For Christmas last year we had the pleasure of traveling to France for the holiday break. As you know, if you’ve been following along with our travels for the last many years, we love to rent a car when we travel and drive all over creation. On this trip we started in Paris, where we spent time through Christmas Day and then hit the road on the day after Christmas.
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One of our favorite stops, and one that really surprised all of us, was Dijon, France. I haven’t quite learned my lesson yet, you would think after all this time that I would know by now not to judge one of these little cities by it’s cover, but sure enough, as we were driving in, I thought to myself…”well, this place doesn’t look too exciting and I’m glad we’re only staying one night…I don’t know what we’re going to do here.”
Then we hit our hotel and the medieval city center and I had to eat my words. Palaces, art museums, fun restaurants, shops, Christmas markets, cobblestone streets…so much charm and beauty. Some of the most incredible half-timber buildings I’ve ever seen. It quickly became one of our favorite stops on this trip and possibly one of our favorite stops in France ever.
Being in Europe is beautiful enough, but being there at Christmas time…with all the twinkling lights and fresh greenery and gorgeous displays makes it simply magical.
Just like every other city, Dijon had it’s own little carnival right across the street from our hotel, along with it’s own smaller version of the Arc de Triumph.
Every city in France, no matter how big or small, really goes all out with the decorations for Christmas. Those big chandeliers strung all over the city were stunning!
WHERE TO STAY IN DIJON FRANCE
When you are visiting smaller cities and towns in Europe, you have to get comfortable with the idea that there isn’t going to be a Marriott on every corner. In fact, there probably won’t be any hotels that you are familiar with or have ever heard of before within a reasonable distance. There also isn’t going to be a Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons, or maybe not anything even similar nearby, if that’s the way you’re used to traveling. Don’t get me wrong, I love those places as much as the next guy, but if you REALLY want to explore Europe and SEE Europe, you have to get used to the idea that you’ll be staying in some places that you might not be familiar with. Rest assured you will be able to find some wonderful places to stay. The rating system of European hotels is different than that in the United States. Familiarize yourself with what that means so you aren’t surprised. The nicest hotel in town with THE BEST location is the Grand Hotel La Cloche. Part of the MGallery collection from Accor hotels, MGallery hotels are a collection of boutique hotels, each with it’s own unique design, all over the world.
The room we were given at the Grand Hotel La Cloche had incredible views of the Porte Guillaume on Place Darcy. The hotel itself is housed in an impressive historic structure overlooking Darcy Square/Garden.
The lobby is very modern and we enjoyed hanging out and having a Coke there.
The rooms are a bit strange with a glass bathroom in the middle of the room and shag carpet mixed with very modern fixtures, but our room was plenty big for the three of us with a king bed and a sofa sleeper, and more than comfortable.
Here’s a better view of a room without all of our luggage in it! 😉
Fortunately there were curtains you could pull around the bathroom when you showered, but we had some fun with it. 😉
As is customary with many European hotels, breakfast was included in our stay. Due to Covid protocols, the usual buffet breakfast was brought to us as room service instead. It was yummy and a good start to our day.
With the hotel literally walking distance to all the prime tourist spots of old Dijon: the Cathedral, the Ducal Ducal Palace/Musee de Beaux Arts, Place de la Liberation, and lots of shops and restaurants, we parked the car at the hotel and never used it. We didn’t even need public transit in Dijon we were right in the middle of everything.
We spent our short time in Dijon walking all over the old town, shopping and eating. It was December 30th and most of the government buildings and tourist attractions were closed for the holidays, but that was fine with us. Just know there is lots to see and do in Dijon if you happen to be in town when those things are open too.
Flower shops are always some of my favorite places to find little treasures. And they just look so pretty!
Look at those centuries old buildings. Aren’t they magnificent? I can never quite get over how these old cities are able to modernize things so well, while keeping their original history and character.
The classic French carousel in the middle of the city did not disappoint. Especially since it was a double decker!
The palaces are just too gorgeous.
Sometimes, after eating lots of one type of cuisine…like French food, we get really excited when we stumble upon some ethnic food.
We love to find places like Pitaya Thai Street Food with locations all over the world…but not in the US. A fun new thing for us to try.
And how cool are these forks with chopsticks on the other end. So smart!
One last stop before we headed out of town was the Maille mustard shop, which has been in business since 1747. I mean, you can’t go to Dijon and not leave with some Dijon…am I right? So yummy.
Check it out…you can actually buy the mustard here in the US on most store shelves. You’ll probably start to recognize it now when you see it and know it’s significance.
This cute little mustard shop had the best custom pots and mustards. You can get special edition pots and engraved pots and get them filled with a variety of mustards. You know what my souvenir was!
Dijon is also famous for gingerbread. I’m sad that I didn’t know this at the time…or you better believe I would have some home with some of that too! 😉 Guess I have to go back…we had so much fun at Christmas time, I bet it’s magical other times of the year too…like Paris in the fall!
Visiting Dijon, France was truly a highlight of our trip and I hope that you get a chance to visit this charming city at some point.
If you are planning a trip to France, be sure to check out these other posts:
Visit the Sacre Coeur | A Travel Guide to Colmar France | Tips for Visiting the Eiffel Tower | Best Shopping in Paris
The Best View in Paris | Why You Need a Paris Museum Pass | Exploring Bayeux & Normandy | Stay in a Parisian Apartment
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