Auxerre in Burgundy is a beautiful town of art and history that is famous for the production of Chablis wines.
Capital of the Yonne department, Auxerre was once a Gallo-Roman settlement which was Christianised during the 5th century and has some magnificent religious architecture. As the town grew it developed a 'holy wall' of churches and chapels. In the 9th century work began on the abbey of St Germaine and the 9th century frescoes found in the crypts underneath the monastery are the oldest ever discovered in France. A stunning complex with a remarkable octagonal spire, the abbey is one of two unmissable sights in Auxerre alongside St Stephen's cathedral. Auxerre's Gothic cathedral is an elegant work of architecture built between the 11th and 16th centuries and contains some glorious stained glass windows as well as a rare mural of Christ on horseback in the remains of the former Romanesque cathedral. In the Middle Ages, Auxerre grew significantly when it became an important city for transport on the River Yonne and a sailing community sprung up transporting wine and timber towards Paris. Auxerre prospered until it was taken by the Huguenots in 1567 during the Hundred Years' War which caused damage to several of the Catholic buildings in the city. It wasn't until the 19th century that Auxerre's current infrastructure was built with the creation of the railway, court houses, hospitals and prisons. In 1995, it received the award of Ville d'Art et d'Histoire - a Town of Art and History.
Explore Auxerre's best museums including the Natural History Museum filled with collections of local paleontology and stuffed animals particularly birds with a collection of over 1,500, the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire d'Auxerre inside the abbey of St Germaine whose artefacts date from the Prehistoric, Gallo-Roman and medieval periods, and the Leblanc Duvernoy museum containing 18th century Beauvais tapestries and collections of stone and earthenware inside an intimate 18th century townhouse. A wander through the old part of town will take you through pedestrian streets with the 15th century Tour de l'Horloge, the clock tower, forming a magnificent archway over the Rue de l'Horloge. Why not take in some culture at Le Théâtre where 50 different shows are performed every year and is accredited by the French Ministry of Culture? Or, if you'd like to mix up Auxerre's rich history with some fine fresh air, why not go hiking or walking in the verdant countryside around the city that is dotted with vineyards or rent a bike and cycle alongside the canal? The Pass Auxerrois is available for €4 from the Tourist Office for discounts in the city's museums, leisure facilities and more. At the Tourist Office you can also book onto some guided tours of Auxerre, with over 30 different themed visits available. Why not get out on the water and rent an electric boat to travel around the quay or take it further into the locks of the canal de Nivernais?
Wander Auxerre's pedestrianised shopping streets and discover many boutiques and specialist wine and food shops. You can try the tastes of the region for free in July and August when the Tourist Office puts on free tastings for locals and tourists every Thursday. In Auxerre, sample some of Burgundy's local specialities including the famous French snails and truffles as well as the apertif of gougères, a small cheesy pastry, the sweet croquet de Saint-Bris, Chablis ham and, of course, the Chablis wines and Auxerre wines from Saint Bris and Irancy.
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