Your first 8 stops in Dijon
Dijon is a lovely little town in the east of France, charming visitors with tasty treats, a lovely pedestrian center, and world-renowned markets. Dijon’s old town is lined with majestic churches and lovely half-timbered houses that date back to the 14th Century, Dijon is a captivating and lively place! We spent a great afternoon here, and created a list of where to start to make the most of your day trip to Dijon. Keep an eye out for our HOT TIPS, as well!
1. Cathédrale Saint-Bénigne de Dijon and Église Saint- Philibert
The Cathédrale Saint-Bénigne de Dijon, or the Dijon Cathedral, is one of the most iconic buildings of Dijon. The building was originally erected to serve as the church of the Abbey of Saint Benignus. When it destroyed by a fire in 1147, Pope Eugene III had it rebuilt in the 14th Century, where it has remained until this day. Currently the seat of the Archdiocese of Dijon, this mighty cathedral towers over the entrance to the old town and is a welcoming sight to locals and tourists alike. This historical place is impossible to miss, especially coming from the train station, and one of the most iconic sites of the city.
The Church of St. Philibert is Dijon’s only Romanesque church and has been rebuilt several times since its original construction. Even so, the current building was completed in the 12th Century, making it one of the oldest buildings in the city. It is small, beautiful and only open on Mondays in high season or three times per month in low season, so make sure to plan accordingly in order to not miss this great piece of history.
2. Bareuzei Square and Rues des Forges
Past the church, you’ll soon run into a lovely fountain in the middle of a small square, where the three main streets of old town meet: Rues des Forges, Rue François Rude and Rue de la Liberté. A lovely stop, blooming with cafes and boutiques, this square was established as the main part of town in 1904 when all the restaurants and breweries popped up. The most recognizable building of the area is the white and burgundy half-timbered house, which sits directly behind the statue, The Vendor. Built by Francois Rude (hence the nearby street name), this dreamy sculpture is of a Bareuzei, the person who squashes the grapes for wine. After the Bareuzei performs this messy task, the lower part of their body was usually covered in a grapes, so they were known as “le bas rose,” or “the rose bottom.”
3. Halles de Dijon
This grand market holds hundreds of shops and tents with locals selling fresh food, eloquently prepared treats, and cooked meals/hors d’oeuvres. Tourists can enjoy regional Burgundy wines, gingerbread, creme de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) and, of course, mustard! There are all kinds of mustard available here, even some yummy flavors that sweetened with local fruits and berries. Although the mustard seeds aren’t all grown in Dijon, the town still is known for this yummy foodstuffs, and does not lack the souvenirs to go with it. After an energetic shopping excursion, you’ll find a nice area with benches to sit on to rest and eat. This is a a great opportunity to meet the locals or other tourists, so strike up a conversation with your neighbor!
HOT TIP #1: Be mindful of the days you visit, as the market is only open on the mornings of Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. By 1:30pm, the entire place is almost vacant, so be sure to head over early.
4. Musee des Beaux-Arts
Dijon’s Museum of Fine Arts is one of the oldest museums in France. Opened in 1799, this incredible museum is known for its collections from the dukes of Burgundy. It has art that dates from the Egyptians to the 20th century, and it is mostly known for religious art.
HOT TIP #2: Due to current renovations and part of the museum being closed, there is no entrance fee! If you don’t mind that a few of the exhibits aren’t open, make sure to visit soon!
5. Follow the Owl’s Trail
You’ll see multiple tiny sidewalk plaques with owls etched into the surface, which is known as the Owl’s Trail, a $3 self-guided walking tour that tells the city’s history. Wrapped up in tourist recommendations, funny stories, and secrets of the dukes of Burgundy, the tour eventually leads to the Owl of Dijon, a beloved stone carving that serves as the town’s mascot and good luck charm (but only if you touch the place where the face used to be!). There are owl pictures and photographs found throughout the city, as well as graphic art on walls of the side streets. What a hoot!
6. Boutiques and Tasty Treats
The mustard and cheese shops, which smell amazing, are filled with delicious goodies. We saw a book store with Jules Verne’s novels, bound in red and gold covers. There are colorful posters, lovely alleyways and a countless number of incredible doorways.
HOT TIP #3: Many of the shops are closed for the month of August, which is typical French vacation time, scribbling on little front-door notes: “vacation until September.” This, however, doesn’t mean that you can’t gaze at the stylish outfits and accessories tucked inside.
As for those of you with a sweet tooth, Dijon’s selection of yummies does not disappoint: chocolate shops, ice cream stands and bakeries that oozed sweet cakes, macarons and chocolate mousse. There is one on every corner, offering a variety of beautifully crafted truffles and caramels that somehow taste even better than they look. We had a white chocolate mousse pastry, flavored with citrus and berries. Life does not get any better than this!
8 Porte Guillaume
As you head back toward the train station, make sure to ceremoniously walk through Porte Guillaume, the arch that used to be the gateway to the city. Built in 1788 to honor the governor of Burgundy, the arch is a popular meeting place in Dijon and a mighty force in the middle of an otherwise low key area of town. Next to the arch is a great movie theater, and a block or two the other direction are some small streets that are super green and beautiful.
HOT TIP #4
Although the train station is functional and easy to navigate, storing luggage at the Gare de Dijon is surprisingly complicated: wait in long line, 5.50EU per small bag, pick up at a different location, etc. Perhaps they will install lockers at some point? Until then, make Dijon a day trip that doesn’t involve storing a heavy suitcase.
HOT TIP #5
As you begin your journey, make sure to take some of the smaller back streets, as they have a lovely, more local feel. We found the beautiful jewelry, colorful clothes and adorable shop-window knickknacks fascinating and delightful.
A Great Afternoon
We would recommend a day trip to Dijon, if solely for the purpose of fattening up for the winter months with chocolate, cheese and anything with – of course – mustard!
Have you been to Dijon? What was your favorite part? Tell us below!
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