Enjoy an “extraordinary Christmas” in Dijon, the historic capital of Burgundy! If you fancy a quick break from Paris or Lyon, then visiting the Dijon Christmas market could be a good plan for you.
Place de la Libération
Situated at the vibrant heart of the old town, the semi-circular Place de la Libération was designed as a royal square in the 17th century by Jules Hardouin Mansart and gives to the city of Dijon a certain sense of prestige.
The public square is bordered by the monumental Palace of the Dukes and States of Burgundy (Palais des Ducs et des États de Bourgogne). During the Christmas Season, the grand classical façade is magnificently lit up, making it the focal point of the city.
Since 2003 the square has hosted a popular ice-skating rink enjoyed by 20,000 people each year.
In 2013, young children enjoy a reserved area known as the “Ice Garden”.
From Wednesday 18 to Tuesday 24 December 2013, the main courtyard of the City Hall of Dijon (Ducal Palace) features a spectacular light show (Féerie 2013) projected onto the three façades of the Ducal Palace. The show lasts 20 minutes and is held at 6pm, 6.30pm and 7pm (6pm only on Tuesday 24 December).
Then, on Tuesday 24 December at 6.30pm, Santa (le Père Noël) has a rendez-vous with the children of Dijon. Since Christmas Eve 1951, Father Christmas has made a remarkable entrance when he literally “falls” from the top of the lofty 15th century Philippe le Bon Tower. Once safely on solid ground, he rewards the children with papillottes, the traditional French chocolate sweet wrapped in silver paper.
Place de la République
This is one of Dijon’s largest squares, located to the north of the old town centre, where locals gather on large occasions. During Advent, a 40 metre high ferris wheel spins on the square, which is transformed into a winter wonderland. The view from the ferris wheel offers a breathtaking panorama over the town of Dijon and its surroundings.
Place de la République hosts the traditional Christmas market of Dijon with 30 white-painted chalets. This family-orientated Christmas village is set around the square’s monumental fountain and is a great place to do some Christmas shopping. The stalls offer a great range of festive goodies: traditional handicrafts, jewellery, santons (crib figurines) and Christmas baubles. They also sell the famous local produce of Dijon and Burgundy: gingerbread, mustard, foie gras and honey, not forgetting festive food: mulled wine, orange juice sprinkled with a little cinnamon, soups, verrines, churros, crêpes and waffles.
In the Christmas village, children can enjoy a ride on a merry-go-round and visit the fir tree labyrinth to post a letter into one of two Santa’s mail boxes (the other one being located on Place de la Libération). Two animation tents are pitched on the square: the first one offers all sorts of free animations and degustations centred on chocolate and the other is dedicated to creative workshops for children such as Christmas decoration making.
To the West of the old town, not far from the train station, lies Place Darcy and its garden. This transport hub is a great starting point to explore Dijon.
The entrance to the old town is marked by the town’s triumphal arch, Porte Guillaume, dating back to the 18th century, which opens onto Rue de la Liberté. The pedestrianised street which connects Place Darcy to the Place de la Libération is Dijon’s main shopping area and forms the spine of the town. It is lined with some fine 15th to 18th centuries houses, some of them half-timbered and listed as historic monuments by the French State.
During the Festive season, the attractive Place Darcy is magically lit up and features a train ride for children.
Between the Place Darcy and the Place de la Libération lies the charming little Place François-Rude, named after a local painter. The beautiful mansions surrounding the touristic square date back to the Late Middle-Ages and the Renaissance, and house tearooms, cafés, bank agencies and fashion stores. The statue of Le Vendangeur (grape-picker) stands in its centre next to a merry-go-round featuring the structures built by Gustave Eiffel. The square is magically decorated for the festive season.
Often missed by holidaymakers travelling from the north of France and Paris to the sunny Mediterranean provinces of Provence and Languedoc, Dijon is one of France’s most beautiful cities, taking pride in its interesting medieval and Renaissance old centre.
The rich past of Dijon can be clearly observed in its beautiful Gothic churches (Notre-Dame, St Michel, and St. Bénigne Cathedral), fine townhouses (hôtels particuliers) and elegant squares. Capital of the influential Duchy of Burgundy from the 11th to the 15th centuries, Dijon has largely benefited from the reigns of the powerful dukes who also controlled the rich Flanders. Using their wealth and influence, they brought some of the finest architects, painters and sculptors to Dijon, making their capital one of Europe’s greatest centres of art, learning and science.
To get a good idea of the town’s layout, climb the 15th century Philippe-le-Bon Tower on a guided tour to enjoy an unobstructed view of the Cathedral, the Ducal Palace, the roofs of the old town and the amazing glazed Burgundian tiles of the Hôtel de Vogüé. In fine weather, the peaks of the Alps can also be seen.
Dijon houses several museums: the outstanding Fine Arts Museum (in the Ducal Palace), the art collection of Magnin Museum, the archaeological museum, the Museum of Life in Burgundy and the Museum of Ritual Objects.
It is worth spending a couple of days in Dijon and strolling along the historic streets of the old town. A stay in Burgundy can be extended by discovering the nearby world famous vineyards of Côte d’Or between Dijon and Beaune.
Visit Dijon Tourist Office for more information.
How to get to Dijon
Basel-Mulhouse Euroairport is situated 250 km from Dijon (2hrs30 by road).
Other airports are Lyon Saint-Exupéry Airport and Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle or Orly Airport
16 TGV daily connects Paris-Gare de Lyon to Dijon in 1hr36.
1 TGV links Paris CDG Airport in 1hr46.
A few daily TGV services to Lyon in 1hr45.
Since December 2011 TGV Rhin-Rhône connects Dijon to Mulhouse (1 hour), Strasbourg (2hrs), Basel (1hrs25) and Zurich (2hrs25).
Dijon is easily accessible as it is situated at the crossroads between Paris and Lyon (A6 and A38), Luxembourg to Lyon (A31 and A6) and Strasbourg to Lyon (A35, A36 and A39).
The nearest Ferry Ports for English visitors are Calais (570 km, 5 hours) and Le Havre (510 km, 4hrs45).
(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin, (adj) for adjective and (v) for verbs
- Advent = Avent (m)
- Burgundy = Bourgogne (f)
- city-hall = hôtel de ville (m)
- chalet = châlet (m)
- Christmas = Noël
- Christmas Eve = veille de Noël (f) / réveillon (m)
- Christmas lighting = illuminations de Noël (f,p)
- Christmas market = marché de Noël (m)
- Christmas Tree = sapin de Noël (m), arbre de Noël (m)
- craftsman = artisan (m)
- Ducal Palace = Palais Ducal (m)
- duke = duc (m)
- Father Christmas = Père Noël (m)
- ferris wheel = grande roue (f)
- Flanders = Flandres (f,p)
- grape-picker = vendangeur (m)
- holidaymaker = vacancier (m)
- holiday season = période de Noël (f), temps des fêtes (m)
- ice-skating rink = patinoire (f)
- merry-go-round = manège (m)
- palace = palais (m)
- Santa = Père Noël (m)
- square = place (f)
- street = rue (f)
The Christmas market of Dijon takes place from the 26 November 2016 to the 1 January 2017.
French Moments would like to thank the Tourist Office of Dijon, the Mairie de Dijon, Emmanuel Bayle, Christophe Bontemps and Bertrand Chambarlhac for their help and photos.