When traveling solo, location is more important than ever. Think of getting back to your lodgings after dark, or at a time when public transport runs less frequently. Any of the boutique hotels in the historical center of Dijon are a safe bet, because by reason of their more manageable size they are able to notice you and offer more personalized service. The convenience of being within walking distance of the main attractions, within easy reach of the high-speed train station, and surrounded by inviting places to eat are worth paying a little extra for the location.
Dijon is one of those amazing towns that has an abundant cultural life and heritage but is not too big to retain its human scale. The downside to this is that the downtown area has a surprising way of going from buzzing to tumble weeds in 60 seconds flat. Make a note of opening hours, because as soon as shops close the pedestrian area goes quiet very quickly. Plan ahead to pick a place near your hotel for dinner, or somewhere where you can easily get back from on the tram or by taxi.
A favorite pastime in French cities is the flânerie, the word used to describe the pleasure of an aimless leisurely stroll. Dijon is a playground for the dedicated flâneur. This is one of those times when it’s best to be alone, because usually no two people have the same flânerie rhythm. Linger at will, pick up the pace when you are hungry, but above all, lift your eyes and marvel at the medieval architecture in Dijon’s spectacularly well-preserved historic center. The walking trail marked with a little owl on bronze pavers is a great way to see the main sights and get a feel for the illustrious history of one of the most important centers of power in medieval Europe.
A good table in Dijon is not hard to find. The capital of the region of Burgundy and Franche-Comté is known as a gastronomic hub in France. Anything from informal bistros to Michelin-starred fine-dining temples are at your fingertips. Highly trained staff at a gastronomic restaurant will not bat an eyelid at a person booking a table for one but if that’s not your thing, there’s the option to stop at one of the lovely cafés and order a light meal while sitting on a less formal café-style table, and enjoy a spot of people-watching. Pull up a chair, order a local Kir or a glass of crémant, the local answer to champagne, and plan your next adventure.
As with any urban center, keeping your wits about you is key. Dijon is very safe, but still it is advisable not to lose sight of your belongings; there’s no need to carry too much cash — credit cards are accepted everywhere. Taking the tram is easy and safe, and there’s no need to venture to the end of the line, staying within the historical and shopping districts is the best way to avoid attracting unwanted attention.
For a lovely way to see one of Dijon’s beautiful parks and enjoy a break from sightseeing, renting a bike is easy and inexpensive. Just head to the nearest Velodi station with your credit card and voilá. Having your own wheels gives you a great deal of independence and, even better, allows you to carry your picnic with you and find a fabulous scenic spot for an al fresco meal. While drivers are generally mindful of cyclists, make sure to stick to the well-marked cycling lanes.
An unaccompanied tourist blends much better with the locals. Follow the trail of the morning pilgrimage to the bakery, then to the fabulous Les Halles covered market. Taste, prod, admire the quality ingredients and unusual selections. Attend wine-tasting session; join a culinary demonstration; ask for advice. (Remember to say bonjour before you launch into the question, it’s the local way). Explore the shops, from antiques to art to name brands and exclusive boutiques – depending on your level of shopping or foodie enthusiasm – Dijon is a feast for the senses.