The town of Dijon has something for everyone – history, gastronomy and the most famous wines of the world. A short distance from Paris, it is the perfect place to start your French sojourn, and a well-coordinated tourism department makes it easy to plan your trip. In July 2015, the historic centre of Dijon was listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. By Ruma Singh
Since Burgundy is renowned for its stunning wines, and is home to some of the most famous labels, a trip to the vineyards is called for. The 65 km long Route des Grand Cru rolls through vineyards and villages, from Dijon to Beaune, the region’s wine capital. The vineyards along the route from Dijon include 32 of the 33 Grand Crus from Burgundy (33 is Chablis to the north) and passes through wine regions Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. Name-spot to find Gevrey-Chambertin (Napoleon’s favourite wine came from here), Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot, Vosne-Romanée (home to the world’s priciest wine, Romanée Conti), Aloxe-Corton, Puligny-Montrachet among other famous villages. Stop and taste at the wineries or caveaux and visit their cellars. Or book a half-day or full day tour with an English-speaking guide with the tourist office. Hikers can use Grands Crus Long-Distance Footpath (Grande randonnée des Grands Crus), which is popular among cyclists too. The “véloroute” or dedicated cycling path from Beaune to Santenay consists of 22 km of bike trails surrounded by vines and picturesque villages.
Tip: The picturesque Grand Cru villages have bed and breakfast options for dedicated wine enthusiasts to take a more leisurely option.
Dijon was awarded the “City of Art and History” title in 2008. The signature architecture of Burgundy (including the coloured glazed tiled roofs), dates back to the 14th century and can be seen on many buildings including the Saint Bénigne Cathedral. At the heart is the Place de la Libération with its three fountains and white Comblanchien stone. Don’t miss the Musée des Beaux-Arts houses the tombs of the powerful dukes of Burgundy, the Archaeological Museum which records the ancient history of the region, the Well of Moses and the 150 feet tall tower of Philip the Good. Visit Notre Dame with its stunning façade of 51 gargoyles. Wander the medieval alleys or avail of several tours on offer; from the Segway tour to the Dijon Owl tour’ (Dijon’s lucky mascot, 37 images of which are imprinted onto the streets, leading you from one historic site to the next). There’s even a guided night tour as all Dijon’s famous sites are lit up at night. Most of the museums here offer free entry to visitors.
Tip: The Pass Dijon-Côte de Nuits available at the Dijon Tourist office gives you access to 11 main sites and monuments in Dijon and the Côte de Nuits.
The capital of Burgundy is an ideal introduction to France beyond Paris
Where to SHOP
Boutique Maille: maille.com/en_GB
Boutique Fallot: fallot.com/en
Mulot et Petitjean: mulotpetitjean.fr
La Rose de Vergy: rosedevergy.free.fr
La crème de cassis
L’Héritier Guyot: lheritier-guyot.com
Bourgogne Street: bourgognestreet.fr
Eating and shopping
Dijon is noted for far more than its signature mustard (do sample mustard from the earthenware pots at Maille and Edmund Fallot). Don’t leave without Dijon pain d’épices (spiced bread), and ouillette (Chablis sausage) or the cheese Époisses. The town is known for blackcurrants harvested in the Hautes-Côtes-deNuits area, when combined with Aligoté white wine, is crème de cassis — the blackcurrant liqueur used as a base for the cocktail Kir.
Burgundian cuisine is renowned for its escargots, or snails, cooked in their shells in butter, garlic and parsley; jambon persillé, a terrine of ham with Burgundy wine and parsley and more.
Dijon also has a wide range of restaurants and eateries, from the ubiquitous wine bars and tasting rooms to charming pavement cafés and fine dining restaurants. A range of Michelin star restaurants are the pride of the town, including William Frachot’s 2-star Hostellerie du Chapeau Rouge and Stéphane Derbord’s eponymous restaurant. Another must-see is the Les Halles de Dijon, a covered marketplace with a vaulted metal ceiling designed by Gustave Eiffel, who was once a resident. Here over 250 market traders sell regional specialities: Rosette du Morvan salami, and ouillette, Bassou snails, Burgundy truffles, Gâtinais honey, Bresse chicken, Charolais beef, the cheeses Époisses and Crottin de Chavignol, among other delicacies.
Tip: Dijon tourism offers guided gourmet tours, such as Flavours and Spices, Dijon and Wine, etc.
The bike alternative
Dijon’s aim is to reduce car travel from 53
to 40 per cent of all journeys, and make public transport, walking and cycling more attractive. Two new tram lines opened in 2012, and 23 bus routes, including 102 hybrid buses with a rechargeable smart card. There are also bicycle stations, and a free city centre shuttle bus on weekdays. For the villages and vineyards of the Côte de Nuits, there is a network of coaches called TRANSCO from the Dijon train station, linking to a wide network of TER trains. Car rental agencies can be found in Dijon train station.
The TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon to Dijon-
Ville takes one hour and 35 minutes, and deposits you in the heart of Dijon. Dijon is also easily accessible by motorway (A6 from Paris/central Europe).
The multilingual signature Owl trail which
takes in all the main sights of the city. Go either with a guide or on your own. €3.50 onwards.
The famous wines of Burgundy. Take your pick from tours and tastings which include half or full-day tours in small groups and a choice of over 20 vineyard routes and tasting rooms. €58 onwards.
Dijon mustard. In 1750, mustard maker Jean Naigeon came up with the idea of replacing the vinegar in mustard with verjuice from white, unripe grapes. Thanks to this recipe Dijon mustard became globally known. Today there are dozens of gourmet flavours to choose from. €5 onwards.