In the Yonne department of central France, the fortified town of Avallon perches atop a rocky promontory above the Cousin River valley. Within its walls, its wide, cobbled streets give the impression little has changed in the town over several centuries.

Part of the greater region of Burgundy, Avallon shares the area’s appreciation of fine living. Sitting on one of its cafe or restaurant terraces, it is hard to imagine a better location in which to enjoy a glass of local Pinot Noir wine. The town’s historic, stone-fronted buildings are set against the beautiful, bucolic backdrop of the Morvan Natural Park, where wild boar thrive alongside numerous species of deer.


Due to its size the entire town of Avallon can be visited in a single afternoon. Its main attraction is the 12th century Romanesque Church of St Lazare, an important place of pilgrimage since it allegedly contains a piece of bone from St Lazare’s own skull.

Built in 1456 in place of the old castle-gate, the Tour de L'Horloge bell-tower straddles the Grand Rue high-street. Its former role as a watchtower means it offers exceptional views and its first floor houses a museum.

A stroll around Avallon’s turreted ramparts and watchtowers offer some outstanding vistas; although their construction was not the work of Louis XIV’s military architect Vauban, Avallon’s greatest son. He is honoured however, by a statue in a square bearing his name, in recognition of his writing and work fortifying over 300 cities. The Vauban museum is located in his family home in the Château Bazoches, a short drive outside of Avallon.

The Heads of State Limousine Museum is also a short drive outside of Avallon at the stunning 18th century Château Montjalin and contains cars used to parade such dignitaries as Charles de Gaulle, Giscard, Mitterrand, Chirac, Eisenhower, JFK and Brejnev. There is even a Pope-mobile.

A 15km car journey from Avallon, Vézelay is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the prettiest villages in France. Facing the mounts of Morvan, it is famed for its stunning St Magdalen Basilica. The 9th century Romanesque church features engravings of the musicians of the apocalypse around its doors.

Many outdoor pursuits are also practicable in the local area such as hot-air ballooning, hiking, fishing, canoeing, rafting and barge trips down the extensive Burgundy canals.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Burgundy is known in France as ‘La region gastronomique’ and is synonymous with good food due to the quality of its agricultural produce. As such, there are many excellent eateries in and around Avallon many of which offer reasonably priced, simple country fare from upwards of €8 per dish. The area’s more prestigious establishments charge around €20 per meal and their menus can exceed €50.

All the local restaurants focus on French food, using regional ingredients in their cooking; while their interiors are often typically French.

5km down the scenic, wooded road that runs alongside the river Cousin towards Vézelay, the Moulin de Ruats’ serves meals from upwards of €25. A former watermill, it offers exceptional panoramic views from its riverside terrace.

There is no nightlife worth mentioning in the area; although the nightclubs of Auxerre are only 34km away.

Tourist Information

Avallon Tourist Office6, rue Bocquillot 89200 Avallon, France

Tel: + 33 (0) +33 (0) avallon.otsi@wanadoo.frWebsite: www.avallonnais-tourisme.com


Although there are no major international airports near Avallon, Paris and Lyon are both just two hours drive away on the A6 motorway. Travel to both cities via Auxerre takes a similar time.

The airports of Lyon St Exupery and Paris Charles de Gaulle have many daily flights to a wide range of UK airports with a variety of airlines.

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