Dijon: Much more than mustard

Dijon: Much more than mustard

by Larry Shirkey
Stripes Europe

The city of Dijon, known for its namesake mustard, is in the east-central France wine region of Burgundy. It offers visitors more than gourmet condiments; there are numerous sightseeing experiences to make this city a memorable getaway.

Les Halles du Marché

A popular place to visit is Les Halles du Marché. On Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday the building is opened to vendors selling a wide variety of fresh items, including meat, cheese, bread, flowers, fruits, vegetables and mustard. The glass and steel building was designed and built in 1875 by Gustave Eiffel who later designed the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris. On Friday and Saturday, additional vendors line the streets surrounding Les Halles selling a wide variety of new and used items.

The Owl Trail

One of the most popular sightseeing experiences is the Owl Trail, or Le Parcours de la Chouette. There are 22 points of interest on the circular trail, distinguished by a series of triangle-shaped bronze markers on the sidewalk. Each
marker has an owl imprint and reference number associated with a short narrative in the tour book, providing fun facts about the spot. A popular stop is a 16th century carved owl sculpture on a column of the Notre Dame Cathedral, often rubbed by luck-seeking visitors. The tour guide includes three additional loops (Rousseau, Zola and Moses loops) with 15 additional points of interest. The tourist information office recommends allowing at least an hour on this self-paced tour to enjoy the highlights of the main trail. Tour books are available for purchase at the three tourist information offices, and a digital app is available for download for Android and Apple devices.

Palace of the Dukes

One of the stops on the owl trail leads to the Palace of the Dukes and Estates of Burgundy (Palais des Ducs et des États de Bourgogne). This complex includes the palace, art museum, ducal kitchen, city town hall and tower of Philip the Good. The oldest buildings date back to the Golden Age of Burgundy during the 14th and 15th centuries when the Dukes of Burgundy ruled over vast parts of Europe, including Belgium and the Netherlands. Skilled Flemish
stonemasons built the Dukes’ Palace in Gothic style in 1365 when Philip the Bold (1364–1404) was given the title of Duke of Burgundy and moved the court to Dijon.

The Museum of Fine Arts, or Musée des Beaux-Arts, is housed in the Dukes’ Palace. Founded in 1787 and opened to the public in 1799, this is one of the largest and oldest museums in France. Art on display spans centuries from ancient Egyptian to modern 20th century European collections. The tombs of Duke Philip the Bold and Duke John the Fearless (1404-1419) are on display. They were crafted by Flemish masters Claus Sluter and Claus de Werve from imported alabaster and marble. The museum is open six days a week, closed on Tuesday, and entrance is free.

Located behind the Dukes’ palace is the Tower of Philip the Good (1419-1467), or Tour de Philippe le Bon. This seven-story tower was built between 1450 and 1460. Reservations to climb the tower are required, and tours are limited to 18 people. Tour members climb the 316 stairs to the top of the 138-foot tower and walk out onto the terrace for a bird’s-eye view of the city.

Visitors of all ages will enjoy the city for more than just its mustard. Sightseeing activities, like shopping at Les Halles, walking the Owl Trail and touring the Palace of the Dukes and Estates of Burgundy, will provide you with a lovely vacation experience.

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