The city of Dijon, capital of Burgundy is a fabulous visit for lovers of great food, architecture, wine, history, markets – everything in fact that makes for the best French city breaks.
With its cobbled streets, grand squares, one of the best markets in all of France, loads of free museums and amazing restaurants and wine bars – here is Dijon in photos so you can see for yourself, just how brilliant it is.
Place Francois Rude
The cobbled Place Francois Rude looks as if its been there since time immemorial but in fact was built in the early 20th century. Named after local sculptor, born close by, who is famous for creating one of the facades of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, it’s also known as Place du Bareuzai by the locals. It takes its name from the statue of a naked vineyard worker stomping the grapes, known in Burgundian as a bareuzai.
Musée des Beaux Arts
A museum in a palace. Yes, you read that right. It’s a free museum with more than 50 rooms packed full of treasures. It includes priceless paintings from many of history’s greatest artists from Franz Hals to Monet to Picasso. There’s contemporary art, sculptures, furniture and heaps more. This is without a doubt one of France’s most stunning museums. You’ll find it in the former Palace of the Dukes…
Palais des Ducs
In addition to the Fine Arts Museum in the Palace of the Dukes, you can also visit the underground medieval kitchens. And don’t miss the hall of the tombs of the Dukes. Immense 15th century funereal sculptures, with the likeness of the Philip the Bold (1342-1404) and his son John the Fearless (1371-1419). Surrounded by statues of mourners, the detail of each is incredible, choir boys, priests, monks, people who worked for the Dukes with expressions of sorrow.
In one of the oldest parts of the Palace, the 15th century Tour of Philippe le Bon offers fabulous views over the city.
Place de la Liberation
The Palace of the Dukes with its majestic façade overlooks the Place de la Lib as locals call it. The square was created in the late 1600s and was named Place Royale when architect Jules-Hardouin Mansard (1646-1708) took on the job of renovating the Palace in Dijon. His work includes the Great Trianon at the Chateau of Versailles, and the domed Chapel of Les Invalides. It’s a grand square in every sense of the word. It once held a bronze statue of Louis XIV that was so big, it took 30 years to get it there from Paris and was melted down just 60 years later during the French Revolution. Lined with bars and restaurants, filled with fountains, popular with locals as much as visitors.
The indoor market, Les Halles, is magnificent. Beautiful wrought ironwork inspired by plans proposed by the Eiffel company in 1868. Gustave Eiffel was in fact born in Dijon. It’s a fabulous market. It’s crammed with stalls selling local specialities from gingerbread to paté, fruit, vegetables, wine, cakes, cheese including the local stinky epoisses and all manner of tempting food. Take a basket (or two).
Dedicated to the works of Francois Rude the museum is in the former 11th century church of Saint-Etienne. The display includes a cast of his Arc de Triomphe sculpture, La Marseillaise. It’s free to enter.
A Library fit for Harry Potter
Dijon’s municipal library was once a Jesuit college, founded in 1701. It has an immense collection of old books, ancient globes, magazines, recipes and more. The student’s reading room looks like it wouldn’t be out of place at Hogwarts.
The 13th century Gothic church of Notre-Dame is awash with gargoyles. It’s famous in these parts for its little stone owl, carved into the wall on the corner of the church. According to locals when you pass, you must rub the owl with your left hand – it will bring you good luck. And yes, I did do it!
Be wise – follow the Owls trail!
In French the Parcours de la Chouette – the owls trail is the city’s walking trail. It will take you through Dijon, past its famous monuments, medieval streets and places of interest.