Dijon, the capital of the rich region of Burgundy, is a perfect place for a short  break. It may be eclipsed by its more flamboyant and famous neighbour, Beaune, but Dijon is a gem of a place to discover. It has an old quarter with walking trails leading you down cobbled streets past old medieval half-timbered buildings and gracious Renaissance stone mansions, a Fine Arts Museum with extraordinary medieval tombs you won’t see anywhere else, and an International Centre of Gastronomy which opened in 2022. To top it all, dynamic new bars and restaurants have a young staff determined to introduce you to the wines of Burgundy that will not break the bank.

Dijon is a city of surprises, it’s easy to get to from the UK or Paris, and it’s a city to discover on foot. A city perfect for a weekend or weekday short break.

Street of Renaissance stone houses in Dijon with elaborate carvings
The old quarter in Dijon © Mary Anne Evans

Getting to Dijon

It’s an easy trip from either the UK or from Paris to this glorious corner of France. I boarded a Eurostar train at London St Pancras to Paris, then took the RER train from the Gare du Nord to the Gare de Lyon. The rapid TGV sped through the ever changing countryside to get into central Dijon in just 1 hr 35 minutes. The whole journey took a mere 4 ½ hours, though I had to be pretty quick crossing Paris from station to station.

Where to Stay in Dijon

The l’Hôtel Oceania Le Jura on the Avenue Maréchal Foch is a mere 5-minute walk from the train station. Just outside the historic centre and with a contemporary decor, spa and swimming pool, it’s a good 4-star choice. Rooms from €98.

l’Hôtel Oceania Le Jura
14 Avenue Maréchal Foch
Tel: +33 (0)3 80 41 61 12
Website

Day 1 Short Break in Dijon

Saint Bénigne cathedral Dijon photo of coloured tiled roof in geometric pattern
Saint Bénigne cathedral © Wikimedia/

As I was in the gastronomic city of Dijon,  the obvious starting point for any visit, short break or long stay, was a guided Balade Gourmande tour, booked and organised by the tourist office. It was a rainy autumn day so the first stop was inside the long lofty Saint Bénigne cathedral to avoid a short sharp rain shower. It’s a magnificent Gothic building rebuilt between 1280 and 1325 on a former monastery. The crypt and splendid rotunda at the east end are being restored, adding to sights to see in 2024.

Gourmet Tastings

Mulot et Petitjean Dijon shop interior with old fashioned wooden shelves packed with colourful packets and tins of gingerbread
Mulot et Petitjean © Mary Anne Evans

Then it was on to less cerebral pleasures, starting with the delightful Mulot et Petitjean shop whose old-fashioned windows are full of pain d’épice (gingerbread) loaves, tempting packets and colourful tins of those sweet delicacies piled high. If you really get hooked, visit their factory for lessons in tasting and making.

Fallot mustard shop with table laid with jars of mustard, big pots of mustard and shelves underneath with more mustard
Fallot Mustard Shop © Mary Anne Evans

A mustard lesson came next, at Edmond Fallot, one of the few manufacturers of genuine Burgundy mustard. Moutarde de Dijon might be a familiar name, but as it’s not officially protected geographically (like Camembert cheese, or Puy lentils), it can be produced anywhere in the world. However, keep your eyes open for mustard with the Burgundy label Moutarde de Bourgogne and you’re on to the real thing. 

The small Fallot shop at 16 rue de la Chouette was full of people trying the different tastes at the mustard bar and shelves jammed with the mustard pots. Locals take along their own pots to get them filled with their favourite flavour.

Look out for the Owl

Metal owl small statue on wall in Dijon marking a walking trail
The Dijon Owl © Mary Anne Evans

On the way we came across small plaques of a comic owl, one on the wall of Notre-Dame church, the others on the ground. Pick up the leaflet of the Owl Trail (Le Parcours de la Chouette) from the Tourist Office, then follow the plaques past all the major sights. It’s a good booklet with nuggets of odd information. The ornate Maison Millière in the cour de l’Hôtel de Vogüé appeared in the film, Cyrano de Bergerac, and rue Verrerie may now be full of antique shops, but it’s been called other names after the professions that once occupied the ground floors: Pork Market Road; Cloth Street and Shearers Road. There’s also a guided walk for €4 per person.

Lunch

Dr Wine restaurant Dijon showing wooden table with chairs with wooden wall behind and wine bottles stacked in glass wine case to one side
Dr Wine © Mary Anne Evans

Time for lunch and my first real lesson in Burgundy Wines from one of those young restaurateurs who know a thing or two about finding good, relatively inexpensive wines. Dr Wine is a bar/restaurant in the heart of the old town where you sit at tables surrounded by wines on open shelves and in glass cases that run from floor to ceiling.

I was looking forward to this; after all Burgundy wine is extremely expensive, and the top Grand Cru wines from Gevrey-Chambertin and particularly Romanée-Conti are beyond the reach of ordinary mortals. One hectare of vineyard in Burgundy today costs between three and four million euros. The most expensive wine ever sold was a 1945 Domaine de Romanée-Conti which fetched $558,000 at a Sotheby’s sale in 2018. It had been estimated at $32,000, so even the experts can get it wrong. This particular bottle was so expensive due to the prestige and rarity: it was the end of World War II, only 600 bottles were produced that year and immediately after the Domaine replanted all its vines. It begs the question: would there ever be an occasion when the proud owner dared to open and drink it?

Dr Wine

As the owner of Dr Wine, Simon Quiquerez, told us:  “We go to vineyards just outside the AOC, which are the same, but far less expensive.” And with that, he poured us a 2020 Chardonnay from Paul Pallot, one of the top names in Chassagne-Montrachet which produces all the main categories: Village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru. It was delicious and a fraction of the Grand Cru equivalent. With a whole range of wines, and an excellent menu of 2 dishes at €18, or 3 at €23, Dr Wine is a real find. There’s a Dr Wine shop just around the corner.

An Afternoon with the Dead

Much happier, and with blue skies beckoning, I made my way to one of the blockbusters of Dijon, the Fine Arts Museum, opened in 1787. A major museum, and one of the oldest in France, it’s housed in one corner of the grand-sounding, and grand-looking, former Palace of the Dukes and Estates of Burgundy. Construction began in 1366 under Philip the Bold, the first of the four immensely powerful and rich Dukes of the Valois family who made Burgundy into one of the powerhouses of medieval Europe. The gracious classical building you see today was the inspiration of the architect of Versailles, Jules Hardouin Mansart. The oldest part is the square tower that dominates the back of the palace. If you’re feeling energetic (and fit), it’s worth climbing the 316 steps in the tower for the panoramic view over the city and beyond into the countryside.

Philip the Bold's tomb fromthe side with two angels with gold wings looking down on recumbent figure of the duke with blue and red side cushions
Philip the Bold’s tomb ©Mary Anne Evans

The Museum has 1,500 works of art from the Middle Ages to the 20th century but the most unusual and surprising room is the chapel with the tombs of Philip the Bold and his son John the Fearless and his wife Margaret. They lie in splendid state, protected by angels. Even more impressive are the ‘weepers’ who surround the bases; extraordinary life-like sculptures of mourners.  ‘A funeral march in stone’ is how the author of The Waning of the Middle Ages, Johan Huizanga, described the weepers.

Life like stone figures of mourners around the tomb of Philip the Bold, Dijon
Mourners around Philip the Good’s tomb © Mary Anne Evans

Le Musée des Beaux-Arts
Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy
Tel: +33 (0)3 80 74 52 09
Website
Open Open Oct 1-May 31 Wed to Mon 9.30am-6pm; Jun 1 to Sep 30 Wed to Mon 10am-6.30pm. Closed Jan 1, May 1 & 8, Jul 14, Nov 1 & 11, Dec 25
Admission Free

Walk the Streets

Hotel Le Chambellan, Dijon showing small courtyard with Renaissance stone staircase to right, wooden balcones in middle and old stone house windows on left
Hote lLe Chambellan © Dijon Tourism

Dijon is small and compact with great walks taking you into its rich past. Grand hôtels particuliers – private mansions built in the 17th and 18th centuries, lie behind the doors and gateways. I took in the symmetrical and gracious Hôtel built in the 1690s by Charles Legouz de Gerland, master of the Dauphin’s robes. Others like the Hôtel Le Chambellan have balconies, staircases and Renaissance windows packed into a small courtyard.

Another Wine Tasting and Dinner

La Source des Vins Dijon with long wooden table set with platters of cheese and charcuterie and racks of wine behind
La Source des Vins Tasting © Mary Anne Evans

It was approaching 6pm so obviously the time for more Burgundy wines. La Source des Vins, 6 bis Rue Michelet, offers a great tasting of three wines, with plates of charcuterie, cheeses and fruit for €20 or €25. The selection of wines to buy is wide: the most expensive bottles are between €1800 and €2000, but like all the wine shops in Dijon, there’s also a good selection from €12.

Le Pre aux clercs restaurant Dijon in square seen from distance with lights on semi circular classic building and tables and parasols outside
Le Pré aux Clercs Terrace © Mary Anne Evans

We walked back to the Place de la Libération for dinner at Le Pré aux Clercs, a restaurant owned by the 3-star Michelin starred Michel Guérard though independently run. With menus from €25 to €39, an imaginative selection of dishes and outdoor seating looking at the Palace, it’s a rightly popular place. Almost exclusively Burgundy wines range per bottle from around €30 to  €2,150 for those with impeccable tastes and deep pockets. (It’s a Montrachet Grand Cru 2018 from the Domaine des Comtes Lafon in the Côte de Beaune in case I have any rich readers).

Day Two – Short Break in Dijon

Into the Countryside on a Wine Tour

small stone hut with Close de Beze on side in vineyard with autumn colours
Clos de Beze hut in Chambertin © Mary Anne Evans

The second day began with a group tour through the vineyards surrounding Dijon with Chemins de Bourgogne in a minibus. Sébastien Maurin who founded the company knows his wines so sit back and enjoy the tour past vineyards, up hill and down dale. It turned into a ‘Did you know?’ kind of experience that was a revelation. 

So I will share some of it (great for a kind of Trivial Pursuit conversation). Did you know that…

  1. In Burgundy the soil changes every 70 metres
  2. ‘Climats’ refers to small vineyard plots
  3. Individuals pay 30% inheritance tax, but companies like LVMH pay no such tax
  4. Burgundy bio wines are officially made by just 6% of producers. But that’s not a true figure; many produce bio wines but are reluctant to go through the complex and time-consuming classification. For instance each of the fields (which might be scattered across a wide area) carries a separate form. A fine example of French bureaucracy in all its glory. 
  5. Some producers still pick by hand using horses and carts rather than tractors (far less heavy therefore they don’t compact the soil so much), and use sheep to eat the grass between the rows of vines. 
  6. The Domaine de la Romanée Conti is still considered the most prestigious wine in the world
  7. Climate change is having an impact. August harvests have been recorded more and more frequently. The first was in 1465, the second in 1836, third in 1976, then in 2003, 2009, 2015, 2019, 2020, 2022. 

But that’s enough; go on the tour for more of those fascinating facts.

Dom,aine de Quivy Dijon with courtyard in front of gractious old stone two storey house with bushes in front and ivy on facade
Domaine de Quivy Dijon © Mary Anne Evans

The tour finished with a wine tasting in Gevrey-Chambertin at the Domaine de Quivy. Its wine cellars were full of wooden barrels, while bottles covered in the dust of ages lined the walls. Quivy produces between 10,000 and 12,000 bottles a year, and 600 to 900 Grand Crus. We tried a 2020 Les Journées, perfect to drink with beef or cheese; a 2021 Les Evocelles, a 2021 Les Corbeaux (a Premier Cru) produced on land very close to the Grand Crus, and called Corbeaux as crows follow the pickers, seeking out juicy insects to snack on. We finished with a Grand Cru, Charmes Chambertin of 2020. It was a superb wine tasting.

We bowled back to Dijon for lunch and another excellent wine tasting. It was at La Cave du Palais, in the cellar of the Hôtel du Palais…which is owned and run by the enterprising Sébastien Maurin and his wife, Eve.

A Gastronomic Afternoon

Dijon Cité de la Gastronomie showing front of new building with floor to ceiling glass windows
Cité de la Gastronomie Credit Mary Anne Evans

The Cité de la Gastronomie et du Vin (The International City of Gastronomy and Wine) opened in april 2022 to great fanfare. Not a surprise; in 2010 UNESCO declared that the French gastronomic meal was part of the world’s intangible heritage. Around £210 million was invested in turning a former hospital into a glorious exploration and celebration of French gastronomy. And why not; after all, isn’t a good meal one of the reasons we go to France for?

Picture of Gargantua being fed by man with 2 spoons in Cite Internationale de Gastonomie in Dijon
Gargantua in the Cité Internationale de la Gastonomie

It’s fun and educational at the same time with plenty of machines to sniff, smell and try your knowledge at. There are cartoons, photos of the world’s great and good sitting down with various Presidents of France at a banquet, film clips and more. A converted chapel takes you through the vineyards; shops offer you the chance to buy a wide variety of top cheeses, charcuterie and kitchen equipment (at a price, I have to warn you); there are regular events and tastings. 

Shop in Cite Internationale de Gastronomie from outside showing goods and food inside with wooden shelves of herbs outside
Shop in Cite Internationale de Gastronomie © Mary Anne Evans

Surprise, surprise…another wine tasting

What you choose to taste at the wine bar, La Cave de la Cité, is up to you. After walking around the three floors holding 3,000 bottles – mostly but not exclusively – from Burgundy, make your way to the tasting room. Buy a card for whatever you want to spend, then get your choice dispensed into your glass from a machine. There’s a choice of 250 wines varying from €2.50 to €9.50. Open Mon: 12-5.30pm; Sun, Tues-Thurs: 11am-7pm; Fri, Sat: 11am-8pm.

Wine dispenser in La Cave de la Cité © Mary Anne Evans

After that, book a meal at the excellent La Tables des Climats. They take the unusual path of helping you choose the wines in advance (from over 800), then letting the chef cook your dishes to complement them. Otherwise take one of the menus from €32 euros to €71 (with suggested wines adding to the price). Open Wed-Sat 12-1.30pm & 7pm-9pm; Sun lunch. Closed Sun eve, Mon and Tues.

La Table des Climats Dijon restaurant dish. Stoneware plate with tuile covering meat and vegetables
La Table des Climats Dish

Cité de la Gastronomie et du Vin
12 Parvis de l’UNESCO
Tel: +33 (0)3 80 23 88 76
Website
Open Open Daily. Exhibitions 10am-6pm. Restaurants see separate links
Admission for Exhibitions Adult €9; child €5. 1204 Centre Free

Day 3: Short Break in Dijon

A Cookery Lesson

We had tasted; we had eaten, now it was the chance to cook. Salt & Pepper offers cookery lessons in a large professional kitchen.  Alexandre Vachon was about to teach us to cook goujères (small cheese puffs), oeufs en meurette (poached eggs in red wine sauce), and poached pears in brandy snap baskets.

Salt & Pepper cookery class Dijon with me helping prep in front of stainless steel counter with man and courtyard in background through glass door
Salt & Pepper cookery class © Mary Anne Evans

It seemed an easy task, but it wasn’t. We got there in the end, sat down to eat and congratulated ourselves on a job well done. However (and it’s a big however), I have tried the goujères at home and they have fallen flat (literally). Where am I going wrong?

Salt & Pepper
6-8 Bd de la Trémouille
Tel: +33 (0)3 73 27 54 62
Website
Courses From €60 t €160 (with masterchef)

Salt & Pepper Dijon dish of black plate with poached egg and mushrooms on top
Salt & Pepper cooked dish © Mary Anne Evans

Farewell Dijon

I left Dijon vowing to return. There is so much to see in this city of medieval houses (painted red to repel insects), and ornate Renaissance houses, small museums and large churches. And of course there is a lot of Burgundy wine to drink (learn about, I mean).

More Places to Stay

There are a number of good, inexpensive chain hotels in Dijon.

Also recommended are the Grand Hôtel de la Cloche with its 88 rooms, spa, bar and a good restaurant in a pretty conservatory with outdoor seating. Rooms are large and comfortable with good bathrooms. From €149.

Grand Hôtel de la Cloche
14 Place Darcy
Tel: +33 (0)3 80 30 12 32
Website

Statue of bear in Jardin Darcy Dijon in green park with iron railings in background and beyond a grand hotel
The Grand Hôtel de la Cloche looks out onto the Jardin Darcy © Atelier Desmoulins

The upmarket bed and breakfast La Cour Berbisey has just 4 suites. It’s in a delightful Renaissance town house in the center of Dijon just ten minutes from the station. Well-sized and decorated rooms looking onto a private courtyard, an indoor pool and good breakfasts included. From €129 (least expensive in low season) to €279 (most expensive in high season).

La Cour de Berbisey
31 rue Berbisey
Tel: +33 (0)6 32 55 69 01
Website

La Cour Berbisey Dijon in garden with green lawn in front, bushes to right against wall and old Renaissance house with sloping tiled roof in background with garden trellis on wall
La Cour Berbisey © Wikimedia/Alchemica 3.0

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