I’m always so in awe by the beautiful places I visit while traveling that I sometimes forget that there are also stunning places in my own country, Belgium. The historic town Dinant, located on the river Meuse in the Walloon region of Belgium, is one of those places. This beautiful historic city is the tourist heart of the Ardennes in Belgium, for good reason! History lovers, culture lovers, adventure seekers, families with children … everybody loves Dinant. After my previous post about Dinant’s fascinating history, I will focus in this post on “things to do in and around Dinant”.
A visit to the beautiful Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame is highly recommended. You can visit the originally Romanesque church, renovated in Gothic style in the 13th century, for free any time. Inside the Church you can admire some impressive huge glass windows.
Continue with one of the main attractions being Dinant’s Citadel, the Citadel overlooks the city from a cliff above the Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame. The Citadel can be reached from in the city by taking the 408 steps up … alternatively you can take the cable car up. The Citadel can also be reached by car, driving around the city. Either way will lead to a stunning view over the city from 100 meters above the Meuse.
From April till September, you can take a free guided tour. Off-season, you can take the tour yourself with a map. Both options will give you a very good impression of the Citadel’s history and will lead you along the prison, the guillotine, examples of the daily life in the Citadel over the years, a war trench, canons …
Till end of September, the basement of the Citadel features Sand Magic Dinant, stunning sand sculptures based upon figures or buildings from Disneyland Paris. The sculptures are very beautiful but I thought it was a bit strange to have Disney figures featured in a Citadel with such a history. Anyhow I’m sure kids will love it. The Citadel also has playgrounds for kids, restaurants and outdoor picnic tables.
A combi ticket for the Citadel costs EUR 11 adult / EUR 9 child, this ticket includes the cable car, the citadel entrance and the entrance to Sand Magic. With this ticket you will also get a reduction to Grotte La Merveilleuse.
Grotte La Merveilleuse – previously named Grotte de Dinant – is a very impressive beautiful cave with white stalactites and waterfalls. There is a guided tour every hour which takes about 50 minutes.
A famous person born in Dinant is Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone. You can visit the Adolphe Sax’s House, a centre exploring his work, in 37 Rue Sax where once the house where he was born in 1814 stood. In front of the Sax’s House, there is a statue of Adolphe Sax. You will also find many statues of saxophones in the city to honor Adolphe Sax, Dinant’s famous citizen.
The area around Dinant is often referred to as the “Valleys of Castles and Fortresses”. On the way to Celles about 10 kilometers from Dinant, I passed the beautiful Vêves Castle. This castle is nicknamed the Castle of the Sleeping Beauty, I think that is very well chosen cause to me it has a striking resemblance to this fairytale castle.
Other castles or ruins just a few minutes drive from Dinant are:
- Freyr Castel
- Spontin Castle
- Crèvecoeur Castle ruins
- Montaigle Castle Ruins
- Poilvache Ruins
A bit further away – between Dinant and Namur – you can visit the Gardens of Annevoie.
Probably the most popular activity to do in Dinant – especially during summer time – is kayaking on the River Lesse. The River Lesse runs trough a valley, passing stunning landscapes, caves and castles. Bring your picnic or enjoy a nice meal in one of the restaurants on the banks. You have the option to do a 12 or 21 kilometers tour. Trains – tickets usually included in your Kayaking ticket – leave frequently from Anseremme after which you return to your staring point by Kayak. Another popular alternative is to hike back along the river.
Celles, a small picturesque village build in a little valley surrounded by hills, is one of the most beautiful historical villages in Wallonia. Visit the famous Saint-Hadelin church, walk through the beautiful landscapes or have a Leffe in one of the outdoor bars and enjoy the tranquility.
Dinant is not a big city like Antwerp or Brussels and probably not as well known as for example Bruges but it is definitely worth a visit and only a 60 minute drive or a 90 minute train ride away from Brussels.