Yes, they make the mustard there, or they used to. But that’s not why to visit. Visit Dijon because:
- The city center is a UNESCO World Heritage site and with traffic restricted, is very pleasant for strolling. I remember most the beautiful Renaissance and Medieval buildings that give the city its storybook appearance. Be sure to visit the Place de la Liberation, which we nicknamed “fountain square,” for it’s individual dancing streams of water. First timer tip – For low-key people watching, eat in one of the many cafes/bistros surrounding this plaza. Best is in the evening, when the setting sun illuminates the building facade in an ever changing natural light show.
- Dijon is an easy home base for day trips to one of the premier wine regions of France, known as the Côte d’Or. We rented a car and drove to Château de Meursault, a beautiful winery with extensive grounds and buildings surrounded by perfect vineyards. Even neophytes, as we were, will enjoy the tour through ancient vaults, some dating back to the 12th century. An educational experience, we learned about terroir (how the land and sun affect the grape) and tasted the most expensive wines that had ever passed our lips. Swish and spit! First timer tip – Ask for the English tour.
It’s an easy drive to Beaune where you can see the famous Musée de l’Hôtel-Dieu. Built as a hospital for the needy, all beds have a view of the front of the chapel. The famous altar painting, The Last Judgment, gave the dying something to mediate on in their last hours. The building itself stopped us in our tracks. The roof is tiled roof in an elaborate and interwoven pattern. We couldn’t imagine how long it took to create that masterpiece. Amazing! First timer tip – the center of the old town is quite small, so park just outside the wall and enjoy walking the medieval streets.
- They have really good stew! Located in the Burgundy region of France, Dijon is the perfect place to eat Boeuf Bourguignon, the delicious regional beef stewed in red wine (burgundy!) with bacon, mushroom and onions. Made famous by Julia Child, she called this dish “certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man.” Do try her recipe at home before you go! First timer tip – If the waiter tells you they are out of Boeuf Bourguinon, believe him and move to another cafe. This dish can’t be whipped up in 20 minutes as it needs hours to stew.
- The old town is home to locals as well as tourists, and people were friendly and gracious. Waiters were very nice, cordial and quite personable. Perhaps those rumors we all heard about the snooty French waiters were true at one time (I don’t know) but we certainly didn’t see any evidence of it. First timer tip – Try staying in the old town center at Appart’hôtel Odalys Les Cordeliers, a tastefully refurbished convent, within a few blocks of cafes, shopping, parks, churches and and late-night bistros.