Explore the Loire Valley: Four Towns along the River Yonne and Canal du Nivernais

Read about four unmissable towns along the Canal Yonne and Canal Nivernais and be inspired for your next boating holiday in France.

The enchanting French Loire Valley is comprised of many waterways that are rich in history and natural beauty. These waterways have become home to one of the world’s most exclusive wines, ancient Roman ruins and an important pilgrimage site. In this post we will look at four towns along the Yonne and Nivernais canals that contribute to its rich character.



  1.    Chablis
  2.   Auxerre
  3.     Mailly le Chateau
  4.     Vezelay





Also known as the Golden Gate of Burgundy, Chablis is a town that is an absolute must-do on your itinerary. Chablis is world renowned for its distinct and most celebrated Chablis wines of the Loire Valley. Wine-making began here in the medieval ages by the local monks who harvested the vines during the 1100s.

Besides wine tasting, the town of Chablis holds a medieval charm that has been around since the 800 AD. There are some authentic Burgundy-styled architecture, a few cathedrals and a fort.




Aurxerre is a beautiful historic town along the Yonne canal, and was once the main port for maritime trade between the North and Mediterranean seas. Auxerre offers a fantastic look back in time to France’s once thriving medieval era. Originally, the town comprised of a series of religious havens and prospered due to the thriving port trade on the rivers.

Auxerre is a car-free town, and offers plenty to see. It’s the ultimate treat for history lovers and gives you a first-hand look into early Gallo-Roman culture of the region. The beautiful Gothic Auxerres Cathedral is home to some of the oldest and most beautiful stained glass works, while the Abbey St. Germaine has some of the best preserved surviving manuscripts and frescoes that lie within its ancient foundations. A popular site is the 15th century Clock Tower that lies in a fairy tale myriad of old streets. You won’t be disappointed by the traditional food and wine offerings in Axerres which will take you back in time.

Mailly le Chateau

Mailly le Chateau is a medieval castle that once served as a lookout and fortification between the Yonne and Nivernais rivers. The castle’s high positon over the rich wine valley made it an excellent defence again invaders coming through the Mediterranean. This beautiful castle has survived through countless warfare over the centuries.

Mailly le Chateau is open to visitors who would love the opportunity to see this historical treasure that lies above an ancient vault.




Vezelay is considered one of France’s most beautiful towns and most prolific. It is home to the infamous Basilica of Mary Magdalene, which is one of the acclaimed final resting places of this biblical figure. The relics (or bones) of Mary Magdalene were brought here in the first century by a monk and their authenticity verified by Pope Stephen in 1058.

Vezelay has since been a popular pilgrimage site and over the years many disputes and wars have occurred over the ownership of the town. The town has a history that dates back to 2300 BC when the first human inhabitants lived along the salt fountains. It was eventually taken over the ancient Romans who planted the first vines in the region and built a temple to honour the wine God Bacchus. Vezelay is full of mystery, intrigue and spirituality. It is also one of the few last non-commercialised places that gives you a glimpse into ancient France. Best spots to visit is the Magdalene Basilica, the Vezelay Abbey and St. Pere to visit the ancient Roman ruins.


Are you ready to explore one of the most beautiful wine-making regions in France?