Abbaye de Fontenay, Montbard, Burgundy
Tel: 33 3 80 92 15 00
Concierge.com's insider take:
Founded in 1118 by Saint Bernard and finished in 1147, Fontenay Abbey is a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture and one of the oldest Cistercian monasteries in Europe. After being abandoned during the French Revolution, the complex was converted into a paper mill, and it took decades to restore it to its former glory (work began in 1906, but the scientifically executed restoration began in 1960). Today, the abbey is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a place of rare beauty. Tucked away in a quiet green valley in northeastern Burgundy, it seems as if it's in the middle of nowhere, but in reality, the down-to-earth town of Montbard (with its TGV high-speed train station) is only a few miles away, as are major attractions such as the Canal de Bourgogne, the Gallic archaeological site of Alésia/Alise-Ste.-Reine, and the medieval village of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain. Highlights of the abbey include the rib-vaulted Council Room, monks' sleeping quarters, bakery building and forge, landscaped garden, gatehouse, and tower. Guided tours last about an hour.—David Downie
Open daily 10 am to noon and 2 to 5 pm, November 11 through March 31; 10 am to 6 pm April through June and September through November; 10 am to 7 pm in July and August.