Tournus abbey, Saône-&-Loire


Stage no. 6: by Mathieu

Through the eyes of members of the Thomas Family (Mathieu, 37 years old / Marion, 38 / Marius, 13 / Margaux, 10), experience Southern Burgundy's 9 "must-stops" as a sequence of episodes for a total immersion as intense as it is unforgettable…

Les incontournables de Saône-et-Loire
La famille Thomas - © DSL/vectorfusionart

" It's startling to see the difference between the perception of what a place is like when viewed from the outside and the reality when on the inside. Tournus seems to be much smaller than what I had imagined. In my mind's eye, this town made famous by Greuze had a population of easily 15,000 to 20,000. But in fact, the number is only 6,000 (lucky souls).

The reason for this discrepancy has to do with Tournus' draw and renown; it's a dense little city that's compact, colourful and incredibly friendly.

For once, the order in which these stops are usually celebrated was not respected: we began by strolling the narrow city centre streets, with their mild slopes and rounded tile roofs suggestive a city closer to southern France. Our itinerary took us directly to the abbey. The revered Saint-Philibert was naturally a most impressive monument.

Tournus : rue de la ville et entrée de l'hôtel-Dieu/Musée Greuze à droite. - Saône-et-Loire Tourisme
Tournus: street of the city - Saône-et-Loire - © DSL Kris van der Stockt

Like in Cluny and Paray-le-Monial, I found myself in awe: the light streaming in below the nave! And what about those vaults! Not to mention the stained glass windows. The level of preservation on display here is mind-boggling: the cloister, chapter house, cellar, refectory, and the list goes on. Everything's in impeccable condition. If I were a filmmaker, I'd already know where my next shoot was going to take place.

Oh, and before I forget. Marion and I are not foodies, we don't really get excited over fancy restaurants. We pay lots of attention to what we eat but tend to favour the intrinsic quality of food, fresh produce, organically grown, without necessarily getting sophisticated. We wound up trying one of the city's two award-winning restaurants (to avoid jealousy, I'll withhold the name) and, let me tell you, we'll remember that experience for the rest of our lives, and so will the kids. "

Tournus : abbaye St-Philibert - Saône-et-Loire Tourisme
Tournus: St-Philibert Abbey - Saône-et-Loire © DSL Nègre Hervé

You'll also love Tournus for…

  • The Blueways: 30 km of a towpath renovated into a secure cycling strip for pedalling peacefully along the Saône from Tournus to Mâcon (and very soon all the way to Chalon-sur-Saône). Take advantage of the possibility to rent bicycles and bring them back by train to your point of departure.

  • Its museums: Greuze Hôtel-Dieu Historic Hospital Museum and the Bicycle Museum. The first one comprises an old apothecary containing over 300 earthenware jars from the 17th and 18th centuries, a medicinal plant garden and an art museum featuring collections ranging from prehistory to modern times. The second is bound to win over bicycle enthusiasts and plenty of others.

More information:

Musée du Vélo - Saône-et-Loire Tourisme
Cycling museum - Saône-et-Loire © DSL Guênerie Sandrine


  • The Saône and Seille Rivers by boat: whether for a weekend or an entire week, rent a small electric houseboat (no licence required) for a welcome excursion along the banks of the Seille and Saône.
  • Outing on the footsteps of Gerlannus: Gerlannus, the monk who oversaw building of the Saint-Philibert Abbey, invites you to follow his steps on a marked path through the old city, during which a number of (good) surprises can be anticipated.

More information:

Halte nautique Tournus - Saône-et-Loire
Tournus nautical stop - Saône-et-Loire © DSL Bourgogne Live Prod Aurélien Ibanez

Discover the other steps of these holidays: