September 19, 2019

10 Day Trips from Dijon, France by Direct Train

sleeping on train

As an English lectrice in Dijon last year, I had a decent amount of free time, and I spent a lot of it exploring nearby cities. Burgundy is actually a prime starting point for exploring very different regions in France--it's right between Alsace, known for its colorful houses and German influence, and the Rhône-Alpes, which offers mountain views and clear waters. For those hoping to go beyond France, Switzerland is only a couple hours away, and taking a flight from Paris isn't too complicated either. 

During my time in Dijon, I did a decent amount of research on places I could visit without a car and on a budget. To help those currently in the city (and to reminisce haha), I've compiled my 10 favorite spots for day/weekend trips, and given you a rundown on each destination. 

These cities are all within 2.5 hours away by train, so you can make any individual visit in a day. There are some places, however, where I recommend spending at least a night. If I stayed overnight and had a particularly good experience, I linked my Airbnb/hotel. These links are affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission on any bookings you make. This doesn't cost you any extra :)

The roundtrip ticket costs are estimates, and can vary significantly based when you book, your age, and whether you have a carte jeune (discount pass for those 12-25 years old). The lower end of the range will be for carte jeune holders, and the middle range for those 12-25 without the card, and the higher end for those over 25. The carte jeune is 50€ and gives you a guaranteed 30% off on the TGV (the TER/regional train is already 50% off for those under 26). If you plan to take more than 3 TGV trips in a year, I would highly recommend getting one.

My suggestions on "what to do" and "what to eat" are by no means comprehensive. They're actually probably very biased, as I'm picky about activities and have a penchant for vegan food. 

With that in mind, here's an overview of 10 cities I'll go over in this post:

day trips from dijon by train


DAY TRIPS FROM DIJON IN FRANCE

1. Besançon

Population: 116,676
Distance: 1 hour 
Train stop: Besançon Viotte (NOT Besançon Franche-Comté TGV)
Roundtrip cost: 15-30

This town is one of the most underrated gems in France, in my opinion. I came 3 times over the course of my year in Dijon! The city is very walkable, there's good (vegan) food, and there's amazing views from the fort overlooking the city. If you're into hiking or trail running, there are also some moderately difficult and scenic trails.

What to do: 

  • la Citadelle, a historic fort overlooking the city--the views are breathtaking, and there's a zoo + several museums within the fort; cost is 9-11€ depending on the season, but you can also get in for only 6€ the hour before closing (check to verify this, as things may have changed, and check for annual closures too!)
  • If you're into trail running, check out the annual Trail des Forts in May, which offers shorter and longer events over the span of a weekend. They also have a couple free guided trail runs in February-March to go through some of the course for the races.
  • L'Occas à P'tit Prix Bric à Brac is a fun antique store on Rue Battant, which also has lots of ethnic bakeries and interesting shops.
  • le Musée du Temps, a museum covering the history of local watchmaking; cost is 8€, but is free the first Sunday of the month.


Where to eat:

Gloria Mea Fides--AMAZING vegan burgers (the classic is the best)
Öst Café--very aesthetic veggie café with juices, bowls, vegan desserts

Where to stay:

Besançon is very doable in a day, but I stayed in this Airbnb overnight 2 of the 3 times I came, mostly to enjoy the city more. It was around $25/night and the host was the loveliest older woman--she was so hospitable and sweet to talk with. If you don't have an Airbnb account yet, you can sign up with my referral code to get $40 off your first booking (my Airbnb account is in USD, but the currency will convert accordingly).

besancon centre ville
citadelle de besancon
la Citadelle

2. Chalon-sur-Saône

Population: 45,390
Distance: 40 mins
Roundtrip cost: 10-20

Chalon is very small, but it's very charming--come here peaceful walks along the river and through the quaint city center.

What to do:
  • Walk around the town center, full of lovely half-timbered houses
  • Sit by the river in comfy chairs and watch the white swans/minnows
  • Visit the musée Nicéphore-Niépce, a free photography museum

Where to eat:

Dentelle et chocolat, a classic crêperie


chalon sur saone maison a colombages
chalon sur saone maison a colombages

3. Beaune

Population: 21,661
Distance: 20 minutes
Roundtrip cost: 10-20

Beaune is a classic recommendation for day trips from Dijon--it's a very small town best known for its wines.

What to do:
  • les Hospices de Beaune, a hospital for the poor that was founded in 1443. It's a prime example of classic Burgundian architecture, with the half-timbered detailing and tiled roof. You get a free audio tour with the entry fee of 8,50€. 
  • Go for one of the many wine tastings in town.
  • If you like running through vineyards, consider the Beaune 10k and half marathon held in November (each finisher gets a bottle of wine instead of a medal!)

Where to eat:

I've never actually eaten anything in Beaune, but you can try some traditional Burgundy cuisine, if you desire. A big favorite is escargots, or snails. They're drenched in butter and herbs, so they're actually quite tasty (I made a flexitarian exception to try some haha). Unfortunately, they can be quite expensive in restaurants for the amount of food you get--if you want to save money, consider getting some frozen ones from the supermarket and heating them up in the oven; this is what I did. 

The main square is also full of classic French restaurants, so you can give those a try too.

hospices de beaune puits
les Hospices de Beaune
beaune france

4. Lyon

Population: 513,275
Distance: 2 hours
Train station: Lyon Part Dieu
Roundtrip cost: 30-60

Lyon is one of my favorite cities in France--the river views are so lovely, the old town is always bustling with people, and there's a lot to do given the size of the city, but it's still very walkable

What to do: 
  • Le théâtre antique de Fourvière--an ancient Roman theatre right next to la Fourvière. Visiting the outdoor theatre is free, but you must pay 4-7€ for entry to the museum on the grounds.
  • le Musée Cinéma et Miniature--a super cool film museum with real props from movies like The Hunger Games, Aliens, and Mary Poppins. They also have many intricate miniatures (tiny film sets) that are so cute to see. The museum is located in a historic old town building, and entry is 9,50€.
  • Piscine du Rhône--an outdoor pool overlooking the river, with some waterpark-like features. Gets SUPER crowded in the summers; wouldn't recommend for lap swimming, but it's a good way to cool off. Cost is around 8€.
  • la Fête des lumières--an annual urban lights show in December, where colorful light installations are shone onto major buildings in the city over the course of a few days. The festival was created to express gratitude to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Festival of Lights is now a pretty secular event that draws in millions of tourists. If you want to go, be sure to reserve housing WAY in advance.
  • If you like running, Run in Lyon is a large event offering a 10k, half marathon, and marathon in early October. There were almost 30,000 total finishers last year. I did the Lyon Half Marathon and really enjoyed the flat course and overall event.


Where to eat:
  • Be sure to try la brioche aux pralines, which is sweet brioche bread with pink pralines--it's a Lyon specialty.
  • Hank Burger--a vegan fast food chain; the burgers are filling and affordable.
  • Le Roi Falafel--a Lebanese restaurant in the heart of the city; the owner is super friendly and sassy in an endearing way. I didn't love the wraps, but the falafel plate was delicious.

Where to stay:

There are a plethora of Airbnbs and hotels, but if you want something more unique, some Airbnb hosts offer stays on their boats along the two rivers running through the city. Again, if you don't have an Airbnb account yet, you can sign up with my referral code to get $40 off your first booking (my Airbnb account is in USD, but the currency will convert accordingly).

musee cinema et miniature lyon
le Musée Cinéma et Miniature
french bakery pink pralines
lots of pink praline brioche in the window (*drools*)

5. Colmar

Population: 70,284
Distance: 2 hours (direct trains are infrequent, so plan ahead)
Roundtrip cost: 40-80

Colmar is trendy destination in France, and for good reason--the colorful houses seem straight out of a fairytale, and the healthy dose of Christmas decorations only add to the charm. 

What to do:
  • Visit the Christmas Market in December for local goods, crafts, and classic holiday drinks/food like vin chaud (mulled wine).
  • Walk along la Petite Venise (rows of colorful houses along the canal) and through the old town.
  • Check out the neighboring fairytale villages, accessible by bus in the holiday season.

colmar at christmas
la petite venise colmar

6. Mulhouse

Population: 110,468
Distance: 1 hour
Train stop: Mulhouse Ville
Roundtrip cost: 30-80€
Pronunciation: mull-ooze

Mulhouse is not the prettiest of the cities in this list, but there are some lovely spots near the town center. Overall, it feels more industrial/modern (don't let my old town photos fool you), so it lacks the same charm as the others. I'm sure it's lovelier in the spring, however, with the flowering plants and wisteria. 

What to do:

I actually didn't do much, other than going to the Christmas Market. There are several museums though, including the Musée Electropolis, which is all about electricity. 

christmas market mulhouse
mulhouse france

7. Troyes

Population: 60,928
Distance: 2 hours
Roundtrip cost: 20-30€

This one is a little bit of a cheat, as you can't actually get here via direct train--there are, however, several daily drivers through Facebook rideshare groups (look up "Dijon Troyes Covoiturage"), and through BlaBlaCar. I didn't have a great experience with BlaBlaCar, so if you're taking it for the first time, read the pros and cons here.

What to do:

I didn't do much here either, other than walking through the old town. The half-timbered houses are beautiful, and there's definitely a strong old town/medieval feel. For some really old buildings, check out the area near Cathédrale Saint-Pierre Saint-Paul and Eglise Saint-Nizier.

Where to stay:

I stayed in the loveliest Airbnb right in the old town.

maison a colombages troyes
pink half timbered house

8. Strasbourg

Population: 283,515
Distance: a little over 2 hours (direct trains aren't super frequent, so plan ahead)
Roundtrip cost: 40-80€

What to do:

You're probably tired of hearing about Christmas markets at this point, but Strasbourg's Christmas Market is the most famous. I didn't visit Strasbourg during my year in Dijon, but I did go when I studied abroad in Bordeaux in 2016. See this old post for photos and a very embarrassing story. 

Strasbourg also features some lovely colorful houses, like most cities in Alsace. 


DAY TRIPS FROM DIJON IN SWITZERLAND

A quick note about traveling to Switzerland: train tickets tend to be more expensive, and less flexible (some might be nonrefundable, or only 20% refundable). I would recommend staying for at least a night to make the most of your trip. 

If you do stay overnight, you should know that Swiss hostels and hotels give you a free unlimited transport card, which can save you a ton of money on transportation within the city (a single bus/tram ticket can be 4 CHF!). You won't get these cards with Airbnb, so you might want to look at hotels/hostels instead. 

9. Lausanne

Population: 137,810
Distance: 2 hours
Roundtrip cost: 70-120€ 
(*read the fine print of your tickets--they're most likely nonrefundable, or only 20% refundable)

Dijon is surprisingly close to Switzerland--if you want your dose of mountains, consider hopping on a train across the border (but remember your passport!). Lausanne is especially scenic since it's surrounded by mountains, and right on Lake Geneva.

What to do:

I didn't do too much in Lausanne--I actually spent most of my time traveling in the area, to towns like Vevey and the famous Château de Chillon. Vevey was charming, but I wasn't impressed by the Chillon Castle--I was expecting much more from the "most-visited castle in Switzerland." The interior isn't very engaging, as it's pretty empty and only has dry educational panels. The exterior is very photogenic though!

I did like walking around Lausanne's Ouchy neighborhood along the lake though, and I LOVED the Olympic Museum. It was pricey at 18 CHF, but the interactive exhibits and artifacts were educational and plain cool. There were brief clips on the history of each Olympic Games, the story of the Olympic torches (plus the actual torches), and the real equipment of Olympic medalists, like Michael Phelps' swimsuit (from Athens 2004 I think)!

Where to eat:

Veganopolis Café--a vegan fast food joint with yummy burgers and refreshing local kombucha. It's kind of out of the way, but only a short walk from the lakefront.

lake geneva white swan
Lake Geneva
vevey switzerland
Vevey, a little town along Lake Geneva

10. Basel

Population: 171,017
Distance: 1.5 hours direct, 2 hours with one transfer in Mulhouse
Roundtrip cost: 40-80€
Pronunciation: bah-sul (Bâle in French)

Basel was one of my favorite stops. Since the main language spoken is Swiss German, it was the most foreign-feeling place I visited near Dijon. Luckily, most locals spoke English too! Beyond the language novelty, Basel felt both quaint and modern. The buildings had that old charm but remained very clean, and not in the least run-down. 

What to do:

  • Go swimming in the Rhine with a Wickelfisch, a cute fish-shaped dry bag (you can buy these at the tourist center for 25-30 CHF). Locals use the bag to keep their valuables and clothes dry while taking a dip--it's also perfect for solo travelers who have no one to watch their stuff, since you can keep the bag with you in the water, and use it as a flotation device. The current can get pretty strong, so be careful! This was my favorite part of visiting Basel.
  • Musikmuseum, with collections of old instruments--brass, string, acoustic, the works. Descriptions are only in Swiss German, unfortunately, but the instruments are cool to look at. Entry is free in the last hour before closing, except on Sundays and holidays.
  • Walk around the Old Town or along the Rhine--there are lots of lovely ivy-covered buildings.

What to eat:

I didn't really eat out since Switzerland is so expensive--I ended up getting small things like pretzels and sandwiches, and supplementing them with supermarket food. There's a nice fresh pretzel shop in the main train station though, and they even have vegan pretzels :)

Where to stay:

I splurged on a single room at Hyve Hostel (also goes by Generation YMCA) for around 68 CHF. The common spaces were very aesthetic and the room was pretty comfy for a hostel. The location was also great--it was only half a mile (800m) from the station.


basel old town
basel switzerland rhine

I hope this was helpful, and that you discover lots of new places and food in your travels. If there are any cities you think I should add, definitely let me know :)


Happy travels,


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