Dijon or Beaune: Which Burgundy City to Visit?

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by Brittany Scott-Gunfield


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Burgundy is a beautiful region, with vineyards galore and stunning tiled rooftops scattered across the area from city centres to countryside chateaux. So if you’re planning a trip to one of France’s most famous wine regions, you’ve definitely got to stay near Dijon or Beaune.

With an incredible gastronomic history in both, it can be hard to choose between them if food and drink are high on your list of holiday priorities.

In general, choose Dijon if you want a livelier, larger town to explore with more affordable options. On the other hand, choose Beaune if you’re a history buff, wine lover or simply want a gorgeous and compact small town to wander through.

But while they are geographically close and share a lot in terms of culture, a trip to either city can be greatly different, so if you only have the opportunity to visit one, choose wisely.

Dijon

Dijon is a stunning small city in the east corner of Burgundy with a vibrant yet welcoming atmosphere in the mediaeval streets with a mixture of half-timbered and modern buildings.

With its incredible food culture and quintessential French small squares with fountains and brasseries, a trip to Dijon is a must for those searching for a break away from the hustle and bustle of big cities, without the quietness of delving directly into the countryside.

Timber Houses in Dijon
Timber Houses in Dijon

Accessibility

Burgundy is unfortunately not so easy to reach from afar as there are no major airports located within the region, however, this does generally mean there are fewer tourists than you’d find in major cities like Paris, Marseille and Lyon, and you can still get a more authentic experience in France.

So if you want to reach Dijon from outside of France, your best option is to fly to Lyon and take a train or drive north, fly into Geneva and drive or travel by train west, or fly into Paris and drive or take a train southeast. You can view train schedules here.

For a longer trip in the region of Burgundy, it’s highly recommended to drive in order to access the more remote villages, vineyards and chateaux, so you can rent a car at any of the major airports.

However, if you’re just staying put in Dijon for a few days, you won’t need a rental car to get around, so you can just as easily fly into Paris and take the scenic, and quite fast, train down for a modest fee. You can compare prices on Rentalcars.com which aggregates results across major companies.

Within Dijon, it’s better to walk around than try to use public transport as the centre is very small with some parts completely pedestrianised, so you can take in the wonderful architecture on foot while stopping by cute cafes and boutique shops.

The Tourist Office can provide a map of the city which you can walk around following the Owl Trail (Parcours de la Chouette), indicated by numbered plaques featuring a gold owl emblem, taking you around the city’s top attractions and ending at the famous Dijon owl carving.

There is also a bus and tram to take you to areas outside of the city centre, although unless you’re pushed for time or have mobility issues, it’s much better to take in the city on foot.

Beautiful Architecture in Dijon
Beautiful Architecture in Dijon

Affordability

For a city, Dijon is very reasonably priced, so if you’re weighing up Beaune and Dijon and you’ve got a tight budget, Dijon will come out on top.

You can spend a fair amount of money on food since the area is known for its culinary scene, gastronomy and exceptional French wine, so there are a number of outstanding local restaurants where you can try traditional meals with produce from the surrounding area, such as l’Epicerie et Cie.

There are also several restaurants with Michelin stars, so you can definitely splash the cash if that’s what you’re looking to do.

However, as a city, there are plenty of options for cheaper meals, set menus for 20-25 euros and international cuisine, such as incredible burgers and pizzas in l’Edito amongst a beautiful interior decor.

Although over a long weekend or a day trip to Dijon, you should stick to the regional specialities, as there’s nothing quite like a beef bourguignon or oeufs en meurettes (poached eggs in a red wine sauce) made in the traditional ways. In general, no Burgundy trip is complete without indulging in these incredible dishes.

One of the great things about Dijon for tourists on a budget is that the two main museums in the city – the Archaeological Museum of Dijon and Dijon Fine Arts Museum – are free to visit the permanent collection and only a small fee for the temporary exhibitions.

Both host a wide range of artefacts and paintings that you can happily view over a couple of hours and get acquainted with local and famous works.

The only things that may set you back significantly are a cooking class or talk on food or wine at the comprehensive gastronomic centre, or a show at the impressive opera house in the centre which hosts everything from classic operas to modern live music performances.

Thanks to the pedestrianised centre, you can also travel around Dijon easily on foot for free, and for journeys further out of the city, you can travel very cheaply on the local buses and trams. Just buy a ticket at a station and make sure to validate it onboard.

Overall, Dijon is much cheaper than Beaune, but it does depend on what you plan to do in the city.

Notre-Dame de Dijon
Notre-Dame de Dijon

Things to do in Dijon

Dijon is a delightful city to stroll around for a couple of days, taking in the sights, admiring the architecture and indulging in the rich, delicious food and, of course, red wine.

So the best activity in Dijon is simply following the Owl Trail to discover the top attractions and more easily missed spots of the city centre, from the beautiful 18th-century Porte Guillaume to the 16th-century stone owl carved into the Cathedral wall. You can book a guided walking tour if you want to explore with a guide.

Just don’t forget to stroke its head with your left hand to make a wish come true, and admire the Cathedral roof from a distance to see the colourful tiles that the region is known for.

In the main square, Place de la Libération, you’ll also come across Dijon’s most famous building, the incredible Palais des Ducs et des États de Bourgogne which now houses the town hall and the Musée des Beaux-Arts, both of which you can visit for free.

The Fine Arts Museum has a superb collection of art and sculptures from the Middle Ages to the present day, so you can catch a glimpse of such renowned artists as Monet and Manet, as well as contemporary works from the likes of Yan-Pei Ming, and 14th-century Italian painter Pietro Lorenzetti.

One of the more unique attractions in Dijon is the skillfully and ornately crafted Well of Moses, a sculpture depicting the crucifixion of Jesus with 6 prophets impressively created at the bottom of the tall structure by Claus Sluter in the late 1300s. If you want to learn more from a guide, you can book a guided tour.

The well is surrounded by the Chartreuse Garden and close to the delightful Botanic Gardens, well worth a wander through on a sunny afternoon while exploring Dijon.

Dijon also has a new gastronomic centre, the International Cité of Gastronomy and Wine. Located in a former 13th-century hospice, the International Cité of Gastronomy and Wine project opened in 2022 for visitors to discover the rich heritage of French cuisine.

With boutique shops to buy amazing produce, cookery classes and talks to attend, wine tasting to take part in, as well as small bars and eateries dotted around, this location is a must for oenophiles and food fanatics when in Burgundy. You can even stay on the premises in one of the luxury hotel rooms.

If you’re planning a luxurious weekend and want to know where to stay in Dijon or Beaune, the International Cité of Gastronomy and Wine should be your first option.

Place de la Libération
Place de la Libération

Where to Stay in Dijon

Hôtel des Ducs – A chic 3-star hotel, this is a great option in the centre of Dijon. There is a breakfast buffet each morning along with a bar, restaurant and lots of room types to choose from.

Hostellerie Du Chapeau Rouge – This modern hotel is perfect for those after some luxe accommodation in Dijon. Boasting countless gorgeous rooms, there is also a spa and other lovely amenities to enjoy.

City Loft Apparthotel – Located in the pedestrian centre of Dijon, this aparthotel offers several furnished flats along with daily breakfast and private parking for those who need it.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Dijon hotels!

Cathedrale Saint Benigne de Dijon
Cathedrale Saint Benigne de Dijon

Beaune

Beaune is a stunning small town in the south of Burgundy, with a long history of wine-making and some famed local vineyards in the Cote de Beaune (located south of the Cote de Nuits, closer to Dijon) as well as an iconic building covered with the traditional colourful tiles, making it a must-see spot on any tour of Burgundy.

Accessibility

Like Dijon, Beaune isn’t very easily accessible from abroad, so the easiest way to reach it is by car from Lyon airport, or if you don’t mind a 3-and-a-half-hour drive, renting a car from Paris and driving down on the A6.

If you don’t want to drive abroad, you can also take the train from Paris via Dijon or a shorter train ride north from Lyon. But for longer holidays in the Burgundy area, having your own vehicle is definitely advisable.

Beaune is a small town, much smaller than Dijon, so you can comfortably walk around on foot in the streets, however, if you wish to visit nearby vineyards, you can benefit from having a car to get around the hills and country roads more easily.

Driving towards Beaune
Driving towards Beaune

Affordability

Beaune is generally more expensive than Dijon as the main activities come at a large price, and the restaurants are generally more traditional, artisanal, independent restaurants that include a higher price tag for the exceptional quality of their dishes.

A tour of the Hospice of Beaune is a must when visiting the town, and you can turn it into a game by attending an escape room event at the historic building or visit late at night to experience the former hospital under the stars. However, each event and a standard ticket will cost over €25 each, putting it on the more expensive side of events in the area.

Similarly, visitors should stop by the incredible Patriarche wine caves that spread out under the whole town, however, tickets are equally expensive, although you will be given 6 wines to taste with an expert at the end of your self-guided tour.

The tour of the oldest traditional mustard factory in the area, La Moutarderie Fallot is cheaper, at less than half the price of the wine or hospice tours and also worth a visit, as is the Savigny-lès-Beaune Motor Museum.

So comparing Beaune vs Dijon in terms of cost, you’re much more likely to spend more on a trip to Beaune, but if wine, mustard and history are among your interests, each visit is well worth the ticket price.

Likewise, the restaurants in Beaune are divine, and well worth the slightly higher cost. For the standard of food, number of courses and high-quality wines, even the more expensive options are a steal.

Vineyards near Beaune
Vineyards near Beaune

Things to do in Beaune

Absorbing Beaune’s beauty as you wander around the streets is the first thing you should have on your to-do list in Beaune as the town is one of the most beautiful in France thanks to its mediaeval buildings and 14th-century tiled roofs.

Generally shaped like diamonds and appearing in several colours and patterns thanks to the lead-based glaze and their purpose to transform buildings into stunning Bourgeois symbols of richness and grandeur, you can find picturesque roofs all over the town of Beaune, with none more impressive than the Hôtel-Dieu Museum.

Founded in 1443 in the style of Flemish hospitals to care for the sick and disadvantaged, who were plentiful as a result of the 100 Years War, the Flamboyant Gothic Hospice is now a museum dedicated to the history of the remarkable hospital and its various acquisitions of surrounding vineyards. The Hôtel-Dieu still owns some 60 hectares of vineyards, auctioning its wine every November.

A short walk into the very centre of Beaune is another architectural wonder, the 13th-century Notre Dame de Beaune which houses a number of significant and remarkable tapestries that are also worth a visit in a trip to the town.

However, as well as its architecture, Beaune is also a wonderful place to visit for its gastronomy. Although Dijon is famous for its mustard, the oldest traditional mustard factory in the region is located in Beaune, La Moutarderie Fallot.

You can take a guided tour of the factory as well as sample some of the mustards made in the factory (the bright pink mustard gaining colour and sweetness from local blackcurrants and the green gaining a herbal freshness from basil).

You may also make mustard the traditional way as part of your tour, learning how to grind the mustard seeds by hand. Just make sure to book your tour in advance to ensure you have a guide speaking your language as several are available throughout the day.

But you can’t visit Burgundy without tasting the fragrant, medium-bodied red wines the region is known for, many of which are housed in the expansive underground vaulted galleries of Patriache in Beaune.

Patriarche Père et Fils offers visitors the chance to wander around the 5 kilometres of underground passages underneath Beaune to see the 2 million bottles of wine in storage as well as taste 6 wines under the supervision of an expert at the end of the tour. You can also choose to go on a wine tour or a wine and bike tour to some of the nearby vineyards.

While there’s plenty to see and do in Beaune, it’s also perfectly placed for a day trip to the immense and amazing Savigny-lès-Beaune Motor Museum.

Hospices de Beaune
Hospices de Beaune

Where to Stay in Beaune

Beaune Hôtel – This comfortable hotel is an excellent mid-range choice in the centre of Beaune. There is an inviting terrace, breakfast available and plenty of ensuite rooms – some that can accommodate up to 5 adults.

Led Nomades Beaune – A swish hotel with 2 lovely indoor swimming pools, modern and chic rooms, a fitness centre and a superb breakfast, this is perfect for those looking for a comfortable stay in this Burgundy town.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Beaune hotels!

Dijon vs Beaune: Which is Better to Visit

There are an incredible number of hotels and apartments within the Dijon and Beaune centres, so choosing which to visit based on whether you can stay in either isn’t necessary as both have plenty of options for all budgets. However, each location has components that make it ideal for different types of visitors.

Younger visitors and those who prefer a livelier location would be more suited to Dijon than Beaune due to the city’s bigger size, student population and a bigger variety of shopping opportunities, bars, cafes and free museums.

Dijon is also the cheaper option, with free museums, and slightly cheaper restaurants overall, although you don’t need to pay for transport to either place and you can pay for a cookery class or experience within the new gastronomic centre if you wish.

Beaune, on the other hand, is much smaller as well as more charming and historical than Dijon, with the mediaeval half-timbered houses and extravagant roofs being shown more prominently, especially on the amazing Hospice Museum.

Those with a historical interest would also prefer Beaune due to the amazing historical features on display in the Hospice as well as the chance to go back in time and indulge in food and drink in the town’s mustard factory, wine caves and traditional independent restaurants.

Collegiale Notre Dame in Beaune
Collegiale Notre Dame in Beaune

Choosing to visit Dijon or Beaune for your holiday is a tough decision, especially if you want to stay in a classic French town and sample exceptional food and drink. So why not visit both?

Are you planning a trip to Burgundy? Have any questions about these towns? Let us know in the comments!

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Brittany Scott-Gunfield

Brittany is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Colchester, England, she is slowly but surely travelling the world as a digital nomad. She loves to hike around different landscapes and has a deep love for travelling around France (and elsewhere in Europe).

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