Dijon is an unheralded French city that is worthy of a detour. Its foodie scene is quietly stealing a march on its bigger and better-known rivals. All that luscious produce from the surrounding Burgundy countryside—not to mention some of France’s best wines—ends up in Dijon’s restaurants, cafés, food shops and food market.
Dijon’s cultural attractions and architecture are just as appealing. Wander around Dijon’s historic center and you’ll come across dozens of hôtels particuliers—elegant townhouses built from the 15th to 18th centuries for the nobility. They’re the warm-up act for the Palais des Ducs et des Etats de Bourgogne, the former palace of the dukes of Burgundy. This sprawling edifice is dazzling enough even without the equally impressive Place de la Libération opposite.
Stroll towards the 13th-century Notre-Dame church and marvel at its fantastically grotesque gargoyles leering down from above. Look down at the brass owls embedded into the sidewalks that invite you to follow the Owl Trail all around the city center. Rue de la Chouette (Owl Street) features a cute owl sculpture. Do as the Dijonnais do and rub it—always with the left hand—for luck. Walk along Rue de la Chouette to surround yourself with pretty medieval half-timbered houses. There are a lot of things to see and do in Dijon for a city break.
Get your culinary bearings by starting in Les Halles, the 19th-century food market in the center of the city. Check out Le Gourmet deli for treats including escargots filled with garlicky parsley butter or duck terrine with kir.
Look out for charolais beef, whose rich flavor is perfect for a boeuf bourguignon, Burgundy’s signature stew. For an excellent introduction to the dish, order a comforting bowl at Café Gourmand in Place de la Libération. To get your cheese fix, pop into Les Trois Bures, a convivial restaurant behind the market that specializes in cheese dishes featuring local varieties. If your budget can stretch further, treat yourself to a meal at Loiseau des Ducs, a Michelin-starred restaurant founded by the widow of chef Bernard Loiseau.
Visit the Edmond Fallot Moutarderie to discover one of the true flavors of Dijon. Have a mustard tasting at the Bar à Moutardes at the back of the shop to see how the addition of basil, tarragon or walnuts can transform this condiment.
Dijon also has a sweet and spicy side, as it’s France’s fragrant home of pain d’épices—gingerbread. Step inside the impossibly pretty shop of Mulot & Petitjean and inhale scents of cloves, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon.
In this lively university city, there’s no shortage of buzzing bars. Head to Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau where you’ll find L’Absintherie, an absinthe bar also has beer, wine and charcuterie.
The Tour Philippe le Bon soars over the Palais des Ducs et des Etats de Bourgogne. Climb its 316 steps and you’re rewarded with panoramic views of Dijon. You might even be able to see Mont Blanc, France’s highest mountain.
Back at ground level, head to the front of the palace to enter the Musée des Beaux-Arts, which is one of France’s largest regional art museums. Take your time to savor its 130,000 works of art from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance to today.
Combine history and a love of food by exploring the story of how pain d’épices became such a staple part of Dijon’s cuisine. La Fabrique de Pain d’Epices is the factory and museum of Mulot & Petitjean, and your visit ends with a tasting of some of its ginger cakes.
Grand Hotel la Cloche
The four-star Grand Hotel la Cloche is in a handsome 19th-century building overlooking Place Darcy and Jardin Darcy. The design is contemporary yet warm and welcoming, with a chic bar to go with its excellent restaurant and landscaped gardens. Head into the vaulted basement to relax in the spa’s heated plunge pool, sauna and steam room.
Hotel des Ducs
It’s hard to get more central than Hotel des Ducs, which is just around the corner from the Musée des Beaux Arts. The sleek and modern rooms come with balconies, and an adjoining building includes apartments with kitchens. The hotel also offers stylish rooms in the 15th-century Maison des Ducs as well as attractive suites in Résidence des Ducs.