Dijon, the capital of the bountiful Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region of France, has an abundance of historic landmarks and cultural attractions, as well as its exceptional gastronomy. With so much to see, this guide will help you make the best of a short break to this flourishing city, one of the best-kept travel secrets in France.
To start with a taste of local life, after a typical breakfast of coffee and a flaky croissant in any of the wonderful patisseries, it’s straight to the fabulous Les Halles covered market. If Dijon is a capital of gastronomy then this is its high temple. Even if you’re not planning to stock up on the fresh produce, cheese and charcuterie on offer, it is worth a visit to people-watch and observe the cogs of the French art de vivre machine in action. In the market there’s a quirky walk-up bar that has a reputation for selecting the best wines to serve by the bottle, especially those that you’ll never find in the shops. The perfect time for an aperitif is before closing time while deciding on which of the many great restaurants and bistros surrounding the market to go to for lunch.
Time to get serious. Dijon is packed with history and there’s a great way to get a general overview without the need of getting in too deep. A walking trail marked by little owls on bronze pavers goes by the main points of interest. There’s a companion app that tells you the story of each one keyed to the numbers on each stop, and can be covered in about two hours. Also at each site there is a larger numbered owl plaque with a description of the site, and you can make a mental note of the places you want to see more of on your next visit.
The end of the day brings the promise of a journey to the heart of Burgundy and one of the great French gifts to humanity, the repas gastronomique. Pick any of the myriad fine dining establishments in the city to enjoy a multiple course meal paired with a joyful sampling of the prized Burgundy wines. For the appetizer, dare you sample the traditional escargots à la Bourguignonne?
Time to get moving; this morning it’s all about getting around Dijon on two wheels. Grab a picnic in one of the many gourmet stores in town, not forgetting a delicious dessert, then head out to one of the great parks to learn more about the city and its local life. There are over 40 bike-share rental drop-off points all over town, and miles of marked trails. The botanical gardens are a firm favorite or check out the port du canal, where you can glide gently by.
The fine arts museum in Dijon is nothing short of spectacular. Depending on your interest, there are sections dedicated to medieval art, Renaissance collections, 20th-century history and even contemporary works. It is set in the Palace of the Ducs, once the seat of one of the most powerful courts in Europe. A visit is a must not just for its historic relevance but also because of its collection of painting and sculptures, one of the most important in France. Don’t miss the hall of the tombs of the Dukes of Burgundy and the striking marble ‘mourner’ figurines.
It’s time to see the doctor. The wine doctor, that is. Just a short stroll from the museum there are plenty of wine bars and romantic restaurants to pick from, and our choice tonight is Dr. Wine, a great spot near the market with a great selection of bottles for wine tasting, with a board of local charcuterie, or foie gras and toast, and delicious local dishes according to the season. Make a note of your favorite labels to get a few bottles back home to remind you of the great time you had on your two-day visit to Dijon!