Tucked in the southeastern region of Burgundy on the right bank of River Saône next to Mâconnais hillsides and Bresse plains is Tournus, a gem of a town. At first, this tidy, walled enclave may seem too little for in-depth exploration, yet it is rich with charms. Endless antique shops, winding narrow alleys, quaint stone homes, half-timbered buildings, and multiple Michelin-star restaurants make Tournus an endearing draw.
What We Love
Potions and Paintings: Hôtel-Dieu, a former city hospital that served poor patients for three centuries, is now a museum. It's a showcase of the wards with oak box-style beds and an apothecary with hundreds of blue-and-white earthenware pots that once brimmed with medicinal herbs and chemicals. In the same building, Musée Greuze is dedicated to the art of 18th-century Tournus-born painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze.
A View that Woos: Visit Château de Brancion, a nearby hilltop Medieval fortress, some of which has been restored to a living museum with arts demonstrations. From this vantage are sweeping vistas of the picturesque countryside, surrounding vineyards, and villages.
Best Known For
Monastery Mojo: The tranquil circa 10th-century Abbaye Saint-Philibert, with its Romanesque church, is one of the oldest monasteries in France. Inside is a robust display of details and design elements including frescoes, mosaics, elegant columns, and nave. In summer months, it plays host to classical music concerts and art exhibitions. Near the abbey are squares lined with fabulous food shops: chocolatier Lathuilière, Crémerie Tournus (delectable regional cheeses), and La Cave des Vignerons de l’Abbaye (top-notch wine tastings).
The Wheel Thing: At the compact Musée du Vélo, bicycles — a term coined by the French — are celebrated. There are displays of bikes bikes from the early 1800s (wheels were constructed of wood and there weren't pedals) to today. You can even take a spin on some models.
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Who It's Best For
Antique Collectors: Experience the thrill of the hunt for yesteryear’s coveted décor items and curiosities at stores galore.
Francophile Foodies: The town may be tiny, but it offers an array of excellent restaurants serving regional favorites.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Linger Longer: Since it’s easy to walk into town from where river cruise ships tie up along the Saône, some travelers, who are not on a tour, do a quick loop through nearby streets, deem Tournus done, and don’t venture further. Absolutely do so — the more time you give to Tournus, the more you discover.
Laura Manske is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Redbook, InStyle, and Cosmopolitan.