Dijon – 10 top sights on the Owl's Trail
Dijon is a beautiful town which is fortunate to have inherited great palaces, elegant buildings and splendid architecture from the old Burgundian nobility. Under the dukes of Valois, Burgundy was a powerful region and being on the spice route, it enjoyed great wealth. The region today continues to be prosperous, producing world famous wines and also enticing visitors with its gastronomic festivals. Of course the word Dijon is synonymous with mustard, so it’s great to be in a place where its produce is a household name.
Our visit here started with our check-in at the Sofitel Dijon La Cloche and straight away I knew I’d love the place. This luxurious historic hotel was built in 1884 and is listed as a heritage building. It’s celebrity residents include Grace Kelly, Maurice Chevalier, Napoleon III and Rodin. Being conveniently located near the Old Town it offers easy access to a number of key attractions, as we found out when we crossed the park.
As mentioned in my previous blog, the city’s historic heart is best explored on foot by following the Owl’s Trail. This trail was created by city administrators to make it easier for visitors to efficiently guide themselves to the major tourist sites. The trail officially starts at the Dijon Tourist Office in Place Darcy, but you can really join it at any one of the brass plaques located on the footpath.
I’ve been hunting high and low for my copy of the Owl’s Trail, but don’t seem to have filed it in its logical folder. Frustratingly, I wasn’t able to find a version of it on the Net, but you can buy it from the Dijon Toursit office for 2.5 euros. There are 22 stops on the trail, but even if you covered the top 10 attractions, you’d be doing okay. The sites we visited include:
1. Porte Guillaume on Place Darcy, Dijon’s version of the Arc de Triomphe
2. Rue des Forges and its town houses
3. The Moutarde Maille shop – Check out the varieties of mustards but don’t buy here. They’re cheaper in the supermarket across the street, or maybe even cheaper in your hometown grocery shop.
4. Rue Verrerie, a cobble-stoned street with its antique shops
5. Notre-Dame Church on rue de la Chouette – You’ll find the magic owl on one of its buttresses. Make sure you touch it with your left hand and make a wish as it may bring you good luck.
6. Hôtel de Vogüé which is believed to be one of the finest mansions built in France in the 17th century
7. The former Palais de Justice (Law Courts)
8. The Palais des Ducs – once home to the powerful dukes of Burgundy. Unfortunately, time beat us to this site and we didn’t get to climb to the top of the 150 ft-high Tour Philippe le Bon. The panoramic view of the town from the top promises to make climbing the 316 steps worthwhile. From the top you can also study Dijon’s different styles of architecture and admire the multicoloured tiled roof of the Vogue residence
9. Place Francois Rude
10. Along the way we stopped into shops selling traditional produce (mustard, crème de cassis liqueur and gingerbread). I’m not a keen fan of gingerbread, but it’s good to always have a taste of whatever food the destination is famous for. At least you can say that you’ve tasted the real stuff.
I had the impression that we were going to have a meal in a chateau tonight, however it turned out to be in a side building in the compounds of an elegant chateau. Nevertheless the food was excellent and the cheese selection was just divine.
One would need more than the two days that we had here to appreciate the town at a leisurely pace and even a longer stay to explore the surrounding attractions and vineyards. This is a great place and definitely worth revisiting, especially when the Gastronomic Fair is on in November.