- A vine romance
- Country life
- Haute cuisine heaven
Distinguished wines, world-renowned cuisine and ornate châteaux of honey-coloured stone – Beaujolais is everything the Francophile dreams of.
Located in the heart of France, this is a rural idyll of old villages, vineyard, lush farmland, forest and gentle hills, where the graceful Saône and Rhône rivers merge. At its core is the chic metropolis of Lyon, former capital of the silk industry and the first stop on any self-respecting gourmand's grand tour. A bright firmament of Michelin-starred restaurants offer gourmet tables overflowing with fine Burgundy and some of the best cuisine in France. Horse riding, ballooning and cycling will let you savour the rich landscape of Beaujolais, and even burn off a few calories after a night on the gastronomy.
Legend has it that Beaujolais’ peaks were created by the giant Gargantua, emptying his shoes of troublesome stones (or drunkenly lobbing them, depending on who tells the story). Pick your way among them as you follow the wine route through the region, visiting the villages of Beujeu, Brouilly, Chénas, Saint-Amour, Fleurie, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent.
- In towns, pick one up from a taxi rank or hail one on the street. If you’re travelling in more remote areas, try to book a car in advance – or prepare for a long walk.
- Tipping culture
- Restaurant and café bills usually include a service charge (service compris) but it’s customary to leave a small tip. For taxi drivers, add 10 per cent to the metered charge.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Many restaurants close after 2pm and reopen in the afternoon around 4pm; some are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Small shops also break for lunch, even in Lyon; most close on Sunday.
- Packing tips
- Credit cards, for gourmet treats and shopping sprees in Lyon. A notebook for jotting down recipe ideas. Running shoes – the food is so good that you’ll have to up your fitness regime to cope.
- Recommended reads
- French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano (for the non-runners among you); Bocuse’s Regional French Cooking, a culinary must-read by one of the country’s foremost chefs; Tracy Chevalier’s beautifully woven tale of tapestry, The Lady and the Unicorn.
- Haute! Haute! Haute! This patch of French soil has more (Michelin) stars than the Milky Way. Highly prized local ingredients include tender Charolais beef and excellent wines, including Chablis, Burgundy and, of course, Beaujolais.
- Regional specialities
- Vine and bovine are perfectly married in the region’s characteristic boeuf bourguignon; coq au vin is another classic. Cheese lovers should try Epoisses, a pungent creamy number said to have been Napoleon’s favourite. Follow the chefs to Lyon’s covered market, Les Halles, to sniff out what’s cooking in a restaurant near you, from boudin noir to foie gras; or you may prefer to follow your nose on a countryside tour of wineries.
- Euro (€).
- Time zone
- GMT +1.
- Dialling codes
- Country code for France: 33. Beaujolais and Lyon: (0)4.
- Do go/don't go
- Visit in May to see cherry blossom in bloom, or during the autumn harvest when turning leaves give the region a spectacular colour. Summer in the city can be hot and humid, but never overwhelmingly so. The third Wednesday of November sees the town of Beaujeu come together to get a first taste of the year’s Beaujolais Nouveau. The winter months can be rainy.
Don't go home without...
... a few bottles of wine; take your pick of the local vignerons, or try superior grog shop Antic Wine (+33 (0)4 78 37 08 96), at 18 Rue du Boeuf in Lyon, for a grand selection of grands crus.