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Musée de Beaux Arts The Palais des Ducs also home to the magnificent and monumental Museum of Fine Arts. Like all public museums in Dijon it’s free to enter. You reach it via the lavish hall of the tombs of the Dukes of Burgundy, formerly the guards room, and that is your first inkling of just what a treat you’re in for. Jewels of 15th century funerary art, the tombs of Philip the Bold and John the Fearless are extraordinary with their namesakes represented by lifelike statues held up by incredibly detailed Mourners. I could stare at them for hours as the more you look, the more you see. The museum has around 50 rooms of priceless treasures dating from antiquity to modern day with some fabulous works by Yan Pei- Ming, Monet, Manet and so many renowned artists it’s magnicent. I loved the religious artworks, the detail is astonishing and so well preserved they look as they did hundreds of years ago. The museum has undergone a major update and reopened in May 2019. Director David Liot told me that the renovation was a challenge “it’s a heritage space so we had to be very careful but it was dingy before and we needed to make it accessible to all”. The flow of the exhibits is vastly improved, there are two new spaces and the rooms are filled with light so you can truly appreciate the artworks. The walls are coloured to enhance the feel and look, I loved the Pinot Noir colour – it really made the paintings pop. Don’t miss this one – you’ll be missing out on an incredible opportunity to see one of the finest museums in France (for free).
Musée Rude His name might not ring a bell but you almost certainly know of his work. Francois Rude, son of Dijon (1784-1855) was the sculptor of La Marseillaise on the Arc de Triomphe amongst much else. You can see some of his main works in the form of casts in the museum dedicated to him in the former Saint Etienne Church (free to enter). It is a quite beautiful place. Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne Just one more museum you mustn’t miss though there are several more. If you can, squeeze in a visit to the quirky Museum of Burgundian Life (free). The reconstructions of 19th and early 20th century Burgundian shops are brilliant – hat shops, photography, chemists, filled with bits and pieces from the day. Place de la Libération This is essentially the main courtyard of the Dukes of Burgundy and it has to be one of the biggest in France. It’s set out on a semi-circular arrangement so that wherever you are, you’re facing the palace. It was designed by Hardouin-Mansart, the architect of Versailles, and built by one of his pupils, Robert de Cotte, between 1686 and 1701. Lined with restaurants, shops and bars, it’s as big a hit with the locals as it is with visitors. It doesn’t matter if you go first thing in the morning as I did and sat sipping coffee watching a lone pigeon waddling about, or in the day or evening, as I did with an aperitif watching kids play in the fountains, listening to church bells ring and enjoying the sight of people simply enjoying the square.
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