Burgundy, the Mecca of culinary travellers, is known not only for its exceptional food and wine, but also for its medieval architecture, rich history and culture. Once an administrative region in its own right, Burgundy now comprises the eastern half of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region of France.
The long-awaited opening on May 6, 2022 of the brand new “International City of Gastronomy and Wine” (International City of Gastronomy and Wine) in Dijon offers one more reason to visit this spectacular destination.
Food, glorious food
Under construction for more than a decade, the project is part of the Network of Gastronomic Cities of France, created to highlight the rich gastronomic heritage of the country. The Dijon site (capital of Burgundy) joins three others created in Paris, Tours and Lyon.
Ironically, the four centers are “tangible” outgrowths of the “gastronomic meal of the French” which was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2010. This appellation recognizes the extent to which pairing good dishes with good wines strengthens social ties.
Located in the heart of Dijon, a city already famous among foodies for its mustards, Michelin-starred restaurants and wonderful farmer’s market (Halls)—the center will occupy a 16-acre site (about half of that devoted to protected forests). The grounds once housed the town’s 800-year-old university hospital.
Among the highlights of this ambitious project are:
- A training center for cooking professionals, with a branch of the internationally renowned Ferrandi Cooking School;
- New shops and restaurants (including Gourmet bookstorea gourmet bookstore), and Pathe Dijona multi-screen cinema complex;
- A four-star hotel, Curio by Hilton Sainte-Anne Dijon, with 125 rooms and suites (opening scheduled for the first quarter of 2023) with its own restaurant, spa and outdoor swimming pool;
- 90 residential units in converted and restored listed buildings; including social housing for students and seniors; and
- An architecture and heritage interpretation center with models, videos, graphics and cultural programming that tells the story of Dijon.
Follow the wine route
Of course, in this unique terroir, the wines occupy a central place. Burgundy is famous for both its reds and its whites, which many experts consider “the best money you can buy”.
The center of Dijon will have a Cave de la Cité with 3,000 reference wines (some 250 will be offered by the glass) spread over three floors, as well as a wine school (Burgundy Wine School) managed by the Interprofessional Bureau of Burgundy Wines.
Also note its proximity to the “Route of the Grands Crus” (the Dijon to Santenay wine route) which takes visitors to the vineyards that produce some of the most prestigious Burgundy wines in the world. (The Dijon Tourist Office website lists a variety of wine experiences which can be booked online, often with English-speaking guides).
Whether visitors arrive by bike, bus or car, they can follow the brown and white signs with bunches of grapes that line the Burgundy wine route. Less than half an hour from Dijon, they will reach Beaune.
One of the most remarkable monuments of this city is the Hospices de Beaunecharitable foundation for the poor founded in 1443. Every November, it is the site of a festive wine auction for the benefit of the heritage and medical structures of the Hospice.
Along the way, wine lovers will discover dozens of charming wine villages, breathtaking vineyards and winemakers’ cellars for tours and tastings. For example, private tours with commented tasting of eight exceptional Burgundy wines can be booked (in advance) at the impressive Domaine de Bouchard Father and Son or customers can visit their wine cellar which offers a digital wine tour.
One of the oldest and most important wine merchants in the region, Bouchard Père et Fils established itself in Côte d’Or in 1731.
This exceptional estate now has 450 vines, including 70 hectares in premier cru appellations and 30 in grand cru. The ground anchoring is Beaune Castle, an old royal fortress built in the 15and century by King Louis XI, listed as a historical monument since 1937.
When International City opens on May 6, the majority of the project will be in operation (with the exception of the hotel).
“Dijon has embarked on a large-scale project, which is undoubtedly the most complex and innovative project I have ever been asked to lead,” said François Rebsamen, mayor of Dijon in a Press release announcing the opening.
“Beyond the obvious tourist assets of the Cité internationale, we want it to fit perfectly into the daily life of our city and its inhabitants. By rehabilitating a site in the heart of the city that would have remained abandoned, Dijon has begun to write a new page in its history with a project that embraces all aspects of city life, town planning, heritage and culture to tourism, gastronomy, and wine,” he added.
IF YOU ARE GOING TO
A fanciful glimpse of the Cité International building: