10 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Dijon
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Dijon is famous for its mustard. However, the quaint boutiques selling old-fashioned mustard are just the beginning of the tourist attractions.
Known as the "City of Dukes," Dijon was the capital of the medieval duchy of Burgundy. The center of town boasts a UNESCO World Heritage designation, because of its well-preserved aristocratic palaces and elegant "hôtels particuliers," mansions of the Dukes of Burgundy and other distinguished owners.
Besides admiring the impressive architecture, visitors will enjoy strolling the atmospheric cobblestone streets and savoring gourmet meals at traditional restaurants. Dijon is a place to sample authentic culinary specialties such as escargot and boeuf bourguignon for a taste of classic French gastronomy.
Learn about the best places to visit in this fascinating historic city with our list of top attractions and things to do in Dijon.
See also: Where to Stay in Dijon
1. Tour the Palais des Ducs and the Musée des Beaux-Arts
In the UNESCO-listed historic center of Dijon, the Palais des Ducs et des États de Bourgogne (Ducal Palace) was the residence of the Dukes of Burgundy in the 15th and 16th centuries. Renovations in the 17th century transformed the building into a refined Neoclassical palace that recalls the Château de Versailles (designed by the same architect, Jules Hardouin-Mansart).
Today, the Palais des Ducs et des États de Bourgogne is used as the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), and only certain areas are open to the public. The Dijon Office of Tourism organizes guided visits of the 18th-century Chapelle des Elus and the Tour de Philippe le Bon (tower), which affords sensational views from a platform at the top (reached by climbing 316 steps).
The Palais des Ducs also houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts, a fine arts museum that displays exhibits within the palace's former kitchen, guard room, and grand reception halls (the East wing of the palace). The museum contains one of the richest art collections in France, with around 13,000 pieces, from Egyptian antiquities to contemporary paintings.
Highlights include masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance by Titian, Veronese, and Lorenzo Lotto; 17th-century paintings by Peter Paul Rubens, Philippe de Champaigne, and Georges de La Tour; 19th-century works by Gustave Moreau and Eugène Delacroix; and Impressionist paintings by Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Edouard Manet, and Camille Pissarro.
Not to be missed are Georges de La Tour's Le Souffleur à la Lampe, a painting that reveals an amazingly realistic technique of depicting candlelight; Effet de Neige à Eragny by Camille Pissarro, a masterpiece that illustrates a snow-covered scene in delicate brushstrokes; and Adam et Eve au Paradis by Guido Reni, which presents an idealized image of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Address: 1 Place de la Libération, Dijon
2. Visit the Cathédrale Saint-Bénigne
The Cathédrale Saint-Bénigne in the historic center is the city's finest example of Burgundian Gothic architecture, built between 1280 and 1314 and originally a Benedictine abbey church. The cathedral was dedicated to Saint Bénigne, who was martyred in Dijon in the late 2nd century.
The only remaining vestige of the original abbey is the "Rotonde," a remarkable three-story subterranean crypt, which contains the relics of Saint Benignus, the apostle of Burgundy. Dating back to the 10th century (Carolingian era), the Rotonde is a solemn domed space that resembles the interior of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
Today, this emblematic twin-towered monument still provides a place of spiritual worship for the residents of Dijon with daily Mass celebrations. One of the most inspiring things to do in Dijon is attend one of the cathedral's organ concerts, performed by renowned musicians throughout the year.
Tourists should save time to visit the Musée Archéologique (Archaeological Museum), which is housed within the historic buildings of the old Benedictine abbey. The museum displays an excellent collection of Gallo-Roman artifacts, Romanesque sculptures, and medieval antiquities.
Address: Place Saint-Bénigne, Dijon
3. Eglise Notre-Dame
Built between 1230 and 1250, the Eglise Notre-Dame is the "Grande Dame" of Dijon churches. In the historic center (near the Ducal Palace), the building exemplifies Burgundian Gothic architecture, with a striking facade featuring three rows of whimsical gargoyles and a marvelous high-vaulted interior.
The church has a clock tower created in 1382 with charming Jacquemarts, a family of figurines that strike the church bells. Inside the chapel on the right is a precious 11th-century Black Virgin, one of the oldest wooden statues in France.
An owl sculpture on the exterior is considered a good luck charm. The local tradition is to stroke the owl and then make a wish.
Address: Rue de la Préfecture, Dijon
4. Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne
The Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne (Museum of Burgundian Life) occupies the former Monastère des Bernardines, a splendid 17th-century monastery in Dijon's historic center. The monastery includes multiple buildings, courtyards, a cloister, and gardens.
This museum is a great place to learn about the culture of the Burgundy region. Collections focus on the history of Dijon, traditional costumes of the region, and everyday objects from the 19th to 20th century.
An exhibit of Faïence de Dijon reveals the beauty of 17th-century faïence ceramics (plates, dishes, pitchers, mustard jars, etc.) decorated with delicate motifs. The museum also has a boutique that sells books, postcards, and vintage-style wooden toys.
Address: Monastère des Bernardines, 17 Rue Sainte-Anne, Dijon
5. Chartreuse de Champmol
Outside of Dijon's historic center (about a five-minute drive or 30-minute walk), the Chartreuse de Champmol is the former necropolis of the Dukes of Burgundy. However, the monument was converted into a hospital in the 19th century.
Today, the site welcomes tourists and is worth visiting to admire two superb examples of Burgundian sculpture created in 1404: the Puits de Moïse ("Well of Moses") and the Portail de la Chapelle (Doorway of the Chapel). The "Puits de Moïse" features decorative columns topped by angels and Old Testament prophets. The Portail de la Chapelle is the entryway for a chapel that nows serves the hospital community.
Address: Centre Hospitalier Spécialisé de la Chartreuse, 1 Boulevard du Chanoine Kir, Dijon
6. Shop at the Dijon Mustard Boutiques and Culinary Stores
For gourmands around the world, it is a happy coincidence that the woodland terrain around Dijon provides the ideal conditions for cultivating mustard plants with pungent seeds.
Traditional Dijon mustard is created by gently milling the seeds of locally grown mustard plants. Produced here since the 14th century, Dijon mustard is so distinctive that the town's name is synonymous with this gourmet product.
Two prestigious mustard boutiques are found in the historic center of town: the Maison Maille (32 Rue de la Liberté) founded in 1747 and the Moutarderie Edmund Fallot (16 Rue de la Chouette), which dates to 1840.
Other gastronomic destinations in Dijon include the culinary marketplace Les Halles (Rue Odebert), built in 1868 and modeled after Paris' market halls. Les Halles contains 246 boutiques that sell fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, bread, and specialty food products.
La Maison des Pains (7 Rue de la Liberté) near the Maison Maille is a good place to go for a snack. This large shop offers a wide selection of classic French pastries and breads.
Also nearby is Mulot & Petitjean (16 Rue de la Liberté), a fancy boutique that sells gingerbread cakes, a specialty of Dijon. Founded in 1796, the Mulot & Petitjean company uses gingerbread recipes that have been passed down through the generations. The company has a historic boutique at 13 Place Bossuet and museum located at 6 Boulevard de l'Ouest. The museum shows how gingerbread is made and offers tastings of the company's specialties.
7. Relax at the Parc de l'Arquebuse
In a more modern area of Dijon outside of the historic center, the Parc de l'Arquebuse is a delightful botanical garden with an arboretum and playground. The vast grounds offer an oasis of relaxation in nature.
This lush green space is planted with 3,500 species of indigenous and exotic plants, including medicinal plants. Expansive lawns, vibrant flowerbeds, alleyways of shady trees, and a gurgling stream add to the charm, inviting leisurely strolls through the leafy park.
Science lovers will appreciate the park's Jardin des Sciences & Biodiversité, which includes a natural science museum and planetarium. The museum educates visitors about biodiversity with exhibits on zoology, geology, mineralogy, and entomology.
Address: 1 Avenue Albert 1er, Dijon
8. Eglise Saint-Michel
In the center of Dijon (near the Ducal Palace) and classified as a Historic Monument, the Eglise Saint-Michel has a distinctive twin-towered facade that harmoniously blends medieval and Renaissance architectural elements.
Founded in 1497, the church was constructed over two centuries, which explains the unusual mix of styles. Three richly sculpted doorways feature ornate carvings of angels and other figures.
An exquisite high-vaulted Gothic nave impresses visitors with its grandeur and brightness. The sanctuary is illuminated by beautiful 19th-century stained-glass windows that have a dreamy, romantic quality.
Address: Place Saint-Michel, Dijon
9. Hôtel de Vogüé
In the heart of Dijon's historic center near the Ducal Palace, the Hôtel de Vogüé is a magnificent hôtel particulier (mansion) constructed in 1614 for Etienne Bouhier, an advisor of the Bourgogne Parliament. This exquisite example of classical Italian Renaissance architecture incorporates a grand entrance porch and ornately adorned courtyard.
The entire building is characterized by its decorative richness. The tiled roof features the colorful geometric patterns that are typical in Burgundy.
Address: 8 Rue de la Chouette, Dijon
10. Musée Magnin
The Musée Magnin occupies the Hôtel Lantin, another elegant 17th-century hôtel particulier in Dijon's historic center. The museum provides a glimpse of a unique private art collection, which belonged to passionate art collectors Jeanne and Maurice Magnin.
The collection has a rich collection of French paintings (650 pieces), most of which were created between 1630 and 1650 as well as 18th-century and early 19th-century works.
The lavish Salon Napoléon III is still decorated with original antique furniture and objects of art. Tourists can find souvenirs at the museum's boutique, which sells postcards and reproductions of artworks.
Address: 4 Rue de Bons Enfants, Dijon
Where to Stay in Dijon for Sightseeing
Tourists appreciate the old-world charm of Dijon's historic center, with its atmospheric cobblestone streets, medieval half-timbered houses, and Renaissance mansions. The historic center is also convenient for visiting many of Dijon's top attractions. However some travelers may prefer a more tranquil setting. The countryside outside of Dijon has plenty of upscale resort-like accommodations and retreats in secluded pastoral surroundings.
- In the heart of Dijon's historic center, La Cour Berbisey is a short walk from top attractions such as the Ducal Palace, the cathedral, and Notre-Dame Church. Classic yet updated French style is a decor theme throughout the 3-star boutique hotel, which occupies a renovated 17th-century house with wood-beamed ceilings and a tree-shaded courtyard. Amenities include an indoor swimming pool, parking, and complimentary breakfast with fresh-baked croissants.
- The Grand Hôtel La Cloche, MGallery By Sofitel occupies a stately Haussmann-style building listed as a Historic Monument. This 5-star hotel is about a 10-minute walk to the cathedral and a 15-minute walk to the Ducal Palace. Contemporary-style guest rooms are outfitted with modern amenities such as Nespresso coffee machines and air-conditioning. Amenities include a concierge, a trendy gourmet restaurant, fitness center, spa, and on-site parking.
- The Les Deux Chevres hotel offers an oasis of luxury in the quiet village of Gevrey Chambertin, about 20 kilometers from Dijon, surrounded by vine-covered rolling hills and woodlands. Housed in a historic property, this small boutique hotel provides charming guest rooms featuring traditional decor and fine Egyptian cotton bed linens. Accommodations include an organic breakfast buffet, served on the outdoor terrace during summertime. The hotel does not have a restaurant, but there are two excellent dining options within walking distance.
- About a 30-minute drive outside of Dijon, the Abbaye de la Bussiere is a Relais & Châteaux hotel on a bucolic seven-hectare property with a pristine lake and botanical garden. The four-star hotel occupies a renovated 12th-century Cistercian abbey, which is adorned with sumptuous silk fabrics and antique furniture. The guest rooms exemplify refined French style and inspire relaxation with window views onto the gardens, parkland, and lake. On-site dining options include a gastronomic restaurant and a casual bistro.
- The 4-star Maison Philippe Le Bon provides stylish guest rooms in the heart of Dijon's historic center, steps away from the Ducal Palace. This four-star boutique hotel has a gourmet restaurant with a wood-beamed 17th-century dining room and garden terrace dining area. Guest rooms feature sleek, modern bathrooms and views of the city, garden, or a pleasant courtyard. Amenities include a 24-hour front desk, room service, and cooking classes.
- The Hotel Oceania Le Jura Dijon is a recently renovated hotel in the more modern area outside of Dijon's historic center, near the TGV train station and just a short walk from the Parc de l'Arquebuse. This sleek 4-star hotel features contemporary-style guest rooms, a fitness center, spa, indoor swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, and a lovely garden filled with flowers. A breakfast buffet is available.
- The Hostellerie du Chapeau Rouge enjoys a fantastic location in the historic district, overlooking the cathedral. Housed in a handsome 19th-century building, this 4-star boutique hotel boasts a gastronomic establishment (Restaurant William Frachot) with two Michelin stars, a deluxe spa, and concierge services. The guest rooms are decorated in chic, modern style. A breakfast buffet is available.
- Near Dijon's Palais des Congrès exposition center (about a 20-minute walk from the historic center), the Hôtel Mercure Dijon Centre Clemenceau caters to business clients with its 24-hour front desk and other conveniences. The 4-star hotel has a gourmet restaurant, a garden with a shaded outdoor patio, and an outdoor swimming pool. Guest rooms feature cheerful, contemporary decor. A breakfast buffet and free parking are available.
- Tucked away in the heart of the historic center, the Hôtel des Ducs is steps away from many of Dijon's top tourist sights, including the Ducal Palace, the Notre-Dame Church, and the cathedral. This reasonably priced three-star hotel has minimalistic yet classic guest rooms with updated bathrooms and flat-screen TVs. A continental breakfast buffet is available.
- In a quiet residential area about a 15-minute walk from Dijon's historic center, the Hôtel Victor Hugo offers basic accommodations that are quite comfortable and stylish considering the affordable price. The two-star hotel provides a traditional French breakfast buffet (for an additional fee) and free parking.
- The B&B Hotel Dijon Centre is in a wonderful location of the historic center near many shops, restaurants, and cafés, as well as just a short walk from the cathedral and the Ducal Palace. Guest rooms are clean and contemporary in style. A continental breakfast buffet, with a wide selection of choices including hearty options, is available for an additional fee.
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Historic Treasures: Less than two hours from Paris by train, Dijon is a perfect starting point to begin exploring the countryside of Burgundy. Nestled within the region's gentle rolling hills and lush forests are numerous Romanesque churches, medieval towns, and ancient monasteries.The neighboring Champagne region also abounds with cultural treasures: marvelous castles, glorious churches, and quaint villages. A touristic highlight of Champagne is the historic city of Reims, renowned for its UNESCO-listed cathedral.
Idyllic Landscapes: The Burgundy region borders two other regions of France that are distinguished by their natural beauty. A rugged off-the-beaten-path destination, the Auvergne region is one of the best places to visit in France to go hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and fishing. Also bordering Burgundy, the picturesque French-Jura dazzles visitors with its awe-inspiring nature sites, rejuvenating thermal spas, scenic hiking trails, and ski resorts, as well as fascinating medieval towns and ancient churches.