Between foodie excursions and historical experiences, there’s no shortage of wonderful things to see in Eastern France. For example, did you know that Victor Hugo was born in the region? Or that some of the best Burgundy wine can be found on an easy day trip from Dijon? Here’s your guide to the best day trips from Dijon you’ll want to take on your next trip to the French capital of mustard.
The ‘wine capital of France’ is easy to visit over the course of a day and features a plethora of wine tasting opportunities and plenty of local Burgundy architecture. Even if you’re ‘not a wine drinker,’ highlights of Beaune include visiting the Middle Ages hospital turned museum, exploring the bookshop dedicated solely to wine, and wandering the well-preserved medieval ramparts which still surround the city to this day.
Located in the East of France, close to the border with Switzerland, Besançon is easily one of the most underrated cities in France. Often dubbed the ‘greenest city in France,’ it’s here where you’ll soon discover a plethora of beautiful green spaces, riverside walkways, and veggie cafés.
It’s also in this rather unknown French destination where UNESCO Vauban fortifications are to be visited today, not to mention that Besançon also happened to be the birthplace of Victor Hugo. Elsewhere in the Eastern French city, you’ll soon discover attractions such as a Fine Arts Museum and one of the finest astronomical clocks to be enjoyed anywhere in Europe.
The beautiful and sleepy town of Dole can be found in the Jura region of France, just a half-hour train ride away from city centre to city centre. Even if you’ve never heard of Dole before, no doubt you’ll have heard of its most famous resident: Louis Pasteur. The biologist and microbiologist was the discoverer of the ‘pasteurisation process’ and also discovered plenty about the prevention of infectious diseases.
Visit Dole today and you’re sure to discover a rather sleepy town with the kind of attractions that are so synonymous with a largely underrated destination in rural France: fortifications, a medieval church, a fine arts museum, and more boulangerie than you could hope to enjoy over the course of a week.
What I particularly enjoyed during my visit to Dole was that it was possible to borrow the keys to the church’s Belfry from the tourism office (after filling out a fairly extensive form). From there, I was allowed to take keys to the top of the church’s tower (for free), from which I enjoyed a stunning bird’s eye view of Dole.
Best-known for its location surrounded by wine-producing vineyards, Nuits-Saint-Georges is just a half-hour train ride away from Dijon. Close to Vosne-Romanée (i.e. the village in which the most expensive wine in the world is produced), Nuits-Saint-Georges is home to the quintessential architecture that is so synonymous with the region.
If you want to visit Vosne-Romanée for yourself, then you should know that the little French village is under a half-hour walk through the vineyards from Nuits-St-Georges. Though it was during the springtime when I partook on the walk (and the vines were bare), I still enjoyed my stroll through the French vines!
Though there is little by way of attractions when it comes to this French settlement, the town is still worth visiting, particularly during the summer months when it’s possible to enjoy the surrounding vineyards at their best. Otherwise, be sure to visit ‘Le Casssissium,’ which is a factory producing every liquid related to blackcurrants, including ‘Cassis,’ a popular blackcurrant liqueur.
Situated in the very heart of Burgundy, the town of Chalon-Sur-Saône is set over mainland France as well as a tiny island which sits in the heart of the River Saône. Much of the historic town is charming and characterised by its many timber-framed houses and historic city centre.
Otherwise, you should know that highlights of Chalon include a museum dedicated to Nicéphore Niépce (one of the pioneers of early cinema) and the Gothic-style Chalon Cathedral. Thanks to the fact that this is one of the lesser-known day trips from Dijon, Chalon-sur-Saône has much fewer visitors than many nearby towns and is a truly hidden gem of the Bourgogne (Burgundy in English) region.
Truth be told, of all the Burgundy towns, Macon is one of my favourites! And not just because of the wealth of history housed within the historic town limits. Instead, there’s a wealth of things to do, including several museums (one of which is housed within a former convent), the chance to see plenty of beautiful architectural features, and even stay in a hotel which offers stunning views over the rest of the city.
Though a little further away from some of the other Dijon day trips in this article (and more than meriting an excursion in its own right), it’s worth noting that Paris is just over an hour and a half from Dijon from Paris via high-speed train. As such, if you want to admire the Eiffel Tower or ascend the Arc de Triomphe, an excursion from Dijon to the French capital city couldn’t be easier!
Though a little further than some of the other day trips from Dijon, it’s still perfectly possible to see Lyon as a day trip from Dijon. On the train, the journey takes just over an hour and a half each way. Once in Lyon, there’s no shortage of things to see and do!
Of course, as well as tracing Lyon’s Roman roots, there’s a wealth of experiences to be had, and not just in the ‘bouchons’ (traditional Lyonnaise restaurants dotted around the historic area of the city). Instead, there’s several unique museums to visit around the city (including one dedicated solely to miniatures!), as well as plenty of stunning ecclesiastical buildings. I particularly recommend visiting Notre Dame de Fouviere which is characterised by its stunning mosaics and panoramic views!
Though a little further away than some of the other Dijon day trips mentioned here, Lausanne is a magical destination that’s easily one of the most beautiful cities in Switzerland. Home to a Gothic cathedral and providing incredible views of both Lake Geneva and the snow-capped alps beyond, one of the best things to do in Lausanne is simply to stroll around the city and allow this Swiss location to reveal itself to you. From Dijon to Lausanne by car, the train takes roughly two hours each way, depending on which route you take!
Semur en Auxois
For those who are in search of a medieval experience as a day trip from Dijon, Semur-en-Auxois is a must-visit. Though a little harder to visit than some of the other Dijon day trips (requiring your own car or a mix of buses and trains), this beautiful town is perched atop a French hillside and even features the remains of a medieval castle!
If you have access to a car, then you may well consider planning a trip to the city of Troyes. Famous for its position with the Champagne region of France, some of the top things to do in the French city include Troyes Cathedral, which is easily one of the most beautiful cathedrals in France, the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Troyes, and the many Champagne excursions available in the wider region.