Visit Vezelay (Burgundy, France)
Vezelay, one of the 'most beautiful villages of France', is 50km south of Auxerre in Burgundy. An attractive village, Vezelay is in an imposing position strung out along the crest of a hill, with far-reaching views over the 'Monts de Morvan' and on the edge of the Morvan Regional Park.
The village, founded in the 12th century, is more or less one long, steep street that rises up to Vezelay Abbey at the top of the hill.
Many of the houses along the main street are now cafes, galleries and gift shops but I was pleased to see almost none of the 'tack' along the road that occupies many a tourist town - if you 'need' carved zebras, coloured fluffy toys and lollies saying "je t'aime" you will need to look elsewhere... this is a big plus in Vezelay's favour!
As you stroll along the street you will notice the shells set in the ground - these are the symbol of the French pilgrims who set off to walk from France to the church of St James at Santiago de Compostella (Spain). One of the four main pilgrim routes starts from the abbey at vézelay.
There are also a few narrow winding streets leading off the main street, hemmed in by ancient houses featuring many examples of the local architecture, and parts of the original village ramparts that still surround Vezelay.
When we visited these side streets were curiously quiet and empty despite the large number of visitors in the village just a few metres away - be sure to amble along a couple and take a look.
In addition to being a 'most beautiful village of France', Vézelay and the abbey are listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The highlight of the village is without doubt the Abbey of St Mary Magdalene, an awe-inspiring building with soaring decorative vaults. The abbey contains the relics of Saint Mary and was historically the departure point for pilgrims to Santiago de Compostella. The most notable event in the history of the abbey took place when Richard the Lionheart and Phillippe Auguste embarked on the 3rd crusade from this abbey.
After the 12th century the abbey fell into severe disrepair, until it was restored in the 19th century to the splendid abbey that you can now visit. There is a Visitor Centre to explain more about the history of Vezelay abbey about half way along the main street, in an attractive half-timbered building
Also to see in Vezelay
Jules-Roy House: the writer Jules-Roy lived in Vézelay, and his house can now be visited, next to the abbey. The gardens at the house are very beautiful and peaceful, well-maintained, and have far-reaching views - worth a look even if you don't know of Jules-Roy himself.
There is also a Museum of the work of Viollet-le-Duc. Rooms above the cloister of the abbey now house some medieval sculptures that have come from the basilica and area.
Note: parking in Vezelay is below the village and a small charge (2 euros for 2 hours or 3 euros for all day) is payable.
In stark contrast to the abbey at Vezelay visit the nearby village of Saint-Pere - a small village with an extravagantly decorated gothic style church dating from the 13th century and dominating the village centre. The facade and entrance porch are the most impressive features.
Also in Saint-Pere you can see the excavated ruins of a roman baths.
Photos of Vezelay
Click any picture to start the gallery
Tourist classifications for Vezelay
Vezelay has received the following tourist classifications: ; historical protected town centre' (secteur sauvegardé)
Address: Vézelay, Avallon, Yonne, Burgundy, 89450 || GPS: latitude 47.466, longitude 3.7476
Map of Vezelay & places nearby
Highlights close by
Suggested tourist attractions to visit near Vezelay, France
- Vézelay basilica St Madeleine (monuments on French pilgrim routes) - heritage site
- Asquins église St Jacques (monuments on French pilgrim routes) - heritage site
- Clamecy - secteur sauvegarde (17km)
- Eglise de Saint Barthélémy (Cervon) - religious monument (25km)
- Noyers-sur-Serein - most beautiful village (32km)
- Prieuré de Saint Révérien (Saint-Reverien) - religious monument (34km)
- Morvan - regional natural parc (34km)
- Parc de Saint-Léger - remarkable garden (37km)
- Auxerre - secteur sauvegarde (39km)
- Jardin du moulin de Athie - remarkable garden (40km)
The French version of this page is at Vezelay (Francais)