Capital of the Burgundy region, Dijon was the home to the court of the dynasty of the Valois of Burgundy, one of the most powerful Empires in Europe in the 14th and 15th century. Their patronage made Dijon an international artistic hub and even today the city retains a creative vibe. Visit Dijon for its rich history, and also for its fabulous food (with a dash of Dijon mustard on the side, bien sûr). Situated in the heart of the wine-producing region of Burgundy with its grands crus wines, Dijon is the gateway to the Côte de Nuits.
The Palace of the Dukes and the Estates of Burgundy, a must-see in Dijon, which looks over the Place de la Libération, is a spendid palace which recalls Versailles. On the site of the home of the Dukes of Burgundy in the 12th century, it was rebuilt by the first Duke of Valois, Philip the Bold. In the chapel, his grandson, Philip the Good established the prestigious "Order of the Golden Fleece". After the fall of the Valois dynasty, the palace was expanded and became the Palace of the Dukes and the Estates of Burgundy. Part of it houses the Dijon Museum of Fine Arts, which has one of the most remarkable collections in France. Admire the Flemish Primitive paintings commissioned by the Dukes of Burgundy in their heyday, when they ruled over the Netherlands. In the Guard Room you can see the tombs of Philip the Bold (with decorations by Claus Sluter) and that of John I of Burgundy - aka John the fearless. Wander among the reconstructions at the Perrin de Puycousin Museum of Burgundian life where you will learn all about daily life and commerce in Burgundy up until the end of the 19th century, and the children can soak up history in cartoon form.
When you've worked up an appetite, it's time to choose one of the many fine restaurants in Dijon, perhaps in Place Darcy. The Burgundy region is famous for its cuisine, so try some of the local specialities such as: bœuf bourguignon, Burgundy meat fondue (drop your meat in the oil by mistake and you'll have a forfeit to do...), coq au vin, escargots de Bourgogne… and of course Dijon mustard: as they say here, "it's not mustard unless it's Dijon". The famous mustard gives a little kick like nothing else to a dish. The recipe for pain d'épice was brought from the kingdom of Flanders by Philip the Good. Since the 19th century, Mulot and Petitjean have kept the traditional recipe going. Try the delicious blackcurrent syrup, crème de cassis (Lejay and Kir Royal are two of the best known brands). Mixed with white wine, you'll have a kir, the Burgundy apéritif par excellence. Embark on a tour of the vineyards of the Yonne (Chablis, Chardonnay), the Côte d'Or (Chatillonnais) and the Côte de Nuits, Beaune, capital of Burgundy wine (or claret), the Saône and Loire areas (Côte chalonnaise, Mâconnais, Beaujolais vineyards). To complement good food and drink with good humour, Dijon hosts the 4-14 Festival. American and French chefs and musicians battle it out in this three day celebration of food and fun.
Don't leave Dijon without stroking the little owl carved on the side of the Church of Notre-Dame in Dijon and making a wish. Careful what you wish for though, it might just come true...
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