Canal de Bourgogne – Part 1

Northern Burgundy

A Brief Overview

The Canal de Bourgogne (Burgundy Canal) connects the Yonne River at Migennes with the Saône River at Saint-Jean-de-Losne and completes the link between the English Channel and the Mediterranean Sea.

Introduction by Unique Cruises Founder / Director Walter Nand

Construction began back in 1775, was completed in 1832 and was considered an engineering triumph. However, because of size restrictions through some of the locks and tunnels, the canal never quite reached the levels that its promoters had envisaged and reached its peak for commercial use in 1850.

The canal is 242 km long, with 189 locks. There were originally 191 lock basins, but the double staircase locks at Migennes and Germigny had their uppermost set of gates removed and the lower chamber raised to form single locks, but they are twice as deep as a standard lock (5.13 m and 5.14 m instead of the usual 2.5 to 3 m).

Today, the Canal de Bourgogne is often revered as one of the nicest canals to navigate in France, with beautiful scenery that features charming French houses and colourful greenery. There are lots of historical sites to visit along the way too, including cathedrals, abbeys and delicious culinary markets. In addition, it has an excellent towpath for walking & biking.

To fully experience this stunning region by Luxury Hotel Barge the canal has been divided into two separate journeys; Northern Burgundy and Southern Burgundy. Today we will explore some of the highlights of the Northern Burgundy section from Tanlay to Venarey-les-Laumes.

Château de Tanlay

Built during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Château de Tanlayis is a French château famous for its beauty and setting. The walls are of limestone under tall sloping slate roofs, surrounding three sides of a central court with cylindrical towers at its four corners. The château is entirely encircled by a moat and entered across a bridge, marked by paired obelisks, through a gatehouse built in 1558.

Photo Credit: Château de Tanlayis

Chablis Wine Village

The wine village of Chablis, not only produces the delicious wine of the same name but is also a great place to visit itself. The town is surrounded by vineyards within a radius of 5 kilometres. These together form the Chablis wine region, one of the smallest wine districts in France. The wine grapes that grow here are all Chardonnay grapes. Only when the wine comes from this small wine region can it be called Chablis. If not, it is not Chablis wine. On at least one of our Luxury Barge Cruises we have a private tasting at the prestigious Domaine Laroche (

Photo Credit:

Les Riceys

Surrounded by vineyards with grapes for rosé wines and champagnes, Les Riceys is a peaceful village with multiple wineries. On at least one of our Luxury Barge Cruises we visit the family-owned Champagne House Maison Alexandre Bonnet ( for a private champagne tasting. The history of the Alexandre Bonnet Champagne House goes back a long way in the stunning village of Les Riceys. With three Appellations d’origine contrôlée (controlled designation of origin), the place is unique in the world of winemaking. Its 2,086 acres of vineyards make it the largest wine producing district in the Champagne region.

Abbaye de Fontenay

The exquisite UNESCO World Heritage Site of Abbaye de Fontenay was founded by St Bernard in 1118 and represents a distinctive example of early Cistercian architecture allows us an exceptional glimpse of Cistercian life and industry.

Photo Credit: Eric Viellard

Château de Commarin

Steeped in history, the Château de Commarin has passed through 26 generations in the same family. First mentioned as early as 1214, Commarin was classified as a ‘Monument Historique’ in 1949. Over the centuries this moat circled stronghold has survived many wars and invasions. Commarin avoided pillage during the French Revolution and the Germans occupied it in World War II. However, the Germans treated the Château with respect and retained its magnificent parquet floors and tapestries. On at least one of our Luxury Hotel Barge holidays, we will be treated to a private demonstration of the medieval sport of falconry against the backdrop of the castle grounds and may meet Count Bertrand de Vogue, the current resident and 26th generation of the de Vogue family before having a private tour of the building.

Photo Credit: European Waterways

These are just some of the highlights as we cruise through Northern Burgundy. But there are so many more experiences that can be explored, like the tiny and picturesque canal side villages of Nogent, Courcelles and Les Granges.

For oour Blog about Burgundy please click here: Burgundy, France – Unique Cruises

If you would like to know more about our Luxury Hotel Barge Cruises in Burgundy please click here: Cruise Burgundy – Unique Cruises

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