You may have heard of Dijon because of the mustard that was named after it and is now distributed worldwide. But Dijon is also considered by many as one of the prettiest cities in France.
With its grand palaces, historic buildings, medieval streets,and lovely stores, Dijon is one of the must-see places in the renowned wine region of Burgundy. Amidst its strong medieval past, the city has emerged as cosmopolitan and partly industrialized. At the city center, you will find universities including the University of Burgundy, which brings in the young and more energetic crowd. But in other parts, Dijon remains generally laidback and quiet.
The owl or la chouette has been the icon of Dijon since the early 16th century. You will find this creature sculpted on the side of the Notre-Dame church. Despite World War II dawning upon this French region, Dijon’s architectural jewels remain largely preserved. The town’s great history includes being the chosen capital of the Dukes of Burgundy, who were at the height of their power during the 14th and 15th century. Aside from their political conquests, these Dukes are known for their penchant for the arts. Thus, it’s not surprising that Dijon had become the regional center for music, painting, sculpture and architecture during the Gothic and early Renaissance times.
Head out to the Palais des Ducs et des Etats de Bourgogne (The Ducal Palace), and you will find the impressive Musèe des Beaux-Arts that showcases the massive number of valuable art pieces the city accumulated over the centuries since the Roman Period. Another great thing about this exquisite museum is entrance is free! After visiting Musèe des Beaux-Arts, make your way to the Philippe Le Bon tower attached to the Ducal Palace. You will need to climb 316 steps to reach the top but you will be rewarded with a gorgeous view of Dijon at the end. Another notable museum and a worthwhile cultural site is the Museum of Archaeology tucked within the Abbey Benigne.
One of the best things to do in Dijon is to just soak in the atmosphere by strolling around its most prominent areas like the Place Franáois Rude (Place du Bareuzai) which is another famous spot where locals love to hang out. The place is home to lavish traditional homes, a fountain and sculpture and a selection of bars and cafes.
The market hall or Les Halles is one of the liveliest places in Dijon and is an architectural gem, designed by Gustave Eiffel, the same architect who designed Eiffel Tower. It is highly recommended that you stop by this site especially during market days, which are Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Here, you will find nice stores with lavish interiors, clothing boutiques, cafes and patisserie shops. And if you are looking for the local mustard to bring home, this place is certainly selling lots of it.
You can also do the self-guided walk around the city called Parcours de la chouette. The walk has 22 stops, which are marked by owl arrows and numbered owl plates placed in the ground. Before doing the walk, you can head over to the tourist office to grab guide book which gives a detailed description about each stop or attraction. If you feel you will easily get exhausted walking around, another viable option is to cycle. Dijon is cycle friendly city, and public bicycles are always available for rental at the 40 bike stands found in the city center.