There are some spots in France which project their beauty with the bombastic resonance of a 90-piece orchestra. Then there are those other very special places that climb up to your heart like the slow crescendo of a string quartet, and remain beloved forever. Burgundy, which lies in the bosom of the gentlest French countryside, is known for its wealth of history and verdant valleys, and famous for its world-class wine and cuisine. This is as close as it gets to the idyllic image of the French countryside, with picturesque farming villages living off the noble land, in harmony with the seasons.
Whenever I come across foreign homeowners and ask them why they’ve picked this region, I rarely get a boisterous brag, but rather a measured smile. They don’t feel the need to persuade me, they know how good they have it.
With its central location, Burgundy offers great transport links to Paris and the Mediterranean, and an easy drive to the ski slopes of the Alps. This ease of travel to an endless supply of interesting destinations is just one of its many attractions.
“Burgundy offers a unique blend of old and new, tradition and diversity,” says Gaëlle Perreaux-Booth, Manager of FrenchEntrée Property Services. “We are seeing an increasing interest for property in this region, with quite a number of requests from American buyers who are drawn to homes that have plenty of rural character but also provide all modern conveniences.”
The Main Hubs
Just 90 minutes by train from Paris’s Gare de Lyon and, you’re in the heart of Burgundy’s capital, Dijon, the gateway to the Route des Grands Crus, from where you could spend a lifetime exploring prestigious wine houses.
Dijon was a centre of political might and enormous wealth for centuries, which is evident in its varied Capetian, Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles. This rich heritage means that you can find rare properties on the market, like the unbelievable 400sqm apartment in a converted, glassed-in cloister with vaulted stone ceilings, listed at €1,160,000.
Beyond Dijon, there are farmhouses in oak and blonde stone, set against a symphony of greenery. Prices in rural areas are easier on the budget – for instance, there’s a sprawling stone farmhouse with a handsome barn and adjoining land listed for €445,000. Venturing South, to the towns of Beaune and Mâcon, along the main wine routes, you’ll find everything you need – from a contemporary urban environment to medieval city centres. I suspect that the fairytale château listed for €1,750,000 won’t be waiting long for a new owner. The relatively undiscovered northern areas of Burgundy, such as Nièvre, to the West of the Morvan Regional Park, also offer excellent value for money.
For Steve and Linda, their home near the Mâconnais mountains in southern Burgundy is paradise: “The predominant industry in this area is wine and with Beaujolais only 20 minutes South, we’re surrounded by a remarkably varied environment. The pace of life is much slower here and people have time for each other.”
What You Should Know
Although Burgundians are warm and welcoming, it’s an enormous advantage to speak French, at least enough to manage the basics and hold an informal conversation. In addition, it’s worth noting that living an authentic French life near the best vineyards in the world is a unique privilege, but it also means things can be very quiet during the winter.
Finally, although the current market conditions favour overseas buyers, and prices in Burgundy are lower than those in many other areas in France, it still holds true that a desirable, well located property will be snapped up quickly so be prepared to move fast when you find ‘the one’.
Whatever your personal desire, be it a stunning city apartment in Dijon, a stately château or a converted farmhouse, picture your admiring friends gathered over a glass of the local wine and gougères (a cheesy choux pastry bun) or delicious charcuterie, reliving the day’s adventures and cultural discoveries. Maybe even trying the local escargots? Pourquois pas? Can you see yourself savouring the true Bourguignon lifestyle? If so, living in the true and placid heart of France is a very affordable choice.
From France Today magazine