Old stones, gastronomy, walks – does this program appeal to you? Well, there’s plenty to do in Dijon. Just follow the guide!
Dijon is a city with a rich culture. This richness is due to its past as the stronghold of the Duchy of Burgundy. French only since 1477, during the 15th century the city was renowned throughout Europe. Later, in the 19th century, Dijon enjoyed its second golden age, thanks to its industrial development.
Today, this past is still present through a wide variety of architectural styles that give Dijon its unique character. Here are the 9 must-sees in Dijon.
1. The owl trail
It’s impossible to visit Dijon without following its famous owl trail. To do so, pick up a booklet at the tourist office, or download the dedicated application (Google Play or iOS) via the link on the website. The route is marked by arrows on the ground representing the animal. Follow it, and you’ll be sure not to miss any of the city’s most remarkable sites and monuments. From mansions and half-timbered houses to art deco buildings and the Dukes’ Palace, you’ll have plenty to see during the hour-long walk.
But why an owl? Well, because it’s the symbol of the city. A sculpture of the bird stands on the corner of the Notre-Dame church, and has become a good-luck charm over the centuries. If you can, take another stroll through the center of town at night to take advantage of the superb lighting.
2. The Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy
This is the must-see building in Dijon. It combines the former medieval ducal dwelling and the 17th-century Palais des États de Bourgogne. The architectural ensemble was unified by Mansart, Louis XIV’s architect, who gave the building and the Place de la Libération its classical style. The aim was to showcase the king’s power – and the gamble paid off! Here’s what to see in the palace:
- The Musée des Beaux-Arts: this is one of the most important and oldest museums in France. Its collections are so extensive that you’re bound to find something to your liking. What’s more, the museum offers a wide range of themed activities and tours. Last but not least, you can see the ducal kitchens and the Palace Guard Room. And best of all, it’s free.
- The Tour Philippe Le Bon: this 46-metre-high tower bears witness to the palace’s medieval origins. Superb panoramic views guaranteed!
- The Chapelle des Élus and the Salle des États: to see these different parts of the palace, visit the tourist office. Please note that these rooms are not always accessible.
3. The Halles of Dijon
It’s time to get down to business, as Dijon is also a gastronomic capital. While Les Halles is definitely one of the things to do in Dijon, it’s above all a must-see for gourmets. Their construction dates back to the 19th century, and if the style rings a bell, that’s understandable, as the plans were inspired by those drawn up by the Eiffel company. A market is held here on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, as well as cafés. It’s the perfect opportunity to discover local produce. Treat yourself! And for your viewing pleasure, the building is a fine example of industrial architecture, with many ornaments on its structure.
4. Hôtel de Vogüé
It’s impossible to miss its glazed tile roof in the landscape. Built in the early 17th century for a member of parliament, it’s one of the finest private mansions you can visit in Dijon. Its architecture blends classical and Italian Renaissance styles. Richly decorated inside and out, it’s a little gem not to be missed.
5. The Well of Moses
Behind this mysterious name lies a sculptural masterpiece. To admire it, visit the Chartreuse de Champmol, founded in the 14th century and dismantled during the French Revolution. This well is the remains of a calvary built in the middle of the large cloister and sculpted by a Dutch artist by the name of Claus Sluter. Admire the workmanship of the various biblical figures and you’ll understand why the artistic refinement of the Burgundian court was so renowned.
6. Chez Mulot & Petitjean
For those with a sweet tooth, visit the Mulot & Petitjean gingerbread factory in Dijon. And with good reason: the city claims to be the capital of this delicacy! The oldest factory in Dijon dates back to 1796, and celebrated its 220th anniversary in 2016. To find out how this delicious gingerbread is made, go to Boulevard de l’Ouest, but don’t miss a visit to the historic store on Place Bossuet, in a beautiful half-timbered building.
7. Dijon’s parks and gardens
You like the city, but you’d like a quiet place to enjoy your gingerbread? You don’t have to go far, there are plenty of green spaces in Dijon:
- At the Jardin des Sciences, also known as the Parc de l’Arquebuse, you can enrich your knowledge of botany and the universe at the planetarium.
- The Darcy garden (see photo above), though nothing to do with a certain English gentleman, is no less charming. Here you can meet the “Pompom Bear”, stroll along the terraces and look for the hidden water tank.
- The popular Parc de la Colombière also awaits you, with its formal gardens created for the Grand Condé by a pupil of Le Nôtre.
8. Notre-Dame Church of Dijon
There are many religious buildings in Dijon, but if you have to choose just one, visit this one. It’s on a buttress of the Eglise Notre-Dame that you can admire Dijon’s famous owl. Touch it with your left hand for good luck. And don’t forget to make a wish! In addition to the owl, look up and enjoy the three rows of gargoyles sculpted on the façade.
This church is the oldest in the city, and was a headache to build because of the limited space available to the architect. When the clock strikes, look up the tower on the right to see automatons, known as the Jacquemart family, striking the bell. The interior is also a treasure trove, with a polychrome statue of the Virgin Mary, beautiful stained-glass windows and an organ.
9. The Consortium
Visiting Dijon isn’t just about admiring old stones. For some time now, the city has wanted to make its mark on the contemporary cultural scene. This has now been achieved with the internationally acclaimed art center Le Consortium. For architecture fans, the building alone is worth the detour, with its 4,000m² designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. It is at once a space for exhibitions, artistic encounters, cultural mediation and audiovisual projections. All you have to do is choose your activity from the program.
10. The wines of Dijon and surroundings
Of course, it’s impossible to recommend a Burgundy town without mentioning its wines. Dijon is the perfect opportunity to taste local wines, renowned the world over. With over twenty-eight thousand hectares of vineyards, you’re bound to find a local wine to please your taste buds.
To find out more about the history of wine in the region, we also recommend a visit to the Cité internationale de la gastronomie et du vin, which opened its doors in 2022 for an exclusive tour. The establishment offers a rich program of events, temporary exhibitions and workshops throughout the year.
11 . Dijon’s gastonomy
Take advantage of your stay in Dijon to discover one of the region’s must-taste dishes: Burgundian snails! Meet Frédéric, who will introduce you to his snail farm, so that you can discover all the secrets of a French speciality that is little-known to the general public.
Once you’ve discovered the farm, you’ll learn how to cook this iconic French delicacy, with recipes that only Frédéric and his family know how to prepare!
How to get to Dijon ?
Train and bus
These are the most convenient ways to get to Dijon. By train, from Paris, you have a choice of timetables, as there are around 21 daily connections. These are operated by TGV or TER trains. Fares are reasonable, ranging from 35 to 50 euros per journey. And depending on the train, the journey from the City of Light to the capital of the Dukes of Burgundy takes between 1h30 and 3h.
Dijon is also served by all low-cost bus companies. It’s easy to find a journey with a starting price of under 10 euros, depending on the day and time. As for journey time, allow around 3 hours for the fastest.
This is the other most popular means of transport to Dijon. The city is on the A6 motorway. You can also reach the city via the A5 in case of heavy traffic.
There’s no airport here, or rather, there is, but it doesn’t operate commercial flights, so it’s not the most convenient way to visit Dijon. Just in case, the nearest airports are Lyon and Geneva. To study the best option, you can go to a flight comparator like Skyscanner. You’ll then need to take the train and/or bus to your destination. In any case, there is no direct connection between Dijon and Geneva. As for Lyon, it takes 1h30 by train to get there.
Where to stay in Dijon?
Thanks to its tourist location and dynamic economy, Dijon offers a wide range of housing options. What’s more, the city has excellent public transport links. The city center is ideal if you want to make the most of its activities. However, if you have a car, this is not the best option, as parking will be difficult. In this case, the Jouvence or Faubourg Sud districts will be more convenient, offering equally authentic accommodation. To find the perfect option, consider using a hotel comparator. All that’s left to do is enjoy your stay.