Boating holidays in the Burgundy Saône Franche Comté area provide the ideal way to explore a unique waterways region. Rent a boat on the majestic Saône, one of the most beautiful rivers in France, for a gentle cruise on a self-drive boat, with no license needed.
A cruise in Burgundy Saône Franche Comté – it’s what boating holidays are all about.
Wild and mysterious, the Burgundy Saône Franche Comté region provides a fine example of what boating holidays should be like. It offers as many unmissable attractions on the water as it does at the stopping places. It’s an experience that transforms a simple cruise into a real voyage of discovery. The Canal du Centre takes you to famous vineyards, such as Santenay and Rully, which will please any wine connoisseurs on board, while the Saône is a paradise for those who love unspoiled natural surroundings. Want to learn about French history? The Saône will take you to relics from the middle ages near Chalon-sur-Saône, or the Romanesque church of Saint-Jean de Narosse in Santenay. Foodies won’t be left out on this trip, which will take you across the Bresse area, famous for poultry, which have earned the place the tourism and gastronomy label, ‘Site Remarquable du Goût’. Whatever direction you take on your canal boat, the calm waterways of this region will lead you to a whole range of discoveries, all of them amazing.
A cruise in southern Burgundy via the canals and the Saône
Cast off and explore the region from one of our departure bases. Whether you cruise on the Canal des Vosges, head down towards Lyon, or cross the central vineyards, all routes take you to the Saône.
Discover the map of the
destination and its waterways
The very essence of boating holidays in southern Burgundy
Taking a cruise on the rivers and canals of Burgundy is a wonderfully bucolic experience, thanks to the variety of landscapes and historic heritage in this famous waterways region. Villages and medieval châteaux, constantly changing landscapes and vineyards nestling between the hills. Here are the top five attractions:
Cuisery & Louhans
Cuisery may be a small village but it packs in a 300-metre-long stretch of bookshops. Louhans, on the other hand, is known for its market. Visit the famous poultry market with its speciality Bresse chicken… and don’t forget your shopping basket!
La Seille, more than a pleasant detour, somewhere to aim for
When you cover the 39 km between Louhans and La Truchère, crossing the Bresse area, you can sample its famous poultry while enjoying a relaxed cruise along a river bordered by historic arcades and façades.
The Doubs loop, a spectacular way to arrive in town
Follow this majestic and remarkable loop, which encloses the centre of the town of Besançon, overlooked by Vauban’s famous citadel, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Santenay, Rully… names to dream about
Start at Saint Léger and cruise through the most prestigious Burgundy vineyards. Santenay and Rully are right next to the canal. Or take a short taxi ride to Chassagne Montrachet to taste the world’s most highly regarded white wines.
The Truchère Nature Reserve, sand dunes where the rivers meet
An unusual nature reserve is hidden away in Bresse. Follow the path through the dunes or the pathway on piles for a great view of the Fouget Lake and enjoy a walk through unusual landscapes where nature rules.
Locaboat operates in conjunction with the ‘France Tours’ travel agency to bring you selected heritage- and gastronomy-based activities that will turn your holiday into something special. Just take your pick! These activities are available with departure point from our base at Saint Léger sur Dheune.
For further information or to make a booking, call them on +33 (0)493 218 219 or [email protected].
The Burgundy Saône region, for boating holidays you’ll fall in love with
With lovely rivers and impressive canals, this is the natural homeland of waterways tourism. Follow the River Saône to the capital of French gastronomy, Lyon, or cruise along the Canal du Centre through famous vineyards. The landscape passes by at the gentle pace of your Pénichette®. The waters of the Saône are full of fish, allowing anglers to enjoy hauling up pike, pikeperch and many other species from their self-drive boat. This river is wide and beautiful, joining the Doubs with its rocky cliffs and offering unforgettable views. But you’ll also enjoy the countryside along the banks: wide open plains and relaxing green pastures, punctuated by the historic heritage of beautiful Burgundy, which looks like Tuscany at times. And then there’s the world-famous wine and food, which is bound to feature in more than one of your stopovers. Swimming from the pontoon, taking a history cruise on the canals, wine-tasting by the waterside… these are the pleasures of boating holidays in the Burgundy Saône Franche Comté region. It’s a place where you can explore historic and cultural heritage while enjoying a relaxed, carefree cruise on a no-license boat, through stunning countryside.
Enjoy a River Saône cruise with Burgundy and Saône valley boat hire
Start your Saône River Cruise from Saint-Léger-sur-Dheune
Boating holidays through the Saône Valley can include a number of different waterways, allowing holidaymakers to take in the sights and sounds of both France’s canals and natural river courses. Starting out at Locaboat’s Saint-Léger-sur-Dheune base, boaters can head along the Canal du Centre, the perfect route for the beginning of your trip.
The commune town of Saint-Léger-sur-Dheune itself is a perfect place to explore before you begin your trip along the canal. Complete with local cafes, restaurants and shops, having a bite to eat in the town before beginning your journey is not only a necessity but a joy in Saint-Léger-sur-Dheune.
Before the Canal du Centre merges with the River Saône, you will pass through the small town of Chagny. Although the town is only home to around six thousand people, there is enough to bring in visitors from miles around. A visit to Changy’s local 13th-century church will show you why it is on the list of National Monuments in France.
Visiting Chagny on a Sunday is a whole new experience, with their famous market setting up from the early morning onwards. The market sells a wide range of fresh local produce, immersing yourself in the smells and tastes of Burgundy. Most famous of all is Chagny’s three Michelin star restaurant, Maison Lameloise. Started by famous French chef, Jacques Lameloise, stopping off here is a must for any boating foodie.
Passing the junction at Canal du Centre and the River Saône
Moving on from Chagny, boaters can make their way down to the Canal du Centre and to the water junction that connects the canal to the river. Before you make that all-important choice of whether to head north or south, the city of Chalon-sur-Saône looms large as you approach the junction. Being able to avoid the road traffic and enter a city such as this is what boating holidays are all about.
The city of Chalon-sur-Saône has long been a meeting point for both the waterways and roads, first taken advantage of by Roman settlers who built the local roads through the settlement. Being a huge European trading settlement throughout the centuries allowed Chalon-sur-Saône to grow into the stunning Medieval-esque city it is today.
Keen photographers should not pass up the chance to visit the Musée Nicéphore-Niépce, a museum dedicated to the Frenchman who took the world’s first-ever photograph, ‘View from the Window at Le Gras’. The city’s cathedral is also not to be missed, with some parts of the building standing for more than one thousand years.
Apart from the historical sights, Chalon-sur-Saône has its fair share of modern attractions. These include its celebrated carnival during the spring months, perfect for immersing yourself in the local community, complete with paid banquettes in the evening.
Taking your River Saône boat hire northeast
After leaving Chalon-sur-Saône, you will need to decide whether to boat along the northern section of the River Saône or follow the river south. Taking your canal boat north from Chalon-sur-Saône, you will begin to pass the small commune of Verdun-sur-le-Doubs and the town of Seurre. These idyllic riverside communes are what give boating trips along the River Saône their appeal, with one after another passing by in a gentle stream of riverside views.
Making a right turn after the town of Seurre will take your boat onto the Canal du Rhône au Rhin, one of the more important watershed canals in France. Intertwined with the natural course of the River Doubs, this section of the waterway takes boaters on an easterly route and to the city of Besançon.
Much like travelling along the Canal du Midi to the south, Besançon has a rich historical past that is unmissable when in the area.
Besançon, the capital of the Franche-Comté region, has long been forgotten by foreign tourists who seek out the more internationally known French towns and cities. However, they are missing out! With a settlement here since Roman times, the city is steeped in history and culture. From the stone buildings of the Battant Quarter, the iconic cathedral and the birthplace of Les Misérables writer and humanist Victor Hugo. With so much to see and do in the city, an excursion down the Canal du Rhône au Rhin is a must for anyone in the Franche-Comté region.
Navigating your Saône cruise northwest
Taking the more northwesterly route from Chalon-sur-Saône opens up a whole new route from the River Saône and into the Canal de Bourgogne. Before reaching this junction, a series of must-see sights present themselves on the westerly bank of the River Saône, creating the perfect excuse to get out and explore on foot. The first of these attractions is the Château de Meursault, an iconic winemaker in the Burgundy region. Indulge in all things wine with a tasting session at the Château de Meursault. Here you can sample a range of fine wines in the chateau cellar, complete with a spot of lunch curated by the onsite caterers.
After you’ve filled your glass for the last time and soaked up some fine wines with delicious local food, a continuation northwest to the city of Dijon is not to be missed (don’t forget to choose a designated driver!).
Capital of the greater Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region, the city of Dijon has long been a significant location for visitors to this region and with good reason.
For lovers of all things French gastronomy, Dijon is a playground of foodie delights. From Burgundy classics such as Coq au Vin, Beef bourguignon to the Dijon specific condiment of Dijon mustard. The city is steeped in unbeatable French cuisine, something that is noticeable from the outset. Alongside eating your way through the city, Dijon has its fair share of historical and cultural sites. These include the 16th-century church known as the Église Saint-Michel de Dijon and the royal palace of Place de la Libération.
The lower Saône River and the River Seille
Sail through the historical city of Mâcon and onto Pont-de-Vaux
When you choose to explore the lower Saône River region with your canal boat hire in France, you’ll pass through the city of Mâcon. Sitting along the westerly banks of the river, Mâcon is a border city that was part of the country’s integral trading routes and makes for a fantastic place to explore. As a mid-sized city, Mâcon has a laid-back feel that makes it a pleasant city to explore, either on foot or even on a bicycle.
As you make your way around Mâcon, you are sure to bump into the ‘Maison de Bois’, known in English as the Wooden House. Built between the late 15th and early 16th century, the house is crafted from panelled wood and impressive animal motifs.
Arguably one of the most beautiful buildings in the region, the modern cafe and brasserie below give visitors even more reason to visit.
Heading a little further north, holidaymakers will come to the small commune of Pont-de-Vaux, a relaxing stop after being amongst the city waterways. Pont-de-Vaux is home to picturesque ochre-coloured buildings, creating a picture-postcard image of rural France, something that continuously draws in boaters to this region.
Taking a picturesque detour onto the River Seille
Following the river on its northerly route, you’ll have the chance to turn eastwards down the peaceful River Seille . This unassuming river twists and turns through the quiet French countryside, giving boaters a chance to leave the often busy waterway of the River Saône behind and enjoy the quieter side of Burgundy. As you make that turn-off, you will pass by the quaint commune town of La Truchère, a perfect place to get your bearings and even enjoy a quick stop-off.
Though there is very little to see in La Truchère itself, the La Truchère Nature Reserve close to the commune and river confluence is a must-visit.
A combination of sand dunes, grassland and wetlands welcomes both wildlife, awe-inspiring hikes and views of the surrounding landscapes.
Passing from the nature reserve the River Seille winds on northeasterly and arrives at the commune of Cuisery. Famous from the middle ages onwards for being the ‘village du livres’ or Village of Books, Cuisery has a long history of bookmaking, bookbinding and book trading. So much so that the town plays host to a grand bookseller market at the start of every month. Alongside this famous book reputation, the commune of Cusiery is also the home of the Eden Centre, a centre dedicated to natural history, space and the natural world.
Follow the Seille to the commune of Louhans
Travelling further east, your barge holiday along the Seille will come to an end at the commune of Louhans. Rather than being a dead-end, Louhans is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and is the perfect reward for making the detour down the River Seille. Capital of the Bresse Bourguignonne region, Louhans is renowned for its culinary significance, especially being a ‘site of remarkable taste’ or site remarquable du goût as it is known in France.
This award was given to Louhans and its surrounding area thanks to its world-famous poultry, known as Bresse chicken. Sought-after the world over, this gastronomical delight is reared locally and can be enjoyed freshly prepared in a number of local restaurants.
To see this bird in all its glory, and find out what it means to the culture of Louhans, stop by its famous poultry market. Taking place every Monday morning, it is not a sight to be missed when in the town.
Apart from the fantastic food, Louhans itself is a beautiful town in which to explore. The architecture of Louhans is dominated by medieval buildings and breathtaking arcaded streets. This architecture gives it its nickname, ‘the city of arches’, and with the longest arcaded street in all of France, this name is well-deserved. Keep a lookout for breath-taking buildings such as the Saint-Pierre church, adorned with glazed tiles, another of Louhans gems.
River Saône boat trip from Scey-sur-Saône
Explore the area before raising the anchor
Before setting out on this section of the River Saône, it is worth exploring the local commune of Scey-sur-Saône. This town is different from those you will find on the southern section of the river, offering impeccable views of the surrounding forests while at the same time giving holidaymakers a taste of French commune life. The history of Scey-sur-Saône goes back hundreds of years and was the first stronghold of the county of Burgundy. Although much of the ancient facade is gone, the overall feel and look of the commune has granted it the award known as the Small Cité Comtoises of Character.
Moving just a short way round the bend of the river will bring you within a short walk of the town of Vesoul. Immortalised by a French-language song sung by Jacques Brel, Vesoul is often overlooked by outsiders, which is a complete shame. The town’s medieval centre is a picturesque landscape of cobbled streets and idyllic buildings constructed from bluestone, ideal for a sunny afternoon walk. The town’s English garden is also worth a visit, and with ‘Remarkable Garden’ status, you know it won’t be just any garden. For one of the most impressive sites in the area,a trip to Lake Vesoul-Vaivre is a must. This two hundred acre lake is a combination of idyllic stillness and prime birdwatching territory.
Set your eyes on the Saône’s most northerly destination, Épinal
Although at the very reach of your northerly River Saône cruise, being equally close to the borders of Germany and Switzerland, the town of Épinal only encourages further exploration. Known for hundreds of years as the place for printing and print production, the town of Épinal is home to the Musée de l’Image. This printing museum preserves countless examples of press printing from down the centuries, including artisan presses and printing machines.
A meander through the town will bring you to the well-preserved medieval streets, buildings and cobblestoned market square. Perched on a hill at the town’s centre is the remains of a castle, now home to a twenty-acre park – perfect for a mid-day stroll before you head back to the boat for even more waterway exploration.
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