Right at the limits between Burgundy and Rhône Alpes regions, Mâcon was our last visit in Burgundy on our 80 days cycling trip around France and one of the best surprises we had on the road.
At the southern corner of Burgundy, Mâcon is at a crossroad between the road from Marseille to Paris, and the road to Switzerland and Italy. Surely, if you plan a road trip around France or even Western Europe, you will pass nearby Mâcon.
With its pastel painted façades and louvered shutters, Mâcon has a mediterranean city feel. The architecture is indeed inspired by Italy mainly but mediterranean architecture in general.
It was our first visit to Mâcon and we actually discovered a city full of life and culturally very dynamic. Here is our quick guide to the beautiful city of Mâcon.
Walking around the city centre
The Montrevel Hotel is used as the town hall since 1792. It was then the most sumptuous private mansion of the city and still makes quite an impression !
Saint Pierre Church
In front of the town hall, the elegant Saint Pierre Church rises from the ground. This elegant 19th century Church was built by the town of Mâcon, and is a fine example of Neo Roman architecture.
Old Saint Vincent
I couldn’t think of a better name for this 6th century cathedral. Old Saint Vincent was rebuilt on several occasions between the 7th and 13th century. After several damages it’s only during the 17th century that reconstruction works started, but the building was so fragile it had to be demolished.
Only the narthex and the bay that link them were saved, they are the oldest and only remaining parts of the cathedral today.
Built at the end of the 18th century, the Hôtel Dieu can be easily recognised by its huge dome overlooking the city. The buildings itself are not open to visitors but on the ground floor you can visit the old apothecary.
The Hôtel de Senecé, headquarters of the Académie des Arts, hosts today the Alphonse de Lamartine Museum, a French poet who was president of the Académie.
Mâcon is an artistic city where you will stumble upon many art galleries showcasing the work of local artists and others. We stumbled upon l’Envoûtée, an art gallery located in the basements of the Hôtel de Senecé and met a true passionate about art, photography and life.
If you are into history and want to meet a local, head to the gallery and you will be welcomed by Jean-Paul who will tell you stories about Mâcon, art and wine.
Quais de Saône
The docks alongside the Saône river have been well arranged and make the perfect spot for an afternoon walk on a sunny day of Spring.
Saint Laurent Bridge
The Saône river separates two towns and two departments, Mâcon in the Saône et Loire, and Saint Laurent, in the Ain department. From the Saint Laurent bridge you get the best view on both cities. Head to the bridge at night for a great shot.
Where to eat
Restaurant Le Carafé
Ever dreamt of having dinner in a wine cellar ? From the outside, Le Carafé looks like any other restaurant in town, but once you get inside and go down the stairs, you get why it’s a special place. Classy tables in a vaulted cellar surrounded by wine bottles : is it not the perfect place to try French food and wine ?
The chef surprised us with his elegant and inventive cuisine. Food menu changes every week, as well as the wine menu, with always a choice of seasonal and local products.
Antoine tried a stuffed tomato while I had a chicken served with a creamy sauce and roasted potatoes. And since in France the wine is always chosen accordingly to your meal, we had a glass of Bordeaux and a Gamay, both working really well with our food.
The desserts surprised us as much as the main meal, Antoine had a strawberry financier with chocolate sauce and I had the milk rice with a salted butter caramel sauce : exquisite ! Never had desserts that excellent (and I don’t even have a sweet tooth !)
Le Carafé is the best place in Mâcon to have a try at traditional food cooked with mostly organic, seasonal and local products, and natural wines, at reasonable prices matching the quality. We did not plan to have dinner there, we just happened to meet someone who worked there. That’s what travelling is all about stumbling upon places you didn’t plan to visit !
Roche de Solutré
Overlooking the Mâconnais region from the top of its 493 meters, the Solutré Rock is an uncommon geological formation and a famous Stone Age listed site. It was also known to be French ex-president François Mitterand regular hikes. And we understood why when we got to the top !
After a rather easy 40 minutes climb we got a spectacular view on the Saône plain and the villages of the Mâconnais. It was rather foggy in the distance but we could get a slight glimpse of the Mont Blanc.
We of course noticed the many vineyards surrounding the rock which all bear names that wine lovers will recognise, like Puilly Fuissé, Saint Véran, Mâcon Solutré, etc.
The Mâconnais vineyards
With no surprise, another must do in the region is to pay a visit to the vineyards around Mâcon, which are called the Mâconnais. And as I wrote above, you will encounter many names known around the world for being some of the best wines.
We didn’t explore all the wineries around but we did go to one that was highly recommended to us : Jean-Pierre Michel in Quintaine. We met this passionate wine-grower who was more than happy to open his doors of his cellar for us to try some of his excellent wines, like his Viré-Clissé for example.
Again, we wouldn’t recommend you wines and winemakers that we don’t like. If you are visiting Burgundy but afraid of spending too much on wines without really knowing if they’re good enough, then head to Michel. His wines are excellent and affordable.
You got it, we loved Mâcon ! It is one of our favourite places on this trip so far even if it’s starting to get hard to choose. Mâcon is such a dynamic and interesting city to visit, plus the wine and the food are great, so what else could we ask for ?
A special thanks to Fred, our WarmShowers host in Mâcon with whom we had a great time and who helped us make the best of our time there !
More pictures here.
More informations on the city of Mâcon and the area, visit Mâcon tourism board website.