In the heart of the vineyards of Burgundy, the capital, Dijon, is a haven for foodies as well as wine lovers. But beyond the culinary delights, you’ll find history galore – from the Palace of the Dukes and States of Burgundy to the gothic cathedral, built in the 14th century, which marks the centre of this striking French city.
The historical city of Dijon is perfect for those who like to meander on foot. Follow the brass owls to stumble on 18th-century palaces, gothic architecture, thriving marketstalls and delicious gingerbread. Then head into the countryside for a mouthwatering glimpse into the region‘s famous wine and mustard-making prowess. Here are the top things to do on your next trip to Dijon.
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon
Located in the eastern wing of the Palace of the Dukes and States of Burgundy, this is one of the oldest museums in France. Since opening to the public in 1799, the museum has amassed more than 130,000 works. There are masterpieces spanning ancient times, through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, to the modern day. Entry is completely free, while guided tours are available for a small fee. Open every day except Tuesday, it is also fully accessible to visitors with reduced mobility.
Go Gothic at Cathédrale Saint-Bénigne de Dijon
Dedicated to the persecuted martyr, Saint Benignus of Dijon, this cathedral is a Gothic marvel that hurtles visitors back to the 13th century, when it was built. The relatively conservative façade gives little hint of the building’s hidden flourishes inside. This includes a snazzy polychrome roof, a marble sculpted doorway – above it sits an imposing 18th-century organ – and teardrop pendant lamps hanging from the ceiling.
Follow the owl trail to the Jardin Botanique de l’Arquebuse
Dijon‘s owl trails are the perfect way to navigate around the city on foot, as small brass owls (known as “chouettes” in French) are embedded into the pavements to point the way. Grab a map from the tourist office for exact locations – the serene botanic gardens is one of them. Kids will love the animal sculptures and duck pond, while adults may be interested to learn about the medicinal plants that the gardens specialise in. Here you can also find the Natural History Museum.
Get active at Kir Lake
West of the city centre, a 10-minute drive away, or just under an hour on foot, you’ll find Kir Lake, named after the former mayor of the city who oversaw the artificial lake’s completion in 1964. A stroll around the water’s edge is a fine way to spend an easygoing couple of hours. If you’re looking to up the tempo, you can rent bikes or boats, while there are also exercise stations alongside the kids’ play areas. Alternatively, try out the nine-hole disc golf course, which is a smart and fun use of the green spaces.
Taste the gingerbread from Mulot et Petitjean
The delicious gingerbread produced by this family business, founded in 1796, is famed for the methodical way in which it is made. Wheat flour and honey form the dough, which is then left to stand for a minimum of two weeks. It’s at this point that the dough is introduced to egg yolk, baking powder and the blend of spices that infuse it with the same time-honoured taste it would have had more than 200 years ago. Just as impressive are the vintage shops dotted around the city.
Try before you buy at Les Halles Market
The echoing din that reverberates under Gustave Eiffel’s iron roof gives away the excitement that Dijon residents have for their lively food market. Make no mistake, sourcing the finest produce is serious business in Burgundy, and the best way to get involved is to turn up with a rumbling stomach. Whether it’s pungent cheese, juicy seasonal fruits, or a slab of jambon persillé (parsley ham), don’t be shy in asking the vendors for a taste.
Go wine-tasting at Domaine de Montmain
A scenic half-hour drive south of Dijon towards the village of Vosne-Romanée is where you’ll find this prestigious Burgundy vineyard. Sign up for a tour and you’ll be greeted by welcoming sommelier Yoan, who will educate you on the process of winemaking from vine to bottle. He’ll outline the four grape varieties used here, including chardonnay and pinot noir, and – of course – offer you a taste, pouring directly from the 228-litre (50g) barrels.
Cut the mustard at La Moutarderie Edmond Fallot
It goes without saying that any visitor to Dijon should come away with new insight into the humble mustard seed. The Edmond Fallot shop, on Rue de la Chouette in central Dijon, stocks every mustard product you’ve ever thought about, and plenty that you haven’t. There’s even a mustard bar where you can fill your own jar. For the full experience, head to the workshop in Beaune, which features a museum-style tour and a free tasting.
Don your leathers for the Coupes Moto Légende
Bikers assemble! If you’ve ever dreamt of sharing a racetrack with racing legends like Carl Fogarty, Steve Baker, and Giacomo Agostini, then make sure you – and your motorbike – are in Dijon in mid-September. More than 1,300 bikes, vintage and new, are on display alongside 300 exhibitors at the 3.8km (2.4mi) Circuit de Dijon-Prenois. Outside the annual two-day parade, the track can be privately hired throughout the year for personal driving courses.
Climb Philippe Le Bon tower
Dijon is not a tall city, with the 46m (150ft) Philippe le Bon tower one of its few high-rises; at the heart of the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, it’s the best you’ll find in the city. Access is as tricky as one might expect for a 15th-century building, including more than 300 steps on a spiral staircase. The good news is, the ticket price includes a tour guide who will stop at several points to offer historical information (and a welcome breather).
Alex Locker contributed additional reporting to this article.
Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.