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Autun: Don’t Miss this Hidden Gem on your Barge Trip in France by Laura Jeeves

Autun: Don’t Miss this Hidden Gem on your Barge Trip in France by
Article Posted: 12/11/2020
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Autun: Don’t Miss this Hidden Gem on your Barge Trip in France

Art and Culture,Boating,Travel & Tourism
Autun is a delightful town in the Saône-et-Loire department of Burgundy and, despite its low-key ambiance, it was once one of the most important Roman cities. On any barge cruise in France that takes you through southern Burgundy, a few hours exploring this charming spot should definitely be on the agenda.


In terms of reputation, size and cultural appeal, Autun pales in significance to the likes of Paris, Lyon and Dijon but, to give it its due, it is listed as one of fewer than 100 important historic places in the country. It is also classified as an official French Town of Art and History, making it rather intriguing and a highly recommended excursion when on your barge cruise in France.

It may be small in size but Autun is big in personality and today is a place that many people come to visit, not least because of its beautiful setting in the Morvan Hills but also because of its rich Roman history.

There are 6km of original ramparts surrounding the old part of the town and all are well preserved. In places there are charming stone houses built above the walls, which make for eye catching and unusual photo opportunities.

The Cathedral and Central Area

Located in the centre, the Cathedral of Saint-Lazare is stunning. Standing within the walls, it was built in the twelfth century, originally with Roman features. In later centuries it was modified and a spire eventually added in the sixteenth century. It is visited primarily for the carvings, sculptures and statues by Gislebertus that adorn the outside perimeter; the Last Judgement in the tympanum is a fine example of work by this fine Roman sculptor who also carved some beautiful capital stones inside the building.

Surrounding the cathedral, narrow streets lined with charming bars and cafes wind their way towards the city walls. Stopping for a morning coffee in this authentic part of the centre is always a relaxing experience, and as you sip, you can watch local life unfold before you.

The Main Town

The main centre is located around two main squares. In one stands the Theatre and Town Hall and in the other the attractive Lycée buildings.

If you fancy a bit of shopping when on your barge cruise in France, this could be the place to do it. Head to the ‘Covered Passage’ which is a pretty arcade with a glass ceiling. Built in the nineteenth century, it is a special and atmospheric spot to pick up a few bargains.

The Roman Ruins

The main reason visitors flock to Autun is to see the Roman ruins. Even though it is a small town, there are many structural remains to be explored, including the Porte d’Arroux in the north and Port Saint-Andre, which is the best preserved, in the east. These gates were both built with large archways designed to accommodate carriages passing through and typical smaller arches that are exclusively for pedestrians.

For real ancient history buffs there is the Roman amphitheatre and remains of the Temple of Janus to seek out. It is thought that, in its heyday, Autun was home to many more temples and that the original Roman theatre could seat 20,000 people.

While Autun may not be the first place we think of when we are heading off to Burgundy, it is definitely worth a visit. When planning your barge cruise in France, it is advisable to book with a recommended tour operator. Let the experts take care of the logistics so you can look forward to a hassle free and memorable trip.

Author Plate Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider if you're looking for an all-inclusive, luxury barge cruise in France or other great destinations. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.

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