The TGV from Gare de Lyon in Paris to Dijon Gare, takes just 1.5 hours, providing easy access to the pleasures of arguably France’s greatest wine area. And yet! The city of Dijon guards its treasures jealously, and is only just waking up to the benefits its unique location is capable of offering to the international wine tourist.
In the 15c, Burgundy was approximately five times the size it is today, including most of the Low Countries, and land as far south as Nimes. Burgundy was a separate state from the rest of France, and for a period of time, the more powerful of the two. The magnificent buildings in the old quarter which date back to this period, are a powerful reminder of the wealth that once made the city the European capital of culture. On the hills around the city were vineyards, and from the 6c until comparatively recently, it was Dijon that people visited to find out about, and purchase, the wines of Burgundy.
A magnificent market has existed in one form or another in the centre since time immemorial. Producers from the fertile area known as the Morvan to the west of the city, bring their wares for appreciation by yet another generation raised to understand the importance of the product to the taste of the food on our plates.
Although Dijon is still the gateway to the big name wine villages of the Cote de Nuits, Gevrey Chambertin, Morey St Denis, Chambolle Musigny, and Vosne Romanee, it is Beaune that is now the wine capital of Burgundy. However Dijon retains a charm all of its own. Half a day following the Owls’ trail, a tourist track which has been created as a guide to the most interesting parts of the city, is a day steeped in history and antiquity. The cathedral, Notre Dame de Dijon, the Medieval Quarter, the Archeological museum, The Musee des Beaux Arts, are all a must for those who have an imagination for what life was like in bygone times. The market, (Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays) is a food lovers paradise, and there are gems dotted here and there that warrant a bit of wandering to find them. Fallot’s mustard emporium in Rue de la Chouette, alongside Notre Dame, (for true Burgundy mustard made from Burgundy seeds, rather than those imported from Canada). Fabrice Gillotte, 21 Rue du Bourg, is one of the great chocolatiers of France, and his shop always busy with knowing Dijonais. If you are driving and are able to take some cheese home, Porcheret near to the Market on 18 Rue Bannelier; and just around the corner, the patisserie of Pierre Hubert, their lemon drizzle cake is just to die for, 31 Rue des Godrans. Sadly the cake is not on offer at Dijon coffee institution, Comptoirs des Colonies, just a few steps from the market at 12 Place Francois Rude.
The place to park if driving in for the day from the south side, is the car park on Rue Condorcet. It is 200m from the cathedral St Benigne and the adjoining Archeological museum, and avoids the city’s complicated one way traffic layout. From the cathedral, you can pick up the Owl’s trail on the pavement opposite the entrance, and follow it round the centre and back to where you started.
Where to Stay
The absence of a focus on luxury tourism over the years, has resulted in a shortfall of top end accommodation in the city centre. The 5* Grand Hotel La Cloche https://hotel-lacloche.com/ at 12 Place Darcy, is part of Accor Hotels. After that, think about staying outside the centre. Les Deux Chevres https://lesdeuxchevres.com is in the old part of the wine village Gevrey Chambertin, 13km south of the city centre, and an 8 minute ride on the train from Gevrey station. To the south west in the Ouche valley, is the restored 13c Cistercian Abbey de la Bussiere, which is now home to the Relais and Chateau https://www.abbayedelabussiere.fr/en/