Dijon has always been a transportation hub, all the way back to the 9th century when it was known as Divio by the Romans. During the Middle Ages, it was the seat of power of one of the most powerful courts in Europe, the Dukes of Burgundy. The city is brimming with outstanding architecture, some dating back to the 15th century, astonishingly well preserved.
The ducal palace is the home of one of the most beautiful museums in France, the Musée des Beaux Arts de Dijon, founded in 1787. The priceless collection includes stunning pieces from Antiquity, Middle-Ages, and the Renaissance as well as masterpieces stretching from the 17th century to the 21st century. The museum also houses the tombs of Philippe the Bold and John the Fearless, that include the intriguing alabaster figurines known as The Mourners in their base. This stunning museum is in illustrious company as Dijon is home to other jewels like the Musée Magnin, Musée Archéologique, Musée Rude and the quirky Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne.
Dijon has a long foodie tradition, harking back to its time as a crossroads for travellers and a market hub; evidenced in the fabulous produce and regional specialties to be found in the covered market of Les Halles. The city also boasts an incredible selection of fine-dining restaurants, with a constellation of Michelin stars, excellent places to enjoy a sweet treat, and even the French rarity that is a warm welcome for vegetarians. In 2019 Dijon is welcoming the new Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie et du Vin, a major gourmet and tourism complex with restaurants, a hotel, workshops, tastings, cultural spaces, cinemas and shopping – yet another reason to plan a visit to this fascinating city.
The Route des Grands Crus starts in Dijon and weaves through the most celebrated of Burgundy vineards, before passing through the beautiful city of Beaune and ending in Santenay further south. The wine route joins 38 picturesque wine villages of the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune, and wineries – over a length of 60km of stunning countryside.
The greater Dijon urban area has a population of 255,000 but you would never guess from the laid back feel of its streets. This is partly because the Dijonnais are inherently cool and committed to the very French concept of vivre ensemble; but also because the efficient transport network – with the high-speed train, tram and bike-share systems, the walkable medieval center and the lovely parks, the canal, the lake and leisure facilities available to all.
For an eye-opening tasting session try one of the local delicacies, including escargots (the much maligned but utterly delicious garlicky snails), pain d’épices (a sweeter version of gingerbread), the cassis blackcurrant – used in anything from champagne cocktails to jams – and of course, the mustard.
As any art aficionado knows, masterpieces are not restricted to museums and this city has superb sculptures and statues on display in public spaces. Dijon also has a vibrant contemporary art scene, with an active and forward-looking beating heart, Le Consortium, and a strong presence of independent galleries; plus two large opera halls, and a dynamic cultural calendar packed with concerts, exhibitions, performances and festivals.
The charming pedestrianized center of Dijon is home to the most recognizable names like Hermes, Longchamps, Galeries Lafayette. The city is speckled with one-of-a-kind boutiques, gourmet vendors and small designers shops where you can spend endless hours lost in a warren of wonders, stopping frequently for a café and pastry, or an aperitif.
The city plays host to the full spectrum of visitors, from businessmen to congress-goers to families and solo travellers – and there is accommodation to fit every need. The city offers a wide choice of beautiful boutique hotels and even palaces you can stay in, to make your trip even more memorable.
There’s generations of know-how in the streets, cellars, wine bars and specialists in this wine lover’s paradise. In Dijon you can learn the fascinating history of Burgundy wines, visit the nearby vineyards and wine makers, and enjoy wine tastings for all levels of wine enthusiasm; from the inveterate oenophile to the freshman debutant.