Dijon, as you may have guessed, gets a lot of its fame from its Dijon mustard. However, the capital city of eastern France’s Burgundy region has much more to it than that.
Dijon has a rich history and some beautiful architecture to admire. There is plenty of great shopping to be done, museums to see, and more – and we here at Road Affair don’t want you to miss any of it, which is why we’ve carefully crafted a list of the best things to do in Dijon! So let’s unpack this list (pun intended) and get you set for your vacation to the mustard region.
Make a Wish at the Owl of Dijon
As you walk the streets of Dijon, you may notice small golden plaques on the walkway engraved with an owl. The owl is the official symbol of Dijon, and these markings lead all around the city to tourist points of interest. One of the points this trail will take you to is the Owl of Dijon.
This small owl monument is engraved into the side of one of the city’s most beautiful Gothic churches, the Church of Notre-Dame of Dijon. If you are walking on Rue de la Chouette from the east (the owl will be on the left), it’s tradition to make a wish, touching the owl with your left hand. You’ll notice bikers and locals touching it nonstop as they pass, so join in on the action and start thinking of your wish now! You never know if it could come true.
Sample Dijon Mustard
When in Rome, right? Your Dijon holiday wouldn’t be complete without trying some of the city’s famous mustard!
There are plenty of mustard shops around the city, but two of the more popular spots are La Moutarderie Fallot and La Maison Maille. You can browse and sample many mustard flavors in these stores. What’s really interesting is the different types of alcohol they use to make them, like whiskey and Champagne. You can buy small sample mustards that make great gifts – or purchase a regular-size mustard and watch the workers pour it right out of a tap into a jar, just as they would a beer.
Go on a Walking Tour
Dijon has so much rich and funny history, and the best way to learn it is on a walking tour. Walking tours are especially great if you’re spending only a weekend in the city, as you get to see all of Dijon’s highlights.
You can opt for a self-guided walking tour or one with a seasoned guide. For the latter, check out this guided tour of the city. The tour guide, Bertrand, is a local with immense passion for the city’s history, and he can take you down hidden pathways to find true gems. For a self-guided tour, pick up a trail guide from the Tourist Office of Dijon and follow the gold owl markings on the ground.
Try the Local Cuisine and Drinks
One of the best things about traveling is trying food and drink from around the globe, and in France, you’ll find some of the best food and beverages in the world!
For drinks, you might think we’re only talking about wine. While the region is known for its pinot noir, creme de cassis is another delicious drink in this area. The history behind this liqueur is quite interesting. Burgundy historically had many vineyards, and the workers couldn’t afford to indulge in the delicious wines they helped produce. Instead, they received the bottom-of-the-barrel wine that was undrinkable to most. So the workers created this black currant liqueur to add to the wine, making it more flavorful. You can pick up a bottle of creme de cassis in most shops and add a small amount to a glass of white wine as a digestif.
France is known for its cuisine, and you can try many national and local dishes in Dijon. If you’re out for lunch and looking for something small, try onion soup, escargot, or a croque monsieur. You can’t go wrong with a cheese platter either.
Around dinnertime, you might be looking for something more filling. Some local dishes to try for dinner include boeuf bourguignon (beef stew with a red wine sauce), coq au vin (chicken braised with white wine), and cuisses de grenouille (frog legs) for more adventurous eaters.
Visit the Palace of the Dukes and Estates of Burgundy
This massive palace began construction in the 14th century and served as seats for the dukes of Burgundy. Because this was the head area of the dukes, many of them constructed large mansions throughout the city that still stand. The palace was built by famous architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart, who also designed the Palace of Versailles.
Now home to the Tourist Office of Dijon and the Dijon Museum of Fine Arts, this palace is a truly magnificent piece of architecture. You can tour the grounds and most of the palace on your own to marvel at the ornate detail that went into every corner of the building.
Climb the Philippe le Bon
Inside the Palace of the Dukes is the Philippe le Bon, a tower that offers sweeping 360-degree views of the city.
The tower was built in the mid-15th century to symbolize the power and wealth of the dukes of Burgundy. You can now climb up 316 steps to the top of this 46-meter-high tower for a breathtaking view. To climb the tower, first visit the Tourist Office to the left of the palace’s main entrance.
Visit the Well of Moses
The Well of Moses is one of Dijon’s most recognizable monuments and the masterpiece of Dutch artist Claus Sluter. It was commissioned by Burgundian Duke Philip the Bold for the Carthusian monastery of Chartreuse de Champmol’s burial site in the late 14th century.
This striking sculpture depicts six prophets – Moses, David, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Daniel, and Isaiah – and is meant to symbolize the fountain of life. You can find the Well of Moses in the former monastery on the west side of the city.
Browse the Artworks at the Dijon Museum of Fine Arts
If you are looking for free things to do in Dijon, why not head to one of the free museums? In fact, most museums in the city offer free entrance.
If you only plan on going to one museum, the must-see in Dijon is the Museum of Fine Arts. The museum is located in the Palace of the Dukes and originally opened in 1799, making it one of the oldest museums in France. You’ll not only get to tour the palace rooms decorated with vintage furnishings, but also see an impressive art collection that ranges from ancient Egyptian pieces to 20th-century works.
The most notable masterpieces to see here are the tombs of two dukes of Burgundy, Philip the Bold and John the Fearless. Constructed in the 15th century, these Gothic tombs are famous for the engraved mourners around their edges.
Visit Other Museums in Dijon
If you’re keen to visit more than the Museum of Fine Arts, you have plenty of other museums to check out in Dijon.
Another popular Dijon attraction is the Musée Magnin, a 17th-century mansion that once belonged to Jeanne and Maurice Magnin. These two siblings rounded up an impressive collection of artwork, objects, and furniture. They gifted the estate and collection to the state in 1938, on the condition that the mansion stay and be shown as it was at that time.
These are some other great museums to visit:
- The Musée Archéologique displays artifacts from Burgundy, ranging from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages.
- The Musée Rude, built on the base of an old Roman fort, displays the artworks of Dijon artist François Rude, who designed the Arc de Triomphe.
- The Museum of Burgundian Life highlights life in Burgundy from the 18th century into the 20th century.
- The Consortium Museum houses a collection of contemporary artworks.
Browse the Boutique Shops
France is known for its fashion just as much as its food, and Dijon has many boutiques and familiar stores where you can browse Parisian fashion.
For a good shopping route, start at Porte Guillaume, an 18th-century city gate, and make your way down Rue de la Liberté past some popular brand stores, such as Calzedonia and H&M. Stop in at the Galeries Lafayette department store to shop luxury brands like Michael Kors and Gucci.
Once you make it to the Palace of the Dukes, cut through it to Rue des Forges. This is a gorgeous old shopping street where you’ll find fantastic boutiques, along with 14th- and 15th-century mansions from previous Burgundy dukes.
Stroll Down Dijon’s Medieval Street
If you want to visit one of the more unique tourist attractions in Dijon, head to the medieval street of Rue Verrerie.
This incredible small street is lined with half-timbered buildings dating back to the 15th century. Not only does this street look like something straight out of a Harry Potter film, but the old vendors’ signs are still on the buildings. Because many people couldn’t read in the 15th century, the signs are symbols, so try your luck at guessing what the stores used to sell!
Tour the Côte de Nuits Wine Region
Are you looking for a fun thing to do in Dijon? Well, you can’t go wrong with a vineyard tour, especially in France!
We all know how famous France is for its wine, and this particular area of Burgundy is known for its pinot noir. If you don’t plan to rent a car while in the area, check out this half-day biking tour of the vineyards of Burgundy. The tour provides a local guide, a bike, bike equipment, and tastings at multiple vineyards.
If you do rent a car or take Uber, all you have to do is drive down Highway D974, where you’ll see signs for multiple small vineyards. The most popular vineyards to visit are Château de Marsannay and Château de Pommard.
Snap a Picture in Darcy Garden
If you’re wondering what to do in Dijon while you wander about, make sure to check out Darcy Garden.
This gorgeous green space is home to a large fountain that’s perfect for vacation photos. There is also a vintage carousel for kids to ride and, in the warmer months, a cafe in the park. This is a great spot to relax with a book and a cup of coffee or do some good old-fashioned people-watching.
Shop the Stalls at Les Halles Market
Calling all foodies! If you’re looking for places to visit in Dijon dedicated to the beloved sense of taste, you have to visit the Dijon Central Indoor Market Hall.
Built in the 18th century, this large building features gorgeous cast-iron detailing and arches. You can wander through the market stalls and sample cheese, purchase wine, and browse fresh local cuisine and produce. The market is closed Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday and is only open until 1:30 p.m. on other days, so make sure to get there earlier in the day!
Catch Some Sun at Dijon Beach
If you are visiting in the warmer months and looking for somewhere to soak up the sun, head on over to Dijon Beach.
This sandy beach haven is surrounded by tall palm trees and freshwater, offering a lovely spot to hang out for the day. You can bring a volleyball and start a game at one of the nets or enjoy a dip in Lake Kir. The beach allows dogs and also features a cafe and outdoor workout equipment.
Visit the Churches of Dijon
Don’t miss the Gothic-style churches while sightseeing in Dijon. One of the most popular to visit is the Church of Notre-Dame of Dijon, which is lined with gargoyles and exquisite detailing. This 13th-century church is home to the Owl of Dijon, along with grand arches and stained-glass windows inside. It is also home to one of the oldest wooden Black Virgin statues in France, dating back to the 11th century. St. Michael Church is also worth a visit, as it has a stunning Gothic exterior and houses artworks by Franz Kraus.
Another popular church to visit is the Cathedral of St. Benignus of Dijon. This church is linked to a pretty interesting tale of Christmas in Dijon. In the 1950s, locals gathered here to burn an effigy of Santa Claus in front of 250 cheering children. This was a protest against what locals saw as the paganization of Christmas.
Well, now you know the best things to do in Dijon! This stunning city offers so much art and culture that we’re sure you’ll enjoy your visit. Just remember to brush up your French before you get to the country! Trust us, it will go a long way with the locals.