In the 11th and 12th centuries Vézelay was one of the most important places of pilgrimage in the Christian world. Today the hilltop village is picturesque and somewhat isolated. Its one main street, Rue St-Étienne, climbs steeply and stirringly to the summit and its medieval basilica, world famous for its Romanesque sculpture. In summer you have to leave your car at the bottom and walk up. Off-season you can drive up and look for parking in the square.
In addition to the artistic treasures of Basilique Ste-Madeleine, Vézelay has other Romanesque-era delights. Hiding below its narrow ruelles (small streets) are several medieval cellars that once sheltered pilgrims. Sections of several houses have arches and columns dating from the 12th and 13th centuries: don't miss the hostelry across from the tourist office and, next to it, the house where Louis VII, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the king's religious supremo Abbé Suger stayed when they came to hear St. Bernard preach the Second Crusade in 1146.