Have you ever heard of Dijon?
It’s often called the mustard capital of France; however the city is much-much more than that! Dijon also is the capital of Burgundy – the most famous French wine region, producing over 22 million of wine bottles per year! (Hint: you can buy a fine bottle of beaujolais for just 3-5$!)
If you’d like to escape the crowds and discover lesser-known places to visit in France – Dijon should be on your bucket list. It has some Parisian chic mixed with local colorful patterns and laid-back vibe.
Besides, spending weekends in Dijon can be both cheap and fun!
There’s not much budget lodging available in Dijon and usual hotel tags start to run from 30€ (36$) per night for a double room.
If you are traveling with a company, there are a lot of affordable rentals available via Airbnb. If shared, you can end up paying as low as 10$ per night! Besides, you can always experience French hospitality and stay at a local’s place via Couchsurfing. Not only it is free, but a great way to make new connections and get to know more about the French lifestyle.
I was staying at my friend’s for the weekends and they’ve pointed me to some amazing places in Dijon, along with a few cheap places to snack.
Also, you can camp in a very beautiful neighborhood near the lake for less than 6$ per night in warm season. There’s a lovely beach nearby and loads of sport facilities.
Burgundy is not only famous for the incredible red wines, but also for mighty fine local cuisine. Even if you are on a budget, you still can try some of the Burgundy food to feel the authentic taste of the place. Here are a few tips:
Check out the University canteen
Do you want to have an awesome three course meal for less than 4$? Head to Université de Bourgogne campus (Bus line 5, stop Université or Tram 1 line) and look around for the local student resto.
They serve delicious fixed-price lunches from 11.30 till 13.00 and dinners from 18.30 till 20.00 on weekdays. You don’t have to be a student to eat there, just look youngish enough J
Look for fixed-price menus and ask for plate du jour
Most of the French bistros serve great lunch overs at mid-day for discounted prices. In Dijon, you can get a 2 course meal (small entrée of salad + main course) for 12-15$.
Or just through a picnic
Why should you spend extra cash for a fancy sitting if you can just hop to the nearest supermarket, grab a bundle of saucissons, a baguette and some cheese, plus a bottle of Kir – local specialty drink: sparkling white wine mixed with crème de cassis (blackcurrant liquor)? That’s my favorite drink of all times. You’ll end up paying around 10$ for everything.
Head to Lac Kir – a huge tranquil lake with a beautiful park around to enjoy all the delights you’ve gotten.
Things to do in Dijon on a budget
Dijon is a fabulously beautiful city and you can spend hours wondering around the Old city center, till your neck starts aching from constantly looking up on all the amazing architectural details and fancy facades. One of my favorite streets is Rue des Forges.
Take a walking tour
A few years ago, Dijon created a special walking tour – the Owl trail. You can see small golden arrows with owls all around the city, guiding you to walk from one attraction to another. You can get a map with detailed explanations at the Tourist Office for 5$ or be a random walker like I am and wander around from one place to another in your own pace.
Indulge in art at the Ducal Palace.
Ducal palace is located at the main square Cour de Bar du Palais des Etats. It’s a huge scenic monument, now half-occupied by the local Marie and the Art Museum. It’s free to visit and open every day except Tuesday from 10 till 5 pm.
Now it may not be as huge as Louvre, but the local collection is pretty exquisite too, ranging from medieval armor and religious paintings of 15-16th century to pre-historic Egyptian art and Impressionism paintings.
Marvel the high peaks and elaborate décor of the local cathedrals
Cathedrale Saint-Benigne, Notre-Dame de Dijon and Paroisse Saint Michel de Dijon – all look stunning and imposing both from the inside and outside. All three are free to enter to marvel amazing murals and stained glass windows inside.
Explore Dijon by bike
The cheapest, fastest and the most fun way to discover Dijon is to roam around by bike. Same as in Paris (and most other French cities), there’s a cheap bike rental system Velodi. To get access to bikes, you need to register on the website to get a pass for rentals. It takes just a few minutes and allows you to take the bike at any of the 40 stations for 1€ per hour.
There are numerous bike routes crisscrossing the city, but I highly suggest you traveling to Jardin du Ruisseau de la Fontaine d’Ouche – a long park lane going a long one of the Dijon’s canals, ending near lac Kir. It’s a beautiful, tranquil place, perfect for biking.
Go to the movies at one of the oldest cinemas in France
Darcy cinema was first opened to the public in 1914 and was long considered one of the largest and most luxurious cinemas in the country. It still looks grand today with a fancy facade and a touch of retro inside. Tickets cost around 5-6$ and non-French movies are shown at the original language.
Elena is a twenty-something girl from Ukraine, who once ditched all the common sense and followed her heart to France. She spent last year living in Besancon, exploring the local cuisine and traveling out and around France. Check out her blog for more unknown destinations in France, cultural insights, money saving tips and just pretty pictures from different corners of the world.