A Traveller's Guide to Auxerre, France
Visit Auxerre, heart of the Chablis wine region
Situated in the Bourgogne (Burgundy) region of north-central France, the historical riverside town of Auxerre sits at the heart of France’s largest growing wine region, Chablis. Located on the banks of the Yonne River, Auxerre is a small town with a population of less than 90 000 people. The town is an excellent base for exploring the northern Burgundy region and surrounding vineyards.
A thriving centre in Gallo-Roman times, Auxerre became a provincial capital and seat of a bishop in the 3rd century. Under the purview of the Counts of Auxerre, the town developed into a commune in its own right by the 12th century. The city became part of France under Louis XI and consequently suffered during the Hundred Years’ War and Wars of Religion. Developing into a commercial centre during the Industrial Revolution, railways, hospital, courts and other major infrastructure were built as a result.
Getting to and around Auxerre
The A6 motorway connects Auxerre to Paris, Lyon, Dijon and Beaune. The town can also be reached on the TGV high speed rail line which also connects it to Lyon, Avignon and Marseille. Local bus services provide links to the nearby Chablis wine country as well as the historical town of Pontigny.
The town itself only covers a small area so it is easy to see all of its main sights on foot. Be sure to take a stroll across the pedestrian bridge over the river which provides a picture-perfect view of the beautiful town. For an even more relaxing way to explore what Auxerre and its surrounds have on offer, including the vineyards and countryside, take a cruise down the Yonne.
Things to see and do in Auxerre
There are several historical churches throughout the town. The Gothic style 11th century Cathedral of St Étienne features stained glass windows, beautiful doorways and bas-reliefs as well as crypt which houses the remains of the former Romanesque cathedral. The 9th century Abbey of Saint-Germain cathedral contains a crypt with ancient mural paintings which houses the bishops of Auxerre, a chapter room dating back to the 12th century, a 14th century cellar and cloister built in the 17th century. The 17th century Saint Pierre en Vallée church provides a fine example of late-Gothic era architecture and was built on top of an abbey from the 6th century.
Other than religious sites, Auxerre’s Museum of Natural History has several interesting exhibits and there is also a magnificent clock tower located in the Old Town. The town is also home to the famous AJ Auxerre football (soccer) team, whose home stadium Stade de l'Abbé Deschamps is also worth a visit. The season runs from September until May and if are able to catch a game during your visit, it is well worth the experience.
Just outside of Auxerre, enjoy a tour and tasting at one of the many wineries in Chablis or explore the medieval villages of Pontigny and Tonnere.