Vézelay is a small old town in Burgundy, one of the most beautiful villages in France. Vézelay is worth visiting for several reasons: it is home to a famous basilica, a center of history and Christianity, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and because it is a truly charming village, located on a hill and reveals to you the true beauty of Burgundy.
Vézelay is one of the largest and richest Benedictine abbeys in medieval France, founded in the 11th century on the site of the supposed tomb of Mary Magdalene and reconstructed in the 19th century by the architect Viollet-le-Duc.
Known throughout Europe since the 11th century for housing the relics of Saint Madeleine, the abbey was the starting point of the Second Crusade preached in the 12th century by St. Bernard. Saint Francis of Assisi then chose the hill to found the first Franciscan monastery in France.
For centuries, Vézelay has been a major stop for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Vézelay is also famous for white wines with the regional designation of origin “Bourgogne-Vézelay”.
After the “authentic” relics of Mary Magdalene were found in Provence in 1270, the abbey’s influence began to decline: the center of Mary Magdalene’s pilgrimage moved to Saint-Maximin-la-St-Bôme and the abbey quickly lost importance. In 1870-1876 the situation changed. New relics of Mary Magdalene were brought in and a flood of pilgrims began to descend on the Vézelay. The abbey is still active today and the monks of the Fraternité de Jerusalem work and pray here.
If you look around, it feels like you’re in medieval France. There is not much here that gives away the 21st century.
Stone houses covered with ivy, tiled roofs, neat restaurants…
Bourgogne Vezelay AOC
Like many cities in Burgundy, Vézelay also has its own wine! “Bourgogne Vézelay” is the local appellation for wine. The vineyards here descend to the outskirts of the city and consist mainly of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Melon de Bourgogne grapes. About half of the production is sold through the Cave Henry cooperative. The vineyards were founded by the Abbey of Vezlet in the ninth century. And at the end of the nineteenth century the vineyards were destroyed by phylloxera, and were only revived again many years later, during the 1970s. This wine, recognized in 1996 as an appellation bourgogne-vézelay, became a full-fledged appellation in 2017.
The city is indeed very beautiful and interesting. Yes, there is no sea or mountains, but there are hills, vineyards and red-tiled roofs of ancient villages! And the views from Vézelay are spectacular!
And the incredibly beautiful Abbey, in whose cellars you feel like the hero of the movie “The Da Vinci Code”, investigating the secret of Mary Magdalene. At sunset, the abbey turns a peach-pink color.
The inside is just as impressive!
The main square of the city is empty in the evening. Even in summer, during the peak tourist season, there aren’t many tourists. That’s what Burgundy is all about! Everyone is either still open in restaurants or in houses/hotels. So if you want to experience the atmosphere of medieval France – you’re definitely in Burgundy!
Hotels in Vezelay
Château de Vault de Lugny is located in a castle built in the XIII-XVI centuries, near the commune of Vezlet, the town of Chablis and the Morvan Regional Park. The hotel is in a very beautiful place, the castle and the grounds are magical (been there, loved it). The hotel has a restaurant with 1 Michelin star.
Hôtel Restaurant De La Poste & Du Lion D’or is a 4* hotel located in the heart of Vézelay, in a former carriage house. The hotel has beautiful interiors and stunning views from the rooms. If you are looking for a hotel in Vezle, this is my favorite!
Vézelay is another delightful place. Be sure to come to Burgundy to explore an authentic France that lives a very different life.