A grand plan that's sure to cut the mustard - Europe - Travel - The Independent

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
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
News
i100
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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
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

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week