The International City of Gastronomy and Wine occupies a centuries-old heritage site in the historic capital of Burgundy.
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Jhe important heritage site in the city center of Dijon. Team up with some of the biggest players in the business: Eric Pras, Burgundy’s only three-star chef, to oversee the restaurants; the Epicure Group for the creation of a 3,000-bottle tasting cellar; major professional school Ferrandi Paris, to inaugurate a culinary school campus. What do you get? A sprawling and unique epicurean place to excite even the most critical foodies.
Scheduled to open May 6, the International city of gastronomy and wine, or international food and wine center, has been under construction for a decade at a cost of 250 million euros ($274 million). A building that was the city’s general hospital from 1204 to 2015 (when it was vacated for modern facilities) has been transformed into a 16-acre complex that is transforming Dijon, both as a landmark destination for tourism and also in the creation of a new eco-district, with residential units, including social housing, surrounded by a park.
“Here, we are at kilometer 0 for the Burgundy wine route, which is listed by UNESCO,” Mayor Francois Rebsamen said last winter during an exclusive preview of the site. “Our ambition with this project is to celebrate Dijon as a city of gastronomy, a city of wine, and also to tell the story of the French gourmet meal, [added] in 2010 on the list of intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO.
The entrance to the complex is a striking new contemporary building called the “Canon of Light”. This elevated metal and glass building will be the architectural emblem of the City, housing the Ferrandi School, where intensive cooking classes will be given in English. (There are both four-month professional programs and two-week discovery courses.) the same ambitions and values with the Cité internationale, positioned on excellence and with the desire to promote heritage and know-how international gastronomy.
Inside the Cité, visitors can sip the wines that have made Burgundy famous; the Cave de la Cité, a slender space on three levels, will offer 250 different wines by the glass. Pair your wine tasting with appetizers like charcuterie, cheese and gourmet tapas – the menu was designed by chef Eric Pras de Lameloise Housea Burgundian institution recognized by Michelin since the publication of its very first guide in 1900. Want to know more about the Burgundian terroir and the climates system recognized by UNESCO? Sign up for an oenological workshop, between 40 minutes and an hour depending on the theme, with the Burgundy Wine School.
A series of pavilions, including the magnificently renovated Grande Chapelle, will house museum exhibitions dedicated to the world of food. Permanent exhibitions on the culture of wine and the French gastronomic meal, explaining its inclusion in the intangible heritage of UNESCO, will be supplemented by a show kitchen and rotating temporary exhibitions. The first up? An in-depth look at the world of pastry, explaining the history, craftsmanship and importance of pastry in France.
Then there is Le Village Gastronomique, a market with tastings, shops and workshops with local artisans. La Librairie Gourmande, the famous Parisian culinary bookstore, will open its first indoor branch. Of course, a mustard bar will be in the spotlight; visitors will be able to choose from a variety of gourmet condiments and fill their own jars at The Mustard Carousel. “All food trades will be concentrated here, explains Jérémie Penquer, project manager at the Cité. “The idea is that tourists and Dijonnais come here for a real experience.”
There will also be a nine-screen cinema, a startup incubator and a four-star hotel, Sainte-Anne Dijon, which is scheduled to open in 2023 under the Curio By Hilton umbrella. “We expect 1 million visitors a year,” Mayor Rebsamen said. “The project is a major boost for Dijon.
A cultural renaissance
Above all, the Cité reflects Dijon’s mission to promote cultural heritage. The restoration itself was the region’s largest construction project in 12 years, employing 600 full-time workers to bring life back to a neighborhood that had been devastated by the hospital’s closure. Four archaeological digs have taken place, one involving a cemetery with plague victims. (Important finds will be exhibited inside “1204”, a multimedia exhibition space in the heart of the Cité that will tell the story of Dijon.) The project has preserved century-old trees and remarkable historical treasures. Take, for example, the Holy Cross Chapel in Jerusalem, a jewel-like church that dates to 1459. “The roof was removed tile by tile so that each one could be meticulously restored,” said Francois Deseille, deputy major overseeing the Citer. In the space that will house Eric Pras’ gourmet restaurant, workers unearthed huge wooden beams and stone vaults, beautiful historic details now proudly displayed.
This promotion of heritage is one of the specificities of Dijon. With 100 hectares of city center protected by historical monument status, Dijon is home to one of the largest preserved areas in France. The historic capital of the Dukes of Burgundy reveals its architecture in a masterful way: the city center is pedestrian, its cobbled streets lined with Renaissance mansions and medieval half-timbered houses. Discover a multitude of bell towers and a menagerie of gargoyles on the “Sentier des Chouettes”, a popular walking circuit laid out by the tourist office with 22 stops. (The owl sculpture, carved in the corner of the Notre-Dame church on rue de la Chouette, has been worn down by the many hands that have touched it for good luck over the years.)
Climb the 316 steps to the top of the Tour Philippe le Bon, built in the 15th century; there, you can admire panoramas over the rooftops of Dijon, all the way to Mont Blanc on a clear day. The stone staircase is embellished with sculptures of grapes, testimony to the fame of Dijon viticulture in the Middle Ages. Until 1850, vines grew throughout Dijon; for some years, the mayor has been trying to reintegrate viticulture into the urban fabric by planting vines, the objective being to obtain a distinct AOC for the wines of Dijon.
In 2019, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, one of the oldest museums in France (1798), unveiled the results of a 10-year renovation. Housed inside the majestic Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, the museum is freely accessible. “The renovation has ‘desacrilized’ the institution to make it more welcoming and open to the city,” explains curator Sandrine Balan. “We have amazing masterpieces here [including the gilded Champmol altarpiece, the sculpted tombs of the Dukes of Burgundy, François Pompon’s white bear]. The idea of the renovation was to give visitors a real proximity to the works, which were all also restored during the work.
A culinary odyssey in Burgundy
The new city would be reason enough for foodies to book a trip to Dijon. But this pleasant second city, only 1h30 from Paris by TGV, is a bastion of a rich culinary tradition. Alongside its four Michelin-starred restaurants, including Cibo, where all products come from within a radius of 200 km, Dijon has friendly bistros and guest tables celebrating classic Burgundian cuisine cooked in a contemporary way. AT The Thinking Cat, chef Isabelle Sonnet has opened the doors of her home – complete with an old stone staircase, a fireplace and a garden – to offer a three-course lunch made with seasonal ingredients she finds at the market. For example, the dish “Around the mushroom” gives pride of place to the mushroom in a mixture of textures and forest flavors: a terrine of veal takes pride of place on sautéed oyster mushrooms and a mushroom mousse.
The city’s love of gastronomy is expressed in Les Halles, the bustling covered market. “Gustave Eiffel, who was from Dijon, actually offered a bid for the project in the 19th century, but it was turned down due to cost,” a local guide explained. Alexia Papin. Eiffel, from Dijon, was snubbed, but the architect who landed the contract was inspired by some of Eiffel’s ideas. Today, local suppliers like The Gourmet Dijon show off their wares under the soaring metal roof. In May, Les Halles hosts a giant brunch with a table running the length of the building.
At the cellar The Source of Wines, owner Hadika Simon offers tastings and workshops with winemakers. “I play an educational role to show that Burgundy is not just for connoisseurs or the rich,” she said. Simon also defends another emblematic product of Burgundy: crème de cassis, the blackcurrant liqueur used in kir. His choice ? The artisanal bottles of the Jean-Baptiste Joannet family estate.
Dijon’s gourmet specialties are part of the city’s heritage. Legend has it that Marguerite of Flanders brought gingerbread to Dijon when she married Philippe le Téméraire in the 14th century, and gingerbread has been a staple ever since. Recognized as a “living heritage company”, Mulot & Petitjean cooking it according to the traditional recipe for more than 225 years. And the mustard of the same name? Even though the name Dijon mustard has never been copyrighted – and can therefore be made anywhere in the world – the real deal made with 100% Burgundy ingredients is available at The Edmond Fallot Mustard Factoryalso called “living heritage company”.
Like these houses advocating ancestral culinary techniques, the Cité complex aims to celebrate the French gastronomic heritage. “We want to bring this historic site to life! said Mayor Rebsamen.
Where to sleep in Dijon
Hotel options in Dijon include historic Grand Hotel La Cloche, a five-star establishment operated under the MGallery brand; the Hostellerie du Chapeau Rouge, a 4-star hotel with 28 rooms and a 2-star Michelin restaurant; and the Philip the Good Housewhich occupies three secular residences, including a former convent.
Book now: Grand Hotel La Cloche
Book now: Hostellerie du Chapeau Rouge
Book now: Philip the Good House
>> Next: Among the Vines: Tour of Burgundy for oenologists
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