While known for its show-stopping medieval architecture and opulent 18th-century mansions, Dijon also reveals its life story through its parks and gardens. If you know where to look, there are traces of the city’s long and illustrious history at every step. From the most minimal zen to elaborate curlicue, these idyllic spots frame the perfect tableau for a sporty or relaxing break far away from the cares of the world.
This lovely landscaped garden was set up to decorate the town’s drinking water supply. It is the first public park created in Dijon. Jardin Darcy’s main feature is the grand water fountain and gazebo. This is the location of the well-known ‘Pompon’ polar bear sculpture, an homage to French sculptor Françoise Pompon, a one-time studio assistant to Rodin.
Home to the Natural History Museum, this park includes a botanical garden and arboretum. It’s not only a relaxing and stunning place to go for a walk, or take a break from sightseeing, but it is also a fascinating learning experience. In the 16th century, this was the residence of the musketeers regiment, and after the Revolution it became national property until a scientist turned a part of the grounds into a botanical garden. Today the vast green space holds great scientific interest, particularly the medicinal garden, a living biodiversity repository nurturing over 2500 varieties that are the subject of the yearly academic catalogue of medicinal plant varieties.
Following a long life as an important commercial dock on the Burgundy waterways, the Port du Canal is now a leisure marina surrounded by a gorgeous garden all along the former port basin. It is a dreamscape of gently gliding swans, lazy peniches bobbing at their moorings and a shady promenade lined with established trees.
This 2.2km tree-lined path snakes along the banks of the river linking the Port du Canal to the lake. It’s a favourite choice for joggers and cyclists.
Nothing but the best for the design of this beautiful garden. None other than Le Nôtre, landscaper of Versailles, dispatched his best disciple to create a special slice of green heaven. The park was created in the 16th century by the Great Condé, Governor of Burgundy, and kept on being developed over the years. This included the taming of the river Castel into a straight line, to comply with the formal principles of perspective that were Le Nôtre’s signature. The manicured park is impeccably maintained and includes the remains of the Roman Via Agrippa.
This elongated park was created in 1671 in the form of a wide boulevard. It stretches over 1.5 km starting from Place Wilson, is flanked by elegant mansions, and was touted as one of the most stunning promenades in the times of Louix XIV. This is no small compliment seeing that the court was used to Le Nôtre’s landscaped grandeur in Versailles.
Among the lasting legacy of the post-war mayor of Dijon, two memorials stand out. One is the iconic Kir cocktail, made with a splash of cassis liqueur and a generous glug of aligoté wine, the other is this man-made lake in the western end of the city. Félix Kir was mayor until 1968, and the 37-hectare lake that bears his name has successfully become a focal point for picnics, walks, casual camping and water sports, with over 30 hectares of green space surrounding it.
A little hidden square behind the Palais des Ducs that is home to the sensational Musée des Beaux Arts, the Square des Ducs features the statue of Philip the Good. This little place is what remains from a rather large garden created for the wife of Philip the Bold, and is today a favourite spot for locals to relax on a bench near the fountain in the shade of the beautiful silver lime and purple-beech trees.
This huge park on the west side of the city covers over 30 hectares of green natural spaces, including cycling and walking paths that will take you by a few little stone huts called cadoles that used to be typical of vineyards in Burgundy. They were erected by winegrowers in the corners of their plots as a shelter to get out of the rain. They look prehistoric but in fact they are ‘just’ over two centuries old.
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