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The town of Dijon has an air of confidence and pride about it. Seat of the University of Burgundy, there is a lively atmosphere and buzz, but somehow it has avoided the hassle, traffic jams and pollution usually associated with city centres. If you enjoy shopping, food, culture and nightlife, look no further.
Dijon has a rich history dating back to Roman times. It was at the crossroads of many trade routes, notably pewter, tin, amber and exotic spices. It became capital of the Kingdom of Burgundy as early as the 5th century but the days of glory arrived in the 14th century when the Dukes of Burgundy held court there, turning it into one of the most important towns in medieval Europe. Philip the Bold was a great patron of the arts, commissioning sculptures, manuscripts, tapestries, paintings, furnishings and even buildings. The Palais des Ducs et des Etats de Bourgogne today houses the art museum, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, and town hall, The view over the city from the tower of Philip the Bold, the Tour de Bar is impressive and guided tours are available daily. The Museum of Archaeology is one of the most interesting cultural visits, housed in the truly magnificent Abbey Bénigne and there is a little known private museum close to the Place de Liberation called the Musée Magnin showing fine French interiors, furniture and paintings.
La Chouette, the little owl carved on one of the pillars of the Notre Dame church, is the bringer of good luck, stroked by countless passers-by. Adopted by the town as its emblem, little gold owls are embedded in the pavement showing tourist routes. Details of the ‘Parcours de la Chouette’ are available from either tourist office at the station or the office at the back of the Palais des Ducs building.
Market days are particularly enjoyable in the town. The market hall itself is a masterpiece of metal and glass, designed by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame. If you shop early enough, you can mingle with the chefs as they choose the best seasonal products for their restaurants. The streets surrounding Les Halles are full of fascinating shops from elegant clothes and shoes to pâtisserie and of course, mustard. The Amora-Maille Mustard shop is at 32 Rue de la Liberté, and Mulot et Petitjean which sells pain d’épices, the spiced breads and cakes famous in Dijon is at 13 Place Bossuet. For a beautiful shop front and lavish interior, visit the artisan butcher Boucherie Theuriet, 26 Rue Monge and sample his jambon persillé.
The town has many fine restaurants. On market day, Le Bistrot des Halles, Rue Bannelier is friendly and good value, but be sure to book. Also on the market square, David Zuddas has opened a contemporary bistro, DZ'Envies with menus from 15 euros.
Behind the church of Notre Dame, the Quartier Jean Jacques Rousseau is of particular interest. Antique shops, galleries and decoration shops make this the avant-garde place to be. Visit the Maison Millière, one of the oldest medieval buildings in Rue de la Chouette, and now a tea room with pretty garden terrace. The setting was used in the film Cyrano de Bergerac. Visit the Open Art Galerie at 8 Rue Auguste-Comte to view the work of 40 contemporary French artists, featuring 400 works.
Dijon is a very cycle friendly city. Public bicycles are available for residents and tourists at 40 bike stands in the city centre. The roads are less frenetic than in many major cities; there is shared use of bus lanes and freedom to ride in either direction on many one-way streets. For full information www.velodi.net.
Don’t leave town without trying a Kir, the white wine and cassis apéritif, named after Canon Kir.
Tuesday, Friday, Saturday
Places to stay
Pick up a copy of the free magazine 'Mag de la Nuit' at the tourist office and around town.
It lists bars, discos and all late-night places. See also Grapevine
Places to visit nearby
Comparative, competitive prices, and you can book now online with Auto Europe
Getting to and from Dijon