7 things to do in Dinant

19 July 2021

As an early Summer break we spent a long weekend in Dinant, a small but charming city along the Meuse river in the province of Namur. Although it wasn't really at the top of our destination list, it soon became one of the better options once Covid limited traveling to places within Belgian borders. I also have memories of visiting the old citadel as a kid and taking pictures on top of a large canon, which I was eager to look up again. And so we ended up spending a lovely four days filled with castle hopping, brewery visits and learning a bit about the town's history. I thought I'd list some of our favorite activities if you ever fancy a visit!

#1 Take a boat ride on the Meuse

We started off our journey with a boat ride from the city center to the village of Anseremme. It was perfect as an introduction to all of Dinant's highlights. One of them is Le Rocher Bayard, a cool split rock formation, which this way you get to see from a unique perspective. For convenience we booked our cruise beforehand with Dinant Evasion, though you could perfectly arrange one on the spot if you don't want to be bound to a specific hour.

#2 Visit the nearby castles

One of the things I mostly enjoyed during our stay was hopping by the lovely castles scattered around Dinant. On our drive up there, we stopped at Château de Freÿr. The Renaissance style palace is mostly famous for its fountain gardens and kind of reminded me of the Château de Versailles, only in a smaller version. Later we paid a visit to Château de Vêves in Houyet. A true fairy tale castle, here you'll find sleeping beauty having her nap in one of the castle chambers. 

Also on our schedule was Château de Walzin, which is remarkably perched on top of a cliff. Sadly we only saw a peek of it from afar as we discovered you can only reach it by hike and we weren't exactly prepared for that. It's said to be quite a sight to see, however, so if you ever get the chance please do behold its beauty for me!

Additional tip: From Château de Vêves we drove up to Celles, a small picturesque village nestled in a green valley. It was a beautiful location for lunch and a stroll along its cobblestone streets afterwards.

#3 Try the 'couque de Dinant'

Warning: these cookies ain't what they seem. The couque de Dinant looks like a biscuit but is really rather a type of candy. It's made of wheat flour and honey and baked at a very high temperature to allow the honey to caramelize. You're supposed to crack it and let it melt in your mouth, at least according to the lady at the counter of Fabrique de Couques Jacobs. This family bakery on a corner of Dinant's main street has held up the tradition of making the couques de Dinant since 1860.

#4 Visit the local breweries

'Breweries' doesn't exactly cover my meaning since one of the spots we visited was Maison Leffe, which is actually a museum around one of Belgium's most famous beers, Leffe. You won't see any beer being brewed there, but you do learn about the original brewery and the brand's history through an interactive tour. Afterwards you can take a seat on the large terrace overlooking Dinant for a tasting of your favorite beers a real treat during the Summer!

Secondly we popped in at Brasserie Caracole, a small-scale brewery that still brews beer over a wood fire. We had a tasting of five of their beers in the traditional pub and then got a private tour from one of the brewers who explained their history and brewing process. There's no need to make reservations for smaller groups so you can easily squeeze in a visit if you appreciate local craftsmanship!

#5&6 Visit the Charles de Gaulle Bridge and Collegiate Church of Our Lady

When entering the city, you will probably cross the Charles De Gaulle Bridge. As you could guess it was named after French general Charles De Gaulle, who took a bullet in the leg during the war in 1914 on this very bridge. However, the fun part about the bridge is that it's decorated with a series of colorful saxophones. They in turn refer to local hero and inventor of the saxophone, Adolphe Saxe, and each pay tribute to a different country. You may also spot a couple of these statues hidden in Dinant's streets.

Rising proudly at the end of the bridge, is the Collegiate Church of Our Lady. It's hard to imagine the cityscape without its iconic pear-shaped bell tower. Dinant's church is unique because it's one of the few in Belgium, and Europe that I've seen, that combines Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Have a peek inside to see its colorful stained glass windows!

#7 Take a cable car up to the Citadel

You can't really go to Dinant and not pay a visit to the ancient citadel overlooking the city. It's now a historical and arms museum where you'll learn about Dinant's history going back 900 years. Since it's at a height of 100 meters you can either take a cable car next to the Collegiate Church of Our Lady or drive all the way up to the top where there's a free parking. There's a 408-step staircase as well if you're up for the challenge. While the entire museum tour is well organized, the highlight is definitely the magnificent view you get from the vantage point. The city and the beautiful Meuse valley are literally at your feet!