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If Dinant, in the south of Belgium, has long been a prized place for the armies seeking a foothold on the Meuse thanks to an insurmountable limestone wall in the east, today we come from afar to visit it for the same reasons. Boulevard Léon Sasserath, with its endless line of restaurant and café terraces, runs along the river where we can guarantee you will have a great time. But a visit to Dinant is not just for strolling on the banks of the Meuse with a coffee in your hand, so, without further ado, here are the 10 things to do in Dinant essential to a very glamorous stay.
Sweets of Bruges. And if you go to Bruges, still in Belgium, don’t miss our selection of the best chocolate makers in the city.
Prayer time at the Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame de Dinant
You can admire its steeple from afar, and on all city postcards. The bell tower looks like a “huge water jug”, according to Victor Hugo. The unique nature of this place also lies in the choir of the church, compact because it was constrained by the large rock wall behind it. Most of the building was built in the 13th and 14th centuries, but it was demolished or burned three times, in 1466, 1554 and 1914, and had to be restored each time. The realistic faces carved into the hexagonal Romanesque basin of the baptismal font, which date from the 1000s, are exceptionally old and therefore worth a look.
“The steeple of the Dinant church is a huge water jug. However, the facade of the church has a great character, and the whole town is wonderfully composed ”Victor Hugo, 1838.
Admire the view from the Citadel of Dinant
Built in 1808, this fortress dominates the city, and therefore offers an essential perspective of the region. You can opt for an ascent on foot, but, if you don’t want to make the physical effort, don’t worry: a cable car provides access to the citadel, located 100 meters above the level of the Meuse. Going to the Citadel is of course one of the essential things to do in Dinant.
Walk along the Rocher Bayard
You will pass between the Aiguille and the rest of the ridge along the north lane of Rue Defoin, which runs along those epic rocky teeth of protruding limestone. This crevasse was created, according to legend, by the hooves of the mysterious horse, Bayard, when he saved Renaud de Montauban and his three brothers from Charlemagne.
Get srunk (sensibly!) at Maison Leffe
The brand set up a museum in the chapel of the former Bethlehem convent, which has become an upscale hotel, where you can learn more about the intoxicating heritage of the building. You will discover how the abbey began to brew beer to prevent water-borne diseases, such as typhus, but also its long reputation for hospitality. You can also taste nine different Leffe beers, some of which may not be available in your country, and you will learn which foods go best with each one. In short, it is a paradise for lovers of hop.
Let yourself be carried (by the music) to Monsieur Sax’s house
On the street that bears his name, you can visit the house where Sax was born in 1914, a building flanked by a bench with a statue of the man carrying his creation. You will hear about the influence of the saxophone on popular culture, from Charlie Parker to Lisa Simpson, as well as the tragic history of Sax, who endured misery and only received posthumous recognition and success, as well as a 20-year court battle for patent infringement.
Go on an assault at Crèvecoeur Castle …
This fortress, which overlooks the city of Bouvignes and which protected the access to it, was besieged in 1554 and lost by Henri II of France. According to legend, three local women threw themselves from the tallest tower to avoid being captured by the invaders. The base of the semicircular tower, built around 1430, can still be seen among the ruins. Entry is free.
… or the Castle of Freyr
The opulence of Château de Freyr, which sits between Waulsort and Dinant, comes from the Renaissance and Baroque additions of the 16th and 17th centuries. With period furniture, the chateau, which has been in the Beaufort-Spontin family for 20 generations, is now the perfect example of an aristocratic 17th century house. The surrounding gardens offer stunning views of the towering limestone cliffs on the opposite shore and are known for their orange trees, planted in the early 18th century and among the oldest in Europe. A Rococo pavilion, with delicate stucco newts and angels, dominates the whole.
Cross the Charles de Gaulle bridge
In the chaos of the First World War Battle of Dinant in 1914, the Germans suspected the presence of French-allied snipers within the population of Dinant and massacred 674 unarmed civilians. The fighting also destroyed much of the city’s historic architecture. A monument on the West Bank marks the spot where future French President Charles de Gaulle was wounded, and a stylized statue of the man stands nearby. Since 2010, the causeway of the bridge has been lined with saxophones painted in the theme of a particular European nation.
Navigate at your own pace on the Lesser River
This river runs through a quiet, sparsely-populated forest, with wild rock formations and fairy-tale castles towering over its banks. Dinant Evasion offers kayaking trips on the river in summer, with the choice between a short (12 km) or long (21 km) route. A daily shuttle will take you to your starting point, and there are many places where you can land your kayak for a drink or a meal on the way back to Anseremme.
Let off steam at Dinant Aventure Park
Dinant Aventure Park is 20 hectares big and overlooks the Meuse valley, with a number of ropes courses. You cross suspension bridges, you steep rock faces on the Via Vita route, and put your sense of balance to the test as you swing from tree to tree. The complexity and time required to complete them vary. Dinant Aventure also has two arenas equipped for paintball and laser tag, with a variety of packages available to integrate the two activities. An activity that will entertain all ages, especially the youngest.
BONUS: Three auality restaurants for your stay in Dinant
Eating local is almost an obligation on vacation. Fortunately, there is no shortage of good restaurants, with dishes on the menu to highlight the local region, in Dinant. . Here are three restaurants that we have selected for their quality:
The Confessional | Rue Remy Himmer 4, Dinant
Ostaria la Piave | Rue des Rivages 86-88, Dinant
The Green Stag | Avenue Winston-Churchill 32, Dinant
There we are, our selection of the essential things to do in Dinant, Belgium, is complete. But if you have other ideas, do not hesitate to let us know in comments.