A grand plan that's sure to cut the mustard

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

City Slicker: Dijon - The winds of change are blowing across Dijon. Find out how. David Atkinson offers bright ideas for new and returning visitors



Why visit?


Dijon is provincial France with big-city pretentions. It has traditionally suffered something of an image problem: stuffy, serious and trading on its past as the 15th-century seat of the Dukes of Burgundy. But a wind of change is blowing across Burgundy and le Grand Dijon, as the masterplan of the local mayor, François Rebsamen, aims to drag Dijon into the 21st century.

The city, located between Paris and Lyon, still looks like a work in progress, with the cornerstone projects of its redeveloped infrastructure and public spaces not due to be complete until autumn 2012, but go now for a preview of the transformation while Dijon remains a well-kept secret.

For a weekend break, Dijon is an easy escape. Smooth rail connections from London via Paris take under five hours. Humberside-based Eastern Airways (easternairways.com) launches a new thrice-weekly summer service, from Southampton to the expanded Dijon Bourgogne Airport, from 6 June.

Cars are increasingly banned from the city centre under the auspices of the Grand Dijon project. Instead, the free-to-use Divia shuttle bus service (divia.fr) now connects the major sites, more streets are being pedestrianised, a bicycle-hire scheme has taken off, and 12 miles of tramline are currently being laid around the city ready for a September 2012 opening (letram-dijon.fr).

Better still, all the museums are free; tired old squares now buzz with young-upstart restaurants sitting alongside Michelin-starred local heroes such as Stephane Derbord and Jean-Pierre Billoux; and the summer festival season is getting into full swing. There's a theatre festival in May and Dijon's take on the annual Fête de la Musique is on 21 June.

While the Grand Dijon is currently bringing its fair share of chaos to some areas, the central Place de la Libération is comparatively calm. Take a seat on a café terrace among the dancing fountains and sip a kir, white wine (or champagne for a kir royale) with crème de cassis – the blackcurrant-based liquor is a local delicacy. On an early-summer evening, it's the perfect way to mix in with the Dijonnais and soak up the ambience.

Don't miss...

The Musée de Beaux Arts (mba.dijon.fr) formerly the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, which is Dijon's landmark heritage attraction and will remain open throughout work to update its facilities. Exhibits include The Nativity by Robert Campin and sculptures by François Rude and François Pompon. The first phase of the redevelopment will be complete by 2013 with a new courtyard restaurant.

The Mustard. Dijon is synonymous with the spicy relish and the place for mustard-munching cognoscenti is definitely Maille on Rue de la Liberté (maille.com). The historic shop sells gift sets of mustards and vinegars, and offers free counter tastings of more than 30 blends. Beware the white-wine blend, it'll make your eyes water.

The townhouses. A walking tour, in French and English, of Dijon's townhouses (book at the tourist office) is a great way to peer beyond the heavy wooden gates into frozen-in-time courtyards. Maison Millière (maison-milliere.fr), a cosy café and souvenir shop in a 15th-century townhouse on Rue de la Chouette, opens a new salon de thé this autumn in the Hotel Chambellan, one of the oldest townhouses in Dijon with a carved, Gothic balcony.

The pain d'épices. La Rose de Vergy (rosedevergy.com), at the heart of Dijon's salon de thé quarter, is the best shop for the local spiced bread, which is similar to gingerbread. Freshly baked in the basement, the residents of Dijon eat it toasted with foie gras.

Les Halles. Shop for local goodies at one of the few covered markets left in France. A certain Dijon-born Monsieur Eiffel had his revenge in Paris after Dijon rejected his original plans for the market. Market days are Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, and it is encircled by restaurants, of which Chez Copains (10 rue Quentin) is much admired.

What's new?

Place de la République

The much-overlooked square to the north of the centre will be the hub intersection of the tram's twin lines from 2012. Work to landscape the area is under way and new cafés are moving into the square and adjoining Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Among the first of the new wave of openings is Bistrot République (16 Place de la République), which has a retro feel and serves bistro staples.

L'Imprimerie

The old Concorde café has been reinvented as this buzzy, printing press-themed café and has re-established its reputation as a meeting place for the Dijonnais. Located on Place Darcy, it has an all-day menu, there are books and newspapers to browse and free Wi-Fi. Stroll afterwards in Darcy park.

Details: brasserie-imprimerie-dijon.fr

Le 2 Bis Epicerie Gourmande

One of a slew of chic café-delis springing up as the chain stores move out of the historic centre and independent boutiques take over. Grab an espresso and browse the Pop Art-styled displays of Burgundy produce, plus a wine cellar and a selection of artistic cupcakes.

Details: 2b Rue Jeannin

L'Usine

Place Wilson is an area to watch with the opening in June of L'Usine, Dijon's first contemporary arts space. Designed by Shigeru Ban of Centre Pompidou-Metz fame, its ethos is to shake up bourgeois Dijon with provocative art under the guidance of art world enfant terrible Xavier Douroux. The opening exhibition features work by Cindy Sherman among others. Look out for forthcoming installations from the Chinese born, Dijon-adopted, artist Yan Pei-Ming.

Details: leconsortium.com

Restaurant L'Epicerie & Cie

Place Zola, at the heart of Dijon's thriving studentland, is newly resurgent with cafés and eateries opening up. This rustic restaurant and buvette (a stand-up bar) is one of the best and spills out on to the square on sunny summer lunchtimes. Serves a mix of local favourites (eggs poached in a reduced Burgundy wine sauce, anyone?) and the more standard steak-frites.

Details: lepicerie-dijon.fr

Compact Facts

How to get there

Railbookers (020-3327 2439; railbookers.com) offers a two-night package, including return standard-class Eurostar travel from London St Pancras International to Dijon, with accommodation at the Sofitel La Cloche Hotel on a B&B basis, from £329 per person. Call for details of third-night-free offers.

Further information

uk.franceguide.com; visitdijon.com; bourgogne-tourism.com

Insider Secret

Sherry Thevenot, Tour guide (bourgogne-authentique.com)

“At the Musée Rude you’ll see the life-size cast of La Marseillaise, by Dijon-born artist François Rude. The bas-relief adorns the Arc de Triomphe but few know his work is tucked away here. Vive la révolution!”

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Recruitment Consultant (Trainee), Finchley Central, London

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary