Auxerre river view

Auxerre – Introduction

Auxerre, the capital of the Yonne department in Burgundy, is the fourth-largest city in the region, with a population of approximately 35,000 people. The urban area, which includes the surrounding regions that are attracted to the city, is home to roughly 113,000 inhabitants.

People from Auxerre are known as Auxerrois. The city is an important commercial and industrial center with a range of industries including food production, woodworking, and batteries. It is also famous for its Burgundy wine production, such as Chablis. Additionally, Auxerre was given the title “Town of Art and History” in 1995.

During the Gallo-Roman period, Auxerre was a prosperous center known as Autissiodorum. It was situated on the Via Agrippa, a major road that crossed the Yonne (known as Icauna in Gallo-Roman times) in the 1st century AD. By the 3rd century, Auxerre had become the seat of a bishop and a provincial capital of the Roman Empire. A cathedral was constructed in the city during the 5th century. In the 11th and 12th centuries, the feudal counts of Auxerre built new walls around the city, which included the existing communities.

Auxerre developed into a thriving commune in the 12th century, with bourgeois activities accompanying traditional land and wine cultivation. The city became part of France under King Louis XI, but it suffered during the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of Religion. The Huguenots captured Auxerre in 1567, resulting in damage to many Catholic structures. In the 18th century, the medieval ramparts were demolished. In the 19th century, the city experienced significant growth with the construction of new infrastructure such as a railway station, a psychiatric hospital, and courts. New quarters were developed on the right bank of the Yonne.

Until the early 20th century, Auxerre was one of the most prosperous cities in the region. However, the local authorities at the time declined to establish a railway in Auxerre and instead opted for the village of Migennes. This decision marked the beginning of the town’s economic decline….

…. and it shows!

NOTE: My camera malfunctioned at times and the photos are overexposed. I have tried saving as much as I could, but often the colorings are wrong. The photos that I am showing which were overexposed are marked with a “*”.

The Old City Centre

Despite the city being 2000 years old, it has not that much to show for itself. A quick look at the old buildings will show you that a) there are not that many for an old city like Auxerre, and b) they are not in good shape.

Former HospitalArchivesSaint-Jean TowerMilitary HospitalEntranceAbbeyChapelClock TowerBehind Clock Tower
Former hospital, now senior citizen home and a vineyardFormer hospital, now senior citizen home and a vineyard
Part of the castle walls, now the municipal archivesPart of the castle walls, now the municipal archives
The Saint-Jean bell tower (in front of the Abbey of Saint-Germain d'Auxerre)The Saint-Jean bell tower (in front of the Abbey of Saint-Germain d’Auxerre)
Former Military HospitalFormer Military Hospital
Entrance to Military HospitalEntrance to Military Hospital
Abbey of Saint-Germain d'AuxerreAbbey of Saint-Germain d’Auxerre
Chapel of the Auxerre seminaireChapel of the Auxerre seminaire
La Tour de l'Horloge (The Clock Tower)La Tour de l’Horloge (The Clock Tower)
Other side of the La Tour de l'HorlogeOther side of the La Tour de l’Horloge

The first photo shows you an old hospital now used for senior citizens. In front of it you will see grape vines. This belongs to one of the oldest urban wine growers (Le clos de la Chainette) in France.

Of course, the most important and biggest old building is the Saint-Etienne d’Auxerre Cathedral:

Saint-Etienne d'Auxerre Cathedral
Saint-Etienne d’Auxerre Cathedral

More on this cathedral in a upcoming article. Click here to read our review of the cathedral.

Streets of Auxerre

In the old city centre, streets are narrow and overrun by cars. You will find cars parked everywhere since there are no big public car parks around. Pollution is also rampant.

There are pedestrian only shopping streets, but often there are cars there as well.

Old StreetOld StreetRuinsOld StreetOld Street
Old Street of AuxerreOld Street of Auxerre
Old Street of AuxerreOld Street of Auxerre
Ruined houseRuined house
Old Street of AuxerreOld Street of Auxerre
Old Street of AuxerreOld Street of Auxerre

Most of the houses you see are still in a reasonable state, apart from being dirty from pollution.

If you are walking the streets of Auxerre, you might come across this statue:

Statue of Marie Noel
Statue of Marie Noel *

It’s a statue of Marie Rouget (1883 – 1967) known by the pen-name Marie Noël. She was a French poet, a devout Catholic laywoman and officer of the Legion d’honneur. She was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1960.

Some of the buildings

Here is an overview of some of the buildings you can see when walking in the old city centre of Auxerre.

ShopMairie *StreetHousesShopsBankLCL BankWoodHouse & ShopHousesFountainSquareFountain *
City Hall *City Hall *
Shopping StreetShopping Street
LCL BankLCL Bank
House & ShopHouse & Shop
Fountain *Fountain *

Yonne River

The Yonne river is omnipresent in Auxerre. Alongside the river is a nice promenade for pedestrians and bicycles. The view from this walk is impressive, and in my opinion, the best one of the city.

View of Auxerre at the Yonne riverView of Auxerre at the Yonne river
View of Auxerre at the Yonne riverView of Auxerre at the Yonne river
Passerelle de la Liberte (pedestrian bridge)Passerelle de la Liberte (pedestrian bridge)
Paul Bert Bridge & statuePaul Bert Bridge & statue

The last photo above has a statue on a bridge. Both the bridge and the statue are named after Paul Bert (1833 – 1886) a French zoologist, physiologist and politician. He is sometimes given the sobriquet “Father of Aviation Medicine”. He was born in Auxerre.

El Camino – Saint-Jacques Compostela

Auxerre is one of the main cross-points/meeting points for the Camino (the Saint-Jacques Compostela pilgrimage).

El Camino - Saint-Jacques Compostela
El Camino – Saint-Jacques Compostela


Auxerre may not be a destination that you absolutely must visit, so there’s no need to go out of your way to see it. However, if you happen to be in the area, it could be worth taking a day trip to explore the city. Keep in mind that if you are planning to drive there, finding a parking spot might be a challenge.

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