Nestled in the Cone Valley, halfway between Dijon and Paris, stands the idyllic village of Vézelay, a ninth-century hilltop fortress that is not only home to one of the most remarkable basilicas in France, but also a UNESCO-classified old town.
Vézelay’s most famous attraction is indisputably the Romanesque Basilica of St Magdelene, an 11th-century marvel that contains the relics of its saint patron, Mary Magdalen. An exceptional place of pilgrimage if there ever was one, the basilica played a significant role in both the Second and Third Crusades back in the 12th century and is now one of the major starting points of the Way of St James to Santiago de Compostela.
In addition to outstanding architecture, Vézelay is also home to a prominent wine appellation–Bourgone Vézelay–that specializes in white wines of the Chardonnay and Muscadet variety. Most of the vines were planted by Christian monks back in the seventh century, which slowly grew into what is now a massive production spreading over 100 hillside acres of four villages (Asquins, Saint Père, Tharoiseau and Vézelay).
Vézelay can be reached from Dijon in less than an hour and a half via A38 and A6 and from Paris in 2.5 hours via A6. Vézelay can get extremely crowded during religious holidays and accommodation tends to sell out quick, so it’s best to plan in advance. Entering the basilica is free of charge, but one-hour guided tours are available for €3.60 per person and offered every day except Monday. The basilica is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.