Auxerre is a charming town in the north-west of Burgundy, less than 2 hours from Paris. With its many perfectly preserved old houses and buildings, Auxerre has preserved a rich medieval historical heritage.
You will be charmed by its monuments, the pedestrian area in the city centre, its museums and the magnificent quays along the Yonne River. Its location a few kilometres from the vineyards of Chablis, one of the oldest vineyards in France, also makes it a wine tourism destination to visit on a weekend.
From the banks of the Yonne, head to the historical centre of Auxerre to discover a maze of well-preserved ancient alleyways with many religious buildings, colourful half-timbered houses, charming squares and winding streets.
The monastic complex was founded by Queen Clotilde, wife of Clovis, in the 5th century. Necropolis of the bishops of Auxerre, the abbey had its moment of glory in the 9th century when it housed the prestigious Auxerre School, which was one of the centres of the Carolingian Renaissance.
This enchanting monument sums up sixteen centuries of the city’s history: although composite and varied, the abbey offers an architectural ensemble of great interest and also houses a museum tracing the city’s history from prehistory to the Middle Ages.
A model of Gothic elegance, the cathedral features portals with remarkable bas-reliefs. The windows of the choir and transept set a special tone for the interior spaces and constitute one of the most beautiful stained-glass windows preserved in France.
A masterpiece of Gothic art, Saint-Etienne Cathedral has the particularity of having only one tower. The 15th- and 16th-century stained glass windows and the choir are also particularly interesting, as is the crypt, where you can contemplate the very rare mural of Christ on horseback and the Treasury, which contains many collectors’ items, including Luca Peni’s Deposition from the Cross.
The Clock Tower was built in the 15th century on the foundations of a tower of the ancient Gallo-Roman castrum. Initially used as a prison for a count, it was converted into a clock and bell tower in 1483. A fire devastated the tower in 1825, but it was restored, and largely rebuilt in an identical manner, by the great French architect Paul Boeswillwald.
Leaning against the tower, a chamber contains the clock mechanism in operation since 1483, designed by the ingenious clockmaker Jean. Its peculiarity lies in its two hands: one solar, which runs around the dial in 24 hours, and the other lunar, which is about three quarters of an hour later than the first. However, the two hands meet at noon on the new moon and at midnight on the full moon.
This unmissable place in the city overlooks the riverfront, reminding tourists of Auxerre’s former seafaring activity at the time of Port Saint-Nicolas.
Lined with half-timbered houses, palaces, small restaurants and shops, this square has a charming fountain at the edge of which you can refresh yourself: in the 15th century, it supplied the district with drinking water. Just opposite, don’t miss the statue of St Nicholas, which was recently restored and represents one of the most famous saints of Christianity in the Middle Ages.
Venture into the lower town and discover the banks of the river, whose quays have recently been renovated to offer visitors a relaxing time.
You can walk along the Canal du Nivernais for a beautiful view of the city or embark on one of the many boats and barges that organise excursions along the Yonne.
During the walk, you will pass under the many bridges crossing the river such as the Tourelle and enjoy a breathtaking view of Auxerre’s historical monuments.
Built in the 12th century, the Saint-Eusèbe church is one of the most beautiful parish churches in Auxerre. Admire its Romanesque bell tower and the stained glass windows adorning its façade.
Immerse yourself in the vestiges of Auxerre’s past in the heart of this Catholic church and contemplate the gleaming whiteness of its walls that have made it famous.
Labeled the Museum of France, the Natural History Museum is one of the region’s must-sees. Within its walls you can admire multiple permanent and temporary collections dealing with the biodiversity of the region.
No less than 150,000 natural history specimens, fossils, stuffed animals and other species are presented. Also not to be missed is a visit to the French garden, which will offer you a moment of relaxation in the heart of Auxerre.
Since 1989, when work began on the decommissioning of the old Auxerre-Gien railway line, the circuit known as the Coulée verte has grown, section by section, to now offer pedestrians, cyclists or horse riders a 13.5 km loop around the town.
From the forecourt of the Auxerre – Saint-Gervais station, the route follows the old route of the railway line to Gien. This very popular part, frequented by joggers and walkers, leads to Saint-Amâtre.
The trail offers a splendid view of the city’s unmissable monuments such as the Saint-Étienne Cathedral, the Clock Tower and the Saint-Pierre Church. The Vallan Bridge, on the other hand, offers a beautiful panorama of the city.
In the 18th century, a character lived in Auxerre who left his mark, Guillaume Joseph Rousselle or Roussel, known as Cadet Roussel. Appointed as the town’s bailiff, he bought a small, bizarre house to which he added an old, odd-looking porch. The curious appearance of his house and his somewhat eccentric character won the sympathy of his fellow citizens, who even dedicated a song to him, written in 1792, to the tune of Jean de Nivelle, by Gaspard de Chenu, author of satirical songs. The tune became so popular that it was adopted by soldiers and turned into a song for the Armée du Nord. It is still sung by children in schools today.
The city of Auxerre wished to pay tribute to this quirky but likeable character by dedicating a fountain with a statue to him in Place Charles Surruge, in which Cadet Roussel is depicted in the company of his three big dogs, his three beautiful cats and a swallow, as in the song.
In addition, a 5-km pedestrian circuit, marked by bronze plaques set into the pavement, allows you to discover the old town. We recommend that you pick up the explanatory brochure (available in several languages from the Auxerre Tourist Office), which explains the itinerary well and illustrates 67 curiosities of the town.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
The term Auxerrois refers to the enchanting landscapes of the rural area surrounding the city of Auxerre. Nestled in the vineyards of Burgundy, this area lends itself to a romantic getaway to discover wine tourism, picturesque villages and majestic abbeys.
About 20 minutes’ drive from Auxerre is the famous village of Chablis. The pride and joy of Burgundy, the town is recognised the world over for its Chardonnay-based wines.
Strolling through its narrow streets, you can stop at the collegiate church of Saint-Martin, which once served as a refuge for the monks of Tours fleeing the Normans. Erected in 1160, it is visible in the distance thanks to its 50-metre high spire, added later, along with the bell tower.
Right next door, don’t miss the Obédiencerie. This former 9th-century monastery is closely linked to the history of the first Chablis wines, since the bottles of wine from the Domaine Laroch were left to rest here. Today, this building still houses the estate’s wines, which you can discover during a guided tour.
Don’t miss an excursion to explore the Chablis vineyards, especially with the autumn colours, and taste the estate’s 4 appellations: Chablis Grand Cru, Chablis Premier Cru, Chablis and Petit-Chablis.
Nestled in the heart of the Morvan, the medieval village of Vézelay is an essential stop in the Yonne département. Overlooking the green plains of the Cure valley, this charming hill town hides many secrets. Take advantage of a weekend to visit the Saint-Madelaine Basilica, a masterpiece of Romanesque art, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You cannot leave the village without taking a walk through the vineyards that surround the village and are dotted with stone walls and small winegrowers’ huts. The more courageous can also admire them from above in a hot-air balloon.
The abbey of Pontigny is one of the largest in the world, with its 4000 square metres of grounds. 120 metres long, it was built according to the rules of the Cistercian order.
In 1114, a group of monks decided to leave Citeaux Abbey and settle in Pontigny. Construction of the abbey began in 1138 and was completed in 1150. This incredible building is considered unique both for its size and for its style and simplicity. In fact, the Cistercian church is deliberately devoid of images and colours. The quest for spiritual perfection is reflected in an architecture in search of the essential, thanks to the use of bare stone and the importance given to light as a symbol of meditation.
The Cistercian monks lived in contact with nature and cultivated cereals and vines in the surrounding land: the famous Chablis vineyard developed from this.
In the heart of Burgundy, the city of Auxerre is a destination off the beaten tourist track but full of charm. There are many hotels in Auxerre and the accommodation is of high quality. If, on the other hand, you are looking for budget accommodation, you will have to fall back on the hotel chains on the outskirts of the city.
In the historical centre of Auxerre, you will find mainly charming hotels, some superior hotels and luxury hotels that allow you to stay in historical residences.
Only 1½ hours from Paris, the Auxerrois and its bucolic landscapes prove to be an unparalleled discovery. By car, train or plane, you will find the best way to visit this part of Burgundy
The quickest way to get to Auxerre is to land at one of the Paris airports: either at Paris-Orly Airport, 160 km (about 1 hour and 30 minutes) away, or at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, about 198 km (2 hours) away, after having rented a car directly on site.
Auxerre can be reached by train from Paris (Bercy station) in 1 hour 45 minutes. Connections are every 2 hours by train in both directions.
What's the weather at Auxerre? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Auxerre for the next few days.
Auxerre is located in the heart of the Burgundy vineyards just a few kilometres from Paris.