Capital of the Duchy of Burgundy in the Middle Ages, Dijon has inherited a unique cultural and architectural heritage within one of the greatest conserved areas in France. It’s an emblematic city of haute cuisine and lifestyle, described by King Francis I as “the town of a hundred bell towers” and the crossroads between northern Europe and the Mediterranean in Roman times. It was here in the 14th century that the Valois Dukes of Burgundy founded one Europe’s greatest and most powerful courts in Europe, at which point it became the seat of the Order of the Golden Fleece.
Dijon’s pedestrian streets wind between a plethora medieval houses, churches and Renaissance townhouses. Place de la Libération, created by Hardouin-Mansart, is perhaps its loveliest square – in summer its sunny café terraces are perfect places to sit and watch the world go by. At the Fine Art Museum, housed in the former Palace of the Dukes and States of Burgundy, Flemish paintings rub shoulders with 19th-century sculpture and decorative arts. The modern art collection here is astounding.
At the Charterhouse in Champmol, the ‘Puits de Moïse’ is an extraordinary example of the splendours of medieval Burgundian sculpture. The Halles de Dijon (covered market) was built in 1868, on classical lines, by the Eiffel company. Book a gourmet meal at one of three Michelin starred restaurants – le Pré aux Clercs, l'Hostellerie du Chapeau Rouge or Stéphane Derbord – after a pause at a wine bar, where you can sip a glass of the region’s finest. Speaking of which… Dijon is also the gateway to one of the most prestigious vineyards of France, the Côte de Nuits, with its world-class wines. With the Dijon-Côte de Nuits Pass you can visit 11 must-see sites at your own pace – and if you don't have time to see everything the first time round, simply come again, as the pass is valid for a year.
Fun ways to explore Dijon include the Owl’s Trail (‘Parcours de la Chouette’), which passes 22 sites in the historical centre, inviting you to not only savour its charm but also go back in time. General guided tours are available all year round – the tourist office organises a vast programme of diverse and varied themed tours. You can even set off to explore by Segway, led by a dedicated guide. Dijon’s lively events calendar includes an antiques fair and the Coupes Moto Légende vintage motorbike meet in May, the Grand Prix de l'Age d'Or in June, free concerts in downtown as part of Garçon la Note in July and August, the International Festival of the Vine at the end of August, and the International Gastronomy Fair in late October/early November.