Things to Do in Dijon
One of Dijon’s most important historical landmarks (and included in the Historic Center of Dijon UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Dijon Ducal Palace was, for centuries, the seat of Burgundian power. Constructed in the 14th century, it is today host to a museum and government offices, and is open to the public.
Winding its way through the Burgundy wine appellations, the scenic Route des Grands Crus (translated as Road of the Great Wines) is the region’s main tourist route, linking together more than 30 wine-growing villages and dotted with grand châteaux and historic wine caves. Possible by car or bike, the route follows mostly quiet country lanes through the heart of wine country, taking in all the wineries of the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune wine districts, famed for their pinot noir and chardonnay grapes.
Highlights of the Route des Grands Crus include the striking Burgundy wine capital of Beaune, home to the flamboyant 15th-century Hospices de Beaune (Hôtel-Dieu); the grand Château Clos de Vougeot; and picturesque wine-making villages like Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey St Denis, Vosne-Romanée, and Chambolle-Musigny, where it’s possible to stop off for tastings and winery tours.
One of the oldest and most evocative streets in Dijon, the picturesque Rue des Forges is located in the city’s historical center. Featuring several hôtels particuliers (historical manor homes), the street also wends its way past the Palace of the Dukes and Burgundy States and connects to the verdant Square des Ducs.
One of Dijon’s loveliest historical landmarks, the Hôtel de Vogüé dates to the 17th century and was built as a hôtel particulier—a luxurious manor house—for Etienne Bouhier, an adviser to the Parliament of Burgundy. The building is renowned for its stone carvings, colorful roof tiles, grand courtyard, and other ornamental flourishes.
In Dijon, west of the Ducal palace, looms the twin-towered Dijon Cathedral (Cathedral of Saint Benignus of Dijon). This large, Gothic church is the current seat of the Archbishopric of Dijon, as well as a French national monument. Originally a Benedictine abbey, the cathedral is the latest iteration of a series of reconstructions that have occurred over the past 1,500 years.
The cathedral (as well as its previous incarnations) sits upon the alleged resting place of St. Benignus of Dijon, a 3rd-century martyr known for spreading the Christian gospel throughout Gaul. While he was successful in his proselytizing, he was eventually tried, convicted and executed by the Roman authorities. His grave was originally adorned with pagan markings so as to keep his persecutors from further desecrating his memory.
Over the centuries, the original basilica was razed and replaced with a Romanesque cathedral incorporating two-stories of churches (one underground, surrounding the sarcophagus in the crypt) and a tri-level rotunda. In the late 13th century, the structure, already undermined by a fire in 1137, saw irreparable damage when its crossing tower collapsed and ruined the upper church and much of the one underground. In 1325, the current Gothic-influenced building was completed and consecrated.
Today, in addition to its status as a national monument, the church’s abbey serves as a museum. The exhibits here primarily feature Roman and medieval artifacts.
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