Dijon is famous for its mustard, but the quaint boutiques selling old-fashioned mustard are just the beginning of the tourist attractions. Known as the “City of Dukes,” Dijon was the capital of the medieval duchy of Burgundy. The town’s UNESCO-listed historic center boasts well-preserved aristocratic palaces and elegant “hôtels particuliers,” mansions of the Dukes of Burgundy and other distinguished owners.
Besides admiring the impressive architecture, visitors will enjoy strolling the atmospheric cobblestone streets and savoring gourmet meals at traditional restaurants. Dijon is a place to sample authentic culinary specialties such as escargot and boeuf bourguignon for a taste of classic French gastronomy. For ideas on more things to do, see our list of the top attractions in Dijon.
1. Palais des Ducs and the Musée des Beaux-Arts
The Palais des Ducs et des États de Bourgogne (Ducal Palace) is a must-see tourist attraction in the UNESCO-listed historic center of Dijon. The palace exemplifies refined Neoclassical style, thanks to renovations in the 17th century by the architect of Versailles, Jules Hardouin-Mansart. The Dijon Office of Tourism organizes tours of the Philippe le Bon tower, which has sensational views from a platform at the top (reached by climbing 316 steps).
The Palais des Ducs houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts, a fine arts museum that displays exhibits within the palace’s former kitchen, guard room, and grand reception halls (the East Wing of the palace).
The Musée des Beaux-Arts boasts an exceptional collection of around 13,000 pieces, from Egyptian antiquities to contemporary art. Highlights include masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance by Titian, Veronese, and Lorenzo Lotto; 17th-century paintings by Rubens, Phillipe de Champaigne, and Georges de la Tour; 19th-century works by Gustave Moreau and Eugène Delacroix; and Impressionist paintings by Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Edouard Manet, and Camille Pissarro.
Not to be missed are Georges de La Tour’s Le Souffleur à la Lampe, a painting that reveals an amazingly realistic technique of depicting candlelight; and Adam and Eve in Paradise by Guido Reni, which evokes a sentimental view of paradise.
2. Cathédrale Saint-Bénigne
The Cathédrale Saint-Bénigne in the historic center is the city’s finest example of Burgundian Gothic architecture, built between 1280 and 1314 on the site of an ancient Benedictine abbey. The cathedral was dedicated to Saint Bénigne, who was martyred in Dijon in the late 2nd century.
The only remaining vestige of the original abbey is the “Rotonde,” a remarkable three-story subterranean crypt, which contains the tomb of Saint Benignus. Dating back to the Carolingian era, the Rotonde is a solemn domed space that resembles the classical architecture of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
Today, this emblematic twin-towered monument still provides a place of spiritual worship for the residents of Dijon with daily mass celebrations. One of the most inspiring things to do in Dijon is to attend one of the cathedral’s organ concerts, performed by renowned musicians throughout the year. The cathedral also houses an Archaeological Museum with an excellent collection of Gallo-Roman artifacts, Romanesque sculptures, and medieval antiquities.
3. Eglise Notre-Dame
Built between 1230 and 1250, the Eglise Notre-Dame is the “Grande Dame” of Dijon churches. In the historic center (near the Ducal Palace), the building exemplifies Burgundian Gothic architecture, with a striking facade featuring three rows of whimsical gargoyles and a marvelous high-vaulted interior.
The church has a clock tower created in 1382 with a charming family of jacquemarts, mechanical figures that chime the church bells. Inside the chapel on the right is a precious 11th-century Black Virgin, one of the oldest wooden figures in France. An owl sculpture on the exterior is considered a good luck charm. The local tradition is to stroke the owl and then make a wish.
4. Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne
The Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne (Museum of Burgundian Life) occupies the Cloître des Bernardines, a splendid cloister of a 17th-century monastery in Dijon’s historic center. This museum is a great place to learn about the culture of the Burgundy region. Collections focus on the history of Dijon, the traditional clothing of the 19th century, and everyday objects from the 19th to 20th century.
An exhibit of Faïence de Dijon reveals the beauty of 17th-century faïence ceramics (plates, dishes, pitchers, mustard jars, etc.) decorated with delicate motifs. The museum also has a library-boutique that sells books, postcards, and vintage-style wooden toys.
5. Chartreuse de Champmol
Outside of Dijon’s historic center (about a five-minute drive or 30-minute walk), the Chartreuse de Champmol is the former necropolis of the Dukes of Burgundy. However, the monument was converted into a hospital in the 19th century.
Today, the site welcomes tourists and is worth visiting to admire two superb examples of Burgundian sculpture created in 1404: the Puits de Moïse (“Well of Moses”) and the Portail de la Chapelle (Doorway of the Chapel). The “Puits de Moïse” features decorative columns topped by angels and Old Testament prophets. The Portail de la Chapelle is the entryway for a chapel that nows serves the hospital community.
Address: Centre Hospitalier Spécialisé de la Chartreuse, 1 Boulevard du Chanoine Kir, Dijon
6. Dijon Mustard Boutiques and Culinary Shops
For gourmands around the world, it is a happy coincidence that the woodland terrain around Dijon provides the ideal conditions for cultivating mustard plants with pungent seeds. The Dijon style of mustard is so distinctive that the town’s name is synonymous with this gourmet product, created by gently milling the seeds of locally grown mustard plants. In fact, the venerable condiment has been produced here since the 14th century.
Two prestigious mustard boutiques are found in the historic center of town: the Maison Maille (32 Rue de la Liberté) founded in 1747 and the Moutarderie Edmund Fallot (16 Rue de la Chouette), which dates to 1840.
Other gastronomic destinations in Dijon include the culinary marketplace Les Halles (Rue Odebert), built-in 1868 and modeled after Paris’ market halls. Les Halles contains 246 boutiques that sell fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, bread, and specialty food products.
La Maison des Pains (7 Rue de la Liberté) near the Maison Maille is the place to indulge in fancy French pastries. Also nearby is the Pains d’épices Mulot & Petitjean boutique (16 Rue de la Liberté), which sells gingerbread cakes, a specialty of Dijon. Founded in 1796, the Mulot & Petitjean company has a historic boutique at 13 Place Bossuet and still follows gingerbread recipes that have been passed down through the generations.
7. Jardin de arquebuse
In a more modern area of Dijon outside of the historic center, the Jardin de arquebuse is a delightful botanical garden with an arboretum and playground. The vast grounds offer an oasis of relaxation in nature. The garden is planted with 3,500 species of indigenous and exotic plants, including medicinal plants. Spacious lawns, vibrant flowerbeds, alleyways of shady trees, and a gurgling stream add to the charm, inviting leisurely strolls through the leafy park.
Science lovers will appreciate the garden’s natural history museum, the Jardin des Sciences de Dijon. This museum educates visitors about biodiversity with exhibits on zoology, geology, mineralogy, and entomology. The museum features interactive and educational display windows to help visitors understand the natural history. The planetarium will appeal to those who appreciate astronomy and anyone who enjoys star gazing.
8. Eglise Saint-Michel
In the historic center of Dijon (near the Ducal Palace), the Eglise Saint-Michel appears to soar towards heaven, with its twin-towered facade that harmoniously blends medieval and Renaissance architectural elements.
Founded in 1497, the church was constructed over two centuries, which explains the unusual mix of styles. Three richly sculpted doorways feature ornate carvings of angels and other figures. An exquisite high-vaulted Gothic nave impresses visitors with its grandeur and brightness. The sanctuary is illuminated by gorgeous 19th-century stained-glass windows that have a dreamy, romantic quality.
9. Hôtel de Vogüé
In the heart of the historic center near the Ducal Palace, the Hôtel de Vogüé is a magnificent hôtel particulier (mansion) constructed in 1614 for Etienne Bouhier, an advisor of the Bourgogne Parliament. This exquisite example of classical Italian Renaissance architecture incorporates a grand entrance porch and an ornately adorned courtyard. The entire building is characterized by its decorative richness, and the distinctive tiled roof features the colorful geometric patterns that are typical in Burgundy.
10. Musée Magnin
The Musée Magnin occupies the Hôtel Lantin, another elegant 17th-century hôtel particulier in Dijon’s historic center. The museum provides a glimpse of a unique private art collection, which belonged to passionate art collectors Jeanne and Maurice Magnin. The collection focuses on French paintings (650 pieces), most of which were created between 1630 and 1650 as well as 18th-century and early 19th-century works.
The lavish Salon Napoléon III is still decorated with original antique furniture and objects of art. Tourists can find souvenirs at the museum’s boutique, which sells postcards and reproductions of artworks.