While famous for its mustard and medieval history, Dijon is in fact one of the best-kept secrets in France. The beautiful city has retained the friendly atmosphere of a much smaller town and is brimming with museums, galleries, shops and cafés. With so much to see and do, here is our list of the top things not to miss on your visit.
Palais des Ducs
The main and most spectacular of all the museums in Dijon, the Musée des Beaux Arts lives in the premises of the Ducal palace, once the seat of the awesome power of the court of Burgundy. The incredibly rich art collection is definitely worth a visit, as are the medieval kitchens that are are open for visits, and the pièce de résistance, the hall of the tombs of the dukes, where the world-famous Mourners sculptures await in their intriguing procession of white marble.
The 13th-century church of Notre Dame is a striking example of Gothic architecture, with a one-of-a-kind façade that features dozens of grotesques figures, some quite predictable, most downright strange. On the outside corner on Rue de la Chouette is the famous little stone carving of the owl, the symbol of Dijon, said to bring good luck to those who touch it with their left hand.
This is one of a number of streets in Dijon that are rich in history. Walking along the few blocks from Notre Dame to the end of the Rue de la Verrerie you can easily imagine you are out for your daily shopping in medieval times. The narrow street with its impeccable preserved façades is a magical promenade, lined with chic boutiques, art galleries and antique shops.
We couldn’t plan a visit to Dijon without mentioning the ubiquitous condiment. One of the main mustard brands, Maille, has a stunning boutique in a medieval building on the main pedestrian street with hundreds of varieties of traditional and innovative gourmet flavours that you can’t find anywhere else. The ingredient combinations are so mind-blowing that you’ll never look at the humble mustard pot in the same way again.
The Consortium is known for its dynamic international approach to emerging talent. The art center moved to its new home in 2011, welcoming visitors to over 4000 m² of space, and has held more than 200 amazing exhibitions since. Its missions are the production and exhibition of contemporary art, as well as its dissemination and training.
The most fabulous covered market is brimming with fresh produce, charcuterie, cheeses, wines, pastries… you name it. Not just for foodies, the market is such a hub of activity in the morning, that it makes for a wonderful spot to people-watch and get a sense for the rhythm of local life and the famous French art de vivre.
Following the 22-markers on the walking trail is a fun way to get your bearings around Dijon as you effortlessly learn about the local history and culture. Each numbered paver correspondents to a place of interest, and the whole trail can be done easily in two hours at a relaxed pace.
This is a mansion-sized time capsule. The home of collectors Jeanne and Maurice Magnin, the museum houses a rich collection of paintings, drawings and objects, which they left to the state in 1938. Under the terms of the donation, the home and every work of art must be exhibited exactly as specified by the Magnin’s.
The museum traces the history of human presence in Burgundy. The setting is magnificent, in the old Bénedictine Saint Benigne Abbey, with artifacts and treasures from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages.
The crypt under the church of Saint-Benigne is one of the oldest Christian sanctuaries in France. The mystical space retains the original layout while, above it, the ‘new’ cathedral was rebuilt in the 13th century.
This woodsy park was created in the 16th century by the Great Condé, then powerful Governor of Burgundy, and was designed to the fashion of the time, with a stunning treatment of perspective and a leafy tree-lined promenade that cuts across over 33 hectares of green space.
A beloved local institution, Mulot et Petitejean is the first business to have been appointed as ‘living heritage’ in Burgundy. They are the keepers of the tradition of the authentic Dijonnais gingerbread known as pain d’épices, a local favourite since medieval times. They have a charming boutique in the historic center, and their main bakery is located just a short walk from the train station, where a brand new museum is scheduled to open in June 2017 to tell the story of their 220 years in business.
This spectacular 17th-century mansion was built in the budding Renaissance style to impress visitors and communicate the importance of its owners. It is a beautiful example of the distinctive patterned tiled-roofs of Dijon, and the elegant and elaborate interior courtyard.
The site where the theatre stands today became available following the demolition of the Saint Chapelle church that was part of the Ducal Palace in the Middle Ages. The building, much in the form it is today, was completed in 1828 as the city’s main opera house and theatre offering a word-class programme of performances.
What used to be a commercial port on the busy Burgundy waterways has now been converted to a leisure marina for leisure boats and touring barges . The surrounding area features a lovely garden and a tree-lined promenade joining the canal with the nearby lake Kir.
This quirky museum is full of interesting detail. Located in the Bernadine Monastery, the exhibits showcase the costumes, household objects and daily routine of life in the Burgundy countryside. The museum also displays a crypt dating back to the 11th century and remains of the gate of the Roman legionnaire’s fortified camp, on which the church was erected.