Why Dijon Is the Perfect French Weekend Getaway

Editorial Manager

Known for its mustard and historical legacy as a seat of power for the Dukes of Burgundy, Dijon in eastern France is enjoying a renaissance as a city full of culture and modern cuisine. Here’s our guide to spending a long weekend here and how a new hotel opening is exciting visitors and locals alike.

Many will know the name Dijon but few have actually travelled here. The small city isn’t one of the first places that spring to mind when thinking of a holiday in France. Dijon is surrounded by rolling countryside where some of the most famous vineyards in the world, Gevrey- Chambertin, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Côte de Beaune, and more, rub shoulders with mustard fields and blackcurrant orchards. There are local liquors made from the fruit sourced nearby, and other tasty treats exclusive to the region can all be found here.

You can fly to nearby airports but if you’re planning a trip here for a short getaway nothing beats a train journey. The city is just over 90 minutes by TGV from Paris and you can easily connect to the excellent French rail network from the Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord.

Travelling by Eurostar from London is a breeze and cuts out the annoying hassle of getting to out-of-town airports. You can carry more luggage (and liquids) when going by rail, and this is especially useful if you’re planning on bringing back some of the outstanding produce from Dijon on your return.

Where to stay

Mama Shelter, on rue du Maret, next to Saint-Bénigne Cathedral and Jardin Darcy, is located in the former health insurance offices, a brutalist building from the 1960s, listed as a historic French building. “A large, luminous glass box, 6 minutes’ walk from the station, in the heart of the city,” explains Benjamin El Doghaïli, lead architect of the Mama Shelter design studio, reflecting on his latest “playground” and adding, “the atmosphere of Dijon is uplifting, inspiring, light and playful.”

Mama Shelter in Dijon

The reworked exterior is in keeping with the atmosphere the brand is best known for, with a pétanque strip welcoming you in from street level. The bright reception area has colourful touches that you can find throughout the city and the rooms give you the classic Mama ambience where anything goes and everyone is welcome.

“Mama has been ahead of society’s evolution, understanding the desire to see elsewhere, by setting up in towns, in regions, renowned for their gentle way of life, their traditions, their better ways of living together. It is therefore only natural that the latest addition to the Mama Shelter family should come to life in Dijon, where we look forward to welcoming you”, explains Serge Trigano, co-founder of Mama Shelter.

This regional approach is both in keeping with other Mama Shelter properties we’ve visited – in places like Rome and Paris but also a departure in many ways. There is a great emphasis on showcasing Dijon throughout the interior and welcoming in locals to join the party too.

Guests can head to the ground floor 202-seat restaurant to enjoy tasty, local cuisine such as charcoal grilled meats, signature cocktails, and classic Mama Dishes, as well as the Toile de Jouy-inspired décor. Visitors can enjoy Mama’s signature restaurant which opens onto two outdoor areas: the veranda terrace and the planted patio. Another highlight of the 120-room property is Mama Shelter’s CineMama, the hotel’s very own private 28-seat cinema where guests can hold private screenings or video conferences.

Available exclusively on property, Mama Shelter has created its own mustard in collaboration with Edmond Fallot, a family-run, independent company created in 1840. The Edmond Fallot house only uses seeds grown in the region and the traditional stone ground to preserve all their gustatory qualities. You can head to one of their stores which is five minutes away for a mustard tasting session if you want to sample some of the other unique flavours available in Dijon.

The last word goes to Cédric Gobilliard, Managing Director of Mama Shelter “Mama and Dijon share the same values of warm hospitality, festivity, and enjoyment. Mama Dijon hijacks the strong symbols of this wine region with humour, impertinence and respect to reveal it to its French and foreign guests.”

Things to do in Dijon

Dijon has plenty to offer visitors and locals alike, including remarkable architecture, with the highlight being the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, the oldest part of which dates from the 14th century. Having been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, Dijon is the International City of Gastronomy and Wine due to its unique culinary traditions and the “climates” of the Burgundy vineyards.

As the capital city of the historical Burgundy region in eastern France, Dijon is one of the country’s principal wine-making areas. The distinguished 1787 Musée des Beaux-Arts, housed in the vast Palace of the Dukes, holds a rich collection of paintings, sculptures and crafts. On Sundays a charming antiques fair operates out side the old market and there are a number of vintage shops for anyone looking for cheap clothes with a French style.

Look up at the rooftops here and you’ll notice colourful tiles according many of the buildings. The cathedral opposite Mama Shelter is a great example of this and it all stems from an historical practice whereby wealth and power were shown by glorifying the tops of the buildings you owned. The tradition is more for tourists now, but it does give you an exceptionally pleasing view wherever you look.

Another tradition everyone in the city known is the one centered around a carved owl. You are supposed to rub the stone sculpture for good luck but it has become such a popular attraction that the small owl has been virtually rubbed to nothing!

Visiting the mustard shops here is a must. They are all slightly different and moreover they tend to serve great local delicacies that you can sample before you buy.

The city has retained varied architectural styles from many of the main periods of the past millennium, including Capetian, Gothic, and Renaissance and holds an International and Gastronomic Fair every Autumn with over 500 exhibitors and 200,000 visitors annually.

Mama Shelter’s Dijon property has taken great inspiration from the city. In the covered terrace you’ll find a playful take on a merry-go-round that was dedicated to Gustave Eiffel, who was born here. The original has recently been damaged by fire but the homage Mama has in place is enough to inspire visitors to keep coming back.

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