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Things To Do In Dijon
Known to be one of France’s best-preserved cities, Dijon is located in the eastern part of the country and is the capital of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comte region. During the time of Roman settlement, the city was named Divio, which later became the home of the Dukes of Burgundy from the 11th to the 15th-century. Dijon is surrounded by some of the finest vineyards of Burgundy that produce award-winning wines and attract thousands of tourists each year. It is a place to let the history lover in you go wild amongst the age-old half-timbered houses and medieval and Renaissance-era monuments that each have a story to tell.
Dijon is just as culturally intriguing with its exceptional food scene and fine wines, with shopping locations, museums and galleries to impress even the most cynical of travellers. Here is our list of some of the top things to do in Dijon.
Tour the Ducal Palace & the Museum of Fine Arts
The home of the Dukes of Burgundy from the 14th and 15th-centuries is now the city’s town hall and also houses the Museum of Fine Arts. This palatial complex is considered one of the most architecturally brilliant monuments in Dijon and a true symbol of Burgundian heritage. While most of the palace’s structure dates back to the era when it was first constructed and has considerable Roman influence visible in its design, additions were made to the building in subsequent years and many features in the existing monument date back to the 17th, 18th and 19th-centuries.
The Museum of Fine Arts was added in 1799 and it is known to be one of the oldest and most beautiful museums in the country. Apart from the museum, the majestic rooms of the palace are also open to visitors and after climbing about 300 stairs, one can reach the top of the palace and be blessed with magnificent views of Dijon.
Tour and Wine Tasting at Cote de Nuits Vineyards
One of the most prominent wine regions in France, the vineyards of Cote de Nuits produces a variety of vintage wines and are located just beyond the Burgundian countryside. Group tours are offered to visitors where they are taken around the local wineries and plantations, and also get to taste different varieties of vintage wines from the region. The guides here are extremely knowledgeable and will regale you with interesting information about the different wines and their production, along with taking you around the neighbouring towns where you can simply enjoy the ambience of the countryside.
Boating at Canal de Bourgogne
The Canal of Burgundy was constructed in 1775 but was only completed in the year 1832. Extending between the commune of Tonnerre and the commune of Saint-Jean de Losne and connecting the river Yonne to river Saone, this 240-km long canal was originally used as a passageway for boats between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean. It is often used by locals and tourists for leisure activities like boating, canoeing and kayaking. The area around the canal is also a great place to enjoy cycling, hiking or simply strolling along the canal.
Hiking and Cycling at Combe a la Serpent Natural Parking
Just a few kilometres west of downtown Dijon, Combe a la Serpent is a wildlife park that is spread over 330 hectares and features a landscape of dense green forests along with valleys and limestone slopes. The true highlight of the park though is the 28-km of picturesque hiking and cycling trails here, including a sports area and also an ATV trail where the more active types of travellers can enjoy these activities to their heart’s content. Picnic areas and a children’s play area make this a great place for a family outing as well. Don’t forget to check out the beehive here that was installed in 2013 and produces delicious Dijon honey.
Parcours de la Chouette (The Owl Walk)
The Parcours de la Choutte will prove to be a unique experience for all those who visit the city for the first time. Also known as The Owl Walk, it is a 22-stop walking tour that involves covering some of Dijon’s key landmarks located around the historic city centre on foot, with each sight labelled with a brass marker that features an owl motif. The inspiration for the owl motif is the symbolic owl sculpture that was carved onto the Church of Notre-Dame in the 1500s; centuries of visitors have been visiting the site to touch the owl with their left hand and make a wish, which is supposed to bring good luck.
The entire tour can be completed in an hour, and there are trail guides available for the ease of new travellers. All you have to do is follow the trail and discover a piece of history attached to each site.
Shop at Les Halles – the City Centre Market
France’s city markets are always an interesting place to be, but Dijon’s iron-and-glass covered market is officially a historical monument and constructed in the late 1800s, also one of the oldest and largest. Interestingly, Les Halles was designed by Gustave Eiffel, who would go on to design the iconic Eiffel Tower.
Hundreds of stalls in this market sell goods like fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, apart from a variety of cheeses, meat and meat-related products, fishes and spices. Some of the local delights like volaille de Bresse (Bresse chicken) and jambon persille (ham terrine) are surely worth a buy. On warm sunny days, the market extends out onto the street with even more stalls selling non-edible items. Exotic flowers usually are one of the main attractions of Les Halles.
Admire the Architecture at Rue des Forges
Rue des Forges is usually seen as mostly a shopping district of Dijon, but the street will also appeal to true design enthusiasts for the architectural masterpieces nestled between the various boutiques. The street falls under Dijon’s conservation area and is home to some brilliant buildings like the Hotel Morel-Sauvegrain and the Hotel Chambellan. The Hotel Chambellan, in particular, is one of the highlights of the street and features a spectacularly decorative gate that opens into a well-maintained courtyard, followed by a carved wooden gallery and a spiral stone staircase that dates back to the 15th and 17th-centuries.
Visit the Dijon Mustard Boutiques and Culinary Shops
Most of the world associates the city of Dijon with its namesake mustard, a distinctive-tasting condiment made by gently milling the locally grown mustard seeds and using the juice of unripe local grapes (verjuice) instead of vinegar to make the mustard sauce. The original production of Dijon mustard dates back to the 14th-century, and two of the most prestigious mustard boutiques in the city are located within the historic city centre. The Maison Maille was founded in 1747 and the Mouterderie Edmund Fallot was established in 1840; both shops are great places to try some amazing varieties of Dijon mustard and purchase little souvenir jars of the same. La Maison des Pains is located near the Maison Maille and is known for its delectable French pastries. Mulot & Petitjean is a boutique that sells gingerbread cakes and is known far and wide for its recipes.