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Dijon boasts a surprisingly large number of churches and cathedrals, including St. Benigne, Nortre-Dame, St. Etienne, and St. Michel. It is noteworthy that the crypt of Cathédrale Saint-Bégnine dates from 1000 years ago and the city has retained many architectural styles from many of the main periods from the past millennium, including Gothic, Renaissance and Capetian. Many of the still-inhabited houses in the city’s central district date from before the 18th century.
Dijon was spared the destruction of various wars such as the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, despite the fact that the Prussian army invaded the city. Therefore, many of the old buildings such as the half-timbered houses dating from the 12th to the 15th century (found mainly in the city’s core district), are undamaged at least by organised violence.
There are many museums in the city, including one dedicated to mustard. Another is the Musée des Beaux Arts in the old part of the Ducal Palace (see below). It contains, among other things, ducal kitchens that date back to the mid-1400s and a collection of European paintings from the early Renaissance to the Impressionistic periods. Among the more interesting of Dijon’s “must see” localities is the Ducal Palace (i.e. the “Palais des Ducs et des Etats de Bourgogne”), which is one of only a few remaining examples of the Capetian period in the region. Another is a curious carving of an owl, on the church of Notre Dame on the rue de la Préfecture. It is reported that this has become regarded as a good-luck charm: people touch it with their left hand and make a wish.
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Dijon is located approximately one hour and 40 minutes southeast of Paris by the TGV high-speed train. For comparison, Lyon is two hours distant, Nice takes about six hours by TGV and Strasbourg about three hours. By car, Dijon is about three hours from Paris.
Dijon is home, every three years, to the international flower show Florissimo.
To the northwest of Dijon, the race track of Dijon-Prenois hosts various motor sport events. In the past, it once hosted the Formula 1 Grand Prix of France.
Dijon is home to Dijon FCO, a football team in Ligue 2, the second-highest league in French football.
Dijon is famous for its mustard, even though nowadays around 90% of all mustard seeds used are imported, mainly from Canada. The term Dijon mustard (moutarde de Dijon) designates a method for the making of mustard. Traditional Dijon mustard is particularly strong. Most Dijon mustard (brands such as Amora or Maille) is produced industrially, but the town also specialises in exotic or unusually-flavoured mustard, often sold in decorative hand-painted faïence (china) pots. In non-European markets such as the United States, the name “Dijon mustard” is not trademarked. The only way to be sure you are getting real Dijon mustard is to buy a jar that was imported from France; however, true Dijon mustard in exotic flavours can be difficult to find outside France.
As the capital of the Burgundy region, Dijon reigns over some of the best wine country in the world. Many superb vineyards producing vins d’appellation contrôlée, such as Vosne-Romanée and Gevrey-Chambertin, are within 20 minutes of the city centre. The town’s university boasts a renowned oenology institute. The drive from Santenay to Dijon, known as the route des Grands Crus, passes through an idyllic countryside of vineyards, rivers, villages, forests, and twelfth-century churches. The region’s architecture is distinguished by, among other things, toits bourguignons (Burgundian roofs) made of tiles glazed in terra cotta, green, yellow and black and arranged in eye-catching geometric patterns. The city is also well known for its crème de cassis, or blackcurrant liqueur, used in the drink known as “Kir” (white wine, especially Bourgogne aligoté, with blackcurrant liqueur, named after former mayor of Dijon canon Félix Kir). The same drink made with champagne instead of white wine is known as a Kir Royal.
The American food writer M.F.K. Fisher, who moved to Dijon shortly after her marriage in 1929, wrote about the region’s cuisine in Long Ago in France.
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