Dijon, France is the capital of Burgundy and is best known as the birthplace of Dijon mustard. The city is small but charming, and is easily explored by foot in one day (though a second day might be nice for a more relaxed and thorough visit).
I spent last year in Dijon as an English lectrice, so I got pretty familiar with the little city as a local. Here are the loveliest places to visit and coolest things to do, from snapping shots of the characteristic half-timbered houses to buying 1€ mustard from a vending machine.
Map of Things to Do in Dijon, France
Best Things to Do in Dijon, France
Jardin de l’Arquebuse
This botanical garden one of my favorite spots in the city, and it also houses a free museum of natural history (be sure to check the hours, as it’s not always open). The garden is right next to the train station, so you can easily head over by taking the exit opposite of the one leading towards the waiting area. Strolling through the garden is always pleasant, but is especially nice in the spring, with the flowers and wisteria-covered archway. The fall also has a lovely showing of falling leaves.
Musée des beaux-arts
The museum of fine arts recently reopened after renovations in Summer 2019, and it’s home to an impressive collection of works from various time periods and styles. Even if you’re not a fan of museums, be sure to at least walk around the courtyard and view of the building from Place de la Libération; the museum’s white stone architecture is beautiful, and the building actually used to be a palace for the dukes of Burgundy (Palais des Ducs de Bourgogne). Tickets are free and the museum is open daily, except Tuesdays.
Tour Phillippe le Bon
This tower is part of the museum of fine arts/Palais des Ducs and offers a panoramic view of the city. Standing at 150ft tall (46m), you’ll have to climb quite a few flights of stairs (316, to be exact!) to get those views, but it’s said to be worth it. I never got the chance to do this, as you can only buy tickets online for a specific time slot, or at the Office of Tourism—be sure to plan ahead. Tickets are 5€ or adults for a guided tour, and 3€ for students and kids. From mid-May through October, you can also get a 20€ ticket for an apéritif (alcoholic drink before a meal) and some light appetizers once at the top.
Musée Magnin is basically a private collection in the Magnin family home—the place reminds me quite a bit of Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, as the art is displayed in furnished rooms. It kind of feels like you’re visiting an old Victorian home, which adds to the charm of the museum. Tickets range from 2,50-5,50€ and are free for EU citizens or residents under 26 (if you have a visa, that counts!). The museum is open daily, except Mondays.
Musée de la vie Bourgognienne
I never got a chance to visit this one, but I’ve heard quite a bit about it (I tried visiting, but it was closed on Tuesday). This museum is dedicated to Burgundian life and history—you’ll see life-size replicas of old storefronts (with wax dolls that are apparently kinda creepy haha), examples of traditional clothing, and artifacts from the region. Entry is free, and while the museum is on the outskirts of the city center, it’s still easy to walk there.
La chouette – Notre-Dame de Dijon
A popular tourist attraction in Dijon is the Owl’s Trail (parcours de la chouette). The Owl’s Trail is kind of like the Freedom Trail in Boston—if you follow the little gold triangles with an owl symbol on the streets of the city, you’ll be taken on a walk that stops at several historic sites (like the Palais des Ducs, churches, and museums). You can buy a map and guide at the Office of Tourism for 3,50€, or just follow the symbols on the street.
If I’m not mistaken, the trail stops at la chouette, the little owl carved into the stone of Djion’s Notre-Dame Cathedral (I never did the trail, so I could be wrong, but this is a historic landmark of Dijon, and it has the same name as the trail haha). Legend has it that if you rub the owl with your left hand and place your right hand over your heart, you can make a wish that will come true.
Mustard shops: Maille and la Moutarderie Edmond Fallot
It’s not a visit to the capital of mustard without a visit to some mustard shops! There are two shops dedicated specifically to mustard in Dijon, though you’ll find mustard in many other stores. Maille is the most visible, as it’s located on the main pedestrian street in the city. You can find Maille stores all over France, and deep brown and gold shopfront is hard to miss. There are lots of samples inside, but products tend to be pretty darn expensive.
Edmond Fallot is tucked away in a small street next to Notre-Dame de Dijon. Prices here tend to be more affordable, and this is where you can also find the novelty mustard vending machine. I never tried the machine because I didn’t need Dijon mustard (it’s very spicy, kind of like wasabi), but it looked fun, and only cost 1€. The jars are super small, so it’s not a huge commitment to get one, and you can take them in your carry-on.
Les Halles – Covered and Outdoor Market
Les Halles is a historic covered market with produce and other local goods. It’s open Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturday, and on each day except Thursday, there’s also a vibrant outdoor market surrounding the square. I didn’t love going to just the indoor market, as prices were generally high, but the architecture of the building is pretty lovely. The outdoor market is definitely fun to stop by, as there’s lots of affordable produce, flowers, and some clothing/accessories.
Best Photo Spots in Dijon, France
Place François Rude
One of the prettiest spots in Dijon is the heart of the city center. At Place François Rude, there are just so many insta-worthy things in one place: a half-timbered house, a carousel, cafés with outdoor seating. It almost feels like you’re in a different time period in this part of town.
This was one of my favorite streets in Dijon—there are just so many half-timbered houses, and there are also a couple cute dessert shops and one lovely café.
Pharmacie Richard la Croix Blanche
The storefront of this pharmacy is really hard to miss—you’ll see a deep brown and gold facade with an intricate green, red, and yellow hanging sign and crest. As the unique storefront might suggest, this isn’t your typical pharmacy. Instead, it’s more of a place to purchase more holistic health products like supplements, essential oils, medicinal herbs. Even if that’s not your thing, it’s still a lovely place to snap a shot, and it’s right next to the covered market (les Halles).
This hotel has the colorful tiled roof that’s characteristic of classic Burgundian architecture. The building is especially photo-worthy from the street across, and also up-close with its dramatic arched doors.
Mural by le Brighton
Dijon has a handful of pretty cool murals, and this one tops them all. This one is painted on the entire side of a building and mirrors the look of an actual house, but is especially cool in how it incorporates the neighboring real-life trees in the painted trees. You’ll find it next to the outdoor seating of a popular bar, le Brighton.
Porte Guillaume (or “William’s Gate”) looks a little like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, but is much smaller. It’s an 18th-century monument that serves as the gate to the city center. Beyond it lies a long pedestrian street leading to the heart of the city.
This public garden is right across from Porte Guillaume, and is one of the first things you’ll pass on your walk to the city center from the train station. There’s not a whole lot to do in the park, but it’s nice to walk around, and is a lovely spot for a picnic or simple catchup with friends. In the summer, there are even sometimes free concerts in the Jardin Darcy.
Mulot & Petitjean
You’ll definitely want a shot of this red and white half-timbered house, which is home to a store for pain d’épices. Pain d’épices is a traditional French food typically eaten around Christmas, and is kind of like a mix between a dry pound cake and gingerbread. It also frequently appears at fuel stations during trail and road races in France, which I always found funny. Both the interior and exterior of the the shop are worth a visit.
Best Restaurants and Cafés in Dijon
It’s not a successful trip without good food—here are my favorite haunts as a big foodie.
For more traditional French food:
Maison Millière – This restaurant is one of the most popular stops for traditional French food, and is housed in a historic half-timbered building right next to the Notre-Dame de Dijon (and the famous Owl/la Chouette). You’ll find three-course set menus from 22-39€.
Monsieur Moutarde – I never actually ate here, but the Sunday brunch is supposed to be quite good (it costs 29€ for adults and 14€ for kids, and is buffet-style). During the rest of the week, the place is actually more of a bar for small plates and fancy cocktails. The exterior of the restaurant also has some pretty insta-worth doors 🙂
Le Chez Nous – This is more of a bar than a restaurant, but it’s pretty darn popular, super affordable, AND veggie-friendly. My friends and I got 2-course vegetarian meals for 7€ each! It can be hard to get a spot to eat during lunch, and making reservations is tricky as the phone number listed didn’t work at the time haha. It’s right next to les Halles (the covered market), so consider stopping by for a meal if you’re in luck, or a drink if it’s busy.
For (really damn good) ethnic food:
Le Shanti – Since I eat mostly vegan, and traditional French food is decidedly not vegan, I mostly ate out at ethnic restaurants. So, I was excited to find an Indian-inspired vegetarian restaurant with affordable prices (around 10-15€/meal). My personal favorite was the Bombay Burger with the Shanti sauce (it’s not vegan, but it’s so good! They also have a vegan peanut sauce). The space of this restaurant is also super unique and calming—it definitely has a Southeast Asian feel with its decorations, and cushioned seating on the floor in the back of the restaurant. You can even take yoga classes here!
Épicerie Coréenne – Eating in this Korean restaurant feels like you’re eating in a family home. There’s not much seating, and the restaurant capacity is probably 10 people with 2 larger tables. The food is pretty good, is veggie-friendly, and each dish is 10-15€. The best part of the restaurant though is the lovely woman who runs the entire show—and I’m not exaggerating. The owner literally is the only server and cook. Definitely plan ahead to spend at least 2 hours here if you come, as things can take a while to be prepared, but it’s worth the homey ambiance (though maybe not on a day trip, but a longer trip haha). My favorite dishes were the scallion pancakes, veggie dumplings, and japchae noodles.
For tea and coffee:
Le Paï-Sho – This is THE loveliest place for tea and exquisite desserts. The tea menu is pages long and must have 100+ options; you can also buy tea by weight to take home. The owner of the place is so friendly and sweet, and explains what flavor nuances you can expect as he pours the tea for you. I also loved how the tea came with a piece of chocolate that complemented the flavor of the tea. I came here multiple times with friends, and definitely miss being able to stop by.
JSB Coffee – Another cozy spot for tea, with tons of options as well. The seating here is especially nice—there’s some outdoor seating, and also lots of comfy chairs upstairs.
Madeleine Café – You can get food, tea, and coffee at this pretty café on Rue Verrerie (one of the lovely streets with lots of half-timbered houses). I also appreciated that it’s one of the few non-Starbucks cafés in France where it’s socially acceptable to work there (the working café culture is still not really a thing in France, and most people go there to socialize).
Morning Glory Café
Morning Glory – This is probably the most aesthetic café of them all, as there are hanging plants, white walls, industrial lightbulbs, and rustic wood tables. It’s also nice in that you can sit down and work there, too. I’m only listing this last as the drink sizes were unusually small for the price on certain items, like the matcha latte.
How to Get to Dijon, France
If you’re coming from Paris, there are multiple trains from Paris to Dijon daily; you have the option of the cheaper TER (regional train), which takes 3 hours one way, or the faster train (TGV), which takes 1.5 hours. I prefer the faster train, as it’s faster haha, has wifi, and is generally more comfortable. The TGV is easily 1.5-2 times more expensive than the TER though, especially if you’re under 26 years old. The TER costs 17,50€ one way for those under 26, and 35€ for those above. The TGV costs 25-40€ one way for those with a Carte Jeune (youth discount pass), and 30€ or more for those without.
There are also direct trains from Lyon, Lausanne, Strasbourg, Mulhouse, and Luxembourg City.
Once you arrive at the station, you can walk to the old town and begin sightseeing in less than 10 minutes. If you prefer, there’s also a tram that leaves directly from the train station and takes you to the city center.
There are also buses from Paris, which are much cheaper (~10€ one way), but take around 4 hours. Many other cities also have bus routes to Dijon. The buses will drop you off right outside the train station, as there’s not really a bus station in Dijon.
A rideshare app called BlaBlaCar is super popular in France, and you can get to all kinds of places with it that you might otherwise not be able to access with train or bus. I personally have only used BlaBlaCar once, and had a terrible experience. Others have had good experiences though, so I wouldn’t write it off completely, especially for direct rides (the scheduling gets really messed up if you’re in the middle of a driver’s long trip).
The closest airport is in Dole, and you can get to Dijon via bus and train in about 2 hours. There’s also the nearby Mulhouse/Basel/Freiburg airport, which is also around 2 hours away by train.
Comptoir des Colonies in Place François Rude
How to Get Around Dijon, France
Dijon is a super walkable city, and you probably won’t need to use public transport unless you’re staying far outside the city center. There is a tram, however, and it’s very easy to use. Just keep in mind that the tram network isn’t on Google Maps, so you’ll either need to download the app (Divia Mobilités) or use a normal map. Each ride costs 1,40€ but you can also get unlimited 24h, 48h, and 72h passes. You can pay with a contactless card on the tram itself, or you can also buy a pass from the machines at each stop.
There are also buses if you need them, but most of the tourist attractions are best accessible via the tram or on foot. Your tram passes work on the bus, and you can also pay in cash or with a contactless card on the bus itself.
Where to Stay in Dijon, France
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If you’ll be extending your day trip, here are some places to stay in Dijon.
Luxury: Grand Hôtel la Cloche Dijon (150-350€)
This hotel overlooks Porte Guillaume, the main gate leading to the city. It’s an easy walk from the train station, and is right next to the Jardin Darcy, a public garden. The interior of the hotel looks modern and upscale, and amenities include a spa and restaurant.
Mid-range: City Loft AppartHotel (70-130€)
This hotel is based in city center and offers fully-furnished apartments for solo travelers, duos, or families. Each apartment has a kitchenette (with a microwave, stovetop, refrigerator), a TV, and air conditioning (which is SUPER rare in France).
Budget: Studio in the city center (40€)
This private studio is in a well-lit apartment in the city center. You’ll be able to use the well-equipped kitchenette if you like to cook, but you’ll also be a short walk away from the city’s restaurants.
Wishing you the loveliest trip to my home city for a year! If you’re spending more time in Dijon or Burgundy, check out my post on the Prettiest Day Trips from Dijon by Train. I also have a whole post on what it’s like to live in Dijon, if you’re curious about life in France as an expat.