Surrounded by a sea of vineyards, filled with churches, and close to plenty of small villages that lie far off the beaten tourist track, no doubt you’ll have heard of Nuits-Saint-Georges if you’re a wine drinker. And for those who are looking for the activities beyond the vin? Well, here’s your complete guide to the best things to do in Nuits-Saint-George.
Introducing Nuits-Saint-Georges, the gateway to the Route des Grands Crus
Now home to a population of around five and a half thousand residents, the area surrounding Nuits-Saint-Georges has been inhabited since Gallo-Roman times. Even back then, grapes would have been grown in the rich and fertile soil so as to create wines which would then be utilised throughout Roman Gaul and beyond.
In more modern times, the area owes much of its wine growing success thanks to the enterprising of Cistercian monks in the region. Nearby Cîteaux Abbey was founded in 1098 and from there, the monks went on to shapes the vineyards of Burgundy as we know them today. Even now, hospitals in the area (such as that of Beaune) hold annual wine auctions, with the profits going towards charitable causes.
So iconic was the wine from Cotes de Nuits, that the Sun King, AKA Louis XIV who transformed the Versailles Palace into the monumental structure as we know it today, was even recommended the wine from Nuits-St-George for its ‘medicinal’ qualities!
Route des Grands Crus: Nuits-Saint-Georges
If you’ve spent any time reading about the Route des Grands Crus, a UNESCO world heritage wine route that snakes its way through the Burgundy countryside, then you’ll know that Nuits-St-Georges is one of the most important stops en route.
Passing through the Côtes de Nuits vineyards that surround the town of the same name, the route encompasses over thirty villages between Dijon and Beaune and then on to Santenay. But what makes the wines of Burgundy (or Bourgogne as it is so-called in French) so special are the ‘climats,’ which is incidentally a term unique to the French region.
These ‘climats’ are small plots of land that are separated by dry stone walls, hedges, and rivers. Usually marked by a simple cross or set of imposing gates, each of these areas is owned by different viticulturists. These mini microclimates each produce their own special variety of wine in an area that’s been carefully designated over the centuries.
Truth be told, the most famous of all the vineyards close to Nuits-St-Georges is that of Romanée-Conti, which produces the most expensive wine in the world! While admiring the vineyards, be sure to be on the lookout for the Cabotes, small limestone buildings that house vine growing tools and provide shade from the relentless sun.
Go wine tasting
Truth be told, the bread and butter of tourism in Nuits-St-Georges comes in the form of the plethora of wine tasting experiences to be had in and around the town. Whether it’s heading to a local vineyard, visiting a bar in the town centre, or making the half-hour walk to Vosne-Romanée, this area is absolutely full of L’œnotourisme (wine tourism) opportunities!
Musée de Nuits-Saint-Georges
The town’s museum is free to visit thanks to the town’s philosophy that history and museums should be accessible to all. Filled with Roman artefacts, medieval objects, and telling the history of the town’s past, you can easily while away several hours wandering around this cultural space. Housed within a former wine cellar, next door you’ll find the town’s library.
Beffroi (Belfry) de Nuits-St-Georges
Close to the tourist office and in a corner of the main town square, the rather impressive belfry in the heart of the village and was built in 1610. Comprised of two storeys and complete with a cellar, the belfry has been listed as a historic monument since1947. Now surrounded by a predominantly pedestrianised area, the bell tower has since become a symbol of the town.
Cassis is the French word for ‘blackcurrant’ and is the primary ingredient for Crème de Cassis, an alcoholic liqueur that’s famously produced in the region. While you can always sip on a kir (a French cocktail made of wine and cassis) in any of the town’s bars, to get to know more about the history of the drink and sample some for yourself, you simply must head to Le Cassisium!
Located close to the train station, a kilometre or so away from the town centre, Cassis products (only liquids; alcoholic beverages and fruits syrups) have been produced at the Cassissium since 1923. And since 2001, a museum space has been located on site, providing another insight into the blackcurrant world. Split into four distinct sections, there’s a cinema area, a museum area, the chance to tour the factory with a guide, and best of all, plenty of Crème de Cassis tasting options.
Église Saint-Symphorien de Nuits-Saint-Georges (Church of Saint Symphorien)
According to a passage of writing attributed to St Benignus of Dijon, Saint-Symphorian was a Christian saint who was converted to the faith by St Benignus (whose tomb can now be visited in Dijon). Dating all the way back to the 13th-century, the church of Saint Symphorien itself is the beautiful blend of Gothic and Romanesque architectural styles that are so synonymous with the region.
Highlights of this structure include a sheltered porch from the 17th-century and a rather rare example of a wooden lectern that’s survived from the 15th-century! Head to the nearby square just off Rue Charmottes in the springtime and it’s here where you’ll find some of the more beautiful cherry blossoms that Nuits-St-Georges has to offer.
Walk to Vosne-Romanée
At just two kilometres away, through the vines, and along a relatively flat road, the pretty village of Vosne-Romanée is dedicated almost entirely to wine! Filled with wine vendors, the village may only have a population of just a few hundred but is still most definitely a visit. Home to many wine houses that date all the way back to the 16th-century, wander down a back street out of the village and you’ll soon stumble upon the one and only vineyard of Romanée-Conti!
How to visit Nuits-Saint-Georges
While the town can obviously be visited as a destination in its own right, if you’re short on time then you might consider a visit to Nuits St Georges as a day trip from Dijon or the wine city of Beaune. Both are less than half an hour away and trains stop on a regular basis throughout the day and well into the evening.
If you’re looking to learn a little more about wine prior to your visit, then I recommend purchasing a book like this one. Though it’s not absolutely necessary to know anything about vin before visiting Bourgogne, a little knowledge will certainly help you understand your preferences when selecting where you should go wine tasting and what you should purchase!
Easy to reach by car, train, or local bus (the bus being, by far, the cheapest option), if you want to leave the logistics to someone else, then a guided tour may well be the thing to go for. For example, this Burgundy full day wine tour from Beaune includes a visit to a Domaine in the Nuits-Saint-George area, a visit to Clos Vougeot, as well as another wine tasting opportunity. If you’re staying in Dijon, then this Côte de Nuits vineyard tour will show you the history of the vines.
The best time to visit the town is undoubtedly in the summer months when everything is actually open and the vines are covered in leaves, thus making them infinitely more attractive. If you’re looking for a stress-free way to enjoy the vines, then I recommend booking an overnight stay in the town so as to enjoy the ambience and the atmosphere that Nuits-St-Georges has to offer. You can find the best accommodation prices here.