The 6.5 hectare (65,000 m2) space is located in an area with 800 years of history, where the former Santo-Espirito hospital, founded in 1204, operated (photo: François Weckerle)
The city of Dijon, about 300 kilometers from Paris, today brings together two intangible cultural heritages of humanity inscribed on the UNESCO list: the climate of the vineyards of Burgundy and the French gastronomy, which has just won a “temple” to promote the art to eat and drink well in the countryside, with a variety of activities.
Inaugurated on May 6, the new International City of Gastronomy and Wine (CIGV) in Dijon, a project that took ten years to complete, attracted around 18,000 visitors in its first weekend of operation. The 6.5 hectare (65,000 m2) space is located in an area with 800 years of history, where the ancient Santo-Espirito hospital once stood, founded in 1204, and which was not accessible to most of the inhabitants .
The CIGV project cost € 250 million, of which around 90% was financed by the private sector. The main investors are the Eiffage civil construction groups, which carried out the work on the site; K-Rei, from the real estate sector; and Épicure, from the hotel, gastronomy and leisure area, which owns the La Cave de la Cité winery and the on-site restaurants.
The possibilities to discover (and even savor) in this place the French tradition of the gastronomic meal, considered by Unesco, in 2010, a World Heritage Site, are numerous: permanent and temporary exhibitions, workshops to make recipes or acquire knowledge on the territory of wines, masterclasses with great chefs, restaurants – two of which run by chef Eric Pras, the only one to have three stars in the region’s Michelin guide – and a “gastronomic village” with shops of the most varied types of products from the French “terroir” (tied to a region) and cooking utensils, plus a specialized bookstore.
There are also many options in the wine area for CIGV visitors. The La Cave de la Cité winery brings together 3,000 wine references for tasting, including 1,000 from Burgundy and 1,000 international labels.
On site, 250 wines can be consumed by the glass, including great vintages considered exceptional. This service, which includes rarer wines, is possible thanks to a special system that allows you to keep the drink after opening the bottle. There is also a Burgundy Wine School for amateurs, with tasting workshops and knowledge of the soil of the vineyards, the climate of the region and the pairing of wines with dishes.
The history of Dijon, capital of Burgundy / Franche-Comté (from which the famous Comté cheese derives) and historical capital of the Dukes of Burgundy, is directly linked to that of the great wines of this region. Until the mid 19th century, Dijon still produced large harvests.
It is in the area of this new complex dedicated to gastronomy that the first kilometer of the so-called Burgundy Grands Crus route is located, the first to be created in France and which some call the “Champs-Elysées of Burgundy”. Since the end of last year, Dijon has also become the headquarters of the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIVV), relocated from Paris.
The International City of Gastronomy and Wine has an exhibition area of 1,700 square meters, divided into permanent and temporary exhibition spaces, such as the one currently held on “the secrets of French desserts”, with the support of chef Pierre Hermé. , famous for its macarons
Permanent exhibits range from the origins of French gastronomy to interactive and sensory experiences that highlight the five senses put to work when people cook or enjoy a meal. One of them proposes a “panic in the kitchen” video game, with the challenge of cooking recipes in a limited time. In the chapel of the old hospital, visitors can discover the gastronomic heritage of the Burgundy-Franche-Comté region and the specificities of the climate of its vineyards.
The “temple” of Dijon gastronomy could not fail to have a renowned cooking school, Ferrandi, which has existed in Paris for over a century. On site there are professional courses, in English, to start a culinary career, and also for amateurs, in French, on the fundamentals of French cuisine and pastry.
You need to buy a ticket only to see the exhibits and participate in activities, such as culinary workshops. It is possible to move freely through the International City of Gastronomy and Wine, being a public space. Prices range from 13 euros for a visit to the four exhibition spaces and the tasting of two glasses of wine at the Cave de la Cité, to 25 euros, which in this case also includes a 40-minute lesson on the chef’s advice or an introduction. to wine tasting. The prices of the culinary workshops in the “experiential kitchen” space are established based on the theme and duration of the course.
The complex of the International City of Gastronomy and Wine is also an urban transformation project, which has brought about a metamorphosis in the area of an old hospital, giving a second life to buildings built between the 15th and 18th centuries. vegetation protected by heritage, a “green district” with 600 houses was built. There’s also a nine-screen cinema and a 125-room Hilton hotel, a restaurant, and a spa with pool, housed in the site’s historic buildings, scheduled to open next year.
Dijon also has a tradition in the area of innovation in the agri-food sector, with startups already operating in the city for some years. For this they have earned a special space at the CIGV, a “village” with about 15 startups led by Vitagora and FoodTech Bourgogne-France-Comté, with the aim of becoming a center of expertise and exchanges in relation to the topic.
The mayor of Dijon, François Rebsamen, predicts that the new CIGV could attract one million visitors a year. It is noteworthy for a locality that, with its neighboring suburbs, has about 260 thousand inhabitants. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Dijon attracted an average of 3.5 million tourists a year, according to the city’s Tourist Office. There are numerous wine tour itineraries in the region.
With this “temple” dedicated to French food and wine, Dijon, also famous for its mustard, can be considered one of the French capitals of gastronomy. After the gastronomic meal of the French was considered intangible cultural heritage of humanity by Unesco, the French State, through the French Mission of Food Heritage and Cultures, has chosen, from among various candidates, a network of four cities to promote the gastronomy of the country to the French and abroad: Dijon, Lyon, Paris-Rungis (where the Rungis market for professionals in the sector is located, one of the largest in the world) and Tours.
Lyon’s food complex had already opened, but was heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and is undergoing overhaul. It should reopen next year. In Paris and Tours the project is still under construction. For now, Dijon can be called the only operating capital of French gastronomy.