Despite its proximity to the French capital, Auxerre isn’t a famous destination for tourism. Is Auxerre worth visiting? We stopped there on our way back after a few days in Burgundy. And I was surprised it took me so many years to visit this beautiful city near Paris. I think Auxerre is underrated, and you won’t regret going there. Here are a few reasons why.

View of Auxerre and multiple religious buildings reflecting in the river
View of Auxerre from Paul Bert bridge

Why we liked Auxerre so much

1. Auxerre is very close to Paris

You can even go to Auxerre on a day trip from Paris by train. It takes 1h45 to get there by train. Then, it’s only a 10-minute walk from the station to the heart of the city.

By car, it takes a bit more than 2 hours to reach Auxerre from Paris.

2. Auxerre has a lovely mix of buildings

Auxerre reminded me of one of my favourite towns in France, Rouen. As you walk around the old cobbled streets, you’ll find lovely remarkable buildings of different styles and eras. The clock on the pedestrian main street looks unique, and you’ll be surprised by the number of imposing religious buildings close to each other. The well-preserved half-timbered houses make the old town look very charming.

3. Simply follow the circuit; no planning ahead needed

Visiting Auxerre is very easy. You can simply follow the arrow on the ground (the Cadet Roussel trail) in the old town to see all the main monuments. It’s recommended to buy the brochure at the tourist office to better understand what you’re looking at.

The highlights of our time in Auxerre were:

The Clock Tower

Built in the 15th century, the Clock Tower in Auxerre is one of the most remarkable timepiece in France. Make sure you look at it closely as the building isn’t the only interesting part. The clock has two clock hands to indicate the usual hours (solar time) and the lunar hours with the moon phase.

Paul Bert Bridge

Bridge over the Yonne river in Auxerre with a statue in the middle

Paul Bert bridge itself isn’t particularly interesting. But the view of the city and the river from the bridge should not be missed (#62 on the Cadet Roussel trail).

Saint-Etienne Cathedral

Saint-Etienne Cathedral is the most imposing religious monument in Auxerre. The decorated arches, the stunning neve, the beautiful choir, the impressive rose windows, and the horizontal organ are a few reasons why visiting the cathedral is a must-do in Auxerre (#65 on the Cadet Roussel trail).

Rue de l’Yonne and Rue de la Draperie

There are many beautiful half-timbered houses in Auxerre and it’s worth wandering in the streets of the old city centre to admire them. We particularly liked going up Rue de l’Yonne (#2 on the Cadet Roussel trail) and looking around Rue de la Draperie (#37 on the Cadet Roussel trail).

4. The river in Auxerre offers extra activities in the city

The river Yonne offers splendid panoramas of the city. It’s perfect to have a different experience than just visiting the old town centre. If you wish to have lunch on a barge or hire a small electric boat, check La Péniche d’Auxerre.

A barge on the Yonne river in Auxerre

5. Auxerre is in the wine region of Burgundy

Auxerre is in Burgundy, a region very famous for its wines. Although you won’t find the most famous wineries in Auxerre (apart le Clos de la Chainette, otherwise try Dijon, Beaune or Chablis instead), you can still visit a winery and learn more about wine-making in Burgundy and France while visiting Auxerre.

A trip to Burgundy also gives the opportunity to try a few local specialties, such as the famous Burgundy snails in their delicious garlic butter sauce or boeuf Bourguignon (Burgundy beef). Other specialties are less famous but worth trying too: Jambon à la Chablisienne (ham), oeufs en meurette (poached eggs in a sauce) and gougères (cheese puffs).

A snail plate from Burgundy

What is Auxerre known for?

AJ Auxerre

For many French people, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Auxerre is the football club AJ Auxerre and his former coach Guy Roux. He was in charge of the club for no less than 36 consecutive years between 1964 and 2000. The club was created in 1905 and is still performing at a high level, with a spot in Ligue 1, the first division in France, for the season 2022-23. AJ Auxerre also has a reputed training center that many young French footballer dream of joining.

Le Clos de la Chainette

Auxerre is also known for its winery near the city centre, le Clos de la Chainette, located in the psychiatric hospital. It was already mentioned in a text from the 12th century, confirming it is one of the oldest wineries in France. The wine is reputed to be one of the best in Burgundy, and you’ll have to wait for years to get a bottle.

Burgundy

Auxerre is famous for being the entry door to Burgundy from Paris. It’s close to the French capital but still in the heart of the reputed wine region. As mentioned earlier, a trip to Auxerre is an excellent opportunity to learn more about Burgundy, its wines and its gastronomy.

Do you think Auxerre is worth visiting? Share your experience in the comments below!

How long should you spend in Auxerre?

Religious buildings seen from the river in Auxerre

There’s enough to do in Auxerre and the nearby region to keep you busy for a few days. So it’s a good destination for a short weekend getaway. But Auxerre is still worth visiting even if you have very limited time.

It can be a good day trip from Paris, or even just a quick detour on your way to another beautiful place in France. You’ll see a lot in just a few hours in Auxerre by simply following the Cadet Roussel trail mentioned ealier. It took us approximately 2.5hrs to complete the circuit.

Where is Auxerre?

Auxerre is one of the first cities you’ll find when you travel from Paris to Burgundy. It’s really close to the A6 motorway, which makes it a nice stop to break the drive if you’re driving to the south east of France.

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