Pontigny visitor guide

Photo of Pontigny

Visit Pontigny, France

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The village of Pontigny is situated about 15 kilometres to the north-east of Auxerre, in the Serein Valley and the Burgundy region. People visit this small village primarily to see the famous Pontigny Abbey.

Discover Pontigny Abbey

One of the great cistercian monasteries of France (along with Fontenay Abbey, also in Burgundy), the abbey in Pontigny was founded in 1114 and built in the 12th century.

Side view of Pontigny abbey

The abbey became very important and played host to many Kings from the 12th century to the 14th century, and became rich in part due to its exemption from taxes. It was also here at Pontigny that Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury under the English King Henry II, sought refuge from 1165 to 1166.

More recently Pontigny Abbey has played an important role in French culture - from 1922 to 1939 there was an annual get together of the great European intellectuals of the time at the abbey, including TS Eliot, Thomas Mann and Jean Paul Sartre.

Charming and rather understated on the outside, the great spaces of the interior really are something special and not to be missed if you are in northern Burgundy. Strolling around the outside you can see a wall that was once one side of the abbey cloisters, and an impressive entrance to the abbey.


Pass into the interior and it is the clean lines and perfect proportions of the interior, with its soaring arches and a monastic silence, that provide the appeal, rather than ornate decoration and glamour. The white stone used for the walls and arches make the interior much brighter than you might expect.

The 17th century organ was brought to Pontigny in the 18th century.

Many of the monastic buildings that once surrounded Pontigny abbey are no longer in existence, having been destroyed during the revolution, but the large abbey church was retained as the village church for Pontigny and is in very good condition.

You can still see the 'batiment des convers' next to the church - it is a large building with a downstairs used for storage and a dormitory upstairs - as well as part of the cloisters and a charming brick and stone pigeonnier.

Rear view of Pontigny abbey

As well as the abbey the cistercian monks left another important legacy for the region around Pontigny  - it was monks from the abbey who first planted vines in the chablis region!

Close to Pontigny

Among our personal favourite places to visit near Pontigny is the wine village of Chablis, a pretty village surrounded by the famous vineyards of the region.

The village of Noyers-sur-Serein is a little further, at about 30 kilometres south-east of Pontigny, but the historical centre and riverside setting make the journey to this village, classified as one of the 'most beautiful villages in France', very worthwhile.

You can find more travel ideas in the Yonne guide and the Burgundy guide.

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Best known for the very famous wines of the same name, Chablis is also a pleasant village to explore with plenty of opportunities for wine-tasting

Chablis guide


With its cathedral and churches, and extensive historic centre with half-timbered houses and an imposing belltower Auxerre is a very interesting town to visit

Auxerre guide


There are two impressive sites to see in Tonnerre: the medieval hospital complex, and the water source called the Fosse Dionne

Tonnerre guide


In the centre of the the traditional local town of Joigny you can see some medieval houses with wood-carvings and some more substantial 17th century townhouses

Joigny guide
Chateau de Tanlay

Chateau de Tanlay

The frescoes and interior decoration are among the highlights of a visit to the moated Tanlay castle

Chateau de Tanlay guide


The half-timbered houses and riverside setting make Noyers-sur-Serein one of our favourite small towns in this region

Noyers-sur-Serein guide

... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Yonne

The French version of this page is at Pontigny (Francais)