Dijon in France – Visitors Guide to a City Which really Cuts the Mustard

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Dijon is world famous for its mustard. But it’s so much more than that. Dijon is the capital of the Côte-d’Or département and of the Burgundy region. It lies in an area that has been occupied since Neolithic times, and was a Roman settlement 2,000 years ago on the road linking Lyon and Paris. The city is the former capital of the dukes of Burgundy, a museum town with a well-preserved and presented architectural heritage.

Where is Dijon in France?

Dijon lies 310 km (193 miles) south-east of Paris, 190 km (118 miles) north-north-west of Geneva, and 192 km (120 miles) north of Lyon.

It lies at the heart of a plain drained by two small converging rivers: the Suzon, which crosses it mostly underground from north to south, and the Ouche, on the southern side of the city. Farther south is the ‘côte’, or hillside, of vineyards that gives the department its name.

Things to do in Dijon

Dijon has numerous museums such as the Musée des Beaux-Arts, the Musée Archéologique, the Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne, the Musée d’Art Sacré, and the Musée Magnin. It also contains approximately 700 hectares of parks and green space, including the Jardin botanique de l’Arquebuse.

In addition to a plethora of churches, Dijon has a rich and varied architectural styles from the main periods of the past millennium, including Capetian, Gothic and Renaissance. Many town houses in the city’s central district, still-inhabited, date from the 18th century and earlier.

Half-timbered houses in Dijon

Dijon architecture is distinguished by, among other things, toits bourguignons (Burgundian polychrome roofs) made of tiles glazed in terracotta, green, yellow and black and arranged in geometric patterns.

The city has considerable cultural heritage of interest to visitors. The Château de Gevrey-Chambertin was built in the 11th century on the site of a Gallo-Roman villa, when it was already surrounded by vineyards.

The Musée Archéologique contains items from all part of the Côte d’Or department. While the Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne, situated in the cloister of the former Bernardine convent, houses a collection of both rural and urban ethnography (country costumes, furniture, etc., everyday life in Dijon from the 18C to the 20C).

The Museum of Fine Arts in Dijon, being one of the oldest museums in France, was founded in 1787 during the Age of Enlightenment.

It is renowned all over the world both for the richness of its encyclopaedic collections, stretching from Egyptian art to the 20th century and for the historical interest of the building that holds them, the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy.

Dijon in Burgundy

Burgundy, of course, is a world-famous French wine region, and notable vineyards, such as Vosne-Romanée and Gevrey-Chambertin, are within 20 minutes of the Dijon city centre.

The road from Santenay to Dijon is known as the ‘Route des Grands Crus’, where eight of the world’s most celebrated wines are produced. The tourist office holds information about a considerable number of organised tours of the vineyards.

All about Dijon mustard

The well-known Dijon mustard originated in 1856, when Jean Naigeon of Dijon substituted verjuice, the acidic “green” juice of not-quite-ripe grapes, for vinegar in the traditional French mustard recipe.

World famous Dijon mustard

In general, mustards from Dijon today contain white wine rather than verjuice. Dijon mustard is not necessarily produced near Dijon, as the term is regarded as genericised under European Union law, so that it cannot be registered for protected designation of origin status.

Most Dijon mustard is produced industrially and over 90% of mustard seed used in local production is imported, mainly from Canada.

Many Dijon mustard shops sell exotic or unusually-flavoured mustard (fruit-flavoured, for example), often sold in decorative hand-painted faience (china) pots.

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