Last Updated on 03/09/2022 by secretmoona
Former home of the Dukes of Burgundy, Dijon offers much more than the Dijon mustard. Not only does Dijon have exceptional cultural and architectural heritage, but it is also known worldwide for its cuisine and wine. Whether planning a weekend getaway in Dijon or a day trip from Paris, there are many things to do in Dijon to please everybody.
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The historic centre is completely pedestrianised, making it easy to hop from one attraction to the other. As you walk along the cobblestone streets to follow the “Parcours de la Chouette”, you will be charmed by the many traditional half-timbered houses, gothic and romanesque churches lining the streets of the listed UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Planning a weekend trip to the city of mustard and looking for what to do in Dijon? Read on.
What to See in Dijon
Appreciate the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy / Ducal Palace
The Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, also known as Ducal Palace, is the most prestigious building in the city. Initially built as a fortress, the palace has had different functions over time: from the home of the Dukes of Burgundy to drawing school and office to a government building. It was built in 1366 by the first Duke of Valois, Philippe le Hardi, then rebuilt in the 15th century under Philippe le Bon, who added a tower.
The Palace des Dukes building now houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Museum of fine arts) and the city hall offices.
Visit the Museum of Fine arts
Located in the city’s heart within the Palace of the Dukes, the Museum of Fine Arts of Dijon (Musée des Beaux-Arts) is remarkably beautiful. The Museum is one of the most important museums in France. It brings together more than 13,000 works of art dating from Antiquity to Contemporary Art. The art ranges from paintings and sculptures to drawings. You will also find in the Museum magnificent altarpieces from the Middle Ages and in the great hall of the Palace of the Dukes, the famous tombs of the Dukes of Burgundy. The medieval collection is also impressive.
As well to the permanent exhibitions, the Museum hosts temporary exhibitions. During my visit, the Museum was hosting the “”À LA MODE. The Art of Appearance in the 18th Century”. This exhibition devoted to the theme of fashion and costume in 18th century.
Whether you are an art lover, you will be impressed by the Museum’s collections. Before leaving, be sure to explore the courtyard and appreciate the view of the building from the Place de la Libération.
Free admission and timetables are available on the Museum’s website.
SecretMoona tips: All the museums administered by the city of Dijon are free, including the Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne (to learn more about traditional life in Burgundy), Musée d’Art Sacré (which displays church-related art objects), Archaeological Museum Of Dijon, François Rude Museum (dedicated to the Dijon born sculptor)
Admire the churches of Dijon
When admiring Dijon’s architecture, visiting some of the many churches is a must. If you love Gothic architecture as I do, you will love the Church of Notre Dame. The 13th-century church is famous for the “51 gargoyles” located on its facade and the carved Owl, Dijon’s emblem and good luck charm. At the top of the church’s spire, you will see the Jacquemart. This mechanical lock chimes the church bells featuring four statues of Jacquemart, his wife Jacqueline and two children, Jacquelinet and Jacquelinette.
Not far from the Place de la Libération, you will find Église St-Michel, an extravagant Gothic and Renaissance church dating from the 16th century. Église St-Etienne now hosts the Museum focused on François Rude. Finally, the Sainte-Bégnine Cathedral, with its 93-metre-high spire and a beautiful mosaic tiled roof, looks different depending on the sun and time of day. Another beautiful building.
Marvel at Les Halles de Dijon
Of course, one of the top things to do in Dijon is to visit the farmers’ market. Although there are several small markets, the principal place where locals buy fresh produce is the covered market of Les Halles de Dijon. Built-in 1868 and designed by Gustave Eiffel, the cast-iron building is a listed architectural monument and a must-visit for any food lover. Wandering inside, you will see lots of stands selling various items such as fish, meats, cheeses, fresh fruits and vegetables. The area outside the market also fills up with merchants selling anything from food to clothes and souvenirs. There are many restaurants around the Halles building, including a small buvette (small bar) right in the Halles where you can get a quick glass of wine.
Open Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 7:30 am to 1 pm.
Visit Magnin Museum
This private Magnin Museum holds about 2000 pieces of art collected by wealthy Parisian siblings – Maurice and Jeanne Magnin. Located in a 17th-century hôtel particulier, the museum stores unique paintings by French, Italian and Flemish artists. It’s a great place to admire works of art from lesser-known artists.
Wander in Dijon’s hôtel particulier
The historic centre of Dijon hides many private mansions built between the 15th and 18th centuries. There are easily the best attractions for architecture lovers.
Maison Maillard: Built in the mid-16th century for Jean Maillard, mayor of Dijon, Maison Maillard is a Renaissance-style mansion with an ornamented facade. You can wander into the courtyard and admire the wooden staircase. – 38, rue des Forges
Hôtel de Vogüé: Built in 1614, during the French renaissance for Etienne Bouhier, an advisor to the Bourgogne parliament. Classical Italian Renaissance architecture incorporates a majestic entrance porch and stunning courtyard. Be sure to pay attention to the distinctive tiled roof featuring colourful geometric patterns to add to the decorative richness of the hotel. – 8, rue de la Chouette
Hôtel Chambellan: This jewel of flamboyant medieval architecture in the Gothic style is remarkable for its carved wooden gallery and its spiral staircase ending with the statue of a gardener carrying a basket on his shoulder. The courtyard is representative of the luxury of 15th and 16th century hotels. – 34, rue des Forges
Hôtel Lantin (Musée national Magnin): It was built in 1652 for Étienne Lantin, adviser to the Dukes of Burgundy. The 17th-century Hôtel Lantin was the former home of Maurice and Jeanne Magnin. Now it houses a combination of paintings, furniture and other pieces of art collected by the Magnin siblings. – 4, rue des Bons Enfants
Discover and relax at one of Dijon’s many squares
Place de la Libération is the square facing the palace. Built in a semicircle, it “directs” all focus on the palace building. The former “Royal Square” is a lovely place, especially on a summer evening, sipping on a drink while watching people pass by. I loved this place: the illuminated palace and fountains are beautiful.
To continue your exploration of the squares, take the Rue de la Liberté, entirely pedestrianised. It is the main street in Dijon. Lined with shops, from clothes, souvenirs and of course mustard shops, while wandering the road, it will be hard to only stick to window shopping.
You can stop by Place François-Rude, Bareuzai, for a drink or admire people dancing the tango. If you travel with kids, they will enjoy a ride on the carousel. It is undoubtedly the most authentic and crowded out of the three squares. Its architecture is a mixture of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
Continuing to the end of Rue de la Liberté, you will arrive at Dijon’s third big square, Place Darcy.
Things to Do in Dijon
Enter the Historical Centre via the Guillaume Gate
Located at Place Darcy, the Guillaume Gate is a triumphal arch and a symbol of Dijon. Constructed in 1788, Porte Guillaume is like a smaller version of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Place Darcy itself has a few restaurants, seating, and overall a nice place to meet and people watch.
Discover the city through the Owl’s Trail (Parcours de la Chouette)
First, head to the Tourist Information Office to grab a map for the Owl’s Trail. Once you have said map, go to discover the city. The “Parcours de la Chouette” is the best way to find the must-see attractions in Dijon. All you have to do is follow the little brass plaques with an owl symbol on the city’s streets.
There are 22 stages in the route, taking you to several historic sites. Each monument has a number keyed to the trail with a site description. You learn more about the history of the building with often exciting facts. Of course, you don’t need to purchase a guide; you can follow the arrows and stroll the city on your own. However, you won’t get the depth of information about the sites.
The trail starts at the Guillaume gate and ends at Dijon’s Notre Dame Cathedral, where you will be able to spot the little Owl carved into the stone. Head to Rue de la Chouette to see the tiny emblematic owl sculpture. Legend says that if you rub the Owl with your left hand and place your right hand over your heart, you can make a wish that will come true. Based on how smooth the little Owl is, the Owl has been working hard granting wishes!
You can purchase the guides for the Parcours de la Chouette (Owl’s trail) at the Dijon Tourist Information Centre for 3.50€. There is also an application to download to your phone for 1.99€.
Get lost in the historic centre
I have visited many medieval towns and still can’t get enough of them. Dijon has retained some of its medieval architecture. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the city has many pedestrianised streets to explore. You can still admire half-timbered houses in Rue Verrerie, Rue de la Chouette and Rue des Forges.
I loved walking on the cobblestones, taking countless pictures and discovering the charming town. Rue des Forges is lined with many private mansions built between the 15th and 18th centuries by wealthy merchants. People can visit some of these “hôtels Particuliers” to admire their stunning courtyard and garden. Often, buildings will have a simple facade from the exterior but an impressive facade on the inside. Do not miss visiting some of them.
Climb the Philippe Le Bon tower
One of the top things to do in Dijon, if you are brave enough, is to climb the stairs of the Philippe le Bon Tower. Built-in the 15th century, it bears the name of the then Duke of Burgundy Philippe le Bon. At 46 metres high, it dominates the city and offers breathtaking views after climbing the 316 steps.
The visit to the tower is done through a guided tour which you will need to book at the Tourist Information Office. As you climb, the guide will provide interesting facts about the tower, allowing you to catch your breath.
Booking is made via the Tourist Information Office website. Entrance fees: adult €5, student and child €3, free for children under six years old or holder of the Dijon Pass. For €20, you can get an apéritif and some light appetisers.
Try your hand at making mustard
Whether you love mustard or want to experience something unique, the mustard-making class is a fun activity to join. This mustard-making class is organised by the Tourist Office and in partnership with the Moutarderie Edmond Fallot. The family-owned moutarderie was founded in 1840 and is, until now, owned by the same family.
The workshop is held in a beautiful historical building (the Chambellan hotel). But before we start, we are told a brief history of the mustard, which dates back to the 13th century.
After learning about the origins of mustard in Burgundy, we started making our homemade mustard. An interesting fact I learned is that “Dijon Mustard” refers to the ingredients rather than “Dijon”. Since the term is not protected, Dijon Mustard is made in many locations worldwide. Fallot is the only producer of Moutarde de Bourgogne, which uses mustard seeds and wine from the region.
After grinding the mustard seeds, we added vinegar and salt to create a paste. The workshop ends with tasting several mustard flavours, so you can see which one you prefer. After the workshop, visit the shop to buy some mustards to take home.
- The Dijon Tourist Office offers a workshop, “Making your own Dijon mustard” (from €10, online booking).
- The Mulot & Petitjean Gingerbread Factory offers visits with tasting: adult €8, child (12 to 18 years old) €6, free for children under 12
Wander in Dijon’s many gardens and parks
Before returning to take your train, take advantage of the parks and gardens close by for a last-minute oxygen boost.
Located opposite Place Darcy is the Jardin Darcy. The Neo-renaissance style garden was built in 1880 and featured a pond with a waterfall and a terrace. It’s a nice and cosy garden to rest in after shopping on the Rue de la Libération.
The second garden to explore is the Arquebuse Garden. Located near the train station, the beautiful garden combines a Natural History Museum, a botanical garden and a planetarium. It is a lovely place to explore, especially with kids learning to protect biodiversity. It was lovely walking along the rose garden and admiring the different types of plants, including medicinal plants. Sadly due to the intense heat France and almost all of Europe experienced this summer, most flowers and plants were not in their best forms.
Did you know there is a lake in Dijon? Situated about a 30-minute walk from the city centre, Lake Kir allows you to swim in summer, and its banks are pleasant. Again if you visit during the summer months, I invite you to discover Dijon Plage.
What & Where to Eat in Dijon
Visit a mustard shop
Will it be a sacrilege to spend a weekend in Dijon and not shop for mustard? Especially now, as there is a shortage of mustard! Most people will be more familiar with Maille Moutarde de Dijon as it is found in all the shops in France and almost everywhere in the world. Both companies have their shops in the town. The brand is no longer connected to the city since it is now US-owned, and Canada supplies most of the mustard seeds used! The only family-branded company is Edmond Fallot.
You will find Maille on the main street – Rue de la Libération – whereas Moutarderie Edmond Fallot is tucked away in a quiet street – Rue de la Chouette.
Taste some local specialities
Home to several Michelin-starred restaurants, a gastronomy fair held in the Les Halles covered market and delicious specialities. Dijon is a foodie city. Do you know what the third most used condiment in the world is? If you answered “mustard”, then you answered right. Made in the city since the Middle Ages, mustard made Dijon known to the world. Nowadays, it benefits from the protected geographical indication “Moutarde de Bourgogne “. There were several family-owned “moutarderie” in the town; however, nowadays, the only authentic and traditional mustard manufacturer is Moutarderie Edmond Fallot. They still ground the mustard seeds using millstones, unlike Maille, which uses automatic grinders.
Another discovery during your weekend in Dijon is “pain d’épices”, or gingerbread. Pain d’epices was one of my favourite snacks when I was younger. So, when I came across the Mulot & Petitjean shop, I couldn’t resist entering and purchasing some biscuits to take home. Founded in 1796, Mulot & Petitjean is the oldest boutique in Dijon and is located in a lovely half-timbered building. The goodies are perfect for taking back home.
People will be familiar with bœuf bourguignon, a beef stew cooked with red wine, mushrooms and onions. Snail prepared with parsley garlic butter is also a famous regional dish. Cheese lovers will enjoy Epoisses. The washed-rind cheese is delicious with a slice of bread. In terms of drinks, you will find wines (chardonnay and pinot noir) but also crème de cassis, a blackcurrant liqueur taken either as a digestif or as a cocktail like Kir.
Discover the wider Burgundy region and go wine tasting
Some of the best things to do in Dijon is to discover the Burgundy region by venturing outside town. If you love wine, I recommend exploring the countryside. The Burgundy region is famous for its wine so why not explore some vineyards and participate in one or more wine tastings? You can easily explore by yourself if you have a car. If not, then you might want to consider booking a group tour. The Burgundy Wines Tasting Tour guided tour, for example, includes a stop in the historic town of Beaune, Burgundy’s wine capital. You will have the chance to taste wines from the vineyards of Côte de Beaune and the Côte de Nuits. Booking can be made here.
Where to Eat in Dijon
Dijon being a gastronomic city, you will find many good places to eat. Below are some of the restaurants I have tested and others recommended.
BHV: The Bistrot de l’Hôtel de Ville located on the Place de la Liberation opposite the Palais des Ducs was a recommendation. I did not eat but had a drink on the terrace. It is an excellent place for a relaxing afternoon while admiring the Palais des Ducs. 22 Liberation Square
Les Halles: Where better to eat in Dijon than the covered market of Les Halles? Charcuteries, cheese, fruits, bread, and pastries. There is all the food necessary to fill up your picnic bag. If you wish to eat there, there are some pop-up food stalls too.
La Brasserie des Halles: It’s located opposite the Halles Market. My salad was a little bland, but the burger was good so was the service.
DZ’Envies: Located by Les Halles covered market, this restaurant offers Burgundian traditional food with a modern twist. The food was excellent, and the service was impeccable. Easy to see why they have a recommendation in the Michelin guide. The price is very generous, especially the lunchtime deal.
Caffè Gufo: Located off Rue de la Chouette, this lovely cafe offers a friendly, relaxing setting. I had a latte with a generous slice of homemade cake.
JSB Coffee is another cosy tea/coffee spot with many options. The seating here is charming with some outdoor seatings and many comfy chairs. Pick a seat by the open windows for a lovely view of the street below.
Du Pain pour Demain: This bakery has the most beautiful and colourful croissant I have ever seen (and delicious too).
Madeleine Café: Pretty café on Rue Verrerie where you can get great coffee, tea and lunch options. The staff are friendly too.
Practical Information about Dijon, Burgundy
Where is Dijon in France?
Dijon is located about 300 kilometres southeast of Paris in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region. The city is nestled along the Saone River and in the Rhone River Valley, in the heart of the Burgundy wine region.
How to get to Dijon
All transport networks very well serve Dijon. By high-speed TGV, the capital of Burgundy is only 1.5hours from Paris or 2 hours from Lyon by TER (regional express trains). By car, it is 2 hours from Lyon and 3 hours from Paris (via the A6 motorway). Many low-cost bus companies also serve the city, such as OUIBUS, Megabus, Isiline or FlixBus.
Getting around Dijon
Dijon is easy to explore on foot since the important landmarks are located next to each other. The historic centre, mostly pedestrianised, is ideal for wandering and seeing the charm the old medieval town has to offer. If you wish to use public transport, note that there are two tram lines, a free shuttle bus, and the Liane and Divia Mobilités bus networks. Each ride costs 1,70€, but you can also get unlimited 24h, 48h, and 72h passes. Fares and a journey planner can be found here. Dijon is a lovely rideable city, and the colourful pink and black DiviaVélo bikes can be hired from Divia Mobilités.
Where to stay in Dijon
If you’ll be extending your day trip, you will find below some places to stay in Dijon.
Before you go, get some more resources and reading to help you plan your trip to France.
- Things to Do in Lake Annecy
- Things to Do in Lyon
- Things to Do in Albi
- Things to Do in Medieval Rouen
- Weekend in Carcassonne
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