Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, the town where Chocolat was filmed

Written by on September 30, 2013 in Burgundy

town where chocolat was filmed

“Travelling through Burgundy, just a little north of Dijon, I saw a signpost indicating the village of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain. I knew of this little town and I just had to leave the beaten track to go and explore. I just could not resist it” says Francophile, ‘Chocolat’ fan and travel writer Bob Lyons…

town where chocolat was filmedA couple of years ago I bought a book as part of a job lot in a charity shop. The book was called ‘Chocolat’ and was written by Joanne Harris. I suppose it cost me about 25 pence but it was worth its weight in gold and is, I think, the best story that I have ever read.

I was enthralled by its fictional tale of humanity and tenacity. It concerned a mother with her young daughter opening a ‘chocolaterie’ just before Easter in a French village. The tale of their survival and the ultimate flourish of their business was a truly inspiring tale.

The book was later made into a film called ‘Chocolat’ and the village chosen for most of the filming was this very Flavigny-sur-Ozerain that I was approaching.

town where chocolat was filmedFlavigny sits high on a rock and is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France. The origin of the town goes back to the eighth century. It was constructed around a Benedictine Abbey founded by a certain Widerard in the year 719. The Abbey is still present but part of it is used now as a factory producing Anise pastilles. This is a very special and unique local product. The Anise is based on a recipe created by the early monks many centuries ago. You can buy them in beautifully printed tins exclusively presenting the village.

Associated with the Benedictine Abbey is a botanical garden. Plants from the garden are used to produce textiles, wicker baskets and rope. Other than the local hotels and restaurants, the Anise and the textiles support the bulk of the local Flavigny economy.

During the mid ninth century, local villages were subjected to Viking raids and the more difficult to reach location of Flavigny, on its rock foundation, made it seem more secure. The village was used as a storage home for local religious relics. The remains of some of these are celebrated to this day and are taken in procession annually to their original location.

town where chocolat was filmedFortifications or ramparts were constructed in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in a failed attempt to prevent the English invasion during the 100 years war. Parts of these fortifications remain. Visitors can walk along them and view the Port du Val and the Port du Bourg which are inner and outer village entry points. As you stroll along this route around Flavigny, the view of the French countryside spread out below is truly spectacular.

town where chocolat was filmed

The eighteenth century brought the construction of a new home for the local Abbot. The old Benedictine buildings were left to slowly decay and the staunch religious foundations of the village were faltering. By the time the French Revolution came along, there were just a handful of monks left. There is, however, a separate parish Church away from the older buildings. It was built in dedication of St. Genest. This Catholic Church survived degeneration and remains in service to this day. It is featured in many scenes in the film.

town where chocolat was filmedThe winter population is about three hundred people but a number of houses are used as a summer residences by people from Switzerland, Germany, America and even Australia and there are many artists and creative people in residence.

I visited Flavigny mainly because I wanted to see how the reality of the village compared to the film. It was just an ordinary inquisitiveness about film locations and actors. I think we all find such prying adventures a little enticing. I had recently seen the ‘Chocolat’ movie and wanted to visit the scenes for myself. Places in the real world can often be so different from what is perceived. However in this case, many of the sights and buildings in the streets were easily recognisable. From the Church of St. Genest, the square in front of it and the pathways down to the chocolaterie – they were instantly recognisable. The film was charming. It presented a lonely village going about its own business maintaining a self imposed form of isolated tranquillity. It was that very same impression that I felt as I strolled around the medieval, cobbled streets. It was surely a perfect choice of location by the film director Lasse Hallstrom.

Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp, Dame Judy Dench and many other celebrated personalities appeared in the film although apparently Johnny Depp never filmed any part of his appearance here in Flavigny despite living in France! They successfully created an atmosphere of a rural and isolated 1950’s France that permitted no invasions from a wider and externally evolving post war culture.

If you visit the town there are some nice places to stay, charming shops and restaurants, but it is the town itself that is the real jewel. The village style is solidly medieval, built of stone and in constant need of restoration. Flavigny is sophisticated and soaked in its own self-created, unique culture. You can instantly sense this as you park by the heavily fortified entrance gate.

I highly recommend you read Joanna Harris’ Chocolat or see the film before you go and prime your senses to prepare for the experience.

Joanne Harris talks exclusively to The Good Life France

Related Articles

The best museums in Dijon Burgundy

Dijon, capital of Burgundy, is a city of culture, history and exquisite architecture, a living museum in itself. There are so many cultural venues to visit, it’s hard to know where to begin. Surrounded by vineyards and stunning countryside, it really is an absolute jewel of a French city. Plus there are fabulous restaurants and wine […]

Continue Reading

Things to do in winter in Burgundy

Things to do in winter in Burgundy

Written by on December 3, 2019 in Burgundy

Winter is a great time to visit Burgundy. Its vineyards are known throughout the world and a little chill in the air adds something to the sublime wines from Gevrey-Chambertin, Nuits-St-Georges, Vosne-Romanée and Chablis, to name just a few. And, there’s plenty of things to do in winter in Burgundy… Dijon Dijon, the capital of […]

Continue Reading

What to see and do in Dijon, Burgundy

What to see and do in Dijon, Burgundy

Written by on October 28, 2019 in Burgundy

If you love cities filled with beautiful, historic buildings. If you love fantastic food and wonderful wines. And if you love museums, galleries, sitting at terraced cafés watching the world go by as you sip a delicious local wine, impossibly fabulous street markets, great wine bars and a vibrant friendly vibe – then add Dijon […]

Continue Reading

Where to eat out in Dijon Burgundy

Where to eat out in Dijon Burgundy

Written by on August 19, 2019 in Burgundy

Dijon is foodie central. Seriously food is on everyone’s lips, not literally of course, but its the most popular topic of conversation – or at least that’s what it feels like. People in Dijon LOVE good food so there are plenty of eateries from magnificent Michelin starred restaurants to tasty budget bistros. Here’s where to […]

Continue Reading

What to see and do in Beaujolais Burgundy

France is full of gorgeous wine regions. From Alsace and its fairy tale villages to Cassis and its vineyards that nearly touch the Mediterranean Sea. And then there’s Beaujolais. Its vine-covered hillsides are as pretty as any in France. You’ll find it in the south of Burgundy, a region that’s world famous for its wines. […]

Continue Reading


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.