Travel to Dijon, the Heart of the Burgundy Region. Where Good Living is an Art.
Maurice Béjart, the French dancer, choreographer, and opera director had this to say about Dijon:
“It is a fantastic place;
I cannot think of a better place anywhere in France.
Any form of expression can be explored and hold its place here.
Everything is perfect: the acoustics, the visibility, and the proportions.
It is an extraordinary place.”
Your friends at lostinbeautifulplaces.com could not agree with Maurice more. After our eventful month-long stay in Paris, we hopped on an inexpensive ($11 US per person), yet comfortable bus for a very scenic 3-hour ride to Dijon, France. The ride allowed us grand views of the well-groomed hillsides filled with small villages that looked straight out of a fairy tale. We passed by sprawling fields of wheat, tidy vineyards, and green rolling hills dotted with white cattle. We knew that we were in for a culinary extravaganza when the bus stopped at a rest area halfway and the most beautiful and delicious gourmet food and wine were being served to hungry motorists!
After spending a few glorious days in Dijon, we have developed a strong appreciation of the culture and beauty of the small city in the Burgundy region of southeastern France. During our six-week stay in France this summer, Dijon stands out as one of our favorite French cities. We highly recommend it as a tourist destination as Dijon offers so much for so little money, yet attracts surprisingly few visitors.
Dijon is the capital of the Burgundy region of France and is located 200 miles (320 km) southeast of Paris at the confluence of the Ouche and Suzon rivers. The city experienced a golden age during the reign of the Dukes of Burgundy from the 11th to 15th centuries. Many of the finest painters, sculptors, and architects from other areas of Europe were brought to Dijon in this period, turning the city into one of the greatest centers of art and culture on the continent. Today, the city center is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site, as is the wine region “Climats de la Bourgogne” which sits just south of Dijon.
Food and Wine
The Burgundy region is well known for its fine wine and delicious food, including Dijon mustard that was developed and perfected there. In 2010, UNESCO declared French cuisine to be a “world intangible heritage” and the French government designated Dijon (along with Paris, Lyon, and Tours) as a French city of gastronomy. An entire article could be written on the food specialties of the region.
Burgundy is symbolic of so many universally known French cuisines such as beef Burgundy, escargot, coq au vin, and Dijon mustard. With its rich tradition and the variety of high-quality fresh foods and meats available nearby, Dijon is the ideal place for chefs to flourish. Nearly every restaurant in the city features regional classics on its menus. To our surprise, this amazing food was as affordable as it was delicious. For example, we were able to find many restaurants that offered lunch that included a starter, main course, and dessert for around $15 US per person. Similar dinners were
Dijon’s history is also inherently linked to the great wines of Burgundy. Located on the famous Grand Cru wine route, Dijon has been an important viticultural city since medieval times. While the vineyards were cultivated on the prized slopes of the valley, the city of Dijon was the trading center from where the wine business was managed and conducted.
To experience the bounty of wine that is created in Burgundy, there is a great variety of tasting rooms, wine shops, and restaurants throughout Dijon that allow visitors to find their favorites. For a more in-depth experience, the vineyards are so close to Dijon that day trips by bicycle are a popular thing for visitors to do.
The words “fine wine” in France doesn’t necessarily correlate to expensive. For example, glasses of wine in restaurants are very reasonably priced ($3-6 US per glass) as are bottles ($10-30 US). Dijon also has many wine tasting shops that offer bottles at similar prices. For an even more budget-friendly option, supermarkets sell bottles for between $3 US and $30 US.
Free or Low Cost Things to do in Dijon
One can not eat and drink the amazing offerings from Burgundy all day and night. Believe us, we tried! Luckily, there is so much to see in do Dijon that does not involve food or wine. World-class museums, sprawling markets and, historic buildings with absolutely beautiful architecture are scattered throughout the city. The city has created a unique walking trail thought the town that highlights many of the main sites. As a bonus, most of the museums are offered free of charge and are within an easy walk to one another.
The Museum of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts is an absolute must-see while in Dijon. Housed in the former Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, this is one of the oldest museums in France, founded in 1787. Renovated in 2013, the museum offers a unique combination of art, history and architectural collections all under one roof. An immense diversity of art ranging from Egyptian times to modern French artists such as Picasso and Monet are showcased. One of the largest museums in France, the Musee des Beaux de Dijon features the tombs of Philippe le Hardi and Jean sans Peur, Islamic glasses, weapons and caskets, ancient ivories of Africa, African ceremonial masks, Chinese and Japanese porcelains, Korean stoneware, Tibetan and Indian sculptures, and pre-Columbian ceramics. Admission is free and the crowds are very small. One the day that we visited the museum, we had entire rooms to ourselves to enjoy.
The Magnin Museum
The Musée Magnin is a national museum with a collection of around 2,000 works of art collected by Maurice Magnin and his sister Jeanne. The Magnin Museum is housed in a beautiful building dating from the 17th century known as the Hôtel Lantin and features French and Italian paintings from the 16th through the 18th centuries.
The Rude Museum
This museum has nothing to do with manners. On the contrary, the Musée Rude is an art museum dedicated to the French sculptor François Rude (1784–1855). Rude is best known for his sculpture Départ des Volontaires de that adorns the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Rude was born in Dijon and the city features many of his sculptures in its public spaces. The small museum is housed in a former church called Église Saint-Étienne of Dijon which was built in the 11th century. Admission is free.
The Museum of Burgundian Life
The Museum of Burgundy Life, located in the former Bernadine Monastery, gives visitors the experience of travelling through time to rural Burgundy in the 18th, 19th and the 20th centuries. The exhibits are a visual storybook, with arrangements of costumes, household objects, and storefronts that recreate the ordinary life of the average Burgundy country dweller. The museum is small and can be seen in its entirety in less than an hour.
Les Halles Market
A trip to Dijon would not be complete without experiencing the Les Halles covered market. Designed by Gustave Eiffel, this market is open every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday,
The creation of Dijon mustard can be accredited to Jean Naigeon. In 1752, Naigeon perfected the original mustard recipe by substituting verjuice (the sour juice of unripe grapes) for the vinegar that was traditionally used. Today, Dijon mustard can be created anywhere in the world, as the region does not hold a protected geographical indication (PGI) like the Champagne region. That said, the Burgundy region still produces the finest mustards in the world, with some of the oldest producers continuing in the tradition. A variety of mustard shops are available for tours and tastings in Dijon. We enjoyed a free sampling at Moutarde Maille, which has been creating mustard for over 270 years.
The Owl Trail
The Owl Trail in Dijon is a fun and budget-friendly way to explore the city and its many historic sites. While you can purchase a tour booklet at the tourist information desk, we choose to self-guide ourselves along the trail, following the numbered owls that are inlaid in the sidewalks. Informational plaques are placed on many of the historic points of interest. The full owl trail consists of 22 points of interest including 15th-century half-timber houses, the Cathedral of Saint-Benigne, Notre Dame church and many more interesting stops along the trail.
Another way that we keep our costs low and stay on budget while we travel is by using Airbnb. Use this link to get $55 off your first booking.
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Interested in more budget travel ideas in France? Click here to read our article about Paris.