history is the Abbaye de Saint-Germain which dates back to the beginning of the 9th century. The abbey is still in extremely good condition and its crypts are decorated with the oldest mural paintings yet to be found in France. In comparison, the 17th century Church of Saint-Eustace is a far more modern affair, worth visiting for its rich decor and classical heritage.

Walking around the narrow streets in the centre of Auxerre, it’s easy to imagine what the medieval town was like, not least given the town houses’ timbered façades. Apart from the statues of famous Auxerrois dotted here and there, the main attraction in the centre is the Tour de l’Horloge, a gothic-style tower whose clock is renown for having sun and moon ended hands which map out their respective journeys through the sky. The wheels and cogs which keep all this going can be seen in one of the adjacent rooms. Otherwise, the Maison du Coche-d’Eau and the Place St Nicolas are picturesque and worth a visit, while the town’s Natural History Museum has a large collection of fossils, archaeological remains and stuffed animals.

Heading out of Auxerre, the informative Maison de l’Eau et de l’Environnement is housed in an old water pumping station and highlights the importance of preserving the natural environment. Still in the region of Yonne, its well worth visiting the hilltop town of Vézelay, part of which is a UNESCO listed site. The town was important on the pilgrim route and has a lot of beautiful religious architecture. Further a field, the Abbaye de Cluny once had the largest church in the whole of Christendom and was hugely influential during the whole medieval period. Though much of the Abbey was dismantled after the Revolution of 1792, what remains is impressive and gives a breathtaking indication of quite how big the Abbey once was.

The region around Auxerre is superb for walking, whether you follow one of the GR 13, GR 213 or GRP Restif de la Bretonne routes or do a walk of your own through the forests, vineyards and orchards that surround the town. AJ Auxerre, the local 1st division football team, are well worth catching and the atmosphere at the Stade Abbé Deschamps tends to be fun. Otherwise, look out for Auxerre’s various festivals, including the Festival de Piano and the popular film music festival.


Both the region of Yonne and the region of Burgundy, of which the former is part, have gained international reputations for their wines and no trip to the area would be complete without visiting a few of the local vineyards and investing in a bottle or two of your own. Whether producing Chablis, Auxerrois or La Côte des Nuits, most vineyards welcome visitors, offer a dégustation and sell superb wine on-site.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Like most of the French, the Auxerrois value their food highly, so eating in and around Auxerre can be a real treat. The region counts amongst its exports Dijon mustard, crème de cassis liquor, kir, various kinds of ham, such as le jambon persillé, and snails, whilst excellent cheeses such as le soumaintrain and le saint-florentin are produced locally. Auxerre’s numerous restaurants cater for all budgets, with many within walking distance of the centre of town. The best of them offer the kind of gastronomic experience for which France is renown.

Tourist Information

Tel: +33 (0) Address: 1 quai de la RépubliqueWeb:


Given the proximity of Paris, Auxerre’s own small airport has yet to be developed. Paris Charles de Gaulle airport is about a two hour drive away, with flights to almost every conceivable international destination. For domestic flights, the options are either Paris Orly or Dijon’s airport, both about 90 minutes away by car. Note that regular trains leave for Paris and Dijon and connections are easily made to the respective airports.

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