Dijon Attractions

Aerial View Of Dijon City In France Photo Gallery Dijon Liberation Square and the Palace of Dukes of Burgundy (Palais des ducs)

The Palais des Ducs, overlooking the relaxing Place de la Libération, is the former Dukes' Palace. This grand structure evokes the power of Burgundy's warrior rulers (1363-1477), who created a duchy to threaten the authority of the King of France. Louis XI finally incorporated Burgundy into France in 1489. The classical facade encloses two original towers. The 14th century Tour de Bar dominates the courtyard in front of the east wing (which now houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts), while the loftier 15th century Tour Philippe-le-Bon can be visited only on guided tours. The view from the top is particularly worthwhile for unobstructed views of the Cathedral and the fantastically glazed Burgundian tiles of the Hotel de Vogué.

Behind the palace, stroll the medieval streets to see Dijon's lavish town houses, built by its rich burghers. The Dijon Tourist Office is set in one of the most impressive, and the rue des Forges is lined with mansions, often decorated with carved gargoyles. Another gem is the stone and wood Maison Milliere, on the rue de Chouette, which was built for artisan-draper Guillaume Milliere in the 15th century. The house provided an atmospheric setting for Gerard Depardieu in Cyrano de Bergerac. Look up to see a sculpted cat and owl on the rooftop, or stop inside for a cup of tea or to buy a teapot.

In this quarter you'll also find the church of Notre-Dame, built in the early 13th century in Burgundian Gothic style. The unusual west front is adorned with tiers of spectacularly leaning gargoyles. In the north transept, the original stained glass has survived in the five panels below the rose window. In the south transept there is a 9th century wooden "black" Virgin, one of the oldest in France. Known as "Our Lady of Good Hope", she receives prayers for health, success and happiness written into the open book on a lectern in front of the altar. Outside on rue de la Chouette, in the north wall of the church, is a small sculpted owl - chouette - polished by the hands of passers-by who for centuries have touched it for luck.

One of the greatest of Dijon's monuments is the Chartreuse de Champmol, founded by Duke Philippe le Hardi in 1383 to be the burial place of his dynasty (Dijon's equivalent of the cathedral of St-Denis in Paris). To adorn it, Philippe recruited a talented team of artists, among them the Dutchman Claus Sluter, pioneer of Realism in sculpture and founder of the Burgundian school. Although many works were destroyed in the Revolution two of Sluter's finest still remain - the so-called Well of Moses, featuring six highly realistic portrayals of Old Testament prophets, and the portal of the chapel.

See how the haute bourgeoisie lived it at the Musée Magnin. This sumptuous 17th century townhouse showcases original furniture and Maurice Magnin's private art collection. Another interesting museum is the Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne. Set within a former Cistercian monastery, the modern well-designed museum is all about 19th century Burgundian life. The evocative collection features costumes, furniture and domestic industries like butter, cheese and bread making, along with a reconstructed kitchen.

For a leisurely stroll, visit the Botanical Gardens, the Jardin de l'Arquebuse, an island of greenery in the heart of Dijon dedicated to conserving thousands of plant species. It's also the site of the Natural History Museum (with just about every stuffed bird and mammal you can think of) and an exquisite collection of butterflies.

Dijon is known for its fine food, so be sure to spend some time tasting the local fare. The many patisseries in town feature high-quality confectionery in which marzipan and fruit feature prominently. The more exotic places also promote the Dijon specialties - pain d'épices, gingerbread made with honey and spices and eaten with butter or jam and cassissines - blackcurrant candies.

And you can hardly forget that Dijon is also the high temple of mustard - leading producer Maille have a shop on rue de la Liberté, selling a wide range from mild to the most exotic. Dijon is also an obvious place to buy regional wine. At Nicot on rue Jean-Jacques-Rousseau you can taste, seek advice or take courses.

As the capital of the Burgundy region, Dijon reigns over some of the best wine country in the world. If time permits, rent a car and visit one of the many superb vineyards producing vins d'appellation controlée, such as Vosne-Romanée and Gevrey-Chambertin. Both are within 20 minutes of the city centre. The drive from Dijon to Santenay, known as the route des Grands Crus, is a wine-lover's dream, passing through picturesque vineyards, rivers, villages, forests and twelfth-century cathedrals.