Inhabited since the Roman invasion of Gaul, the picturesque threshold to Southern Burgundy abounds with history, architecture and lovely wines.
Set among hills covered by vines and spotted with Romanesque church towers, Mâcon may appear more like a watercolor painting than a real place. Founded by the Romans, Mâcon thrived in the Middle Ages as the border town connecting France to the Holy Roman Empire. Its river, the Saône, allowed townspeople to grow rich from trade and taxes. Breathe in fresh air, sample famous white burgundy wines and enjoy the ambiance of this lively city.
Take a walking tour through history, starting at the Saint-Clément Archaeological Site south of the city. It was built as a funerary basilica in the 6th century. Admire the relatively modern Saint-Pierre Church. Enjoy a drink at Mâcon’s oldest home, the Wooden House, whose façade is adorned with carvings that have overlooked Mâconnais since the early 16th century. Wander through the Old Saint-Vincent, an ancient cathedral of which only the two towers and the portico remain.
Squint at fading labels and learn about 18th-century medicine in the Hôtel-Dieu Hospital’s Apothecary Shop, which still contains beautiful wood paneling. Visit prehistory in the Musée des Ursulines, which presents many of the region’s archaeological treasures as well as fine art. One exhibit is dedicated to Mâcon’s most famous son, the poet and minister Alphonse de Lamartine.
Spend a lazy afternoon sipping local wine on one of the terraces lining the riverbank. Stroll across the 1,000-year-old Pont Saint-Laurent connecting Mâcon to the tiny village of Saint-Laurent-sur-Saône on the other shore.
Drive to Mâcon in 1 hour from the closest international airport in Lyon or ride the train in about an hour. From Paris the trip is 4 hours by car or 3 hours by train. Mâcon’s Old Town is best explored on foot, so park your car in one of the municipal lots or leave your bags at the train station.
Mâcon’s role as the gateway to the French kingdom remains true today, as it is a perfect home base from which to explore Burgundy’s vines and historic sites.